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Son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you... (sebastianmarshall.com)
443 points by kapilkaisare on Nov 11, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 354 comments

I firmly believe that earnest efforts to suppress any and all physical violence in schools has created an environment where bullies are able to operate without repercussion.

Good kids don't "fight". It's so ingrained into the head of the good kids that they are terrified of fighting even to defend themselves.

Thus, bullies get to bully with no fear. There's no consequence. Whereas when a weaker kid fights back, even if the bully is strong enough to "win" the battle, he still gets hit in the mouth and does not like it. Bullies much prefer low-hanging fruit that doesn't fight back.

My children, when school age (maybe not 1st grade, but certainly by junior high), will be sat down and have the following explained to them:

"You are allowed to defend yourself. You will avoid physical conflict whenever possible, but should you ever be physically threatened or subject to ongoing torment, you have the GREEN LIGHT to use physical force to protect yourself, OR to assist a friend who is unable to protect themselves."

"You may get in trouble with your school. THIS IS OK. Your well-being is more important than their rules. If you get suspended for three days, then I'll take three days off work and we'll keep up with your studies. I will be on your side. Do not let concern over the school rules stop you at all from defending yourself."

"However, you will never use force to do anything but protect yourself or your friend. If I find that YOU have been the aggressor, I will smite you."

I'll probably need to work on that speech a bit between now and then, but you get the idea. :)

I was lucky. I was never the small or weak one. Even still, I can think back to a couple of situations where fear of parental response prevented me from protecting myself as well as I should have. My children will have it made known to them that they will not be "assumed guilty" when a situation comes up where they physically defend themselves. No aggression towards others will be tolerated, but they will be trusted to properly use their discretion, and until they prove themselves guilty, they will be assumed innocent.

Im curious why you draw that conclusion, and also what things were like when you were in school. Did you get in any fights? Were fights frequent in your school.

The reason I ask is that I think I'm a bit older than the average HN reader (pushing 40). When I went to school, fights were certainly not encouraged, but the occasional lunchtime or after-school fight was not at all unusual. And there was definitely bullying.

It wasn't any kind of indoctrination that kept their victims from fighting back. It was pure and simple fear! Most of the bullies were either physically larger than their victims, or just had a way of projecting an aggressive, intimidating presence that had most of the other kids reluctant to throw down with them.

Now I agree that a good punch was (and probably still is) a good individual tactic for getting a bully to leave you alone. What I disagree with is what I believe is your assertion that it's some kind of recent policy change that makes bullying possible or causes it to flourish in some way.

A policy of allowing or even encouraging physical violence isn't going to end or discourage bullying. Human behavior isn't that simple, real world solutions aren't that black and white.

Bullying didn't suddenly "spring" into existence when schools started earnestly preventing violence. Bullying has existed longer than human history. You see it in all human societies, and all even in animals.

Bullying is, according to the media, "on the rise". You only need to a simple Google search to find an army of articles dated 2010 that make this claim.

Is it true? It's my outsider's perception that there is some truth to it. It's my perception as the husband of a schoolteacher that it is. But my eyes cannot gaze upon all the schools in the country. However, the combination of the anecdotal evidence of my wife's school combined with the national media suggests to me that I am not far off. (Even though I recognize the media's fondness of latching onto a story that is guaranteed to draw attention)

Nowhere did I state that this trend has caused bullying. I am only saying that it has affected bullying.

I am also not necessarily putting a timeline on when things changed. I simply don't have the data for that. But I am looking at schools as they look in 2010 and I am seeing a lot of examples/stories of bullies operating with impunity. And it seems at least to be much more so than in my school days.

The one thing I can state as an absolute fact is that bullying is an extremely hot topic among teachers and school boards. I have to think that there is more than just bully status quo behind that.

I'm not sure that it's on the rise. I haven't studied hard data on the issue enough to really make a statement like this, but personally I suspect that other changes in society have left kids less able to deal with bullying, and that's why it's prominence in the media is on the rise. There are so many diagnoses of mental and emotional illnesses, medications to fix them, etc... I think the prominence of things like this just teaches kids that it's not their problem, it's just a "syndrome" they suffer from. While some of it may be true, we've lost a sense of how to "deal with it". I think that spills over into how people deal with bullying. They can't handle the fact that they're being bullied, and that ends up pushing them in the direction of suicide, which I think is horrible. (I mean no disrespect to the families of those who have recently been through this). I don't think bullying has gone up, but I think children are now being raised in an environment where they haven't learned to deal with their problems head on.

I was bullied a ton as a kid, and I was always told to "tell and adult", or just ignore it, but this guy is right - there are some bullies who want to hurt you, and you ignoring it or telling and adult just makes them want to hurt you even more. I learned to change the way I did some things so as not to attract the attention of bullies, etc... and solve some problems non-violently, but there absolutely was a time when I had to have enough of a back-bone to make a solid decision about when enough was enough. That fixed the remaining problems - but I still look back at that as an experience I could have solved much sooner if I had just been smarter about it. The bullies shouldn't have done what they did, but it was my problem and I needed to deal with it.

> Bullying didn't suddenly "spring" into existence when schools started earnestly preventing violence.

He's not claiming otherwise. He's explaining how he's going to keep his kid from being bullied.

> schools started earnestly preventing violence

Assumes facts not in evidence..... (A policy isn't a result.)

> What I disagree with is what I believe is your assertion that it's some kind of recent policy change that makes bullying possible or causes it to flourish in some way.

The policy change is that bully's victims will be punished if they resist? It lets bullies say "go along or the school will come down on you". Why do you think that such a change doesn't encourage bullies? (The policy change doesn't affect the bully's punishment.)

Yes, there were fights before, but since there are still fights.... (Under the old scheme, one party might not have been punished for a fight. Under the new scheme, both parties are, but since the instigator wasn't deterred by the threat of being punished in the past, it's unclear why you think that the changed policy, which mandates punishment for someone else, would deter the instigator.)

I'm 35, and was frequently bullied at school. The one thing they took notice of was when I fought back. In one case I went to the hospital to get checked out with a black eye and several other marks, and severely bruised lips after going up against an older boy that was a head taller than me. But he got bruised badly too, and had the humiliation of being made by his parents to come and apologize, and he stayed clear of me for months afterwards. It was worth it to me.

I was never small, but I was overweight. Not the fattest kid in school, but bullies are rather indiscriminate morons.

The 3rd or 4th day of high school, I got into a fight. It was a proper fist fight, we went to the ground and a teacher separated us. We got pardoned because ours was the first fight of the school year - I'm not sure why they pardoned us, maybe it was because we were friends and covered each others asses or maybe it was naivety but the fight happened in front of like 50 kids.

What happened? We both got a 'reputation' because everybody knew about our fight, no bullies targeted us - but we were both complete and utter nerds.

It took another couple of years before anyone targeted me for bullying, but by this time I was in a strong group of friends. We had a lot of camaraderie when it came to anyone insulting our group. We fought with each other, got into actual fist fights, but there was hell would anyone outside our group start a fight. The guy was a jockish type bully, utterly moronic (he'd failed everything for basically 3 years) and more importantly had cronies. He targeted me, but him and 2 others weren't a match for 12 kids, 4 of which (myself included) were the base of our winning tug-of-war team (5 years in a row total domination) even though we were the lightest team in the school. To put it simply, we kicked the crap out of them - no one went too far we just put them to the ground and kept them there.

What happened? I didn't get bullied again in highschool. We did, however, all get dragged into the headmasters's office with all the deputy-heads of the school because they thought we were a gang. Interestingly, none of us got a suspension, or even a detention for that. We silenced the bullies, I don't think one of them got in a fight for the rest of the year.

I was never a bully, I never called anyone names. The few times I had been in a fight outside of bullying, I never threw a punch. I got 1 kid suspended for a week and given an expulsion warning, because I didn't throw a punch back.

I would personally be okay if my kid responded to a bully with his fist. But I agree, hell-hath-no-fury like a pissed off dad if I found out my kid was a bully.

I've had essentially this conversation with my son. Mine breaks down to:

  - Attempt to walk away from verbal abuse.
  - If it gets physical, fight like hell until the threat stops, then walk away.
Your goal is not to "win" or injure, your goal is to walk away.

Coming from a larger geek here. In many cases the threat stops immediately but it doesn't change the nature of the abuse. I had other kids hit me in the face and run away. If I pursued them I was the bully. So I was left with two options; pursue and be the monster, or get used to being hit unexpectedly.

With all the highlighting of bullying recently, it's reminds me that there could easily be a different dynamic here. Kids are smart and adapt to rules. If they can control someone with accusations of bullying, they will do so. Remember that being a bully isn't about size it's about abusive intent.

You can apply the same surprise-attack and bully-accusation strategies on them, can you not?

If a kid that weighs 130lbs complains about the kid that weighs 200lbs, he is taken seriously. It's not the same in reverse.

There was a size disparity there of a similar nature (although it was more like 130 vs 90 at that age most likely) with two different guys I dealt with in middle school who were just constant with the random hitting/slapping (their favorite)/other annoying/embarrassing things.

Once I got a warning (I literally dented a gym locker with his head, to the coaches amusement), the other time an in school suspension (picked up kid, threw into chalkboard), but both stopped the harassment. The other kid may have been punished too, but don't honestly care: As they were then leery of me, I was then no longer constantly harassed by them. The point isn't to "win" by getting them punished by the administration and reforming them from their bullying ways; it's to assert "I am not the lowest status guy, go find someone else to screw with"

"Until the threat stops". Perfect words. That will work its way into my new and improved speech.

I agree strongly with this.

I was hardly picked on in school because I'd just ignore any teasing... and the first time I let it get to me I stabbed the bully (in class, in front of the teacher) with a pencil and sent him to the doctor.

I got off with just a chat to the headmaster... not even a very stern chat, because the staff all liked me as a good student and disliked the bully because he was a known bully. Doing the same thing now would probably lead to expulsion and charges of aggravated assault. If I had a child today I'd be telling them to make sure they drop the pencil first; using fists would probably work nearly as well, and a suspension for fighting on your school records means nothing in the real world.

It's a bit sinister, though, don't you think? If you're dealing with a vengeful bully, the threat never really stops until you've injured him enough that he will be unwilling or unable to hurt you back later.

The trick is to damage one of them badly enough (albeit non-permanently) that nobody else wants to try. I generally found that picking somebody clean off the floor by the throat and holding them in midair until the look came into their eyes where I knew they thought they were going to die was a good option. Doesn't give them much except a day or two of a sore throat in terms of physical damage but you only have to do it once every two or three years to be marked "not an easy target".

I disagree with this. This creates a situation of; throw a punch, does he give up yet, throw another, ok, surely he wants to stop now. That's how you really get hurts. You've hit the other person so the fight so it's on, and now you're stopping.

Personally I would advice that you do whatever you can to avoid a fight, but if you must fight you go until the other person is incapacitated or you get separated (in school this happens really quick anyway). Once you start a fight all further reluctance has to go out the window or you're going to get hurt.

No, your goal is to instill fear in your enemy, not the kind of fear that makes them fight back like a wounded animal, but rather the kind of traumatic fear which makes them unlikely to treat you, or anybody else the same broken way again.

I especially like this:

"THIS IS OK. Your well-being is more important than their rules. If you get suspended for three days, then I'll take three days off work and we'll keep up with your studies. I will be on your side."

That said, I would outline this with a child subject to ongoing torment. I would not recommend brawling any time someone starts just anything as a possible once-off.

That once-off might really demand physical defense, though. It doesn't always come as a gradual build-up.

But I definitely agree that counseling proper discretion is critical. I think most "good kids" understand where the lines are. The metaphorical kid in my head is reluctant to use force even with the "green light". For a kid who might be more inclined to "brawl", a different tact may well be warranted.

I guess I'm thinking that if you react physically each time, you'll get a reputation. If you react to on-going torment after 2-5 incidents, you may do enough to dispel the physical harassment without getting a reputation as a thug.

I was bullied in the early years of high school (age 13-14 mostly). I didn't really think of it at the time, but the worst of it probably stopped around about the same time that I grabbed a guy around the neck and dragged him to the ground.

I agree fully. I was bullied as a kid. When I stood up and fought back, I may have gotten in trouble, but the bullying stopped (at least from the people I fought back against). When I tried to ignore it or brush it off, it only got worse.

And when I did get in trouble at school for fighting back, I didn't get in trouble at home because my parents knew I wasn't the instigator.

How do you protect against an arms race scenario? He hit me, I'll hit him harder; and repeat. I would agree a mostly anonymous attack can be rebuked without much consequence (unless he pulls a knife), but what about for the occasions where animosity can fester: schools, villages, etc?

For most of high school, I had the misfortune of living in the South. (I got the hell back to civilization as soon as I could.) The little town (population 6,000) didn't see too many people move in or out, and there were grudges festering left and right, and there were fights all the time.

This is purely anecdotal and based on what I saw and did, but in an environment like that, it seems to me that escalation is only a problem if you don't escalate quickly enough. If I ended up in a fight (and I probably could have resolved a lot of conflicts without fighting, but I had that perfect combination of arrogance and insecurity that plagues the teenage mind), the problems continued only if I lost easily. Some of the best advice my mother gave me was "You can at least get a sandwich if they got a meal." (Other hits from mom: "The secret ingredient is always more butter." A stout lady, most of her advice was either directly about food or used a food analogy.) If I won, or if I managed to hit hard enough in the process of losing, I'd get no more trouble, except in one pathological case. Being unskilled but kind of big, I was often able to hit hard enough; if I have anything to say about it, my kids are going to log plenty of hours in a boxing gym.

> unless he pulls a knife I carry a knife nowadays, after being in enough situations that came close enough to turning ugly that I wished I had one. I think, on general principal, that it's good for everyone to carry a weapon. A distant relative of mine who was born in the town we moved to had told me that when he was younger, in the 1940s and '50s, everyone had a gun in their jacket, "and you could tip your hat and be polite, or take turns shooting at each other." There's something to that, I think, in adult society. If there are no easy targets, if anyone you try to mug/terrorize/rape/attack/etc. can potentially end your life, then society is its own deterrent to crime. There are always irrational actors, of course, but if the crazy guy has a weapon, I want a weapon, too.

It's worth noting that in California schools, any fighting (even in self-defense) results in expulsion.

Not at all true.


California Education code section 48915:

(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (c) and (e), the principal or the superintendent of schools shall recommend the expulsion of a pupil for any of the following acts committed at school or at a school activity off school grounds, unless the principal or superintendent finds that expulsion is inappropriate, due to the particular circumstance: (1) Causing serious physical injury to another person, except in self-defense.

  (... the rest snipped ....)

Note three things:

1) "Recommend for expulsion" is not equivalent to "actual expulsion"

2) The emphasized (by me) self-defense exception.

3) "serious physical injury" does not include fighting that does not result in serious injury.

Fighting most certainly does happen on California school campuses, and they are not all getting expelled.

My kids when I have them will be in the dojo quite early in life... by the time they're in school they'll be well-trained both with the skills to defend themselves, and the ethics: self-defense is the right thing to do and bullying is never acceptable.

I honestly took martial arts for a few years when I was 8 or 9, but it didn't really teach how to deal with bullies: They weren't harming me in a physical way (one punch isn't something going to hurt you, so you don't need/get to punch back), so the self-defense training didn't allow me to actually use the martial arts I knew according to what I was taught.

It likely made me LESS likely to strike back.

"... Thus, bullies get to bully with no fear. There's no consequence. Whereas when a weaker kid fights back, even if the bully is strong enough to "win" the battle, he still gets hit in the mouth and does not like it. Bullies much prefer low-hanging fruit that doesn't fight back. ..."

There are always consequences, failure to prevent bullying, failure to check payback. Failure if you do nothing. The payback pattern is culturally prevalent but flawed. [0] The payback pattern might work but it escalates violence. There are better ways that allow you to hack people and their behaviour to get at the root cause at a higher level than the individual. The approach can be top down or bottom-up, it doesn't matter as long as the level of violence is reduced. This is also the inherent weakness of the solution, but it holds more promise for the greater good than payback.

"However, you will never use force to do anything but protect yourself or your friend. If I find that YOU have been the aggressor, I will smite you."

QED, the cycle repeats.

[0] Chris Bullock, "Payback out of control in Central Australia" http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/11/12/3064586.htm

"The payback pattern might work but it escalates violence."

Not all violence is payback. Defending against a Bully is one example of this. Defending yourself physically in an altercation is a violent behaviour but it is not retaliation or revenge. And as the personal anecdotes on this page reveal frequently stems the cycle of violence.

Now if you wait for days after and take revenge against the Bully then yes the violence will likely escalate. But self-defense is an entirely different thing.

My kids have been taught basic self-defense and should they ever be forced into a physical altercation have my full blessing to take whatever means are necessary to ensure they come out of the experience the victor.

Bullies thrive on the easy victim not defending yourself won't change this.

"... personal anecdotes on this page reveal frequently stems the cycle of violence. ..."

I'm really trying to look beyond the symptom and look at the root causes. Read the article I cited to see that this is not just a problem for the targeted individual but whole groups as well.

"... Bullies thrive on the easy victim not defending yourself won't change this ..."

Bullies thrive in environments where bulling is tolerated. Change the culture to make it bully-proof ~ http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201011/r671527_4889232.jpg out than just letting having to expect kids to bear the brunt of inaction. Individual action maybe warranted, it's too much of a problem for individuals. Group action is needed as well.

If you think about HN for a moment advising every user to read & re-read http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html and prepare for an eventual verbal stoush. You defend yourself well using combinations of DH0 to DH6. The attacker moves to a less prepared target. Instead of relying on just individual users the HN community (users & code) fight back to enforce civility. The same ideas can be applied to bullies and targets, organisations and groups of people.

It's sort of embarrassing this is the number one story on hacker news. Especially since it's 6 weeks old and was already posted before, and mostly seems fabricated. It reads like some fat kid ender's game revenge fantasy. I guess maybe this is what happens in white suburban schools? Cuz fights in the schools where I used to teach math would end up with kids in the hospital or dead. Or, I guess I don't really know, because both parties would both never come back to school.

I guess if Bobby Bully is putting beans in your pants you can try your karate kid routine on him. Maybe Eye of The Tiger will start playing and after you make him cry by ballet kicking him in the nose you and Elisabeth Shue can go share a milkshake at Pop's and then make out at the drive in. But in real life Jesus and Jose and their 20 cousins and homies just show up after school and steal all your clothes, your bike, your money and throw you into the dumpster.

I guess I don't ever really believe these stories, because whenever i've seen someone fight back it just turned into a drawn out war, not some fairytale DeGrassi afterschool special outcome where the bully "learned his place"

There's a wide variety of schools in the US and it sounds like you're at one of the worst.

I went to school at a suburb of Chicago where two friends died by being shot by gang members (Latin Kings), a kid that sat in front of me in Spanish murdered his girlfriend and went to prison, and drug deals were common in the hallways. But standing up to bullies was still better than backing down.

That said, the gang members were rarely if ever the bullies; not unless they suspected you were in a rival gang. The bullies were the kids that wanted a power trip, mainly the Seniors and mainly the sports guys.

If you give in you're doomed to be giving up your money or whatever again and again and again. You fight back, and that's usually going to be the end of it. People that fight back aren't fun; the weak ones that cry and give you stuff, that's where the fun is. The bullies want a reward with little effort. The gangs usually have a personal vendetta against you, your family, your different gang, your race, or something else. That's a whole different issue and one that's not dealt with in the same simple way.

Don't confuse gangs and bullies, they're two very different beasts.

"I guess maybe this is what happens in white suburban schools?"

"[I]n real life Jesus and Jose and their 20 cousins and homies just show up ..."

Jesus and Jose? Homies? Just. Stop.

Was it really necessary to inject some sort of pathetic, dogwhistle racial component into this? Why are you trying to cast a universal problem like bullying into a phenomenon where the scary minorities are picking on white kids?

Curious assumption that it's the white kids who are getting picked on...

That was the implication, yes.

Why did you assume I meant white kids were getting picked on? What? I specifically said I was NOT teaching in white, suburban schools.

Even if I got that part wrong, the main point stands. Definitely no need to make this a discussion about "José" and his "homies."

Are we just talking about the US here? Perhaps Canada and Australia have a similar situation, but I'd imagine every country/region has a different story. The blog writer, though, was in Hong Kong, where even teachers get bullied by students in high school. Cross the border into the mainland, and the bully will keep themselves well hidden, using proxies to do the dirty work.

Why do you feel the need to dismiss others' suffering, because it wasn't hard-core enough?

Is locking the skinny kid in a locker until he pisses himself real bullying?

Is one kid holding another one down while a second one punches him real bullying?

It may not be guns, knives and chains, but the suffering is real. Also, what makes this kind of middle-class bullying worse is that

A) it's not expected -- it's different from the rest of these kids' lives, which are non-violent

B) educated middle-class parents give their kids bad advice like "don't fight back, violence doesn't solve anything".

> It's sort of embarrassing this is the number one story on hacker news. Especially since it's 6 weeks old and was already posted before, and mostly seems fabricated.

I'm as surprised as you are that it's #1 on HN - I posted it to my blog for my readers, I didn't think it'd get submitted as a top level post or rise up the frontpage.

That said, everything on my end is real - I was quoting another author who said he was bullied quite badly, and his story sounds true but I can't confirm that.

> It reads like some fat kid ender's game revenge fantasy.

Eh, there's no need to be nasty, that doesn't add to the conversation. The entry is all true. Plenty of people here know me, I can run my schools and dates by someone if anyone really cares. Good luck to you.

That just depends on whether or not the bully has friends. There were plenty of kids that bullied me in school that, looking back, didn't have some huge posse to back them up.

That said, all of the "I was about to beat up a mob boss in Hong Kong because I'm so cool like that" was over the top (i.e. probably fake).

This. I wasn't in an elementary school that bad (Radom, Poland). Still, the young bullies were friends with elder bullies. Some bullies were repeating years, and that meant there was no way I could get as big as them.

And, the bullies actually do know how to fight.

Actually, for me, being nice worked out just right. After some time, the few bullies that bothered me found themselves enemies of the school, including some other bullies. Serves them right.

Realistically, I don't think the point is to make the bully stop bullying, or even to win a fight. The point is to convince him to find an easier target.

Maybe the point should shift to the former. I'd feel awful if I knew my hitting a bully back just made him go pick on some other kid instead of me. We should be trying to change his behavior, not deflect your problems onto someone else.

You have about as much chance of changing his behavior by taking a beating and then talking to him as you do of winning the lottery.

Talking alone does almost nothing. Now if you defend yourself and then treat the bully like a human being and even try to be a friend you might make some headway.

You may have replied to the wrong comment of mine, as my above comment didn't suggest that talking is the only way to change his behavior. Legal threats work very well, too, as do messages from their parents.

When you suggest defending yourself, and then trying to be helpful in making the bully no longer a bully, that's a completely different strategy than what others are suggesting, one I wouldn't mind seeing tried out more! What others are suggesting is just beat the bully and now he's someone else's problem.

your right I was replying to the wrong comment.

While I may have educated my children in how to defend themselves. I have also taught them that every individual has value. My hope is that they understand the aggressor is also valuable enough treat with respect.

Changing the behavior of bullies is the responsibility of adults, not the child being bullied. Of course we should be trying to change his behavior, but throwing that demand on your kid as he's being bullied is irresponsible.

I think it's the responsibility of everyone involved. This is why I don't like solutions which claim "The kid needs to learn independence, teach him how to do a chokehold and let him take it from there." or "The kid can sit back and let the adults handle things."

> Cuz fights in the schools where I used to teach math would end up with kids in the hospital or dead.

I guess not all schools are the same. There is no way this would happen in any school I went to. Such school wouldn't probably even exist for a long time. Tbh, if such incident happened more than once, it would probably end up on national news. Then again, I'm not in US. Sure, there were bullies, but what you describe is just as completely foreign concept as your experience is to me.

These schools definitely exist in the US. Our news focusses on the sensational, yes, but not all Americans have the same amount of respect for 'Jose and Jesus' as they do for 'Christopher and Ryan'. It's unfortunate, but many schools in Compton, California or the ghettos of New York, or the slums of New Orleans struggle with very real gang threats targeted at middle and high schoolers. I always find it interesting trying to decipher which murder trials hit the news here and which never see media coverage. I don't know where the bias comes from exactly, but it exists.

I will agree the author sounds like he is living in fantasy land, but, fighting back can and does work. I was a picked on band nerd in middle school, and finally snapped on two kids who pushed me around after school. I knocked one out with my clarinet case to his head and got in a tumble with the other. I wasn't bothered after that, even though I was still the same annoying easy to pick on personality. There was no outright war either, which I doubt happens except in the most undisciplined urban settings...

I really think that while what you say is true in certain circumstances, in my "suburban school" when bullies finally have to defend themselves, they often stop after bullying that fight. Some people respond differently to violence, but I think if I ever have kids I'd prefer not to live somewhere that I have to worry continuously about "Jesus and Jose and their 20 cousins and homies" pilfering, assault or worse to a future child over a few bruises.

Not even slightly controversial here.

I suffered 5 years of bullying at school; and tried everything to get it to stop, without success.

Until one day I just got fed up, walked up to the main tormentor in class and, unprovoked, hit him really hard in the mouth (I think I broke his nose, I'm not sure). Was in weeks of trouble (with the staff) :) but once that was out of the way no one touched me again.

I've never outright recommended this approach to anyone; and indeed it's probably not the right thing to do all the time. But some sort of short-sharp-shock can work just as well (so... barging them to the ground etc.) as long as it is sufficiently hard.

Same here. I was bullied (verbally and physically) all the way through grade school and high school. My mom was a peaceful hippie from the 70s, taught me that violence wasn't the answer and if there is trouble the best thing to do is tell. 10+ years of telling didn't help. Taking the abuse day after day, missing months worth of school because I was 'sick'. Hell, I even got suspended in 5th grade for getting my ass kicked by a bully.

Nothing changed until I started fighting back in 10th grade. A few fights later, along with a suspension I actually earned this time, and I never had anymore problems.

Same here. My schools days taught me a simple recipe for bully repellent: headlock their neck and pound on their face like a jack hammer. Size doesn't matter. Winning and losing doesn't matter.

But I also learned another interesting bit of bully psychology: they tease EVERYBODY, especially their friends. So tease them back. I discovered sometimes the supposed bully is just goofing around and this is how they relate to people.

Thirdly I discovered a simpler approach thanks to punk rock ethos: Don't even give a fuck about what other people think of you and let them know you don't give a fuck.

This only works once they're old enough to realize that you're ALLOWED to not give a fuck. Otherwise, it just marks you out for more.

So I'd stick with the hitting. I don't think people understand much else until they mature a little past grade 8-ish mentality.

I was also bullied in middle school. One day, walking off the school bus, I slammed his head against the window as I walked off. The bus driver, who had witnessed his bullying me for months prior was awe-struck and kept the bus running for about a minute before driving on past my block (no clue what she was thinking or saying, but it was really awkward as I walked from the bus down my block to my house). I spent the weekend thinking I would be suspended when I got back to school on Monday, but when I got on the bus on Monday, she didn't say anything, and nothing ever happened. Apparently the bus driver appreciated the fact he had it coming. And he never bothered me again...

But the bus driver didn't appreciate that she should intervene in the bullying months earlier.

What should she have done? Say "knock it off bad boy". He would have been ridiculed for needing protection from a bus lady.

Same here, some guy had been bullying me in high school and calling me names for a long period. One time he came to the park where I was in my friends and started calling me names again and generally being belligerent. After the second punch he fell down, he didn't really need much more than that. He didn't even get the chance to lay a finger on me, and never looked me in the eye again.

Come to think of it, shit, he really wasn't tough at all. Going down on the second punch and coming back up dazed? Good thing (for him) I didn't know how to throw a punch...

I was just going to say, hasn't this been the standard parenting philosophy since we started standing upright?

Could well be. But my Dad never gave me the cliched whispered conversation; "what you need to do son..."

From my observation, every adult knows this is the solution. But not all of them has the balls to tell their kid :)

S'what Godparents are for.

Step 1: Go back in time and acquire Godparents.

Better, go forward and become one for a bullied child.

I have never been seriously bullied, but one time some bullying started for a couple of days that could have dragged on for a long time. Multiple people were throwing around stuff from my bag to each other, me trying to get it back. Of course you lose stuff quicker than you get it back. I'm small but I ran into one of them and bashed my head against his (I have a thick skull ;), knocking him to the ground. Never had a problem since.

It's nice being nice, but sometimes it does not work.

The "take your stuff, throw it around" game? I got out of that by grabbing the person who took the item originally and telling him that getting my stuff back was his problem now and if he didn't I would hurt him, no matter what excuse he had.

If you've already laid the I-wont-stand-to-be-bullied ground work with the "fight back once" thing he'll get your stuff back and none of them will have any fun.

Folks who have no experience with bully are divided on the right response.

Folks who do have experience pretty much all agree.

This. (I intended an upvote and misclicked.) :P

Yup, same here. That is the only thing that worked for me after years and years of being bullied. No other way to stop it.

Same here, I was a fat pudgy kid in high school. After being tormented daily from seventh grade onward by a particular group, there was one day the high school quarterback and a few other football players decided to throw water balloons at me in middle of January. Of course, they got me with about six of them, soaked my backpack, and school work.

I. flipped. out.

All I remember was walking very calmly towards the quarterback and punching him in the face repeatedly, he tried to hit me but I grabbed his arm and bent him over backwards and just kept punching until he started bleeding from his eyebrow. His friends pulled me off and then threw me down and started to kick me, but it was broken up. Sure I got suspended, but that group never picked on me again.

As a counter point to the football player thing, I lifted with a lot of the O-line guys in college. Most of them were comic nerds, and a handful played Warhammer 40k.

One of them straight up asked me: "I'm coming at your base with two rockvees and an ambo - you've got a Jarmen, two scorps, and a quad. What do you do?"

I don't understand the point you're trying to make.

Not all football guys are brutal dickish jocks.

In fact, most are just nerds about lifting and football, sometimes more traditional subjects like gaming, comics and math. (Yes, math.)

To be fair to the those unfortunates who were not on the offensive line, I actually got recruited to dungeon master by/for a bunch of the star high school football seniors when I was a sophomore. I want to say there was a quarterback, a running back, and a linebacker involved, but it's been long enough I don't remember all the details.

It's certainly true that our offensive lines were usually at least half national honor society members -- there was always significant overlap with the quiz bowl team -- and we had at least one hard core geek each year. It wasn't at all unusual to find two of us trying out the latest RPG or swapping indie B&W comics.

"stop watching so much Pure Pwnage"

That's because they were o-line.

"This comment will be controversial, especially for North Americans and Western Europeans."

No not really. It will perhaps offend the bizarre establishment that has invaded school administration. However, this is bully repulsion 101.

If the system doesn't protect you, you must find a technique that does. Would we avoid school shootings,etc, if we taught our kids to stand up for themselves, don't let yourself get bullied? Real self respect vs the artificial "everyone's special" of today's thinking?

Sidenote: Why is this behavior (bullying) tolerated in school? What other part of our culture accepts bullying as "part of growing up" or "just the way it is?"

Why is this behavior (bullying) tolerated in school?

They're just children. They're not going to pay you. They're not going to vote. Their parents aren't actually the ones getting kicked (WOW would you see a different scenario in that case). It's easier to write it off as "childish" and do nothing. And if you actually sided with a child, there would be loss of status from affiliating with such a low-prestige person.

Same reason society tolerates rape in juvenile prisons. Same reason textbooks and teaching are so uniformly awful. Children have no power, and there's nothing to be gained politically or socially from siding with someone who can't side back.

Their parents care more about them than any politician cares about his voters.

Faint praise.

Not true, in most cases.

Probably more than even themselves.

This question ate me in elementary school. I knew that the teachers & staff KNEW who the bullies were and who were the bullied. But they did nothing, and all of their punishments would give equal blame to both parties.

If there was actually unequal punishment then you'll get a lot more "he started it!" kind of arguments, kids will lie to get whatever they want.

And at the same time, I realize looking back on school is that the teachers & admins in public school aren't that bright. As a group they're the poorest-performing college students.

When I'm a father, maybe I would rather have equal & consistent punishment for both parties, rather than some crappy teachers trying to decide who did what.

Why is bullying tolerated in school?

If we accept that "loving the bullies" is a sign of weakness that encourages more bullying, allowing the school to intervene is a sign of extreme weakness that encourages even more bullying whenever kids are out of sight of authority figures.

The problem seems to stem from the fact that bullying occurs out of sight of authority figures regardless, and that when children report it they're basically told to suck it up.

I agree that children should learn to handle confrontation for themselves, but at the same time when there are chronic offenders there needs to be repercussions. If a bully picks on a kid and they fight back, the bully will move on to the next kid. If he keeps doing it, take him out of the system, expel him from school, or (optimally) find him some way of acting out his aggression, anger, etc. in a more productive manner.

'Fighting back' would soon reduce the school to anarchy outside of the presence of a teacher, but telling kids to deal with it and shrugging it off as 'part of growing up' just encourages the bullies by teaching them that they can do whatever they want, as long as they don't get caught.

In high school I was told my the assistant principal to "Deal with it" when a bully was stealing stuff, like my TI-86 calculator, from my locker. A few weeks later I ended up getting in a physical fight with him which resulted in me getting suspended. When asked why I did it, which I fully admitted to hitting first, I would only reply that the assistant principal told me to.

At the very least, my shit quit disappearing.

I think it's either apathy or fear of legal retribution on the part of teachers.

In Maharashtra(India), laws penalize 'ragging' - a ritualized form of bullying freshmen in the first month of college.

Earlier, ragging led to a few suicides, which in turn prompted the passing of the law. It does occur however; I have been ragged myself. Personally though, it didn't affect me as much as I feared it would.

Probably has more to do with the parents. Kids that end up as bullies don't come from extremely loving and/or close-knit households (for the most part). The parents will likely put up a huge, "You're picking on my kid; don't tell me how to raise my kid" type argument.

  > Sidenote: Why is this behavior (bullying)
  > tolerated in school? What other part of our
  > culture accepts bullying as "part of growing
  > up" or "just the way it is?"
There is a huge, "I went through it and survived and so will you"/"I had to endure it and so do you"/"it builds character"/etc attitude that extends beyond bullying (or even the education system).

Why is this behavior (bullying) tolerated in school?

My theory is denial. Parents of bullies don't want to admit that their kids are doing wrong, and the parents of victims don't want to face the fact that they need to get involved.

That was my situation, at least -- even with known bullies... when I finally fought back, I got dragged to the principal's office... and I let him have it. Another rarity is that my parents actually backed me on that one.

It's important to the train the unwashed masses to give up their lunch money to the bullies when they embezzle the entire country's capital structure and need another hit of finance-o-crack.

I liked this post until he started talking about fighting the Chinese mafia and jump kicking criminals. At that point I wasn't sure whether his point was, "take your own bullying into your own hands" or "watch me brag about how badass I am on the internet."

Exactly. Seemed like a blog post by Dwight Schrute to me.

Yeah, I don't know if fighting people who have deadly weapons (or at least access to deadly weapons) is a good idea. Even if you win a first encounter, what's to prevent them from finding you later and shooting/stabbing you?

I guess that can also apply to bullies in some American schools nowadays. What if the bully wants to prove how badass he is by taking it to a level that involves guns and knives?

Thank goodness I graduated before that kind of stuff started.

Essay time.

In my freshman and sophomore years in college I did some substitute teaching. It was easy money. The state gives you $90 if you can pass a TB test and everyone makes it through the day with all digits. Simple enough.

So one day I was subbing in a high school math class. I looked over the lesson plan and noticed that one kid was marked as a "disruption". As I'm going over the roll I'm looking for him. Football player? Nope, not him. Thug kid? Nah. Smug asshole attention seeker? No. Oh, there he is and holy shit it's me! White kid with glasses, either over or under weight and reading Musician's Friend, probably has a copy of Elektor hidden in there somewhere. His bookbag has every one of his books in it because he doesn't want to go to his locker. Either someone keeps messing with him or he subconsciously doesn't want to remember his combination.

Soon the disruption became obvious. Every few minutes someone would hit him or yell something at him and he kept withdrawing into his shell. After I threw a couple out it stopped. After class I stopped him on the way out and chatted for a few minutes. I was right, there was a copy of Elektor in his bag and no, he couldn't remember his combination.

During lunch I hung out in the teacher's lounge and chatted with a few of the teachers. Finally I asked them about him. It was a consensus, he was a disruption and they couldn't wait to find a reason to expel him. This was the point where I realized I'd never make it as a teacher. After years of being angry at the other kids it never occurred to me that they were also the enemy. Suddenly the codes made sense. How many times had I heard teachers say that students should be able to "learn in a non-disruptive environment"? Fuck, they wanted me to get thrown to the wolves; it was always a part of the plan. I was just a cancer in the education system's body, something that didn't just work its way out, despite their best non-efforts.

The following year I took a job in a call center and moved to their IT dept. Subbing was easy, but at least IT didn't feel like blood money. There was a silver lining. I ran into that kid a few years ago in a restaurant. He was married with a kid of his own. He rushed and grabbed by hand. "I just want to say thanks. You were right, they were all assholes."

That was by far my most satisfying job related moment. Only Hallmark moment I have to offer.

I upvoted you. It's a good story and far more common than most people would like to believe. But I would caution you against generalizing your anecdotal evidence to the profession of teaching as a whole. Some teachers would do exactly what you did and throw the bully's out and the vast majority wouldn't blame the victim. In my relatively large (but admittedly still anecdotal) experience with CPS and public suburban schools, I've only seen teachers close to what you describe in a small fraction.

>> 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.

Where I come from, the third kid, who was pretending to be a bystander all along, with the gun under his shirt, would've shot you from behind your back.

Just because resorting to violence to deal with bullies works doesn't mean you should go all rambo with actual criminals.

I'm curious why this third kid would escalate the crime from mugging to assault with a deadly weapon and possibly murder. It sounds pretty irrational.

a) Territorial protection. Gang members (as in an actual criminal organization) want a monopoly on illegal economic activity in an area. Thugs don't anticipate making a lot of money but can get social status via fear - the ability to act with impunity if they have limited imagination, the ability to collect rents in the form of protection money if they have more.

b) It gives him a hold over the other two. If you're unfortunate enough to be attacked by a group, you'll often find that the physically smallest person calls the shots. They may look like a beta (waiting until the bigger guys have had their fun) but this is misleading. In a situation like this your aim is to isolate this person from his muscle - easier said than done, of course.

c) If they're professionals rather than doing it for kicks, dead men tell no tales. Forensic science helps, but only up to a point. A rainy night in a back alley won't leave much evidence, unless the criminal is foolish enough to retain a weapon or cell phone.

The whole thing hinges on the premise of not getting caught in the first place, so they'll do whatever increases their chances. If it involves killing someone who reacted to the assault, so be it, they think.

Where are you from?

I'm reminded of what Malcolm X said to the civil rights demonstrators:

Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.

I don't necessarily disagree with the original article or this sentiment. However, I have a hard time reconciling telling your child to stick up for him or herself when bullied vs "send him to the cemetary" or "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."

These are children and their judgement is not always the best. Do you really want to risk that your child kills another child by accident while following your advice?

Will your child know how far is far enough? Is there a chance he or she might over-react to a situation that is not truly threatening?

Do you think the bullies know how far is far enough?

Bullying escalates. If you don't trust your kid to make a judgment at some point, it's basically a matter of time before they get seriously injured themselves.

I'd rather teach my kid to stick up for himself and have the mistakes happen at the level of "knocked out tooth/broken finger" than letting things escalate in the first place.

So your kid gets beat up. Then your kid beats up the bully. Then the bully comes back with a knife the next day. Or a gun.

Bullying does escalate. Therefore, teaching your kid to escalate on their side as well just makes it happen faster. The solution to escalating warfare is to break the cycle.

The point is that it only escalates when it's not deterred. "Break the cycle" is a platitude, not advice. What is involved in breaking this cycle, if not stopping the bullies?

The bullying cycle is this: bully on day #1 -> bully on day #365...repeat. I have witnessed people in school be bullied and them just ignore/deal with it politely and it didn't work for them until they freaked out and fought back.

That's fighting. Not bullying.

Bullying is typified by a victim being picked-on mercilessly because he never fights back. Because the bullying tears him down. Because the bullied is a victim.

Bullying isn't a contest for the bully. They do it precisely because it isn't. They're not trying to 'win', they're trying to make someone else feel as bad as they feel. If they can't do that, because the victim refuses to be victimized, they find a new victim or find a new outlet.

If your kid actually wins the fight, it humiliates the bully, then there's a risk that it will escalate.

If your kid just gives the bully a few bruises but ultimately loses the fight then they've sent the message that they're not an easy target, and the bully has saved face.

> The solution to escalating warfare is to break the cycle.

That is not true. MAD worked in the cold war. The solution is to let the other side know you will not go gentle into that good night.

That's not the way it works in my experience. I'd also rather have it your way, but it just doesn't work.

> However, I have a hard time reconciling telling your child to stick up for him or herself when bullied vs "send him to the cemetary" or "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."

The second one no, but the second one is mostly an exaggeration for "don't be the one who starts fights, but be the one who ends them". Cemetery is probably a bad idea as it'll breed revenge, but going at it until they are physically unable to fight back is probably a good idea.

I really think you are just playing semantics here. The quote wouldn't be nearly as effective if it read:

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, hurt him just enough so that he leaves you alone - but don't kill him."

The quote is fine. I worry about this glorification of violence. The original article and this thread seem to be filled with adolescent fantasies of revenge against bullies past and future.

I hope this is mainly internet posturing and bravado.

I'm not sure every child has the perspective to recognize hyperbole. There are times when violence may be necessary, but that doesn't make it any less horrible, whether justified or not.

The "glorification of violence" is too intellectual a concern. It's an idea balancing precariously at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

It's unfortunate that violence is sometimes necessary in school, but it is because bullying isn't taken seriously by the administration. Bullies spend all their time making trouble, so they get good at doing psychological damage and flying under the radar of authority. But the damage they are doing is potentially severe. Bullies usually have severe problems at home, and I feel bad for them, but they mustn't be allowed to spread their self-loathing virally by means of systematic low-grade abuse to anyone who is an easy target (ie. the weird ones, the free thinkers, the people who don't conform, and thus are more likely to bring something new to the world when they grow up).

If administrators took this more seriously and started expelling these kids, then that would get the attention of their deadbeat parents, and violence would not be necessary. However in reality, school is like prison, and sometimes violence is the answer.

Yes, that is a problem. It is one reason I don't advise kids (that I talk to about such problems) to take this approach.

One thing I actually disliked about the post is the way he has de-humanised bullies. When in reality the correct approach is to feel sorry for them - because they have all manner of deep seated issues. Not in a lovey-dovey way (which, he is right, is silly) but in an adult comprehending way.

The act of your violence is a potential learning experience for them too. Too much vitriol and anger and they may come away harbouring deep resentment, and later come back at you with escalating violence. But a short sharp shock could teach them some important truths.

For the most part, the really bad bullies I suffered at school are already failures in adult life. With the one exception of another bully who also got beaten up (not by me) late in the school system - he was dramatically changed after that and is currently one of the nicest and most successful adults I know (although there were other factors swinging in his favour).

So sympathy, but not hippy-love. Violence, but not retribution.

It is a tough balance.

Well, that is the difference between the bullied and the bully, the bullied feels remorse after committing violence.

Over-reaction is the only reaction.

If you don't want the other side to escalate, take it there first and do it fast. If you are truly worried about escalation, then by induction, all fights are fights to the death because beating the bully "just enough" will lead to the bully coming back with more firepower. Lather, rinse, repeat until firearms are involved.

So, you over-compensate. You do everything within your power to kill him and hope someone can stop you or they run away. If you don't take shit from anybody, people will stop trying to give it to you.

> I'm reminded of what Malcolm X said to the civil rights demonstrators:

Malcolm X, the supremacist dude who had Nazis at his conventions, is a really bad role model for your children.

Edit: why the downvote? He was supremacist, and Nazi connection is well documented: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_supremacy#Alliances_with_...

Your own reference refutes your claim.

From the Wikipedia article:

"In 1965, after breaking with the Nation of Islam and denouncing its separatist doctrine, Malcolm X told his followers that the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad had made agreements with the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan that 'were not in the interest of Negros.'"

OK, but you don't object the supremacist part? Good, we are on the same page.

Now, notice the "after break-up" part. Have a look at this photo:


She was doing an essay on Malcolm X, these fellas attended one of his conventions. The one in the middle threatened to make a lantern out of her (Arnold is Jewish).

In her later interviews she mentioned that many people get really upset when they see this photo, and exhibition curators often objected to its inclusion.

OK, but you don't object the supremacist part? Good, we are on the same page.

Um ...

She was doing an essay on Malcolm X, these fellas attended one of his conventions.

While remaining agnostic to your point, it's troubling that you keep citing references that don't support it. The caption on that photo makes no reference to these Nazis being in attendance at a Malcolm X rally.

I read it in Arnold's interview, years ago in a print magazine.

But I now took an effort to find a reference for you:


Grep the text for "Rockwell".

  Rockwell was listening to a speech by Malcolm X – the Nazis and Black Muslims 
  had formed an alliance – and this was the real reason Arnold was there. 
So as you see my initial point stands. A person who is a supremacist and hangs out with Nazis is a bad role model for children. Would you agree?

Fuck this.

I'm not a violent person. I never have been and never will be. I do not consider it a valid way to solve problems. Reverting to our animal nature is rejecting the progress we have made in our brains overriding unproductive basic survival impulses in favour of smarter solutions.

That's not to say this approach doesn't work. For some people it works perfectly. But hitting back only works if you're stronger than them. Otherwise they'll just kick your ass and things will get worse. And even if it works, all you've done is validate the world view that might makes right.

The world is full of idiots who ruin the lives of others, both at the micro level of domestic abuse and the macro level of dictatorships, because of this principle. It's the law of the jungle, and you know what? We don't live in the fucking jungle any more. We live in a civilized society, where intelligence can triumph over brute strength.

Nobody should know that better than HN, a community of nerds who dream of changing the world one keystroke at a time. I'm disappointed to see how much support there is for this idea.

The smart solution to bullying is to make it socially unacceptable. Kids don't take dumps in the hallways because there's no payoff to doing so. But if you beat up the unpopular kid, you get some credibility. Rob them of that credibility, rob them of their motivation, and you end bullying, without swinging a fist.

> The smart solution to bullying is to make it socially unacceptable.

Sure, the bullied kid — which generally has low sociability, either from the start or following the ostracization coming along with the bullying, and few if any friends — is going to make bullying "socially unacceptable".

That's a very nice feel-good declaration, but it's about as helpful as "smack yourself in the mouth to help them so the beating is shorter"

I do not consider it a valid way to solve problems

Well, you're wrong. I don't want to get all Heinlein on you. But this is the way of the world. If you're cold, you put on a jumper or turn up the heating. If you're hot, you have cold drink or you sit in the shade. If you don't do one of these, the situation remains the same. And if you're threatened, you fight or you run. If you can't run, you fight. And if you have to fight - trust me on this - you have to go all in.

The smart solution to bullying is to make it socially unacceptable

If you have a way for an 8-year-old fat kid to do that, let's hear it. Hell if you have a way for "society" to do that, let's hear it.

There are short-term solutions to problems and long-term solutions. The short-term solution may be to fight back in certain scenarios. But long-term, strengthening the family as a unit in society is the only cure for these type of societal problems. Good parents can raise good kids. I'm not saying that if a kid is bad or a bully, that means the parents are necessarily bad, but the correlation between good parents and good kids is undeniable. Society should put more effort into defining what good parenting is (not through law, but rather through custom) than helping kids learn how to fight back. Both may be necessary efforts, but one will have further-reaching impact.

Yes, here is a way to do it (not theoretical, worked in practice) -- get the adults involved. Make sure that your kid feels it's OK to tell you that he's been bullied (he's not being a snitch, he's bringing the problems to the knowledge of the right people). Then talk to the kid. Talk to the kid's parents. Make sure that if it doesn't stop, you will escalate -- you will talk to the school principal and the teachers. Make sure that the principal understand that you're willing to escalate further -- that you will make sure that it hits the local newspaper, that you will complain about it in the PTA meeting, and that you will be filing charges with the police for "assault".

When kids realize that there are consequences for bullying, and that they have to stop, they will. (The above goes for physical abuse, mostly. The solution for verbal abuse is "learn to insult them better". They either learn to stop insulting you, or they fall back to physical abuse, in which case, see above.)

That's what my parents did when I was bullied in middle school. They called the other kid's parents, and he stopped. There was one time they did need to threaten the principal with calling the police, and she pleaded with them not do it, promising that the kid was getting psychological help for his issues, and they agreed to conditionally back off (and he never threatened me again).

Bullying is already socially unacceptable -- it's against the law of society. We can solve it the same way we solve every other criminal activity, which is by involving the law enforcement authority.

Edit: Changed "socially acceptable" in the last paragraph to say "socially unacceptable" (was a typo).

Parents can't be there for there kids 24/7. On top of that plenty of parents simply don't care. Their kid is a trouble maker and they've (sadly) grown to accept it. You might say that's a systemic problem that we need to fix, and my reply is "good luck".

But that's not the point, is it? We are talking about what advice parents give to their kids. The parents who would read a thread on HN are clearly the parents who care.

If a kid's parents do not care about him, I'd like to suggest that the least of that kid's problems is getting bullied in school.

By parents not caring I was referring to your stereotypical bully's parents, not the parents on HN. Parents going to parents doesn't solve much if one of the parties does not care.

And if you have to fight - trust me on this - you have to go all in.

Truer words have never been spoken. Fighting isn't a first option--it's a last option. But if you were teased in school (like I was), the last thing a bully expects is a kid that will rage on him.

Making bullying "unacceptable" isn't a reality.

Adult society is way ahead of kid society at making injustice socially unacceptable. Kid society can become civilized in the same way as adult society: law and order (doink doink).

Children need a justice system that they can respect, which will only happen if the system respects them back -- treats them like first class citizens with a voice and control over their world. The adult system can't do that, so they probably need one of their own. As their educators, adults need to help them build it.

Children want civility as much as adults do, but as long as they have no control over their world, they will not feel any responsibility for it.

I think this is new-age-feel-good bologna. Children do not have a voice and control over the world, to pretend they do would be disingenuous and I'm not sure what value there is in pretend they do or giving them control. Most adults don't even have a voice and control over the world. I'm not a strong supporter of violence but I think it is unreasonable to think you can "Hey buddy, let's be friends" your way out of every situation.

Control over their world, as in their own lives. We could afford to give them a lot more of that than we do now.

I'm pretty sure that if you give children "control over their world" you get Lord of the Flies.

Children aren't mini adults. They're half done adults. There's some scary and important stuff missing.

Lord of the Flies is what we have now. The adults take what they need and otherwise leave children to make a fairly brutal society for themselves. They are just a natural resource, after all.

Not being little monsters should be a part of their education. Instead, they have to grow up and live in the adult world for several years before they actually learn to act like adults.

> But hitting back only works if you're stronger than them. Otherwise they'll just kick your ass and things will get worse.

I can't even begin to list how many things are wrong with this. So fighting is only worth it when you know you're going to win?

The author's point is if you stand up for yourself against a much bigger and stronger bully, you WILL get your ass kicked. But that's fine. Everybody gets their ass kicked once in a while. But the fact that you were not afraid to stand up for yourself gets you respect. The bullies will likely move on onto the easier targets that don't fight back.

I agree with 99% of this article. Except this:

> 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.

Ya think?? And even though you realize it, you're still planning to do it? I'm sure the kid will be VERY grateful when he grows up.

I just found the apparent thought that he was going to be the sole decider of the name amusing.

This might be a reason for the weird name: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnnycash/aboynamedsue.html

Ya might want to learn yerself a little history about that song, son...


"The core story of the song was inspired by humorist Jean Shepherd, a close friend of Shel Silverstein, who was often taunted as a child because of his feminine-sounding name."

You might recognize Jean Shepherd as the author of the stories that were turned into the holiday movie A Christmas Story (he also served as narrator in that movie)

Extra Credit: Watch the Scut Farkus beatdown scene again.

Zhuge is indeed a weird Chinese surname. So he'd have two surnames? At the same time Zhuge Liang was a great military strategist, which I'm sure you'd make clear to him.

Not only is Zhuge a surname, but also, my (Chinese) parents once told me that it's taboo to name a child after someone; not sure if that's true in all parts though.

Not to mention that the first time you get hit in the face will teach you more about fighting than all the Youtube Muay Thai videos in the world

True story: I did martial arts as a kid, and one thing that instructors teach you is that breaking someones nose will finish the fight.

Years later, at a party, I got into a fight with a punk (I mean a real punk, with a stupid haircut). He was acting like a twat, bothering people, like they do, and I told him to piss off and he headbutted me in the face, breaking my nose. And actually, while not something you'd want to happen every day, it's not too bad, a lot of blood but it doesn't really hurt. Then I kicked his ass.

Naming a kid something that will get him teased makes about as much sense as picking a fight with someone you know will beat you. In fact, Sebastian actually says the weird names are a way of picking a fight with the bullies of the world, just like you approved of earlier.

I never approved of "picking a fight with bullies". I approve of defending yourself if a fight has found you, and you have a choice of either fighting or accepting the bullying.

Naming your kid a name to MAKE SURE he gets bullied in order for him to grow up tough sounds insane to me... regardless of the great Johnny Cash song

If you hurt someone, they wont want to attack you again, regardless of who wins.

Yeah right, this is exactly what they want to do.

It's bizarre this is even considered, because this whole thread is filled with revenge fantasies about bullies. Why would you think the bully is just going to think "oh yes, zhuge omarion lionhearted is the superior fighter, I concede" like in some corny kung-fu movie? If you hurt a bully, they are just going to plot out how they are going to hurt you worse the next chance they get...

Finally, if violence is truly the answer, why not just go all-out Columbine from the beginning? There's no more bullying when the bully is dead. Then the problem is truly "solved," right?

If you hurt a bully, they are just going to plot out how they are going to hurt you worse the next chance they get...

It doesn't work like that. In practice, the bully will take the path of least resistance and pick on someone else. Which sucks for them, but the hierarchy has now shifted - the original victim has moved up, but the capability/social capital of the new lowest member of the group is still higher than theirs was. It doesn't take many iterations of this cycle before the bully will either meet their match or have a critical mass of the class openly against them.

This happened in my primary school, actually, the bully in this case was a kid who'd been held back from a higher year. Eventually simply no-one would talk to him. Problem solved.

I don't want this to sound like a personal attack, but I just have to point it out: You're the one engaging in hyperbole and apparent speculation here, while many of the people who say violence does work are citing personal experience in the matter. I honestly don't have enough experience to know who's right and on what specifics (I never even went to public school, much less got bullied there), but the suggestion that shooting up your school is equivalent to defending yourself does not lend a lot of credibility to what you're saying.

I think that humans don't like getting hurt. What's so difficult to understand about that?

yhe above simple logic and my own personal experience fighting back is what this is based on, not some corny Kung foo movie.

Don't put words into others mouths, its rude and unnecessary.

Re your going columbine troll, the response should be limited to what's required. Snd, obviously, violence is already the supreme authority and final resort in society - that's what police and the military are for.

In my experience: Hurt them once, they move on. (I was picked on a lot when young (I was freakishly tall for my age, like 8-12 inches taller than anyone else)). I had several prolonged bullying experiences finally curtailed by eventual violence in the end. I usually got in trouble for it too. I have no clue today if they did. I do know: they stopped.

Bullying isn't about you to the bully. Its about them, and picking on someone. The someone isn't that important, and when you become the someone who is more expensive to screw with, they leave you alone usually.

(And I think this sort of thing as an adult is stupid and a good way to go to jail, but at 10, it works fine).

Good comment.

> Ya think?? And even though you realize it, you're still planning to do it? I'm sure the kid will be VERY grateful when he grows up.

Unconventional names get you teased as a kid, and remembered as an adult. I think it's a good tradeoff.

Well, it worked for Marion Robert Morrison. He grew up to be John Wayne.

When I was a kid in Hawaii (note, young Hawaiians at the time were very racist against 'haoles/foreigners', I got into a fight literally every Wednesday. At the time, I was a 6' tall, thin, awkward kid, too thin for my height, so every Wednesday, I got my ass kicked. It didn't help that I was a smart ass, and content to talk smack WHILE I was getting pummelled.

Summer break came around, and I enrolled in Judo, Boxing and Muay Thai classes. I took an under the table job in construction to pay for the classes. I stole a kayak to get to work. Every single activity in my entire life was focussed on getting better, so I wouldn't get my ass kicked.

I jogged, lifted weights, exercised, trained, etc. I was Rocky. I was the Karate Kid.

When school resumed the next year, the first Wednesday, I got into a fight. I didn't lose. I wouldn't say I "kicked the other guy's ass", but I didn't lose.

After that, i didn't get into nearly as many fights. I was no longer the easy target. And there weren't any other white kids in the class, so much of the violence stopped altogether.

I'm sure you could potentially attribute it to the bullies being a year wiser, or any other number of factors, but from my experience, this argument holds water.

All right I have to ask: why on Wednesday's?

Oh, that's a part of the longer story, which I tried to condense down for the benefit of all.

I was getting my ass kicked more frequently in public schools, so my parents moved me to a Christian private school. The school board mandates x hours of physical education per week, but the school was smallish, and didn't have a gym.

Every Wednesday we would hike down to the nearest public rec center. The rec center was a fairly good size, so we had the option of multiple things to do -- volleyball, kickball, whatever, all spread out on separate fields. This meant that the teacher(s) would rotate from one field to the other to keep an eye on things, which invariably meant that any given field was only monitored about a third of the time.

I never believed in team sports, because of this - if we were playing volleyball, for example, and I made a good serve, somebody on the other team wanted to kick my ass. If I made a bad serve, somebody on my team wanted to kick my ass.

I later moved from Hawaii to Tennessee, for my junior and senior years of high school, where, due to my athletic build and coordination, I was sought after by all the coaches for all the sports teams, but I hated sports. I'm over it now.

The smart solution to taking drugs is to make it socially unacceptable.

The smart solution to smoking is to make it socially unacceptable.

The smart solution to binge drinking is to make it socially unacceptable.

The smart solution to football violence is to make it socially unacceptable.

etc etc.

The real smart thing is for every corner of society, from education to prosecution, to realise that there is no blanket golden solution to every problem.

Example where it did work: Mustafa Ataturk was trying to modernize Turkey and make it more secular. One part of that was banning hijabs, Muslim head coverings. He knew that banning headscarves on women outright could lead to rebellion, or at the very least severe social unrest.

His solution was to make hijabs mandatory for prostitutes at all time. It was one of the most successful mass persuasion tactics he ever used, and if you visit modern day Turkey almost no one wears hijabs.

Edit: Scratch what I said above about modern day turkey, my data is old and unsourced.

When was the last time you went to Turkey and where? I'm interested.

I spend a fair bit of time in Istanbul, and I can categorically tell you the hijab made a comeback some time ago. There are two main ways it's worn - one is a classical cultural style and the other is more of a political statement. It's the latter that's coming back in fashion, mainly due to the actions of the current political party in power.

I'd agree.

I was a violent person in elementary school and Jr. High. I was made fun of constantly and things occasionally came to blows.

I usually won.

But it didn't help much, really, even if it satisfied me at the time to literally pound-in the heads of kids who'd been making me miserable.

Teasing and bullying only seem like they are about someone seeming weak. They're about a mob mentality. That is what needs to be addressed. I'd say a social atmosphere where non-conformists are fair game is mostly what stimulates bullies. Individual kids fighting back is not really going to be the solution.

While I wouldn't call myself a violent person (even then), several bullying issues came to a quite physical conclusion in my youngest years. And yes, while the bullying stopped against me, it didn't stop the kid from doing it to others.

Do you think it was just non-conformity? The meanness of children in general? Is this something that all humans have? Or some american dysfunction? Some western dysfunction?

"But hitting back only works if you're stronger than them. Otherwise they'll just kick your ass and things will get worse."

Not true. Bullies tend to pick on people who won't fight back* because they're easy prey. If you demonstrate, even by losing, that you're not willing to take it from them anymore and that you will resist, you are no longer easy prey.

*Obviously this isn't true 100% of the time, but more often than not.

Bullies pick on you as long as the benefit is greater than the cost. If you don't fight back and the school/parents don't provide effective punishment, the cost is zero, so the bully will pick on you whenever it's worth slightly more than nothing to him. If you make the cost "getting kicked in the junk", the bully is only going to pick on you if he thinks it's worth getting kicked in the junk, which is not very often.

You don't need to be stronger, or a better fighter, you just need to make fighting you painful enough that the pain outweighs the gain. This is one of the key principles of deterrence (even on an international scale) -- you don't need to be strong enough to win the fight, you just have to be strong/vicious enough to inflict enough pain that "not fighting" becomes a better option for your opponent.

> the bully is only going to pick on you if he thinks it's worth getting kicked in the junk

Or he'll "pick on you" with a huge stick out of kicking range, or he'll guard his nuts next time he's got you in a headlock.

> he'll guard his nuts next time he's got you in a headlock.

Which weakens the headlock and leaves something else vulnerable (unless he's got three arms).

Only true if there is no one easier left to pick on. This is never the case.

> *Obviously this isn't true 100% of the time, but more often than not.

See, but that's the crux of the entire issue, and you (nor the OP) have not offered statistics backing this up. Anecdotes are not data, so I don't care if this "worked for me" or whatever.

A bully who gets his ass kicked, or doesn't win soundly enough, could easily escalate the next encounter with a knife or bat or something worse. Or maybe not! I don't know, neither do you or the OP, and so maybe we should not be making authoritative declarations about these things without consulting actual research.

If he escalates with a knife or a bat, that's no longer bullying, that's assault with a weapon. Although you could say bullying is assault, nobody is going to send the kid to juvenile for punching you. But they will sure as hell will send a kid with a knife to another place to protect the other kids.

1. The world is full of idiots who ruin the lives of others, both at the micro level of domestic abuse and the macro level of dictatorships, because of this principle.

Self-defense isn't the same as aggression, it's an act of self-preservation which is still very much a principle of civilized society. The author of the article failed to make this distinction clear. When you stand up for yourself or a friend you're sending a clear message that says "I'm not going to take this laying down."

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

-Barrack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

2. I do not consider it a valid way to solve problems.

The smart solution to bullying is to make it socially unacceptable.

When you're in a confrontational situation where the other party is about to beat you to a bloody pulp you can't take a time-out to establish a social stigma. Furthermore that wouldn't work. Most bullies are deviant by nature so making something socially unacceptable would just make it more alluring.

3. We live in a civilized society, where intelligence can triumph over brute strength.

But hitting back only works if you're stronger than them.

By the former statement it appears that you exclude violence categorically from the realm of "intelligent things to do." Violence, just like any other human interaction, is a language with its own inflections and subtleties. Without training and practice how do you expect to be fluent or successful in getting your point across?

What you need to do is demonstrate that you are willing to escalate things beyond a reasonable level. It's not about strength, but about willingness to go the distance.

Someone shoves you: throw a chair through a window, flip a few desks, go completely ape-shit. Make it known that you are willing to cause lasting and permanent damage for the slightest offense. Pretty soon no one will want to cause that slightest offense.

This is an intelligent tactic. And will preemptively stop a lot of aggression.

Kids don't take dumps in hallways because it can negatively impact them. They will take dumps in hallways they don't frequent just for kicks.

Actually it seems to me that is exactly what would let the bullies win: see how crazy that kid is? Let's tease him some more and see how crazy he can get.

Not if they're the targets. Do you really want to see how homicidal someone else can get towards you?

I certainly don't want to be friends with somebody who might turn psycho/homicidal on me one day. So maybe your strategy would work in getting rid of the bullies, but it would probably drive away everybody else, too (people who might have become friends).

If you are physically assaulting your friends, then maybe they don't want you around to begin with.

This is a response to violence. If someone gets violent with you, become excessively violent with them.

So no longer eye-for-eye, but two eyes-for-eye? I'm not sure this strategy has worked out well in human history. Personally, I'm okay with violence as a last-resort disabling tactic, enough force to stop the aggressor and calm them down, nothing more, then you can proceed with reason.

> throw a chair through a window.

I think every party involved would prefer if personal conflicts between two high school kids didn't result in unnecessary property damage. Otherwise, I agree. Going "ape-shit", all in, is what will prove the point that you shouldn't be fucked with.

Property damage can serve one purpose: getting the school administrators to care about the situation. The school administrators I've met have never given a damn about bullying, but they care quite a lot about not being inconvenienced. Property damage is inconvenient.

I'm not sure how getting the administration involved would help the situation, but I suppose it might.

Exactly, why do you think they send people to jail for not paying taxes, by escalating things beyond a reasonable level, they get people to pay. The mafia uses a similar methodology to collect its protection payments.

> But hitting back only works if you're stronger than them. Otherwise they'll just kick your ass and things will get worse.

I rarely assume that someone who threatens me with violence cares about my well-being.

You're assuming that if you comply, you won't get your ass kicked. Sometimes, you're going to get your ass kicked regardless so the only question is whether they're going to pay a price for doing so.

Curiously enough, bullies don't like the risk of damage, even if they "win" the fight.

> where intelligence can triumph over brute strength.

"can" is often by the grace of folks who have brute strength.

> "can" is often by the grace of folks who have brute strength.

As if guns grew on trees.

> I'm not a violent person. I never have been and never will be. I do not consider it a valid way to solve problems. Reverting to our animal nature is rejecting the progress we have made in our brains overriding unproductive basic survival impulses in favour of smarter solutions.

Sometimes the only way an animal will listen is if you speak their language.

I agree with you that this is not necessarily the ideal approach. Whether or not it's a valid way to solve problems, fighting back is only effective against individual bullies, which are hardly the larger problem.

I disagree that "The smart solution to bullying is to make it socially unacceptable." A solution is not a smart solution if it cannot be put into practice, and it's not as though there's any real control over what's socially acceptable among children.

If there's a real solution, it's to be found among adults. Children are basically small adults. While there's a bit of a gap in reasoning capacity, the gap is much smaller than people give it credit for: children are smart. So, why do adults not "bully" each other all the time?

There's a strong argument to be made that this is because we've cordoned adults who are likely to instigate violence off into their own social environments (criminal). That's a strong possibility, but it probably doesn't hide a solution to the problem: we don't give children the power to do this, and doing it for them would be a ground ripe for abuse of power. As much as I don't like it, there may be no good solution.

There's also a strong argument to be made that adults don't get into fights simply because they have better things to do. That might be a good place to start: give children more and better choices about what to do.

Probably the strongest argument is that adults have a perfectly good nonviolent way to signal status: money. Children don't have any such thing, so they come up with their own. Counter-intuitive though it seems, giving children a strong status-signaling mechanism other than bullying might be effective.

That's great. Throw your kids under the bus for your ideals.

We first have to understand the world we do live in, before we can reasonably change it to the world we'd like to live in.

"The smart solution to bullying is to make it socially unacceptable."

And until then?

I'd like to see a roadmap to making bullying socially unacceptable. Especially one that creates a sustainable solution as opposed to one that has to be re-implemented every year when you get new 6th graders..

Here is a sustainable approach: make sure that teachers are legally obligated to report bullying instances they are aware of to the police. (This law can be passed in the municipal, state or federal levels -- it doesn't matter.)

Bullying is assault. The first time the police gets involved, it will be unpleasant for the bully. The second time, he gets arrested. The next bully to come along might realize he doesn't want a criminal record, and if he doesn't, his parents might. And if they don't stop, they get sent away to juvie.

Why do we assume highschool/middleschool kids are somehow untouchable by the law?

...because in some circumstances, they are. Cavanagh has vandals on film and admitting their guilt on facebook - cops don't follow up. More important things to do, I guess.

Ever had to actually get the police to follow up on something like that? They'll take your report... but if no one is injured, it often ends there.

They're not untouchable, but every year you're going to have a whole new group of kids "becoming" bullies. So any "sustainable" approach has to be made with parents, not the school system, because it's parents who are ultimately responsible.

To do that you'd first need to be in a situation where teachers earned the kids respect instead of demanding it by fiat.

They're both solutions, violence is more often an option rather than relying on the intelligence of both parties. If you think otherwise then I think you're naive and would benefit by gaining experiences other than your own. "But hitting back only works if you're stronger than them." It's easily arguable that this is case when strength is measured in intelligence rather than physically.

The correct way is by intelligence but by being prudent in a Machiavellian sense and knowing when you need to be physical and when you can and should use a civilized argument. But just painting every situation as one of white or black for all time is nice abstractly but it's not practical.

We live in a civilized society, where intelligence can triumph over brute strength.

Are you sure about that? I'm not at all convinced -- especially in the US.

Were you bullied at school?

I was with this guy until he started talking about mouthing off to a mafia guy in Japan.

Kid stuff is kid stuff, adult stuff is different. That 9th grader had almost certainly never tortured someone with a car battery. Same with the muggers - who's to say that they're sane in the least? What if they're really strung-out and have knives, now you're going to the hospital.

I was mugged in London 4 months ago. In broad daylight, the guy caught me off guard and pushed me to the ground.

When I tell people there's usually someone who tells me I should have fought back, or whatever. And I went through relief, anger, fear it would happen again and the thirst for revenge afterwards, replaying the situation and second-guessing myself, wondering if I should have fought back or done something differently.

But it's not worth the risk. My friend works in public housing in the area, and said the guy was probably a local gang member. These guys fight and carry knives from when they're children. I've never been in a real fight and I have a desk job - odds are that I would have ended up in hospital.

So I handed over the 40 pounds cash I had in my wallet, and he bailed.

A random encounter like this is a totally different situation to a bully at school, where you mostly know who you're dealing with. There's a couple of times I now realise I probably should have stood up for myself at school, but being mugged on the street is not the time to start learning to fight.

I was hoping someone else felt this way.

In my view, it's never worth risking your life to protect your belongings. Be like Roger Sterling in Mad Men and give up your money & your jewelry.

The reason for shooting a mugger is that the situation is inherently one where your life is at risk. Even if you totally comply, you could be killed.

Shooting an attacker is safer for you. It is usually far more expensive, though -- maybe 1-5k in legal costs even if it doesn't get much followup (and if it goes to trial, could be over 100k), potential civil suits, and of course the cost of firearms and training to even have the choice.

I would definitely toss a $500 wallet and run if it were at the time a safer choice, even with a firearm. But, I would have no problem killing to defend my life, either.

I guess I made my comment as someone who doesn't currently carry a firearm. I suppose the situation changes when you're capable of disabling the attacker outright by shooting him.

I was speaking mainly to a situation where you'd be inciting some sort of a fight or a struggle with someone crazy enough to attempt a mugging. In this case, I still stand by my feeling that you're better off complying.

If you're able, by all means, protect yourself. You'll find no objections from me there.

It definitely doesn't change when you're capable of shooting the person, just as the GP post said -- the first hour of legal fees will be bigger than what you had in your wallet.

Now, a certain feeling of invincibility may be priceless to some people, but they're far less invincible than they think - if you go around expecting violence then it's probably more likely to happen to you. Not to mention that, statistically, you're shortening your lifetime more by owning a gun (I like guns but don't own one) than you're extending it by the small chance that someone's coming for your life and you actually see them coming.

There are a lot of statistics about guns and survival, and it's not 100% conclusive. Most "bad" firearms related deaths which happen to firearms owners are suicides, followed by children and stupid accidents, followed by domestic violence with guns. I'm unlikely to suffer from any of these.

Carrying a concealed weapon (where legal) has a lower benefit than carrying a cellphone and first aid/trauma kit (which I also carry, and will try to get to EMT-I certification again, if not paramedic), but I still think it's a net improvement in your personal safety, assuming you're trained and competent.

The biggest disadvantage is that in some states you can't go into a restaurant where alcohol is served (even if you're going for a meal and don't drink), and of course the fashion compromise of a 1-4 pound hunk of metal/plastic/wood.

I think most gun owners disbelieve "invincibility" even more than non-gun owners when it comes to guns -- handguns especially are fairly non-lethal (at 3', I'd rather have a knife), and give an advantage to he who initiates violence. I'd be very happy to trade a firearm for a Dune-style shield or something.

I think another factor is that a responsible gun owner who is carrying is probably more likely to avoid places where an incident might happen -- aside from bars, I'd also be a lot more likely to be less confrontational in traffic or other situations if I realized there was a potential it could escalate to shooting. I've never been involved in any kind of scuffle or anything while carrying a firearm, and while I actively avoid "bad areas" to the extent possible no matter what, it's another factor. Although I am willing to stop to render aid to stranded motorists when armed, whereas unless it's a very clearcut situation, just drive on (and optionally call 911) otherwise.

so you're worried that the muggers aren't sane, but, hey, they'll be sane enough to honor the ancient mugger code and leave you alone after taking your stuff?

once somebody is threatening you with violence, you don't get to count on anything. especially if you act like an easy target.

It's simple darwinism. It is possible to mug people and escape a number of times before you get caught. Once you start mugging people and murdering them... That won't last very long.

It's strange how a society supposedly obsessed with safety nonetheless thinks normal to place a child in such an environment, then do everything to prevent them from defending themselves. It's a prison environment, only the inmates did nothing to deserve being there.

The problem could be that kids don't interact much with people outside their age group. They have no reference point of how adults behave. It becomes a sort of Lord of the Flies world.

Our society isn't really obsessed with safety. It's obsessed with being safe from rare, sensational dangers.

If we really cared about safety, we'd focus less on airport security and "stranger danger", and more on getting people to wear seatbelts and never drive while intoxicated. Statistically, automobile accidents are by far the leading cause of accidental death in the US.

I'm the youngest of three boys. We all went to the same high school. When I arrive in Year 7, there were apparently quite a few kids "lining up" to have a go at me. My brothers were well respected academics as well as both celebrated for their Basketball and Athletics achievements, and I was the geek.

My group of geek friends and I took our share of hassling in the first week. It was probably day 4 when one of the bullies had a go at a friend of mine (over a paper aeroplane if I recall) so I stood up to him. I then got backed into a corner by 2 or 3 of them who started really hammering me.

Something snapped in me.

I started kicking, punching, kneeing, throwing windmills and swearing like a crazy person. I don't know how long it was before a teacher came out and broke it up. But I'm sure it wasn't long, and I'm dead certain that I barely made contact with anything. We all sat in the principals office and got a stern talking to. The older kids were suspended, I was let off...probably because my brothers were star pupils.

They thought I was bat-shit crazy. For the next 6 years I wasn't hassled again.

I grew up in a tough neighborhood, lower middle class, where we fix issues with fists fights. My dad, a tough guy, hated bullying period. He did not tolerate his child being the bully; he made us understand that is was shameful to mistreat the weak and the young. He always told us to stand our ground when attacked, he said if the attacker was stronger and bigger we could use a stick, a stone or anything that could really hurt the attacker. My dad said we should not respond to a push with a push, he thought an attack should be met with a response x times. A punch for a push; my two brothers and I were known for our fierce defense abilities, which made us safe from bullying growing up.

Today as a parent, I give the same advice to my children. We are a minority in our neighborhood and my kids go to great school. They have been through multiple attacks from bullies. My son is in middle school and so far has been able to fight back at many would be bullies. I made it clear to the principal and some parents of bullies that my children are permitted to fight back when attacked, that I will stand by them in all circumstances.

So far it has been working pretty well next year my daughter will be in high school and my son is a reputed defensive player in the basketball team.

I would phrase the advice to sound less hair-trigger, but I essentially agree. "Ignore the bully", or "don't fight back" are terrible advice that put the (your) child at risk.

I think where parents get confused is on the individual vs. group distinction. We look at the world, see all the various tribal wars with their counter-attacks and counter-counter-attacks, and erroneously conclude that violence doesn't solve anything.

We're not talking suicide bombs and airstrikes, here. If Alice shoves Billy, and Billy shoves Alice back, there's often no escalation, and no-one else is harmed. The issue is settled, and everyone's still alive and well. This is much better than ongoing bullying.

His account of the 9th grader reminds me of the advice to punch out the toughest looking guy in the room on your first day of prison to establish a reputation of unfuckablewithness.

Agreed. My next question is: why are our _schools_ comparable to prisons in this way? Is it really such an inescapable facet of human nature?

Why can't we change the culture of school such that, at least while you're actually _in_ school, you're focused on being the smartest person you can be and not looking over your shoulder?

It's because they are both institutions founded on compulsory incarceration where rules and regulations reign supreme over common sense and human decency.

At least, I think that might have something to do with it.

You'd have to be some sort of dangerous, crazy teabagger to suggest that kids and parents should have the right to choose a school that they like.

Simple reason: You're required to be there. In the rest of life, you can quit your job, move, and find a better crowd of people. It will always turn into lord of the flies if you throw a bunch of (truly) random people together who don't depend on each other and force them to deal with it day after day.

Why don't parents do something? I'd have no problem, as an adult, confronting a kid and telling them that if they touched my son again I'd personally deliver them to juvy where I can make accomodations for buddies they don't appreciate.

And unless they're already hardened gang members, this should work pretty well, and probably breaks no laws. And if they do do it again, live up to your promise, to the extent possible.

If they are hardened gang members, you should probably get your child out of the situation, because fighting back is a losing proposition.

It's a really fine line. This type of response can just as easily backfire on you. One punch back can escalate things well beyond the original infraction, the next thing you know, you are in the hospital. Embarrassing someone who fancies themselves the leader of a pack is never a good idea. Even if you escape unscathed one day, the very next day you may be met with an even larger pack of people.

It is this very mindset that perpetuates violence, it doesn't end it. For Sebastian, the line is clear "as soon as someone puts their hands on you," but everyone has a different line. Taunting someone every day for months can push someone beyond their line, and when they push you away out of desperation they have "put their hands on you."

Being strong and standing up for yourself does not require physical violence. Understanding the reason someone is picking on you is perhaps the best way to actually stop it, and perhaps even address the root cause, making the road better for the next person in line. When complaining about the bully in my elementary school, my parents explained to me the social situation that he was brought up in, and how we were so lucky in comparison. I didn't "love" them, but I understood them much better, and learned how to avoid getting in their way. Hitting back wouldn't have solved anything.

I'd say every situation has an escalating set of responses, and I certainly don't believe that violence is always unacceptable, especially when nonviolent means have failed.

I'd suggest that a large part of why MLK succeeded is because Malcolm X was loudly stating the alternative.

I've never been physically bullied, as I've always been both a dork and an athlete, but I was teased relentlessly early on. My dad's advice was always to ignore, and this just didn't work well enough. That's how I discovered the power of personality - the power to fire back is (sadly) what wins respect of children.

The challenge once you've gained the skill is to reign it in - to be intentional in your response, and to sometimes decide that nonviolence, or silence IS actually the way to go.

Oh for fuck's sake. People, there are many reasons why bullying occurs, and there are many types of bullies, and there are many types of kids who get bullied.

Does anyone out there honestly believe that there's a single solution that will work in every situation? I hate to be so condescending, but really now! On a site like this, where we make careers out of handling edge conditions, we should know better.

If a kid punches you because he hates himself, should you punch him back? What if a kid punches you because he's trying to fit in with a circle of friends, and they hate themselves, but he just kinda has low self-esteem? What if a kid punches you because you remind him of a kid that bullied him last year? What if a kid punches you because he's having a bad day, but he feels bad about it after? What if a kid punches you because he likes you, but he has an abusive family environment and punching is the only way he knows to express affection? What if a kid punches you because he hates himself, but he hates everyone else too? What if a kid punches you because he has low self esteem and he's jealous of how smart you sounded in class just now?

The answer to everything up there is not "JUST PUNCH THE FUCKER" or "JUST HUG THE FUCKER." Come on. They are all unique situations in their own right, and they all must be considered separately. In fact, each of those has different solutions based on who the target is. They're schoolchildren. They're humans. They're not computer programs! They're not predictable automatons! If you're new in school and you fuck someone up on the first day, that's completely different from being bullied for six years and then finally punching back. The first has a higher likelihood of getting you left alone. The second will probably make it worse! If you're a small kid and you try to give them a hug, that's different from if you're a big kid. They could say the small kid is only being friendly because he's too wimpy to fight back. They could say a big kid is only punching because he's too stupid to think of a comeback. IT DEPENDS. It fucking DEPENDS.

The whole reason "bullying" remains an "unsolved issue" is because people keep suggesting silver bullets, and there fucking isn't one. Instead of attacking each other's silver bullets, why don't we take the difficult but arguably more worthwhile path of identifying different motivations for bullying and how the psychology of differing responses works? Because this "be friendly"/"punch them out" bullshit sounds more and more like emacs vs. vim to me.


Uh, no. If someone punches me there really is no decision matrix in which I will not punch him back. His motivations are frankly irrelevant to me and are something he needs to work out on his own.

Congratulations! You've found a formula that works... FOR YOU!

Works for me.

I don't really understand where my point fell short. So, if a bully punches you, you will punch them back. Good. Okay. I honestly have no issue with that. But why do you feel the need to suggest that it's the only possible way that could work for everyone who ever gets punched by a bully?

If someone punches me without any provocation (or even a reasonable consequence) and I am pretty sure they'll do it again without provocation, the only reasonable thing to do is defend oneself by hitting back. That is actually most of the basis of martial arts (in almost all forms), so it's a pretty solid idea. I wouldn't do it if I knew they were in a gang and I'd likely end up dead, but that is a reasonable consideration of the situation.

I believe that those qualifications are important, though. And they're different for every person. You wouldn't do it if they were in a gang. What about Gandhi? ("Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.") What about Buddha[1]? What about Jesus? ("Turn the other cheek.") Are they all unreasonable fools--were they "doing it wrong," beyond the shadow of a doubt? Or were their considerations reasonable?

Aikido is a notable exception to your point about martial arts. I highly suggest Aikido and the New Warrior, an excellent book of modern anecdotes describing what it really means to practice "the way of loving harmony."

I'm not saying that hugging is the only way to respond to bullies. In fact, I'm not even saying that I would hug an aggressive bully instead of punching. My point is that you cannot simply say "Quid pro quo, break his nose" and be done with it. Life is more complicated than that.

[1] http://viewonbuddhism.org/dharma-quotes-quotations-buddhist/...:

'You're a fool' said the veteran, 'What if someone had wiped out all the Buddhists in the world and you were the last one left. Would you not try to kill the person who was trying to kill you, and in doing so save Buddhism?'

Thich Nhat Hanh answered patiently, 'It would be better to let him kill me. If there is any truth to Buddhism and the Dharma, it will not disappear from the face of the earth, but will reappear when seekers of truth are ready to rediscover it.

'In killing I would be betraying and abandoning the very teachings I would be seeking to preserve. So it would be better to let him kill me and remain true to the spirit of the Dharma.'

Those cited above likely had others that were less moral attitudes that were willing to break from rank to save the higher up. Jesus is not a very good example for many reasons, but the others lived by very different rules and morals.

Morality is very different from reasonable consideration of facts. I do not want to die so if I know someone will respond with that type of revenge I will avoid causing that. If Gandhi were alone in an alley and started being beat up on, the morality may hold him from fighting back but that doesn't make the risk of dying any lower.

I agree that morality and mortal danger have no correlation. I haven't been trying to argue that, though--if there's someplace where it seems like I was, please point it out so I can clarify.

In your first paragraph, are you saying that a Buddha/Jesus/Gandhi is only a pacifist because he expects lesser Buddhists/Christians to defend him with violence...?

Also, I doubt that Gandhi or Thich Nhat Hanh would claim that their morality decreased their risk of dying. Their point is that it doesn't change anything (for them).

And ME...

I completely agree. To an extent there'll always be a certain cachet associated with violence and 'fighting back' .. it's the macho thing to do, and - by supporting a general violent response - the original poster _could_ be accused of trying to project a more macho stance himself. Thinking about all situations in the same way, is fantasy .. and imagining that violence will always redeem the oppressed is a romantic and foolhardy notion.

Not many people want to be thought of as weak - but strength doesn't need to come from aggression; sometimes confidence and defiance can go a long way to providing any necessary 'short, sharp shock'.

In my findings, this method is not near as effective as having something you said get taken way out of context.

I got bullied a little in middle school. However, in a completely unrelated event, I said something with one feeling and someone nearby thought I said it in anger I guess.

Next thing I know, SWAT and local police are at my high school and somehow everyone knows who they're looking for.

Apparently "Really? OMG Im gonna kill her! lol" directly translates to "I'm going to bring a gun to school and murder her".

I was never messed with again and no one asked.

My only problem with this article is when the author considers the antagonists to be animals. It encourages thinking of the bullies as sub-human, and beyond redemption, and treating them like that encourages them to keep acting like that. People are complicated, life is complicated, and completely dismissing someone as an "animal" and ignoring anything else about them is an arrogant effort to make yourself feel morally superior for taking what is an essentially pragmatic option.

Like I said, that's the only issue I have, and I condone the advice to fight back. I do think that bullies, or at least some individuals who are bullies, have the potential to be talked to. However, I think it's unlikely that they can be talked to by the person they're antagonizing, while they're in the process of antagonizing them. If you're being picked on, you have neither the responsibility, nor the ability, to redeem your tormentor. Concern yourself with your well-being, defend yourself, and leave the redemption to a professional counselor. No one has the obligation to act in the interest of someone who is acting against theirs (although I have deep respect for those who volunteer to do so).

The difference between fighting back as a deterrent, and fighting back as moral superiority, is rather fine, and in the moment of fighting back, probably indistinguishable. But there are downstream effects of thinking of others (and especially of treating them) as less than human, or even as inferior to you. Thinking that the current situation will never change blinds you to ways to change it, and in the long-term, that results in things failing to change.

But how do we teach kids when the "authority" puts their hands on them?


Does this advice help at all with girls? Girls seemed to bully socially rather than physically when I was in school. What do you tell a young girl who's in a similar situation? "Punch her in the nose?"

I had a similar experience (and resolution) in middle school and I agree with the author's conclusion. But now I have an 8 month old daughter who may experience this type of bullshit one day, and I'm not sure what advice I'd give her just now.

"... Does this advice help at all with girls? Girls seemed to bully socially rather than physically when I was in school. What do you tell a young girl who's in a similar situation? "Punch her in the nose?" ..."

The asymmetry of this situation is not described much here because the type of bullying attacks used by females are less physical. The mechanics are similar but the techniques are different and can be summarised thus: "Males are paratroopers, females are secret agents". Males rely more on aggression and physicality and are overt while females specailise in covert relational and psychological bullying. If you want to read the mechanics & some citations try here ~ http://seldomlogical.com/2010/06/18/hacking-people

The best article I've read on bulling is "Big Bad Bully" ~ http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/big-bad-bully and the best references specifically for dealing with female bullying I've seen is by "Rosalind Wiseman" ~ http://www.amazon.com/Rosalind-Wiseman/e/B001IOH8ZW/ref=sr_n...

I have seen more than one schoolgirl fist fight.

I don't have kids - but id probably tell her the same. Its more about teaching a lesson and giving encouragement and about standing for one self. She probably wont go gorilla on her peers. Girls tend to do it in more subtle form.

What I think is the most important thing to do is to give training by example - live the way of a warrior and kids will pick it up themselves. Be polite, kind, sincere but closely follow the rules of engagement - when someone sets tries to turn tables on you, be sure to let him know that you know the game too.

I have the same question. While there were fights between some girls in the high school I went to, all the abuse I dealt with was entirely verbal/social.

No one ever tried to lay a hand on me, so if I'd started anything, it would've been me looking like the 'bad guy'. And somewhere along the way I'd already internalized that as a 'good girl' disappointing authority was the worst thing I could possibly do.

I tried ignoring. I tried preemptively mocking myself to take the wind out of their sails. Nothing really stopped it. I got really lucky that my high school had a surprisingly large 'smart kid' group (6 National Merit scholars in my graduating class of 330) and eventually I was able to keep a large enough peer group to just not have to interact with most of the kids that bullied me.

But despite my small close circle of friends, I still graduated high school feeling like an outcast. Our entire AP history class once deemed me a 'neo-nazi' because I made a comment about the biased language in some video we watched. We had studied rhetoric only a few weeks before in English, and I was wondering why the video seemed to pulling so many of the tricks we'd just learned about in order to make the holocaust look like a bad thing. It seemed unnecessary (in my innocent mind I was thinking, 'Aren't the raw facts enough to convince anyone?').

My one offhand comment (literally just the words, 'That video sure used a lot of biased language.') turned into a full-scale mocking by everyone in the classroom except my two friends (who stayed silent). The teacher never actually joined in the mocking, but he stood by while it happened, encouraged the 'debate' to last longer, and even laughed at some of the hurtful comments made to me by the other students.

Put her through martial arts lessons with a good teacher. It's good for self-defense anyway, and I'd never want my daughter to be unprepared to defend herself if she should need to.

Not so that she can beat up the other girls, mind you, but having that sort of discipline, capability, and independence can really provide a good boost to your confidence. You know you're capable, and the taunts of others don't bother you as much.

It's not going to prevent it from bothering her, but it will certainly help her withstand it if it should come to that. If she's not bothered by their initial insults or taunts, they won't enjoy it enough to come back and harass her again.

I agree and can confirm the effectiveness of this approach. My dad saw me being bullied in kindergarten. Rather than stopping the bullying himself, he taught me how to do a choke-hold.

The next day he had to pick me up earlier as I was accused of violent behavior - for choking the bully until he turned blue.

This lesson, learned so early, helped me a lot in later school life as I was that overweight small kid with thick glasses. And every time someone tried to bully me, I simply slammed my elbow in their nuts.

Kids can be mean monsters, they can be worse than any grown up. They have no idea how much harm they are causing.

Defending yourself against predators is a very important lesson in life.

I moved around a lot as a kid, so I was the convenient target, too. My 10 yr old is in martial arts and has a green-brown belt. He absolutely loves it. I've told him to only use it as a last resort, but to use it.

I recall being bullied by a rather dull kid when in elementary school. I remember him relentlessly telling me he would kick my ass. I told my Dad and he recommended that if it push came to shove, to just punch him in the face. So, one day the kid came at me and I hit him (don't even remember where). I was never bothered again at that school.

Bullies reign when no one stands up to them.

I really don't want to sound like some drive by detractor on the Internet, so let me explain where I'm coming from.

I was that 10 year old kid. I had a junior black belt in karate at around 12 years old. My dad really kind of enjoyed it vicariously and was proud of my accomplishments. He also, like you, believed that I had attained some skills that could be used for real self defense. He told me that it should be used only as a last resort, as if it were a secret weapon. The fact is, it was nothing of the sort. I could never handle myself in a fight, and I never had the confidence that I could, either.

There are many martial arts dojos out there that sell exactly what kung fu movies sell: fantasy. These are the dojos that every kind of kid goes to and they all just love love love it, and their parents just think it's so great and fun. These are the dojos where you will see people lined up in rows to repeatedly kick and punch and block the air while yelling "kyah!" or something to that effect. Sometimes they'll kick and punch pads that instructors are holding, and sometimes they'll be paired off to "spar" really lightly with one another, where the mere soft contact of a gloved hand on the chest represents a hit. Memorization of fight/dance moves is a major part of progressing from each belt. The one thing that these dojos will not do is have your son or daughter fight anybody.

The simple fact is that you cannot learn to fight without fighting. Punching the air or a pad does not prepare you physically, emotionally, or mentally for punching a person. Totally dominating imaginary attackers in an elaborate dance may have something to do with arts, but absolutely nothing to do with martial. Not even a false sense of confidence is given to these kids, because when faced with a real threat, they know very well that they're not prepared. The false sense of confidence is sold to the parents.

It certainly doesn't hurt to take your kid to a dojo like this, because at least they have fun and get a decent workout. But the real reason I wanted to go as a kid was to learn how to fight, and my dad thought that was exactly what I was learning, and it ultimately proved to be a great disappointment because of these mismatched expectations.

I don't know what kind of dojo you take your kid to, but the advice from this random guy on the Internet is to make sure your expectations are being matched. A fun workout with a group of peers is good for a kid, but if you (and him) really want to develop fighting skills, I strongly recommend trying something like wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu. It needs to be a place where the kids are pitted against each other in a well-controlled environment, where the goal is to physically overpower your opponent.

You're right that many martial arts teachers/schools are like this. But there are some that aren't. I've taken had the good fortune to learn from three or four instructors, and there is no doubt in my mind that every one of them has a very high level of skill and is able to apply that skill in real-world situations. The problem is how to find these people and distinguish them from the fakes.

I was bullied quite a bit when I started 1st grade at a new school. Luckily I had two older brothers at the school. A couple times I pointed out the dudes responsible and they would go have a word with them and that'd take care of it.

I guess you get bullied when the other party things they have little to lose and lots(of pleasure) to gain. Soon as you signal they might have something to lose and they believe you they move on to the next victim.

A few times I remember just cursing out the bullies OUT LOUD. I was considered so weak that they never thought I'd do that. Once I did, the bullying stopped.

Maybe my experience with high school bulles is atypical. I went to a very small high school (my graduating class had 32 people in it), and I was also a big kid. I was (and am) 6'4", I played tennis constantly. Despite being in alright shape, I was definitely a "fat" kid, definitely a nerd, and I definitely took a lot of flak for it.

Until I stopped taking flak for it. Bullies are just trolls in real life. Letting them make you feel dejected (or showing it) just feeds them...it's just like internet trolls.

Responding back to them, not violently, but trolling them back meant that you were no longer a victim, but were just playing the same game. Eventually, I made friends with the kids that used to tease me.

I really don't think that responding violently to bullies is the answer. That just further serves to enforce an "us" and "them" mentality. Bullying them back, just playing their game back at them makes it into a game. Eventually, at least for me, bullying turned into friendly jabbings.

Just to re-iterate many of the above comments. When I was in 7th grade (in Jamaica you are about 11 in 7th grade), I was perpetually bullied by one guy. Another 7th grader, but because I came from a middle class upbringing and he from lesser means, perhaps he felt a need to exude a 'gangster' image.

Given that I was one of the smallest guys in the class, that naturally meant I became a target.

At first I would try to ignore it, but it never went away.

Well, one day I decided I wasn't going to take it and I fought back. I hit him a few times and we rumbled together and I ended up having him in a 'sleeper hold' - i.e. my arm around & in front of his neck, with my other arm locked around the back of his head - with him fading quickly.

In a fit of desperation he quickly pulled out a compass (the one that had a 1-inch long point) and stabbed me in my arm - to get me to let go. Well, it worked, I let go instantly.

The pain was intense - but he was able to get his breath back. As soon as we both realized what he did, I turned to walk to the bathroom (because it had started bleeding by now), but he thought I was going to the principal's office. Naturally he ran after me apologizing profusely and literally BEGGED me not to go to the principal.

I bluffed a bit, and indicated to him that if he ever troubled me again I am going straight there.

That was the end of that...for the rest of my high school career he never troubled me again. As a matter of fact, if he ever saw anyone else try picking on me, he would kinda take up for me.

So while I wouldn't say 'take something hard and knock them in the back of their head' but simply fighting back and standing up for yourself can help significantly.

Although, a word of caution, I could have easily been stabbed elsewhere (like my eye, or head). So take that for what it's worth and advise your kids of the real potential consequences of fighting back - not to mention further retribution by the bully's friends (which is a very real possibility here in Jamaica).

That being said, I am definitely going to advise my son to hit back - but do it wisely and make sure not to do TOO much damage. i.e. once they back off, stop, leave, and report it (or not, as my case proved) or call me to at least let me know there was an issue.

Edit: Oh and for the record, the wound took about 2 months to heal properly and hurt like a mother-lover, for what it's worth.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

Reading this thread, it occurs to me once again how countercultural the Sermon on the Mount is, and how hard it is to seriously live it.

I wouldn't recommend this as a plan of action for somebody else's kid. Or for others, in a pluralist political context. Or for nations. Because hey, this goes down to a very basic belief about how to live rightly and wrongly in the world, and how to respond to violence and evil.

"Reading this thread, it occurs to me once again how countercultural the Sermon on the Mount is, and how hard it is to seriously live it."

On the other hand, the reward (if you believe it) is eternal paradise of some kind. Infinite good in exchange for some finite pain. Yay religion.

You speak like someone who doesn't understand Christianity from the inside. Knowing God is its own reward. The Christian life is not a video game. Heaven is not an Achievement. Suffering is not inconsequential.

I really appreciate this reply, but I do think that the sermon on the mount stands on its own, without religion being involved. There are situations in which being the better man means stepping aside.


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