Does a bully recognize a bully? Usually.
Does a person recognize when he/she is the bully? Usually not.
Most of us are oblivious to the nature of our behavior. Here’s a story about a bullying incident at a swimming pool where I live, and how it got resolved.
Six-year-old Collin screamed when Jake, a ten year-old, jumped into the swimming pool, landing feet first, inches from his head. A small frothy tidal wave splashed Collin’s face, causing him to inhale water. Coughing and sputtering, he caught his breath and then cried, “You almost landed on my head.”
“Get over it!” Jake commanded.
Collin swam after his plastic pool ball, but Jake raced to intercept it.
“That’s mine!” Collin gulped.
“Too bad!” Jake mocked, screwing up his face. “Go play with your dollies. Wimps play with dollies, not balls.”
Collin bit his lips, trying not to cry.
Jake scanned the surroundings, making sure grownups weren’t looking, then punched Collin in the arm. “Big baby!” he said.
Jake’s mother was busy talking with a friend and didn’t witness Jake’s behavior.
Collin went home crying, but he discussed the event with his parents. The next day in the pool, he stayed away from Jake, but Jake spotted him. “Hey baby boy. Did you go home and tell your mommy and daddy? Are you a big tattle tale?”
Collin ignored Jake and swam to the opposite side of the pool. Jake followed him and grabbed Collin’s pool ball. “I’m playing with this today,” Jake said.
Collin left his ball and tried swimming away, but Jake blocked his path. Jake checked to make sure no one was watching. “This is what babies get,” he whispered, punching Collin in the arm.
Timid little Collin stood up in the pool and did what his parent’s told him to do. He gathered every ounce of courage he could muster and yelled at the top of his lungs, “YOU ARE A BIG BULLY AND NO ONE LIKES A BULLY!”
Everyone in the pool heard it. Everyone sitting around the pool heard it. All eyes focused on Collin and Jake. Jake’s face turned red. He backed away from Collin. “No, I’m not!” he cried.
“YES YOU ARE. YOU ARE A BIG BULLY! YOU HIT ME AND TOOK MY POOL BALL! NO ONE LIKES BULLIES!”
Jake scrambled from the pool, hiding his head, embarrassed for anyone to see his face. His mother caught up with him and they left immediately,
In a perfect world, Jake would have been made to apologize, but embarrassment caused him and his mother to leave in a hurry.
What Collin’s parents taught him is that we need to make a bully aware of his/her behavior because bullies almost never self-recognize.
I’m wondering if it might be beneficial for all of us to make it plain to people when they are exhibiting bullying behavior. I think little Collin made an impact on Jake’s behavior–at least Jake stopped treating Collin badly at the pool on future outings. Perhaps children and adults can nip bullying in the bud, the moment it occurs, by stating calmly, “You are acting like a bully. You said you were going to hit me… or…you did (fill in the blank)…or you are calling me names–that’s what bullies do.” Being specific when stating the bully’s behavior will enable the person to fully understand what he/she did and that it was bullying.
Will this put an end to all bullying? No. It might be the tiniest tip of the ice berg in the struggle toward prevention, but at least it’s a start–making people aware of their bullying behavior.
Here’s a Bible verse to ponder. I Peter 3:8-9, NIV. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
Deb Gardner Allard is a writer of books & stories for children. She has a B.S. degree in psychology and is a retired registered nurse. Her book, “Izzy and the Real! Truth About Moose Boy,” a book for 3rd through 5th graders, encourages children to talk about the difference between teasing and bullying while reading about the pranks of Moose Boy. The book can be purchased through Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com and many other venues. Deb enjoys blogging about children as well. Visit her website at www.debgardnerallard.com.