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Memoirs of a Bullied Kid (danoah.com)
121 points by froggy on Oct 6, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

This article means a great deal to me. It's good to see I wasn't alone. I was lucky in high school, because our school wrestling coach saw the rage I carried and convinced me to come out for the team. I lost 30 lbs the first year and got the skills to defend myself. Because I was just a weird guy, I still was a target, but I could protect myself and my friends who were also targets.

I still carry it like a massive chip on my shoulder. I feel that it's the reason I've driven forward into endeavors with intensity. It's made me who I am today; but I still can't forgive the kids (and teachers) who made my life a hell, also in 5th grade.

When I see a picture of myself as a little kid (>4 years) I get really sad for the life that kid will have a few years after taking it. That's why I bust my tail - to tell my little 4 year old self that it's worth it.

You weren't alone - I was bullied, as was my close family. Unlike you, it ended earlier but only because the teachers finally realized how bad it had gotten.

I disagree with his idea that those who are bullied needs to learn that they are loved though - I never for a moment had any doubts about my parents feelings for me, but that didn't help me end it. I have even less sympathy for the idea of telling bullies that you love them.

Bullying will stop the day you hit back, they day you show them that you are no longer a safe target - one way or the other (hint it has to show them that _they_ are the small, weak person). Even showing you are under the protection of somebody more powerful (used that trick in kindergarden) will only work for so long.

"Hitting Back"

This only works in the burbs or small towns. And only if you're white or non-gangster asian.

In city schools when you hit back, you get ambushed and your ass kicked, and the cycle continues until someone ends up in the hospital or dead.

Then the solution in those situations is to leave that environment.

Loving the bullies is equivalent to doing nothing.

Your advice at the end there doesn't always work. Sometimes hitting back just makes them escalate the violence.

I have never seen anybody hitting back for real where it didn't work.

I have. I got beaten up, and once the bully had demonstrated his ability to beat me up at will, things got worse.

It is worth noting that one cause of bullying is a way for the bully to feel better about himself. In my case said bully had failed 2 grades, and so chose to pick on a smart kid who was not popular to make himself feel better.

Too bad you weren't able to use your superior intelligence to learn BJJ (there was no way to know which martial arts worked when I was growing up). If he got you down and suddenly his arm was broken and he didn't even see how it happened I bet he would have left you alone.

Very possible, but now the requirement is you have to fight back and win, not just fight back, which is probably asking a bit much in some cases. Some kids that get bullied even have handicaps, so this probably won't work for them.

In my case I had a significant coordination problem which did NOT help.

I remember being in these spots. Growing up different isn't fun. For me, I just didn't care that much about the things other kids valued. I wanted to build things, read, learn about science and do experiments. For whatever reason, the fact that I didn't care about sports at all made me as good as an alien to my peers.

The fact that my mom is a lesbian, and that I didn't know any reason why anyone should have a problem with that, didn't help things, either.

So, there were school hiking trips where I had prickly pear cactus fruit pelted at me. I was pantsed at recess a couple of times. Once a little knife was held on me. More often than not, people just said unkind things to me. Getting into middle school was worse, just as the author said. There's some special vein of cruelty that emerges at that age.

I happened to get lucky. Teachers noticed me, convinced my mom to let me be tested for special classes, and I found friendship in people who were more like me. At home, having a computer and learning about all I could do with it gave me extraordinary self worth that would have been wrung out of me at school.

Eventually I learned to relate to people. By high school, I even got along with the jocks and other popular types, though by choice I never fell into any specific group.

Looking back, the author is right. I had it bad but my bullies had it worse. My parents, at least, loved and prioritized me. I can't imagine the miserable home lives these many of these kids must have had. (edit: Although, giving it some thought, I don't know how much my kindness would have earned me from these kids.)

All I know is this: my life was saved – saved – by technology. I'm not sure I'd have made it into adulthood without all the growth I gained thanks to my good ol' Performa 6100.

I disagree strongly with the sentiment that bullies just need love, that they're only doing it because they are hurting too. People are diverse, so I won't deny that perhaps that's sometimes true. But I think it would be more accurate to say that bullies do it because it's fun and above all because they can.

In short, bullies need to face punishments with teeth. And the bullied need to have access to a justice system they can trust to actually work. Something like this: http://www.sudval.org/05_onepersononevote.html (scroll down about halfway to "When you were young", A True Story).

Look, our justice system as adults distinguishes between aggression and self defense. But for some reason, we treat conflict between kids as if it's everybody's fault, and everything's okay once it stops. That's unjust, and is the root cause: adults that treat order and convenience as more important than justice.

When I was a kid, I remember complaining that my (three years younger) sister hit me. The first thing my mom asked? "What did you do to make her do that?" Well, of course I answered, "Nothing," but it plainly wasn't true. Who picks a fight with someone twice their size? And over the course of the discussion it came out that I had taken her toy and teased her, and you know what? My sister got a free pass. I got in trouble.

How about that old fashioned rule, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all?" How about, if I catch you insulting or belittling someone, you have to be their servant for half an hour -- get their water, sharpen their pencils, that sort of thing?

How about a justice system that treats allegations of teasing and insulting as serious matters, and investigates to get to the bottom of things? How about a system that is concerned about kids' antisocial behavior, not because it is currently bothering the adults, but because of the effects it has on both victim and aggressor?

How about a system that punished physical violence harshly if it was aggressive, and leniently or not at all if it's defensive? How about a system that says, "If you hit back with the aim of making the other kid stop, and you stop as soon as he does, we'll hold you blameless?" You know, the same deal adults get. (By popular judgement, anyway, if not always in court.)

How about a system that responded to kids' experiments in evil with love and affection and attention, encouraging them to delve deeper and teaching them that behaving cruelly toward others is a great way to get all the stuff they want?

Never mind on that last one.

That's the best post in this entire thread. People don't get bullied in adulthood because there is a working police and judicial entity. People get bullied as kids because there isn't one.

Currently kids grow up for 18 years in a everyone-for-himself, in-order-to-be-successfull-you-need-physical-strength-and-iron-will world, and just then they switch to the much better and fairer world where being sucessful is not dependant on being able to defend your own flesh.

That adult system of self-fulfillment while not having to mind fighting bad guys all the time is the basis of our scientific and economic progress of the past 200 years. The big question: why do we put our kids into a different, unnecessery, dangerous and toxic environment for their first 18 years?

"People don't get bullied in adulthood because there is a working police and judicial entity."

Unfortunately while adults may be largely free from the physical violence, workplace bullying does occur. Usually it is more subtle than the outright taunting and physical violence of schoolyard bullies, which means its harder to retaliate against but it can be very stressful - and HR is not on your side.

"Currently kids grow up for 18 years in a everyone-for-himself, in-order-to-be-successfull-you-need-physical-strength-and-iron-will world,.."

Sadly, the only other system I can think of that shares these traits is one called "prison".

> HR is not on your side.

Given the regulations in the United States that's hardly a surprise.

I'm not in HR but have I heard/read things from a few sources. You have to deal with people using HR to harass their victims, lack of evidence and the list just continues. And when it's management above HR doing harasment, they don't have the authority to stop it. It's a rather thankless job.

Bogus. Forget HR, if you're bullied your options are 1) switch department 2) file a police report 3) sue 4) switch company 5) move to a different town.

If you're a kid, there is no option to switch 1) class 2) file a police a police report 3) sue 4) switch school or 5) move to a different town if your parents don't cooperate. You're completely dependent on them.

If you don't get the difference between being a free agent in state governed by rule of law, and being a dependent person in a defacto unpoliced area, you should reconsider your way of thinking.

I'm not saying that there are no options to workplace bullying, I am saying that it happens.

"People don't get bullied in adulthood because there is a working police and judicial entity. People get bullied as kids because there isn't one."

People do get bullied in adulthood .. there are many stories and reports involving bullying in the workplace.

Not all bullying situations are necessarily toxic or dangerous. Consider hazing and boot camp, both of which are essentially sanctioned bullying. I suspect a good number of people actually enjoy hazing (joining a fraternity) and others believe military training builds character, etc.

Likewise, try entertaining the idea that childhood bullying (within reason) might serve a social purpose. I've heard multiple first hand accounts of former targets overcoming bullies to become protectors, for one. Perhaps bullying creates a social order, a sense of empathy for victims, etc? I'm not arguing that all bullying is constructive, but I'm not also willing to say it's all destructive either.

The difference is that your first paragraph involves consent, and the second paragraph doesn't.

Complex problems don't have simple solutions.

Unfortunately a lot of the time, a child who's victimising another child will be projecting emotions that they're feeling, due to abuse / difficulties they're experiencing themselves.

To think that the problem can be hugged out is crazy - it's not going to happen.

I think the first most useful thing to do is to teach the child to fight back. Often a change of attitude - being able to have the confidence to say 'no' and to stand up against adversity, is enough to change the tack the abuser's behaviour. Violence isn't necessary - and I don't think it should ever be encouraged .. but taking a stand is an entirely valid response.

But secondly the root causes of the abuser's behaviour do need to be looked at - and a simple response isn't going to solve these problems. It would be nice if the simple idea of 'punishment' could resolve the behaviour - because it would require minimal effort - but realistically it wont.

Reforming bad behaviour involves understanding what the person involved needs - sometimes that will be love and understanding. All children have complex emotional and psychological needs; if these needs are neglected, something has to give .. and usually does.

I think it may be more accurate to say that complex problems don't have "simplistic" solutions as sometimes there can be relatively simple solutions and I would not rule out the possibility for a problem like bullying. For example, depression is a problem with a complex origin but cognitive therapy is a relatively brief and simple solution that has been shown to be effective in many cases. Simplistic solutions, e.g. "think positive", however, do not work.

I guess this place has higher percentage of the bullied than other communities, so let me share my bits:

I was the little kid with a big head and glasses which was the equivalent of "bully magnet". I got beaten up during kindergarten (by kids smaller than me), got beaten up in elementary school, secondary school, high school. Bullying kind of stopped in university because bullies couldn't pass the entrance tests heh.

And the funny thing is, I asked my family for help while I was getting bullied. I told my father that "These kids at school ganged up on me and while one was holding my arms the other one punched me". His response was "You shouldn't respond to them, they'll be gone soon". Unfortunately, "not responding" while you're getting punched is not a very efficient defense technique.

So my dad didn't teach me how to defend myself, he didn't contact school managers, he didn't do anything. And unfortunately this happened more than once. It is very depressing for a small kid to lose his trust in his father. And that happened to me when I was 9.

I knew no way to stop the bullying so naturally I focused my frustration on my poor little sister. I made her cry a lot. I tortured animals. Anything weaker than me received my wrath. And all this time my father was thinking I was a bad naughty boy who should have learned some manners.

Every parent should know that they won't be able to protect their kids from every harm. But they can prepare them, teach them, educate them about the potential dangers they may ever face and support them if such situation arises. I never had that kind of support, but my kids will have that. Oh and they'll learn how to land a flying headbutt onto a bully's nose if they get close enough.

> I knew no way to stop the bullying so naturally I focused my frustration on my poor little sister. I made her cry a lot. I tortured animals. Anything weaker than me received my wrath. And all this time my father was thinking I was a bad naughty boy who should have learned some manners.

You probably also know why bullies did that to you. Never met one bully who hasn't some shit going on home.

I say this not as a kid who was bullied, but who had many friends who were bullied. And being a guy, this really applies to guys, girl bullying is a different dynamic.

The best way to overcome a childhood bully is to get in an old fashioned schoolyard fistfight with them. It doesn't matter if you loose, just don't loose badly. Fight them until your face is bloodied and your nose is broken, until your knuckles hurt, and you can barely move. Cheat, use blunt objects (no biting or weirdness), sucker punch, tackle, throw dirt in their eyes, whatever. No sharp weapons or anything that'll do permanent damage. You aren't fighting for honor here, this isn't feudal Japan. You're fighting for street credit.

If you're winning, stop when he stops. Make the exchange free of emotion and a cold business negotiation.

If he tries to fight you with a bunch of buddies, do whatever you can to move it in front of a neutral crowd.

9 times out of 10, they won't even show for the fight. When they do, put on a good show.

If you make it so troublesome to be a target, no matter how weird you are, they'll leave you alone. You have to make it a bad equation for them to pick on you. They pick on you because something is bad in their lives and they have to pick on somebody and by not fighting back you make it easy for them to use you as the outlet for their problems. Make it not easy, introduce friction into that equation.

If you do fight, 9 times out of 10, you'll end up being their friend and most of the time you'll find out that the bullies really have shitty life stories and need a friend.

Treat the bully like an angry dog, don't turn your back, don't run. Slow movements. He's not bullying you out of a rational decision, he's doing it out of instinct. He's a dumb and dangerous animal you should treat that way.

In my experience one fight is generally enough.

God damn, is childhood a tough time. Life seems really easy these days. Grade five felt about 10 years long.

Maybe I don't remember how bad it was, but I find myself thinking of the kids who were doing the bullying. The one guy became an alcoholic in High School because his dad needed someone to drink with during the day. School wasn't good, but when I got home I was mostly in the clear. It's hard to imagine how a child who felt constant fear and violence at home could do anything but impose those things on others.

I hope that I can instill in my children both the skills to resist bullying for themselves, but also the sense of justice to fight it when it's done to others.

This comment will be controversial, especially for North Americans and Western Europeans. I ask you to read it and think about it a moment before reacting, and comment if you disagree. I believe what I'm about to say is true, and I'm not trying to get a rise out of people - I want to fix some problems with society.

I feel for the author. I also moved around a lot as a kid. No, wasn't a military family. Just coincidences, reorganizations at work a few times in a row, changing jobs, family circumstances. Sometimes things went great and I fell into a group of good kids right away, sometimes they weren't so good. It's normal that sometimes the new kid gets shit. I understand.

A little teasing is nasty, but kids can cross the line. Something like this:

> John and Mike never stopped. They never gave me a day off. And while their bullying hit maximum levels within a few days of school starting, the self loathing grew until I actually hated myself. ... they started in on new bullying tactics like sneaking up and cramming food from the floor into my mouth, knocking my lunch tray to the ground, throwing dangerous objects at me, tripping me, shoving me, and pushing me.

That's crossing the line. Those John and Mike kids are way past any acceptable teasing/jockeying line.

What's the author advise?

> And so, I will ask you now to not hate the bullies. Experience tells me that hating them, or being angry with them, will always make it worse. Instead, put your arm around them. Love them. Tell them that they are valuable. Tell them that you expect great things from them. They will stop the bullying.

No, they won't.

This is where I'll offend polite society. I'm not doing it to get a rise out of you. I'll tell you - this is the mainstream advice you hear growing up these days. "Love the bullies, talk it out, and they'll stop."

No, that's false. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

I remember I changed schools mid-year in seventh grade when we moved. I was born in August which is the cut-off date, so I was effectively a year younger than everyone else. I was 11 years old. The middle school I transferred to was 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. Just how that district was laid out.

A ninth grader - 14 or 15 years old, much bigger than me - pushed me into the lockers the third day at school. Hard.

He then laughed with his friends and started to walk off.

I ran after him, tackled him, and started hitting him in the face.

We both got suspended. No one caused problems with me after that. I found a nice group of friends and was respected. The older kid didn't cause me any problems after that either. He didn't really acknowledge me one way or the other, we were just strangers after that, which suited me fine.

And that's how you've got to do. This love the bullies thing - it's wrong. It ignores our animal nature.

I've got some sets of names I'd name my sons as they're born. They're unconventional names - Cosimo Marshall or Aurelius Marshall if the boy's mother was Italian, Zhuge Marshall if he was Chinese. The boy will likely get teased.

That's fine, tease back.

But son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you, they've crossed a line. Fuck them up. It's the only thing these vicious freaks understand. They're wild animals. They make violence on you, you need to show them that you're the stronger, bigger animal. When someone attacks you maliciously for no reason, you need to impose your will on them.

Even if you lose, lose swinging. They respect it. Be a tough fight.

This "talk it out" shit doesn't work... it's been the dogma for the last 30-50 years, it assumes the nobility of human nature will win out. It doesn't. It's nonsense. It just simply doesn't work.

If you're not strong enough to impose your will on someone making violence on you, then train and get stronger. If you're intelligent, it doesn't matter if the other guy is bigger than you. Take up boxing or martial arts. Brain beats brawn. Fight dirty if you have to. They shove food down your pants or whatever? As soon as he turns around, hit him in the back of the head as hard as you can. If you're much smaller, pick up a hard object and do it.

My Mom is awesome. She picked up from school when I was suspended. We sat in the principal's office and she was very serious, saying yes, my son is serious about school, he never gets into problems, I don't know what happened with the fight. After we left, she took me out to lunch and said good job.

I wished I'd learned that lesson earlier. Some people are animals. The ones that want to hurt you for no reason. Show them that you'll go to self-destructive lengths to defend yourself and avenge yourself upon them, and they'll stop. Also, protect others. I got into a shouting match protecting some McDonald's employees from a mob boss in Hong Kong. A riot cop came to break it up, I was almost in a fight with three mafia guys.

I had two guys try to mug me the other day in a dangerous area. Bad mistake, doubled one of them over with a kick the stomach and shouted at the other one, "YOU WANT TO DIE? BACK DOWN, STAY BACK." He did, he let me walk away while his criminal buddy was doubled over.

Should I have "talked" with them, "loved" them, these vicious criminals? No, they're animals. They don't understand.

Teach your kid to fight back and fight smart. Protect the weak. Be hell and misery to bad people. Pacifism only works if there's someone else that's strong around to keep things together - someone who'll stick up for you. If everyone goes pacifist except the bad people, eventually one bad person with no conscience winds up ruling.

No. It doesn't work. Teach your kids to fight back, fight smart, defend and assert themselves, and protect others in trouble. There's legitimately bad people in the world, barely above animals, and strength is the only thing they respect. Assert yourself.

Overall, I have a hard time disagreeing with you. It's worth pointing out, though, that early on, especially in elementary school, talking it out might work, especially among lightweight bullies with more talk than physical action.

This reminds me of an odd story. In middle school, there was this kid on my bus who I found amusing. I mean, something about him was just comical to me. I didn't dislike him, either. I'd point this out to him and others from time to time – I think the label I'd use was "doofy." It turns out I was being an asshole and I didn't even know it. What I viewed as innocent ribbing was hurting his feelings. From his perspective, I was a bully.

One of his teachers came with him and intercepted me on the way to a class. She confronted me on my behavior. All at once, I saw it from his perspective and felt terrible. I started sobbing in apology, knowing at once the pain of being in his position and feeling like a monster at having slid into this most loathsome role.

He accepted my apology and from then on, all was well. The teacher was, I think, entirely shocked. This was the last outcome she expected, but she handled it all with grace and we were friendly after that. I'm glad he spoke up and I'm glad his teacher was on his side. It was an important moment for me.

Once you start to get older, though, the physical elements become very real. Moreover, not everyone is well-meaning. If it's a choice between getting damaged or protecting yourself, I agree – demonstrate strength. If I had a kid, I'd rather deal with him getting suspended, attaching a price to being physically screwed with, than lose that child to suicide or death of personality thanks to unreasoning "human" beasts.

Having a very similar childhood as the author, I'd have to agree with him and you.

Bullying tends to stem from low self-esteem, but we must try to consider that some people aren't looking for the same type of acclamation.

Warriors, hunters, gatherers, care-givers, etc. are personality traits that are embedded in our biological evolution.

Both your post and the original overgeneralize, treating bullies as a monolithic entity with a single motivation and a single response.

Bullies are not "wild animals" bullying for "no reason", they're people with unique intellects and desires and motivations that you, or they, may not understand. They may want others to see them as tough, or to feel powerful or in control, or for laughs, or because they have something to gain, or because everyone else does it and they think it's normal.

Effective responses have to be targeted based on the motivation. I'm not saying you need to send bullies to the psychiatrist and "talk it out" to understand their motivations, mind you, just that you can't expect the right response to bully A to be the right response to bully B.

Sometimes the right response to a bully is to be a credible physical threat to him. Other times it may be to get to know him and make him feel respected, improving his self esteem, or to involve adults who will hand down more severe punishment, or to laugh it off, or to make fun of him, or for someone else to tell him "that's not cool". The right response might even be multi-tiered, trying to change his underlying motivations, increasing the cost of bullying, and decreasing the perceived benefits all at the same time.

Don't leave tools out of your arsenal by mistakenly thinking you should only "love on them" or only "fuck them up".

Good comment, thanks for the reply. To clarify, you only "fuck them up" when they make violence on you. After they put their hands on you or someone innocent, they're in the wrong and they've forfeited their moral right.

Also, something to think about -

> Bullies are not "wild animals" bullying for "no reason", they're people with unique intellects and desires and motivations that you, or they, may not understand.

I don't know what part of society you run in, but some people are wild animals. Probably not on Hacker News. Probably not in the suburbs. But some people are born without a conscience, literally - I've looked into it, I've studied criminology and crime and things like that a little bit. I'm not expert, but when you look into it, something like 3% of people don't have consciences, and some percent of those get off on hurting people... it's not a big number, but those people are really wild animals to a large extent. I know this isn't polite to say, but consider it. You may never have come across one of those people, and God willing you never will. But they do exist. Hitler type people, y'know? They only respect strength. They can't be talked or loved or negotiated with.

Not many people. By all means, try a peaceful way if it works in the situation. But once they put their hands on you or someone innocent, all bets are off, and defend yourself fully.

I had a teen in a Sunday School class I taught who didn't have a conscience. He didn't have any sense of right and wrong, or of consequences for actions. He was a major bully; two other kids in my class of seven actually changed schools to get away from him (which made Sunday mornings interesting, to say the least!) He only respected strength -- but he also needed to be loved.

Like I said, don't limit your arsenal. Not even for the "wild" ones (even if they're animals to a large extent, they're still people to some extent.) Defend yourself and the innocent fully, but don't think that means you can't also love your enemy.

>Defend yourself and the innocent fully, but don't think that means you can't also love your enemy

Let me add the rationale: if you don't try to love your enemy, or try see something good in him, then you will hate him.

His hold over you will last as long as you hate him. Bullies feed off hate and fear.

Kids, in particular, don't always develop a conscience until later in life.

I don't think this is something that is even certain.

Out of interest, what would you do if they never became violent and were just bullied verbally? Would you just continually tease back? How would you do this if they were on a better social footing than you?

Or perhaps every time they demonstrated their strength to you, it was just in a 'playfight' that you felt forced to 'not take seriously'.

It's fine and dandy to talk about the psychology of bullying and how there are different tools to deal with it and all that, but when you're a kid and don't know any better, I think it's a lot easier to just do what he suggested and get physical.

I've always been a small, calm and rational person, but when it came down to it, I would just bite whoever was trying to bully me. As it turns out, the jaw is one of the strongest muscles in the body and it certainly does not look cool to have your eyes tearing up while having your finger being chewed by a shrimp.

Sure, getting physical may sometimes be necessary. It's worth adding that it's important not to enjoy it. (Maybe this is how new bullies are formed?)

I don't think enjoyment is at the top of your mind when the task at hand is to get three big guys off of your back...

Having got the three guys off your back, how do you feel then?

Pretty good and not particularly bullish. What's your point?

I don't think "enjoyment" of the fact that you just asserted/defended yourself does any harm. Holding a grudge is far worse, imho. I recall some guy from the ScienceBlogs commenting on his high school reunion, and you could tell he had some deep running hatred going on even after several years - to the point of enrolling his kids in martial arts classes with a "so-maybe-they-can-get-some-sweet-revenge-for-me" type of attitude.

The martial arts are not bad per se, but a parent teaching a kid that it's ok to turn to violence when they can't get along with their peers is not very responsible.

OK, good point -- by all means enjoy having defended yourself. Just don't enjoy inflicting suffering on others (lest you become a bully yourself).

well duh :)

FWIW, the other day I read about a research (and this matches my personal anedoctes) that younger brothers (i.e. the ones who usually get bullied by the older brothers) tend to show more empathy towards other people than older ones.

In contrast, psychopaths almost always have a history of being a victim of child abuse by family members. So, in my mind, values coming from the authority figures in a family are really on a whole different level than simply having maturity.

>> enjoy having defended yourself

Uh. I think the term we should be using here is "relief".

Making him feel respected and improving his self-esteem? I remember how adults used to bullshit me and tell me that low-esteem was why so-and-so was probably bullying me and that I should pity him or at least try to understand.

Fuck that. I believe that there is a tiny tiny percentage of a chance that that is actually ever the cause of bullying.

Maybe I'm biased though. I was a "target" from grades 4-8 and didn't make a single friend until high school. It's a miracle that I'm as well-adjusted as I am. I knew others who weren't as lucky as I.

Sorry for the language in this comment. This is something I have very strong feelings about.

There appears to be some evidence that bullies are more likely to have too much self-esteem rather than too little:

"The highest and lowest rates of cheating and bullying are found in different sub-categories of high self-esteem."

From: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/pdf/pspi41...

I'll have to agree with you. Bullies are not an monolithic organization with a single creed and method. And this changes a lot with age group as well. I suspect that most younger bullies are very much different from older bullies.

I don't want to repeat your post, but it really should all be repeated. You need to take away both their long term need to bully, as well as their immediate urge to bully. You can do so through a variety of methods. For example, that long term need to bully often (well, I think/hope it's often), just goes away as kids grow up. And that immediate urge to bully. Well, there's no deterrent quite like getting your ass handed to you by the guy who you just shoved.

And related to that, there are degrees of bullying. I dislike these school campaigns that stick all these different activities together as being equally wrong under the umbrella of bullying. I've seen material that tells children that all pushing/shoving and 'teasing' and being 'rude' is wrong and 'can be' bullying. I can't see this being effective in any way. All this can do is make kids think that adults and their rules are dumb. What do you mean I can't call Kevin, my best friend from before I can remember a fat dumby butt? What do you mean I can't shove him when I know he'll just shove back?

All that can do is make one subset of children dismissing the 'rules' and 'bullying' as a 'dumb adult' thing, and another subset (and I remember playing with this subset when I was knee high), that'll yell and scream abuse at anything 'against the rules'. Now granted, I was kinda in the 'these rules are dumb' group, so my view of things is a bit biased.

Good comment. In the same vein, not everyone handles being bullied the same way. A related article (http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2009/07/very_off_topic_why_...) where the author remains angry even after a long time has passed and how he plans to help his kids deal with such bullying (similar to lionhearted's comment)

Giving someone a good, hard ass kicking has worked for me, it's gotten people to stay permanently off my back.

However! It has also initiated constantly-escalating near-wars with groups of people showing up at my home with weapons. (I was a teenager. I felt invincible. I grew up.)

Some people will back down if you fight back. Some people will just fight harder.

So, while violence IS a solution, you also have to know WHEN it is a solution, sometimes it is. Sometimes, you're playing a game with terribly high stakes and no jackpot. Sometimes, it's better to walk away.

I used to think I never lost a fight because I was spectacular. Actually, I was just spectacularly lucky. I could be dead right now.

>If you're not strong enough to impose your will on someone making violence on you, then train and get stronger. If you're intelligent, it doesn't matter if the other guy is bigger than you. Take up boxing or martial arts. Brain beats brawn.

In 9th grade having a little boxing under my belt, i was attacked by and successfully won the fight with 2 10th graders. Well, a half-day latter, the 10+ of them met me. Not everybody was beating me though - it was just too crowded :). And they weren't even too cruel - i was even able to walk several hours later. They taught me a valuable lesson - for any force there will always be a much bigger force.

But did the bullying stop? Was that the end of it? I don't think of bullying as a single or even pair of incidents. The type of bullying being discussed here is years of mental and physical torment.

Physical bumps and bruises heal, mental bruises not so quickly. You may have lost the battle but won the war by showing strength to the bullies and to yourself.

"Physical bumps and bruises heal, mental bruises not so quickly."

Unfortunately, I don't know about any study correlating bullying (or lack of it) with future success or failure in life. For example, do we know that being bullied in childhood encourage or discourage (or have no correlation with) development of one's psychological resilience?

While playing - growling, biting, jumping - wolf puppies prepare themselves to live as wolves. Humans are the most cruel animals on Earth, thus it seems natural that the play of human puppies is much more cruel than that of wolf puppies.

Very true. The biggest problem with the parent comment is that this can and does happen. I've known plenty of bullied kids who scrapped it out only to have the bully's entire clique ambush them the next day.

If you were ambushed and seriously beaten, then I would expect the school to expel the ringleader, suspend the others and get the police involved. One-on-one in school is one thing, but once they start planning ambushes they have gone over the "child" line.

I think the problem is that there aren't any perfect solutions to bad human behavior. Sure, this kind of retaliation can happen but that doesn't mean it was wrong to fight back in the prior incident where one doesn't have this foreknowledge.

Ender's Game comes to mind. Win. Period.

"... But son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you, they've crossed a line. Fuck them up. It's the only thing these vicious freaks understand. They're wild animals. They make violence on you, you need to show them that you're the stronger, bigger animal. When someone attacks you maliciously for no reason, you need to impose your will on them. ..."

And the first girl who uses an indirect asymmetric attack? This approach will not work.

"... Teach your kid to fight back and fight smart. Protect the weak. Be hell and misery to bad people. ..."

There is a concept of proportional response and if you fail to apply it you could actually cause more damage to others and yourself. You do not want to "unleash the beast" inside. People are killed every day by someone loosing control and going too far. There are long term consequences for this type of approach. Consequences for yourself and others.

You have to decide before hand with a cool head what are your "rules of engagement?" Where do you draw the line? What is your proportional response? Is it offensive or purely defensive? Are your motives pure? Or are they to "do harm" to save face?

If you want to "fight smart" I'd advise Akido (合気道) because the core ideas are faithful to the ideals of "be good", "minimal harm" and self preservation. Akido allows you to achieve this through redirection of force and removing "ego" from the equation. You can use Akido techniques for both physical force and psychological protection.

Maybe these ideas are too subtle. But one thing I notice is the pattern of those being abused repeating the pattern of abusers. There are alternatives to break this cycle. Remember, "your actions have real consequences", short and long term. [0]

[0] Lynne Soraya, "Friends and Allies: What being bullied taught me about friendship" ~ http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/aspergers-diary/200910/f...

I agree with feral's reply: I think you have never actually tried to use Aikido in a real hand-to-hand combat situation, let alone with the intent to prevent harm. I'll tell you what will happen: you will get your ass kicked spectacularly, because actually applying those techniques in the wild is incredibly hard and it gets much harder after the first punch that connected with your nose.

If you are going the way of fighting, the advise is simple: keep the fight as short as possible, by eliminating the opponents ability to fight on the first possible occasion. In one situation, a square hit in the face may remove all their resolve to continue fighting. In another situation, you may need to do serious damage. Whatever the situation: don't dance around and do what is required to prevent yourself from getting hurt.

(Luckily I've never been in an actual fight, but I regularly insist my jiu-jitsu training partners behave like they would in a real fight for a bit, instead of cooperating with the exercise. That always puts my ability to actually fight in a humbling perspective. What I learn from that is what you will hear others say: keep it simple (complex techniques fail much more often), hurt them as soon as possible (pain distracts people immensely) and keep it short (the longer the fight takes, the more chance for you to make a mistake, for him to grab a weapon, for someone to join in, etc.). A hard punch on the nose is the best start of any fight.)

"... I think you have never actually tried to use Aikido in a real hand-to-hand combat situation ..."

Correct, do you know why?

Because I leave the "ego" at the door & understand if you have got to the a point where you have to fight you have already lost. cf: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootload/3497187984/

"... A hard punch on the nose is the best start of any fight ... "

I'd say ambush is the best way. This the secret about fighting - real fights don't happen by accident. They are in fact orchestrated. An ambush where the victim won't see it coming, numerically outnumbered and the odds stacked against them. You are in for a beasting, possibly killed.

But most of what we know as fighting is two people bumping into each other, registering fear in each others faces, letting the ego get involved and things escalate from there. This is avoidable and the type of situation I'm referring.

Just want you to know, I really appreciate your post and for mentioning Aikido. Of all the martial arts I know, I find it to be the most profound and wise in its philosophy.

There is also the interesting practice of Tonglen that I was recently introduced to. It is a meditation technique (endorsed and practiced by the Dalai Lama), that teaches you how to train your mind to effectively and healthily handle the issue of suffering:


Profound and wise, and less than optimally effective. Its a little like the bullying problem in microcosm.

In theory, Aikido is wonderful and beautiful and the right way to solve the problem. But, fundamentally, trying to block and redirect someones attacks away from you without doing violence to either party is a much riskier strategy than striking back. Its just much harder to do right.

In practice, if you do end up in a serious fight in which your physical well-being is at risk, you want the most effective strategies, that have the lowest risk of going wrong, and that's not Aikido.

Aikido is fantastic once you've had five or ten years of serious practice to master it, and some of it's techniques border on magic. So yeah, not likely to be good for high school aged kids.

btw, Aikido is not a nice but ineffective hippy martial art, despite its reputation and philosophy. There are lots of really nasty joint locks. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wristlock#Supinating_wristlock for one example - "If performed correctly this technique will break the opponents wrist, elbow and dislocate the shoulder."

The throws can also be pretty brutal ie. throw people face/head first into the ground. Some of the comments on http://www.aikidodemonstration.com/aikido-questions-and-answ... might be worth a read.

"... In practice, if you do end up in a serious fight in which your physical well-being is at risk, you want the most effective strategies, that have the lowest risk of going wrong, and that's not Aikido. ..."

That is a weapon situation, a situation you avoid at all costs. There is only one outcome. Read my reply to @Confusion.

I reckon HN posters, much more than average, could be categorised as 'nerds who learned to fight back'.

No; seriously, I'd bet the thoughts underlying the parent post is a principal distinguishing component of the psychological makeup of the typical HN poster.

I'm going to assume that readers here are likely to have been bullied at school. More than average we were probably the nerds, the geeks; so often in school being smart is sufficient to attract bad attention.

I'd be willing to speculate further and say that the people that endured this process, and yet ended up sufficiently driven and risk-taking to get involved in startups, probably overlap those that eventually came to the conclusion that resistance was part of the answer; and that sometimes fighting back is better than passively accepting your fate.

There's a similarity in the attitudes of 'fk it, I wont let you away with that' and 'fk it, lets build this'.

Me, I was bullied for years and years. I was always the good kid, I tried to do what I thought was the right thing; turn the other cheek, feel sorry for them. It just did not help.

My dad eventually started sending me to karate classes. Time passed. I started fighting back. (Only a token resistance, scrapes and bruises, but that's mainly what is necessary) Things changed. This was a watershed in my development as a person.

There was still psychological bullying; but its considerably easier to deal with that when people aren't beating the crap out of you.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that a common characteristic of the people that read HN is probably a fighting attitude; the understanding that in some situations game theory does make sense, and that a willingness to engage in MAD behaviour has a value. I'm not trying to say this is a necessary condition, or the best answer, but just that sometimes its the least bad one.

I'm an extremely gentle person, and I'll turn the other cheek as long as I can; but I understand the benefit - to everyone involved, I'd argue - of fighting back decisively, in extremis.

If my kids are bullied, I'll teach them both conflict resolution skills, and martial arts.

I had a friend at school with anger problems. People would wind him up until he exploded and ran into them, fists flailing, shouting "Die! Die!". And then they would beat the crap out of him, because he was terrible at fighting. This was so entertaining that they would do it every time they saw him. So hitting the bullies was definitely counter-productive for him.

Yours and the author's advice are orthogonal.

Your advice is to the bullied: how to respond to a bully.

His advice is to adults who witness bullying: how to prevent a bully from continuing with any victim, not just stopping when one fights back.

I think you are very much right about this. Bullies stop bullying almost always after they have been beat down or at least stood up to. No amount of reasoning will change them. As an anecdotal example: I knew a kid that was bullied in High School constantly by another kid. I and a few others told the bully many times to lay off and nobody thought it was funny. So the bully wasn't doing it to impress anyone else or anything like that - he was just a dick. Then one day the kid being picked on snapped and pushed the bully...knowing full well a fight would start. The kid also knew the bully would most likely beat his ass. Well, unbeknown to the kid pushing back (and fortunately), there was a ledge with a shallow guard rail behind the bully that the bully fell back against and over the guard rail and then fell over the ledge. The bully fell about 15 feet to the ground and got hurt pretty badly. Had the bully not been hurt...not only would he have beat the kids ass but he would have continued to bully the kid - that I have no doubt in my mind. However, the bully never bothered that kid again after he recovered from his injuries.

Had the bully not been hurt...not only would he have beat the kids ass but he would have continued to bully the kid - that I have no doubt in my mind.

I have doubt. When I was in school I was bullied by a couple of kids, and one day I just said fuck it and got into a fight, and lost. A couple of days later, more bullying, new fight, lost again. There may have been a third fight, I don't really recall, but even though I never actually won a fight, just being willing to put up a fight was apparently enough to make that particular bully leave me alone. Bullying is rarely something personal and if there is someone easier to bully most bullies will take the path of least resistance.

Had the bully not survived, the bullied kid would've been declared a psychotic killer.

I have been bullied and I have also been a bullie myelf (frist the former then the latter).

Your advice is sound. Bullie "smells" the weakness - indeed they never pick on challenges, they always look for victims. So the only way out is not embracing (showing weakness) but through fight (showing strength).

You might get beaten up anyway - but if you show "will to power" they might start respecting you - since you "might exert revenge" on them someday. It's really how it works.

And my dad also taught me never to start a fight - but to make sure to finish it. It just took me long to "get it".

> I have been bullied and I have also been a bullie myelf (frist the former then the latter).

Username appropriate?

I can't really remember Duncan being a bully?

I will second this. I had a few people bullying me in highschool, but never resulting in any sort of violence, just namecalling/etc. One day, when I was hanging out with friends, he came over and started calling me names and generally being very confrontational. At that moment, I realised that I had to put an end to it then and there.

I punched him twice in the face, and he went down. When he got up, dazed, his friend split us up. He never even talked to me after that, and always avoided me.

If my kids ever get bullied, I'm teaching them Krav Maga.

I was bullied during the 8th and 9th grade.. I hated the bullies but I never really did anything about it... Then, when entering high school on the 10th grade, something clicked, I punched the first person to give me a stupid nickname, and after that no one annoyed me again...

So yes, I think violence in this case is useful... It doesn't really solve the problem though, it just shows to bullies that you are not weak and they should just choose a weaker target than you... They understand that, respect you for that and leave you alone...

Now for the small anecdote, I became good friend with the guy I punched and he actually had been bullied before in middle school. He had tried to be a bully in high school so as not to be at the bottom of the class hierarchy...

If you want people to back off, the first thing you have to do is show them that you are willing to take things much further than the situation warrants.

If you think someone is going to go apeshit on you for something small, you don't ever risk seeing what they'll do in response to stronger stimuli.

I don't find any of this controversial, it sounds like common sense -- except the thinking that "they" are animals and "they" are bad people.

Just watch toddlers; the ones who can walk hit the ones who don't walk yet; and then they are happy about it.

We're all animals; we're bad when we can get away with it. Not being bad requires a life of practice and self-restrain.

I get the feeling you were a big fan of Ender's Game when you were a kid.

I had a rather indirect experience of this. I had a paper route as a kid and on one part of it lived a bully that would come out and harass me to the point where I would avoid the neighborhood (didn't go over well with people who missed their paper either). For some reason I never could bring myself to fight back, but at some point my Mom found out (I think I was asking my Dad how to fight or something and that clued her in that something must be going on). Anyway she came with me the next time and layed the smack down on that kid and I never had a problem after that.

Edit: I don't think she was actually physically violent but rather he got an earful that probably made him think there could be violence if he ever tried anything again.

Agree completely.

If I had a son who was getting bullied, I'd tell him: "put the other guy down HARD." You have to lay down a mark that you're not to be messed with - it's like prison in a way. This lovey-dovey talk it out thing is useless in my experience.

I used to get some crap off some classmates from time to time, sometimes physical bullying. There was some stupid game where guys used to randomly kick the back of other guys legs for the fun of it. One guy did it to me, thinking he had a easy target. I shoved him back, and he started laughing, thinking that he'd kill me easily. A right hook to the jaw sorted him out pretty quick. Other people take note of things like that and don't mess with you for sure.

Treating the symptom, rather than the cause. A valid approach in some circumstances.

I completely agree with you. I think if I have a kid I will sit him down when he is young and explain to him that I do not expect him to ever suffer or martyr himself with his good intentions -- and then maybe he will know what to do.

The fucking Batman?

Fuck them up. It's the only thing these vicious freaks understand

They're wild animals.

Impose your will on them.

Teach your kid to fight back and fight smart

Fight dirty if you have to.

If you're much smaller, pick up a hard object and do it.

Show them that you'll go to self-destructive lengths to defend yourself

I agree with this. This is why I've given my kids knives. Most bullies are dumb and unarmed, so it's easy to catch them off guard with a quick shiv to the kidney. Plus if you're a minor and you aren't a non-asian minority or hillbilly you'll get off scott free and your record will be expunged when you turn 18.

> Most bullies are dumb and unarmed, so it's easy to catch them off guard with a quick shiv to the kidney.

Your sarcasm is in bad taste.

Doing that kind of injury to a person is never justified. Self defense is about defense. If you need lethal force proper strike to the face or chest would be far more effective at actually stopping someone. A knife is lethal force and pulling one is never a good idea.

I am in my thirties now and it still utterly astonishes me the degree to which the school administrators, teachers and parents in my high school viewed bullying with blithe ignorance. I was never bullied myself and I was never a bully, but I witnessed atrocities that would land any adult perpetrator behind bars for several years. Sexual assaults of mentally handicapped kids, kids having their heads forced into the water of a dirty toilet, kids shot with pellet guns during class, on-going intimidation, beatings, etc. Amazingly, this is just the stuff that I personally witnessed...I'm sure worse things happened that I never saw. All of this transpired with virtually zero repercussions for the bullies involved. It was truly sad. What is even more sad is that the adults at the school essentially turned a blind eye to this behaviour. I sure hope things have changed since then.

As a fellow bullied child, I can empathize with the treatment, but I could not disagree more with the proposed solutions.

You simply can not treat children as adults nor can all family situations be adapted to yield the necessary love & care required to raise a non-bully. Biologically, children also don't have the same ability to morally reason and weigh present actions against future consequences. There's also a good deal of evidence which suggests some personalities and brains have a preternatural inclination towards aggressive actions and violence.

Children also learn, nearly from birth, how to please their parents and will often, as the author did, shield their "shame" at being bullied.

I was taught by my father, quite simply, to "always stand up for your rights" and that "dignity itself is worth fighting for".

As a kid, I never started a fight, but I ALWAYS responded to violence with violence. For many bullies, violence is really is the only social interchange they understand and the attention they receive from the public physical domination of others is their main source of self-esteem.

I got into my fair share of physical altercations (which I lost more than I won) and subsequent interactions with school disciplinary actions.

Nevertheless, win or lose, I never regretted any fight as they were 100% effective at preventing future bullying.

If a bully "gets bullied back", they back down. If a bully "wins a fight", they know you're always ready to throw-down and take the full measure of consequences so they move on to easier "prey".

School systems are different, but at least in my case, it always helped out with the school authorities to have the higher GPA and be recognized socially as the "good kid that got in trouble".

Finally, one learns at a visceral level, the numerous costs and few benefits of violence. Violence becomes a viable option, internalized very concretely, as the option of absolute last resort.

Honestly, I can't imagine what the solution is these days. Fight back? maybe. Maybe not. For my son I can say the most important thing is to assess your enemy effectively.

I've lost a few friends through school violence. One was shot in the head at a Christmas party, the other was ambushed, beaten into unconsciousness, and never woke up. When I was a young kid the worse you could expect was to beaten badly, by the time I finished high school clear, PVC backpacks and metal detectors at the entrances were the rule.

My high school wasn't in the best neighborhood and my first experience with a gun (9mm) was some kid showing it off and pointing it at random students.

The point is just know what's at stake before jumping into MAD mode. You may find out the other guy is really ready to go nuclear. In primary school, bullies are easy to figure out, they are little sociopaths that use violence. By high school their little brains have developed and some may be full on psycho.

It's nice reading an article like this once in a while. I like to forget how horrible my life had been. I eventually moved away from the town I grew up in with no money and no prospects just to get away from the violence and constant humiliation. I struggled every day since for everything I have today.

It's good to be reminded of where you came from.

Reading it definitely brought up a lot of repressed memories. Life seems so simple right now.

If I ever have kids, they get martial arts training. From someone who emphasizes self-awareness and a productive discipline, but who does not skimp on the full range of effective techniques and the physical training to achieve them.

They may like it more or less. Regardless, it will be a part of their schooling.

Bullying ends when you end it. There may be more than one way to accomplish this, but when you're outnumbered and out of reach of any help, you need to be able to manage the physical situation. (This does not necessarily mean the ability to defeat an arbitrary number of opponents; it also means being able to reason ways to extricate oneself, etc.)

And, sooner or later, you'll be there. This is true throughout society and throughout its various situations; cooperation is limited, and you're going to end up facing difficult situations on your own. "Civility" is a luxury that is not always available.

Being persistently without control can become a self-fulfilling situation. Those neural pathways get burned in -- just as they do with everything else we learn particularly through repeated experience.

I don't want my kids to be placed psychologically in that corner. I also don't want them to place other in that corner, which is why the physical aspects are not sufficient.

P.S. I've also learned that some physical injuries can be irreversible. It doesn't do you much good to know that a bully will eventually "go away" or "one day learn", if in the meantime you have permanent scars and worse to deal with.

As somebody who knows...skip the traditional martial arts and get them into wrestling and Brazilian Jui Jitsu. Anything else will just turn into an embarrassing situation.

As with anything, YMMV. I've taken Karate lessons (specifically shaolin kempo) since I was 4 years old, and I couldn't be happier. Just pick something that makes sense.

100% agreement. Simple rule, if your martial art training's only form of sparring consists of defending against pre-defined attacks or attacks done at less than full speed, then it simple won't be effective in a fight. Also if you only learn how to hit people for points rather than for damage then chances are that's how you'll hit when you end up in a real fight.

Everybody is talking about making sure their kid grows up with fighting skills so he can fight back when he gets bullied.

Why don't y'all just try to teach your children some social skills and general non-weirdness so that they're not the obvious bully magnet?

I thought non-conformity was supposed to be valued? Why should you have to conform just so you don't get punched?

"Was valued" by whom? Are you pressuring me to conform with the local pro-non-conformity value system?

Anyway, I firmly believe that nonconformity is for adults. If you want to reject conformity you need to do it by choice, not by inability. You must learn to conform perfectly before you can non-conform properly. Otherwise it's not nonconformity, it's merely social incompetence.

Anyway, nonconformity is not the same thing as being a friendless loser.

My, you are a nasty little troll, aren't you? Nobody's pressuring you to conform with anything. That's the whole point of non-conformity.

And I call bullshit on your choice metaphor too. Whether someone's different due to choice, lack of ability, not giving a damn about fashion or if it's just the way they're wired, bullying them for being different is wrong.

It's kinda sad that I've been called a troll and modded down for being the only one in this thread to suggest that perhaps social skills and popularity rather than violence are the best way to avoid being a target of bullies.

bullying them for being different is wrong.

We're not arguing about whether bullying is wrong, we're assuming that bullies exist and arguing about what the best way to protect your kids from bullies is. And I still argue that a dozen good friends is worth a whole lot more than an orange belt in karate... and those social skills are probably a lot more useful in later life too.

not giving a damn about fashion

Fashion, n. A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey. -- Ambrose Bierce

Having been bullied myself, social skills often don't make a difference. All you have to do is cross a bully's path on the wrong day and from then on your life's a misery. Once you're tagged low down in the pecking order, most kids will go along with the bully, so nobody will talk to you or give you a chance to practice your social skills, much less a dozen of them.

I had a friend in Uni who had to move schools twice - once to get away from the bullies, a second time when the kids at his new school found out that he'd moved due to being bullied. He was fine up until that point, but as soon as he'd been pegged as a victim, the bullying started up again.

So it's not sad that you're being called a troll. You don't seem to have a particularly sound grasp of what some kids go through, and yet you're quite happy to take up an inflammatory position (kids who get bullied are asking for it by not having social skills, and should just shape up). That's pretty much a textbook definition.

I think my friend said it best during a conversation we were having a few weeks ago:

Him: "So, what was high school like for you?" Me: "It was pretty shitty. I didn't really fit in anywhere." Him: "That makes sense - this sense of being the outcast always seems to carry over to anyone's next endeavor."

And I can see that, too. I never really fit in anywhere, not even with the nerds nor the AP kids. While everyone was postering and bullying me around, I worked on Linux machines in the back area of an IT office in our school. Then after school, I would usually go home and hacked on Linux and played video games all day.

It was pretty soul crushing, though I'm better for it - now I work on UNIX systems all day, and I couldn't have asked for a better job than this. However, I still struggle with depression and feeling like an "outcast" no matter where I go. Maybe my friend is right - this sense of ennui was a bit of a carry over from my high school (and even college) days. (for those wondering, one of my old alma maters, Seattle University, was a hell hole. It was high school extended to another four years. I didn't want any more of that shit.)

There's a lot of good information on this site:


It's poorly-organized, but it's worth digging around.

I gave a printout of the profile of a workplace bully (http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/serial.htm) to a woman I work with who was facing severe bullying from her boss, and she said she got so engrossed in it that she missed her stop on the train. I knew the bully as well and it was uncanny how well the description matched him. It was like he had a well-known disease and we were reading a textbook description of its symptoms.

That was workplace bullying, but the site also has information on bullying in schools.

The saddest element of this story, for me, is that so many children internalize their rage and frustration and turn it against themselves. Just imagine what would be possible if everyone that was bullied could turn that anger around and use it to improve themselves, to make a difference in their world and in their community.

I have to wonder how many great ideas were crushed because someone couldn't believe in themselves to see their project from conception to completion.

Here in the UK, many schools have a zero tolerance policy to bullying, but this is nothing more than an empty gesture. As soon as a kid tells a teacher about their bullying problems, the bullying will most certainly not stop as the school as no power over what goes on beyond the school gates.

Bullies are never punished for their actions, which is why this problem always perpetuates.

There's no point in having a zero-tolerance policy if you don't have any useful punishments to dole out. Some kids are afraid of getting detention, but the ones who aren't are the ones who are causing problems.

This is why I believe in bringing back corporal punishment in schools. It shouldn't be used too regularly, but it's important that for every child there is a punishment which they really fear.

I went to school in India and while there was some mild bullying now and again it was nowhere near as bad as this. I find it surprising how big a problem it is here in the US especially at the junior and high school level. In India the problem is with hazing (called "ragging") at the college level. Why do teachers stand by and let bullying continue unabated ?

When I was a kid I got a lot of this; the administration only really stepped in when they started stoning me (yes, throwing rocks) but otherwise it was just continuous misery. I suspect this guy probably had it worse, but there are some very eerie similarities.

In some cultures - especially England - insults are a friendship overture. (Yes, it's stupid, but it's the way things are.) What that means, is that the optimal response is to insult back - laughing. not to ignore it and not to take umbrage.

No, I'm not saying that all bullies are 'just trying to make friends'. They're not, some of them are vicious shits. But if you live in such a culture, your kid needs to know about it or he will never make friends (I'm not sure if this applies to girls). It will seem like every other kid is out to get them.

Laughingly insulting back says 'I have respect for myself, and I am willing to be friends'.

I didn't learn this while I was a kid.

PG's essay along similar lines: http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

Wow great article thanks for the link. I don't know if I agree with the statement that nerds are separated from the pack by some sort of seperate value system. I remember all the middle-upper class kids that were attractive were automatically popular unless there was something very abnormal about them. Life is pretty harsh, if you are awkward or funny looking you START off placed in a box, which makes it much more likely over time to find comfort in a book/computer rather than "being like everybody else."

I think that a large component of feeling like you ended up with a different mindset due to "innate desire" is rationalization after being kicked out of the herd.

That essay, and the one about creating value are the two best in the collection.

Schools really are a solution to the problem of what to do with kids all day. It's barbaric but it's not going anywhere.

This essay is just precious. A quote which sums it up very well is: If you leave a bunch of eleven-year-olds to their own devices, what you get is Lord of the Flies.

One aspect of home educating our four kids is that none of them have ever been bullied.

Right, but unfortunately bullying is a part of life and learning how to deal with it is an important life skill. How will you teach your children to deal with this kind of aggressive confrontation? School isn't just about academic education, it's about social education, I'm genuinely curious how you can achieve this in a home school setting

I know many home school children, and the common idea that they are not socially educated, or well adjusted, is a myth. Most home schooled children do not sit at home all day - cordoned away from the world. They are usually involved in as much, if not more, activities outside of the home as public schooled children. They have friends in their neighborhoods, and friends they meet in home school groups and their home school activities. As a matter of fact the home schooled children I know are not only generally smarter, and the adults (home schooled) more successful and happier in life, but the kids are far more socially adjusted than the kids that go to public schools.

Public schools by in large create social constructs that do not exist in the adult world. The home schooled children can converse and interact in a healthy way with both young and old - instead of their exclusive peer group.

I home school my children. Yet we have an active church social life, they take piano, wrestling, archery and numerous other peer group events. Plus, on beautiful fall and spring days - when most public school kids are shut up behind brick walls wasting their time in classes with 30+ children learning all of nothing - my kids are outside riding their bikes, exploring the neighborhood, etc.

The other advantage is that if I see other children mistreating my children, or if I see my children mistreating other children (or adults) - I can provide the proper discipline and education in the matter; whereas a teacher wouldn't even think to take the time and deal with the problem. This is not to say I helicopter my children - but I am more aware of issues than a single teacher might that has to keep track of 30 to a 100 or more students at a time and I care more than a teacher would. And thus we come to why we are having this discussion in the first place. The article was written by a guy who had a teacher that was not really connected to him, and his parents were not aware enough of the problem to notice and do anything about it. And the bully's parents the same...

What could have happened with this guy? Had something not turned in his life, he, like many others may have committed suicide and our world would be at a loss for whatever service and good he has thus far rendered.

I think the question really should be this: How is it possible that public school education can teach PROPER socialization - when the evidence and or track record is that these schools produce anti-social behavior and dysfunctional children at such a high level?

Although both my wife and I went to state schools we sent our son to a private school and it is pretty clear to me that the biggest advantage is the social education - which is probably why there is such an emphasis on team sports (particularly rugby).

Even though it is a very well run school there is bullying - there is always bullying of some kind in just about every environment (especially workplaces). As far as I am concerned the only way to deal with it is to recognize that the problem is endemic and teach everyone how to deal with it - the approach I told my son was "if anyone bullies you, punch them as hard as you can on the end of their nose - I'll back you up 100% if this causes a problem".

Dan's open some seriously deep wounds.....

Am a 31 year old and this is a throw away account.

I have asked many questions here on HN and some, read correctly, clearly showed my level of self-belief.

Since the age of 13 I was bullied, very little physical, mainly regarding my appearence and colour. I am Indian, a little darker than my fellow indian school mates. As I grew up, the the name calling and the playground bullying started. This got worse as I got in to my teens. The same people got the opportunity to bully me for around 12 hours of the day. This serious torment has rendered me to the point of taking the suicide option on a daily basis.

You would be correct in assuming "he wrote the last sentence as present and not in the past.".

You see, as a fellow HN'er, I can bearly program. I have not been able to concentrate on anything. I scraped through a degree, blagged my way in to jobs. My life has always been about planning, planing the escape from classmates, planing how to get out of school without being noticed, planning how to walk past some classmates on the pavement on the opposite side. This, without realising, has had a dramatic effect on my life. I left my family, I left everyone I knew to "get away". I planned to do this and planned to do that, but nothing materialised because the constant bullying has lead me to be down and depressed every step of the way.

Today, I earn over $60K+ working in Telecoms. I am shy, dont have the confidence to approach women and yet, managed to somehow marry a beautiful, kind hearted women but she has never known this about me. I hate myself. I still feel, ugly, fat and black (this is not in the black/white way racial way, but in a dark skinned highly unattactive way)....all those thing I got called years ago still affect me today and I am 31 years old.

I am qualifed, experianced and confident in walking in to an interview and getting the job, but my level of confidence ends there. Once in the job, am subdued in to the corner by my own doing, loose all motivation, feel depressed and just want to leave....all that after 2 weeks of starting a new job, yet I love technology, I love neworking, programming and love being a techie!

What is wrong with me? How do I 'snap' out of this? Is it even possible? am I depressed??? My doctor came to this conclusion 2 months ago. He died recently so nothing was done about it.

I have been involved in some small startup here in the UK. I have buried myself in them and throughly enjoyed it, albeit, with the constant nagging from within of failure, unattractivenessno, no self-love etc etc. None have been successful for their own reasons.

I long to do a startup, I long to make a successful product. I dont have any love for designer clothes, fancy cars or big houses. Is simply wish to learn to code and create a much loved and successful product.

I long to learn how to program correctly, effiecently but at each step, I fail with lack of concentration (even basic CSS is not happening), pressure from within and just wanting to get away from it all therefore loosing time and forgeting what I learnt.

I wish I could go back and stand up to those bullies, I wish I didnt let them get to me, I wish myself to be dead to this day. I have my religious beliefs which stop me from commiting suicide, but god knows I have been close. I am 31, and I still cry myself to sleep for being a failure, all this, without my wife of 10 years, knowing a single thing I've wrote above.

Bullies...Please Please Stop It.

Any advice would be helpful.

You are clinically depressed; lack of concentration and motivation, and morbidity are key indicators, as is the sense of failure. The correct drugs will help the morbidity and motivation; counselling, particularly CBT, will help the sense of failure. Combined, they will treat the disease.

See a doctor straight away. You have had these symptoms for more than a few months so start treating it seriously.

Always take advice on the internet with a grain of salt - mine included - but I'll say the following:

You sound like you've had a tough time. You are being very hard on yourself in your post.

You say your doctor came to the conclusion you were depressed before he died. Go talk to another doctor about it. You might have to talk to more than one to find someone good; but find someone good that listens to what you say.

Maybe get them to refer you to someone that will do talking sessions with you so you can talk out the issues you wrote about, and start to process them.

Talking this stuff out, with someone who is good at this process, is something that helped several techies I know get where they want.

First of all, you must share your past and feelings with your wife. If she's the right one for you she'll support you until the end. You're partners in life, when one of you falls down, other one is supposed to help him/her get up. I'm sure your marriage bond will be stronger when you open up your past to her.

Talking from my experience, I strongly advise you to take up some sports or martial arts training. Not to beat some bullies up, but to empty your mind and get rid of that stress clogging up your spirit. Sports also helps with low-self esteem as you will be able to see yourself making actual physical progress throughout the experience.

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