As a child, I often got bullied. My response was to engage in countless hours of anguished self-recrimination. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I fit in? Was it my hair, my clothes, my foreign accent, or, perhaps, my “uncool” parents? At school, hoping to win the approval of my peers, I would frequently engage in clownish, attention-getting behaviors. At home, I would sulk, lock myself in my room and immerse myself in a private world of comic book fantasy, imagining myself to be the fearless superhero that in real life I was not.
Years later, as I found myself trying to help my own children deal with the same sorts of bullying issues that had plagued me when I was young, I came to realize just how foolish my thinking and behaviors had been. There was nothing wrong with me – not my hair, not my clothing, not my accent, nor my “uncool” parents. It was my own immature and misguided thinking – not the schoolyard bullies – that had held me back and kept me from enjoying life.
In the end, although mean-spirited and insensitive, those bullies that had tormented me were just a group of dopey and ultimately irrelevant “no-bodies,” the kind that populate every schoolyard and neighborhood throughout our nation, motivated not by any personal animosity toward me, but rather, by the simple need to dispel the boredom that all young adolescents deal with when left unsupervised and with nothing better to do.
Helping our children divest themselves of misguided notions that there is something wrong with them and that they are, therefore, somehow to blame for their own victimization has to be the starting point of every parent’s efforts to help their children overcome the trauma of bullying. Such notions, we must teach our children, are not only misguided, but inherently toxic and self-fulfilling, serving only to draw the attention of those seeking emotionally weak and vulnerable victims to intimadate.
As our children divest themselves of their misguided notions of fault and blame and reclaim the dignity, confidence and self-respect that are their birthright, they become increasingly less likely to be targeted by bullies. Denied the thrill that they were able to previously enjoy, the bullies have no choice but to move on and look for someone else to satisfy their cravings for conquest.
The fact is that bullies bully, abusers abuse, liars lie and predators prey. That’s just their nature. Schoolyards in every neighborhood are filled with bullies. Likewise, thieves, sexual deviants, and a host of other predatory miscreants plague every community. It has been this way throughout every generation and it will, undoubtedly, continue on in this way throughout the remainder of human history.
Accordingly, as parents and teachers, we must, of course, work to implement programs that effectively discourage bullying in our schools and neighborhoods. At the same time, recognizing the realities of life, we must also work to ensure that our children are properly prepared to deal with all of the bullies and other mean-spirited persons they are likely to encounter as they move forward in school and in life.
Dr. van Deuren is child development expert. In addition to a PhD in education, he holds an 8th degree black belt in TaeKwonDo. His CounterStrike™ self-defense and martial arts programs for children are specifically designed to arm children with the skills and attitudes needed to stand up to schoolyard bullies.
For information about CounterStrike contact Dr. van Deuren at 845-624-2244