I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I chastised him about what he was doing, but he replied: ‘The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that’s fair.’ In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.~by Bertrand Russell
When a friend’s family moved to Central Pennsylvania, their son started as a freshman in high school. He wasn’t a small boy by any means (he started shaving in 8th grade), but he wasn’t a homeboy and one day he came home with a torn shirt and a scrape on his back where some older boy had walked by and just pushed him into the lockers. They told him, “If someone picks on you or starts a fight, you finish it, we’ll support you. If you pick on someone else or start a fight, then there will be consequences to be paid at school and especially here at home.” They watched diligently throughout the rest of the school year for further signs that he was being bullied at school (torn clothing, bruises, decrease in grades, seclusion, etc.) but they wanted him to understand that they believed in him and that he knew the right thing to do – whether it was telling a teacher, a counselor or their going into school to discuss this issue with the principal. Their main goal was that he felt safe at school. What they didn’t want to happen was for him to suffer the fear, anxiety, insecurity and low self-esteem that most targets (and bullies) suffer, many throughout adulthood. Somehow, their son managed to get through those very tough school years fairly unscathed. He’s 29 now with a strong sense of self and now has a little one of his own to guide through life.
Did they respond in the right manner when their son came home confused, scared and frustrated, not knowing what to do? Few books are handed to new parents that tell them how to raise their children to be honest, strong, compassionate and considerate human beings with a sense of high self-esteem. Everyone makes choices and most just do the best they can for their kids. Many bullies grow up to commit crimes – one study showed that four of every 10 boys who bullied others as kids had three or more convictions by the time they turned 24. Fight Crime Invest In Kids. Bullying is a choice and there is a very, very thin line between being a bully or being a target. Just as the quote above states, at one moment a student can be a target and turn around and take his/her frustrations out on siblings, parents, or other students. The more self-esteem a child or adult gains, the less likely they will fall into the bullying cycle or abusive relationship and has a chance to foster future social change. (Abuse and Its Effects on Self Esteem and Positive Identity).