Monday, June 16, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU: THE SILVER FOX DISCUSSES BAD ADVICE

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

The Silver Fox, who blogs at The Lair of the Silver Fox (where else would he blog?), very generously offered to let me publish one of his posts from the past: November 3, 2011. I love  his point about bad advice often given to kids who are bullied. And now, here's The Silver Fox and his Bully For You message:

Bullying -- physical or emotional -- sucks. In fact, in the real world, we have another name for bullying.

Abuse.

"He abuses his wife." What, like, he beats her up? Or "just" belittles her and makes her feel like total crap in front of her friends, family, children, etc.?

Like either one is okay?

"He abused a child." You mean, he sexually molested some poor kid, or did he smack the kid around anytime no one was looking? Or "only" insult the child and make him or her doubt his/her self-worth?

Like any of those are okay?

Hell, you wanna know something? If you were a bully when you were in school, or at any time during your life... You suck.

And that's "suck" in the present tense, even if the last arm you twisted or the last crying kid you taunted was in the schoolyard thirty years ago... unless you've apologized to the kid(s) in question (if that's at all possible) and whatever God or gods you believe in (if you've got one or more).

What, angry? Me? Ya think?

I was bullied a few times in school. It wasn't so much that I was small ('though I was, kinda), or weak (not really, I wasn't) or cowardly (not at all). In my case, I was less likely to fight back because I was always afraid of "getting in trouble" for fighting. And those who knew that fact figured I was "safe" to pick on.

The worst that it ever got for me in grammar school was when I was in second grade, I think. Making a long story short, a guy named Mark would come looking for myself and a few friends every day at recess as part of a stupid game called "Yum, Yum, Eat 'Em Up!" Mark never did anything really violent to any of us, but he roughed us up a lot. And every day. That was too much.

I seemed to be his favorite target. I dreaded hearing that moronic yell of "Yum-Yums!" which signified that Mark had spotted me and was on the attack. And in Mark's case, I never even thought about fighting back. I mean... Come on. I was a second-grader. He was a third-grader. There's some kind of law of Nature or Physics or Some-Damned-Thing that says that a third-grader can automatically out fight a second-grader.

So I told my mom, and asked for her advice. Actually, it's not fair to suggest that I was mature enough to actively seek her counsel. Uhhhh, no. She had demanded to know why I kept "faking sick" and coming up with other ploys to keep me from attending school.

I'm not sure what my dad -- whom I rarely saw because his work schedule demanded that he sleep during the day -- would have advised. My mom talked to the school principal.

My own second-grade teacher walked up to Mark one day as he held me pinned against the school wall, and she trotted us both to the principal's office. As the other kids in the playground stared at us, she told me "Don't worry, David, you're not in trouble."

So, I walked into Mrs. Boyle's office with kind of a grin.

In a matter of minutes, Mark had explained that this was all a silly game called "Yum, Yum, Eat 'Em Up!" There was no actual bullying, just a little innocent, playful rough-housing.

"So, this was all a misunderstanding," offered Mrs. Boyle.

WTF?

I was still the seven-year-old who was "afraid of getting in trouble," remember? So I didn't dare say what I was thinking.

And what I was thinking, of course, was my seven-year-old self's equivalent of "Are you kidding me? A misunderstanding? Is it a 'misunderstanding' when someone pushes you down, or punches you, or twists your arm behind your back?Are you f***ing kidding me?!?"

But no. Of course, I didn't say any of that.

Mark never bothered me again. That would have blown holes in his earlier "game" excuse. But that wasn't even the freakin' point any more.

At least... At least seven-year-old David learned some very important things that day.

1. Public school teachers, paid by the taxpayers' dollars, often want to please everyone. And as most people who try to please everyone eventually learn, whenyou try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

2. Don't expect anyone to fight your battles for you. Maybe they can help you, but they can't do it all for you.... especially if you want the result to please you.

He hadn't written "A Boy Named Sue" yet when I was in second grade, but Shel Silverstein later wrote -- and Johnny Cash sang -- "get tough or die," and he had one helluva point.

3. To hell with "getting in trouble." Do what your heart -- your "gut" -- tells you to do. Just remain true to your own sense of fair play. As Jiminy-effin'-Cricket said, "always let your conscience be your guide." If you hit me, I'll probably fight back. If you hurt someone whom I care about, though... You just made a very bad enemy.

It's almost scary to think of how some of the later incidents where people thought I was cowed were just examples of my enormous self restraint. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make myself sound like some sort of bad-ass -- I'm emphatically not a bad-ass! -- but there were a few instances where some guy who thought he was being tough didn't realize that while I was sitting or standing there, quietly & maddeningly smiling at him, I was actually thinking about how surprised he'd be if I lashed out, screaming like a madman, and smashed my stack of schoolbooks against the side of his head, and... and...

Oops. Where was I? Heh.

No, I never did anything crazy like that in school. Worst thing I ever did was when some prankster pulled my pen out of my shirt pocket. He caught me on a bad day. I grabbed his throat with one hand and slammed him up against my locker.

I got the pen back.

Okay, enough of my school days. Let's jump ahead, twenty years after Mark and the "Yum Yums," for not one, but two applications of the lessons I learned when seven.

When I was engaged for the second time, my fiancée Faye -- Number Two in a series, collect 'em all! -- loved to make me the disciplinarian -- a/k/a "villain" -- where her two kids were concerned. One day I came home from work to find that her son Jason was "grounded in his room," waiting for me.

Jason was ten or eleven at the time. I was to decide his "official" punishment.

"What did he do?" I asked.

"I'll let him tell you," she replied, rather smugly.

So she and I went to his room. "What did you do, Jay?"

"I got in a fight at school."

Terrific, I thought. I'm sure this could have been avoided...

So I asked for details. (And I'm going to make up some names here to make for easier reading.)

Jason's friend Steven was involved in a fight with another kid named Danny. Steven was losing. Jason stepped in to help Steven. I wasn't pleased at all that Jason had interfered, even if Steven had been losing what was, after all, a fair fight.

Ah. But that's when Jason explained that he had indeed stayed out of the fight until Danny's friend Eric had jumped in, to help Danny beat up Steven... who was already losing!

Faye was rather shocked when I looked at Jason and said "Oh. That's different. Go out and play."

As Jason ran outside, I matter-of-factly informed Faye "I would have done the exact same thing. I'm proud of him!"

Sure, he'd broken school rules by fighting. But I admired his motivation. Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Batman, Captain America... They would have all protected the underdog. To hell with "getting in trouble."

And there was another time... Faye's daughter Jen was being bullied by another girl at school. Jen was about twelve, I believe. Faye looked at her and gave her one of the dumbest pieces of advice I've ever heard, one which parents often use in cases of bullying, sad to say:

"Just stay away from her."

I stared at Faye as if to say what I should have said to Mrs. Boyle twenty years earlier: "Are you f***ing kidding me?!?"

Faye looked at the deranged expression which (I assume) was on my face, turned back to Jen, and said once more "Just stay away from her."

And it alllllllll came back. Mark. "Yum, Yum, Eat 'Em Up!" The stupidity of school officials. You name it. I'd heard the same lame-ass "Just stay away from him/her" before, and it always infuriated me.

"Don't tell her that!" I exclaimed. "Don't ever tell her that!" I then went on a verbal tirade, pointing out that these bullies seek out their victims. I literally challenged Faye to try to "stay away from" me. "Go ahead!" I dared her. "Just for the sake of argument, you walk into any room in this apartment, and we'll see if I can or can't follow you in there! What the hell is wrong with you? Don't ever tell a kid that!"

Yeah, I was furious...

But not as much as when I finally stopped ranting... because that's when Faye gave me that look that said "Are you done?" and she looked at Jen once more and said "Just stay away from her." As if I hadn't said a word.

Thank God I'm not the type of jackass who hits women. Cuz even though it didn't even occur to me then, that might have been the moment I'd have done it out of anger, frustration, outrage, you name it.

But even if I had, I'd never try to justify it.

Cuz you can't.

Cuz bullies suck.


Wow! Thank you for allowing me to use this post, Silver Fox. I cringe every time I hear a parent or teacher tell a child, Just ignore it, or Just stay away from that person. Kids are trapped in school. How are they supposed to avoid bullies?

I hope you'll leave some love for The Silver Fox in your comments, and please consider visiting his blog.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

66 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for deeming this oldie-but-goodie of mine worthy for inclusion in your series, Janie. I'll be following the comments and will respond to them.

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    1. Thank you for allowing me to publish your excellent post.

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  2. Dear Janie, I'm grateful to you for this series on bullies. I'm learning so much and today's column by "Silver Fox" made me really think about what to say to someone who is being bullied. thank you. Peace

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    1. It's always a pleasure to hear from you, Dee.

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    2. It's a shame that sometimes, authority figures not only don't protect the bullied, but they don't even tell them what to say or do in response to bullying.

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  3. Thanks for this Janie! It reaffirms to me the seriousness of bullying, whether it be adults or children at the receiving end.
    I am a retired school teacher and found that if there is not an administrator at the school who is willing to follow through on the school's policy on bullying, that it is a waste of paper it is written on.
    Oh yes, teachers can be bullied too, and are on a daily basis in some schools. I and four other teachers were bullied into leaving a school for the views we had that were different from the principal's....and also he didn't hire us, so felt he had to surround himself with 'his' staff. Bullies are everywhere and have to be stopped!

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    1. I tried to teach and was bullied by the principal, his minions, and the students. It was a lose lose lose situation.

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    2. They certainly do, Jim. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. If I could applaud this post and give you a standing ovation, you bet your ass I would. Actually, I will, even though you can't see it. Just pretend that you can.

    I'm so sorry what Mark did but you learned a lot of very important lessons, very young. I hope that Faye's children learned more from you than they did from her because she seems like her brain was off on vacation somewhere when she should have been doing what you were.

    Parents and teachers can't always fight the battles for us. When I was in third grade, two kids in my class started pushing me and it later turned into them hitting me. I told my teachers, I told my mom, I told the music teacher directing the musical we were all in. It didn't stop them. One day, I was in front of the microphone when I was fending off an attack and I said, "Mom! He's hitting me again!" for the entire cafeteria to hear. He just did it again the next week so I slammed him into a brick wall hard enough that his eyes glazed over and he might have gotten a concussion, told him to keep his hands off of me because I would do much worse if he ever touched me again, and I walked off. That took care of it. Violence should only ever be the last resort, but dammit, telling kids to "stay away from them" is pointless and teaches fear. I honestly believe with your post, that at least somebody will change the way that they think and teach their kid to take care of themselves instead of just teaching them to live in fear.

    This ended up more ranty than I intended, I'm sorry. The rantiness is aimed at people who have no idea what they're doing raising their children, not at this great post.

    Love,
    Rachel

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    1. What a great comment, Rachel.

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    2. Terrific comment, Rachel. Thanks for an intriguing story.

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  5. Excellent. Bullying is so bad. I wish there was a quick fix, but I don't see it.

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    1. We will always have bullies, but perhaps there won't be as many if parents, administrators, and teachers stand up to them.

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    2. Unfortunately, Carol, neither do I.

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  6. Silver Fox and Rachel—
    Your mutual facility with words and creativity with language (e.g., Jiminy-effin'-Cricket and "ranty," respectively) put a common bully bromide to the test: namely, "Use your words and not your fists." Teachers in grammar schools, and even nursery schools, are fond of this phrase.
    What's interesting about you guys is that you both finally used your fists, so to speak, by slamming your pranksters/tormentors against lockers or brick walls. Either you used your words and creativity and found them lacking or you didn't, perhaps you developed these skills later in your life.
    I'll assume the former. And so, the "Use your words" advice surely failed the test, If two gifted wordsmiths refused or half-heartedly used their verbal weapons, then what can we expect kids with average or below-average verbal skills to do?
    "Use your words..." may be no better than "Just stay away from bullies."

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    1. I gave my children come-back lines. Both said that what had worked for me did not work for them.

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    2. In grammar school, I recall being disillusioned that the snappy comebacks that worked so well for the comic book characters I admired didn't work nearly as well for me. Actions spoke louder than words.

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    3. Oh gosh, I didn't expect to be mentioned in a comment. Thank you for your kind words. I am a firm believer in only going as far as absolutely needed. My momma raised me to fight words with words and fists with fists, but that I had better not even think about being the attacker. It's something I believe to this day. If I have kids, I plan on teaching them the same thing.

      Love,
      Rachel

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    4. I hope you'll have children, Rachel. You're the kind of person who will be an excellent parent because you give so much love and empathy.

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  7. That's so sad. Bullies come in so many diff sizes and shapes and ages. And yep I agree they'll always be there. Parents have to teach kids to stand up for themselves no matter what ... but then on the flip side, there's a real problem with kids who have no respect either, so sometimes we just can't win.
    I do believe in empowering kids tho--empowering them to stand up for each other, as well as themselves. And maybe when they see someone being bullied, they can have the guts to say something.

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    1. Having the non-bullies stand together would be an ideal situation. It's not true that bullies are always people who back down by being stood up to, but if they're outnumbered, they may back off.

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  8. Yeah, I hate the whole "kids will be kids *shrug*" attitude that some people have. Not cool.

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    1. Not cool at all. Merely an excuse for passing your responsibilities to others.

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  9. I've found an interesting thing happens with bullies and children. Generally the children somehow become stronger from it, rather than being weakened by it. They go on to accomplish great things. Meanwhile, all a bully will ever be is MEAN. (To borrow from Taylor Swift!) They usually become nothing more than pathetic when they grow up. If they're adults when they bully kids, they're already pathetic.

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  10. The Silver Fox is one of your long time followers, right? Thanks for guest posting, Silver Fox.

    As much as I complain about BFE, the schools do a good job on handling the bullies here.

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    1. What do they do in the schools? What works?

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  11. " If they fight, we must fight with them.
    ... If this war goes on, and it will... it will...
    what else can we do but go on, you and I?"

    - Robert E. Lee in the 1993 film Gettysburg

    Hi, Silver Fox! You gave us a lot to think about in this guest post and I thank you. I can relate to the frustration and anger you experienced dealing with Faye because I saw myself in your story. There was a "Faye" in my past, too, a divorced woman with two young children with whom I had a four year relationship. Our plans for a future together unraveled because she and I were constantly butting heads over the way she was raising her kids and the advice she was giving them. She openly countermanded the guidelines and common sense rules I tried to implement and it became a dysfunctional mess. Good cop, bad cop is a game that should not be played anywhere except the police precinct.

    You are absolutely right. You can't stop a bully by avoiding him, staying out of his way or hiding from him. Bullies have GPS. They will track you down. Bullies must be dealt with, but the question is how. It is an issue that divides us when we need to be united against a common enemy.

    Remember my stories about Ross, the bully in my childhood who led a gang of older boys, attacked me with rubber hoses and roughed up my friend who suffered from Cerebral Palsy? I had a third encounter with Ross a year or two later at a public swimming pool. Ross approached me, placed both hands on top of my head, pushed me under the water and held me down. I quickly ran out of oxygen as I struggled to free myself from his powerful grip. Finally, the urgent need to breathe gave me a superhuman burst of energy. Using my legs I sprang from the pool bottom, shot out of the water and, in the same motion, punched Ross in the face. Obviously stunned, he backed off, left me alone and never bothered me again.

    I hate that bullying fills people with anger instead of love. I hate that bullying turns peace loving people into fighters. I hate that bullying polarizes people and splits loving couples apart because they can't agree on how it should be handled.

    Thank you very much, Silver Fox, for sharing your anecdotes relating to this important topic. Take care!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comments. I read about your earlier problems with Ross, and I too am glad you finally punched him. He deserved far worse.

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  12. I'm thinking we'll always have bullies to deal with, sometimes in our own home. Our measure is how well we do it.

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    1. Not the easiest thing to do, especially on the home front, Joanne.

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  13. Janie, thanks for sharing The Silver Fox's post. Just for the record, I never told our son to just ignore those who bullied him. He was a stutterer in early elementary school and made lots of visits to the principal's office! But the kids on the playground stopped bullying him. Linda@Wetcreek Blog

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    1. Did the principal intervene? I'm curious to know what helps.

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    2. Anyone perceived as having a weakness is a prime target for bullies, Linda. It's a shame we so often need to fight to protect ourselves.

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  14. The only person who ever bullied me was my older brother. He abused me verbally and sometimes physically. One day he was hitting me and I just exploded. He was much bigger than me but I got him on the ground, grabbed his head and started pounding it into our front lawn. Witnesses were so shocked it took a while for them to pull me off. My older brother left me alone after that.

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    1. Your brother seems an odd duck to me I have experience with being bullied by family, too, so now I know I'm not alone.

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    2. It seems that far too many bouts of bullying end with the bullied person developing that "I've had enough" angry attitude.

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  15. I work in a middle school - prime bully feeding grounds, unfortunately. Thanks for shining a light on a very painful subject. People need to be aware and unafraid to speak up.

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    1. Oh, wow. That must be a difficult job.

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    2. I don't envy you at all, working there.

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    3. Yup, it can be tough. But there are also kids who knock my socks off on a daily basis. Beautiful moments, too.

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    4. I know what you mean. When you reach a student, it's the greatest feeling.

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  16. Silver (and Sly?) Fox--
    A thought or two re your points 2 and 3:

    2. "Don't expect anyone to fight your battles for you. Maybe they can help you, but they can't do it all for you.... especially if you want the result to please you."

    I'd add: Be dead sure there's no Village (parents, educators, neighbors, allies, etc.) to help you out, before you fight back. And use technology (from old school tape recorders to cell tracking and recording systems), too, since "evidence" is power, just like "knowledge."

    3. "... As Jiminy-effin'-Cricket said, 'Always let your conscience be your guide.' If you hit me, I'll probably fight back..."

    Another saying made popular by Disney in the 1950s (Davey Crockett's "Be sure you're right, then go ahead") suggests the wisdom of not getting caught up in the heat of battle.

    Without some qualifying and amending, your points 2. and 3. can turn childhood/youth into a war of all against all, and we certainly don't want "Lord of the Flies" situations springing up everywhere.


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    1. Good points, Karl. What we don't want is someone fighting their own battles by toting a gun to school. I wasn't suggesting anything that extreme. And when I said "conscience" I was envisioning something with a sense of right and wrong more than a sense of self-righteousness. I agree that my points need "some qualifying and amending," as you suggested.

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  17. Oh, this makes me want to slam little Markie Poo into a brick wall myself!

    Janie, I'm feeling very not good about the post I wrote for you---especially since my first bit of advice is to ignore the bully. But I hope I at least get points ffor acknowledging that this doesn't work on every bully. Please do feel free to remove it from your rotation (I won't be offended in the least) or take out the parts where I attempt to give advice.

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    1. I'll read your post again, but it's probably fine. There's nothing wrong with trying the "ignore the asshole" route. The problem is when parents have nothing else to say.

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    2. Little Markie Poo? Had to laugh at that.

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  18. Good stuff here! It is amazing what happened decades ago before "bullying" became such a hot topic and buzz word. I read an incredible book a few years ago that I highly recommend Please Stop Laughing at Me.

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    1. I'd like to check that book out, that's for sure!

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  19. Yes it is sad how much bullying takes place. Now there is cyber bullying too which is really scary too. We need to teach our kids to put themselves in the same place and what it feels like.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. The cyber bullying is bad because there's no escape from it. It can invade all aspects of your life, in a way.

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    2. Make sure your school, esp Middle School, has an Internet Safety ed program re predators AND cyberbullying. Since tech abuse is an off-campus problem, parents n others have to take responsibility, too.

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  20. People who tell kids to "just stay away" from the bully...well, they obviously weren't bullied. I never trust people who tell you what to do when they have no actual knowledge of anything similar to what you're going through.

    I am so glad you stood up for the child who stepped in to help defend the underdog!! I was one of those defenders, myself. I never gave a thought about getting in trouble. Just concerned about what was right. I was lucky I wasn't killed or beaten to a pulp a few times in my adult life. Maybe being a girl was an advantage in that respect? (Bullying goes on in all ages.) I guess it wouldn't have been a bad way to die, though. Not a bad way at all.

    Great post! :)

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    1. It bothers me when people won't stand up for others. We need to do the best we can, not just for ourselves, but for those who need help.

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    2. Yeah, I was very proud of Jason that day.

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  21. Though there are lots of situations where kids could be taught to get out of the mix, this is not one of them.

    Bullying is bullying; it's a coward's game with teeth. If everyone would look out for others, it would be a lot less prevalent. Teach THAT. You don't have to always jump in and duke it out - you can get an adult to intercede, but adults - do your job! Teach, mentor, model! You're growing our community - the ones who will run the show when we are old and can't stick up for ourselves.

    Wait...I may be that person now.

    Great job, Junie and Silver Fox.
    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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    1. I am so glad I follow Sir Shady because I found you through his blog. And he's great.

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    2. Thanks so much for your comment. What I remember from my school days is that other kids would crowd around yelling "Fight! Fight!" whenever someone was being roughed up. They need to know that the fights that intrigue them so are often one-sided bullying.

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  22. You can't stay away from a bully if he bully is out to get you, this made me think of my grandson Blain who has had a problem with a bully at school he was told to tell a teacher when it happened so he did and what did the teacher say ":I can't help you" wtf Blain said to his mum I should have just decked the kid that would teach him to pick on me................Blain was a bit of bully at his last school and his parents are trying to stop him but when he is picked on his instinct is to fight back and I don't think there is anything wrong with that

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    1. It's a shame that, as Blain fights his instincts to resort to violence, others put him in a position where he finds it necessary to revert to those earlier times.

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