Bullies, Public Nudity, and Conformity
“I’ll be famous one day, but for now I’m stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.”
–Diary of a Wimpy Kid
I’ll bet when you first saw the title of this blog post you thought I was going to be writing about Corporate America or Congress or my weekend, right? Nope. Even worse. Middle School. And Bullies. Has anyone in the history of the world ever looked back on these awkward, painful and embarrassing years and wished they could go back? I didn’t think so. Unless they wished to go back to finally stand up to a bully or two.
As I mentioned here, one of these future criminals punched my oldest son in the arm on the bus on his way home from his second day of middle school. I now have 11 years of experience as a parent and I feel I’m on solid ground here when I say that something must be terribly wrong at the homes of these derelicts. I’ve met all sorts of children and parents and time and again I see that the children who misbehave most often and most severely are children whose parents are either too busy to be bothered, encourage aggressive behavior, abusive or simply set no boundaries out of ignorance.
I’m not in any way suggesting that my children are angels or that I am a perfect parent. Far from it. My kids do get into trouble and I do make mistakes. In this specific situation what I’m talking about is a fundamental lack of respect for other people combined with an overwhelming need to feel physically superior to those same people. There is something seriously wrong with a child that even considers punching an innocent by-stander for no apparent reason, let alone actually does it.
Following that logic, children who are raised with manners and who respect others, will always have a difficult time standing up to a bully. It’s not because they are wimpy. It’s because this behavior is actually bizarre and completely foreign. It’s no less bizarre than if someone were to stand up in the middle of a business meeting, jump up on the conference table and strip naked. If you were sitting in that meeting, what would you do? Nothing. You’d be too shocked. Of course, if it went on for any length of time you may call 911, start laughing, try to talk your nude co-worker down or at least cover him up. But, in those first few seconds, you’d be too stunned to take action. You may even feel a little bit afraid. Your adrenaline would start pumping and you’d look around the room in an attempt to make sense of this situation. And you’re a mature adult whose physical safety is not in immediate jeopardy, not a pre-pubescent child who is being attacked.
Bullying is not a matter of, “boys will be boys.” By the time boys reach middle school, they have developed the mental capacity for sufficient impulse control. The fact that the impulse in question is unprovoked violence is seriously disturbing. Boys will play-fight, wrestle, and tackle their friends. That is not the same as randomly punching younger, smaller boys that they don’t even know and deriving some twisted pleasure from it.
It’s also not a normal rite of passage. Just because we all had to deal with bullies on our own when we were growing up does not make it acceptable. When our parents (or grandparents) were growing up, they thought segregation was normal and unobjectionable because that’s how it had always been. The argument that anything is acceptable simply because it has been ignored or allowed to continue for many years is nonsense.
The overall culture in middle school is conformity at all costs. The one exception to this rule is bullies. Bullies are extremely different. They are the ones leading the other kids in ridiculing others. When it comes down to being picked on or being on the side of the person who is doing the picking, even the most well-behaved kids (probably especially the most well-behaved kids) will not put themselves on the line to stand up to one of these little tormentors. We, as a society, have been allowing bullies to control the atmosphere in which our children spend their days for generations.
The real question then becomes: We don’t abuse our children so why do we continue to allow other kids to do so?
Thanks for stopping by!