To be bullied or to be the bully, that is the question. When I mention the word bully I bet someone comes to mind immediately. One of my favorite movies growing up was the 1984 Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio and the ever popular Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi. For those of you that don’t know the movie it’s about a handyman/martial arts master who agrees to teach a bullied boy karate and show that boy that there is more to the martial art than fighting. At the end of the movie the boy got to meet his bully in the center ring of a karate tournament and of course win and disgrace the bully.Order now
A feel good ending for the hero but I often wonder about the bully. What motivated that bully? I have known bullies my whole life; in my school experience, within my family, on t. v. , and even now as an adult in my workplace. Now we can add cyberbullying to the list of many ways to bully someone. The fact is that we probably all have been bullies at one point or another. The question is are bullies born that way or are they made. My grandpa was and a feared man within my family for as long as I can remember. When grandpa was in the room everyone lowered their voices and straightened up in fear of being reprimanded for whatever.
I remember one time my grandma was playing a game with me at the kitchen table. She heard grandpas’ car pull in the driveway, packed up the game as quickly as possible and ordered me to go outside because grandpa will need some peace and quiet after working his shift. Now as I look back at my childhood I can’t help but identify his behavior as bullying. Any time grandpa spoke out harshly about how a situation will be handled my grandma would say, “He can’t help speaking to people that way, that’s just the way God made him. I have a hard time believing that someone is born to be a bully. There must be other factors to the equation. Bullies usually don’t have structure in their life.
At grandpas’ funeral I was able to hear his back story for the first time. Grandpa was orphaned at an early age and the family that he ended up with let him go on his own at sixteen. Grandpa had dropped out of school and started working in a factory to support himself. After hearing these stories it became clear to me that he had no type of discipline or structure as a child.
My wife and I are parents to three teenagers, we run a home daycare, and have directed the youth program at our church. Children are our business. We interact with so many kids from such different backgrounds and have developed the theory that a structured home life matters. In my wife and I’s daycare we are with these kids Monday through Friday every week. We work with toddlers on potty training all week and by the end of the week they seem to have it down. Then when they return on the following Monday we seem to be back to square one.
Parents have to follow through with the work of keeping kids structured at home. Babies have to be on a set time schedule every day to stay content. If not they become agitated, angry, and will yell until they get what they need, much like the techniques a bully would use to get what they want. Bullies are used to getting what they want. This means even at home and probably since they were a baby. I have found that it is good to say no to my child every once and a while. After all I am the parent.
This is why I endorse sports at an early age; it’s good to learn the triumphs of winning as well as the heartache of losing. These moments in sports become teaching tools. I also endorse teaching kids the discipline of saving money at an early age. When kids earn birthday money or chores allowance I have them set some aside in savings and the rest is what is used to eat out on, pay for gas, or go to the movies. Not only will it be a useful skill for when they get older but I notice kids get a better understanding of the value of a dollar.
All of a sudden my child doesn’t want that candy bar at the store if it’s coming out of their pocket. The lack of stability is a contributor to the development of some bullies. I know you think that structure and stability is the same thing but I view stability as the child’s world around them changing. Structure is a follow through implemented by the parents. Maybe his or hers’ parents move a lot because of vocation but along with all those moves come new; friends, schools, bus routes, and schedule.
Sometimes the best way to take focus off you is to make fun of someone else and make them the focus. It sounds cruel but I see it a lot with new kids starting in our daycare who are trying to fit in to a new group. No one wants to be the odd one out. I also see this technique with the kids from divorced homes. Along with divorce come an absent dad, different schedules or rules, and two different bedrooms. Not a great recipe for the development in a child’s life. Parents, if they don’t watch out, will create bullies.
We had a child fall and hit his head one time while the parent was in the room. The parent said, “You’re alright, don’t be such a sissy. ” Another time a different parent with a similar circumstance said, “O’ its ok, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, he’s ok. ” Parents approach to toughening up kids sometimes leads to kids not knowing how to appropriately deal with their feelings. A bully calling other kids sissy or trying to toughen them up would be a natural response to a situation. I have seen this mostly with boys so far where the dad wants to toughen his son up.
The dad usually just makes the boy play a sport and tells him to quit whining. Sometimes the dads response may be, “You don’t see me cry do you? ” In the Karate Kid movie the bullies’ karate teacher had this same approach. He would toughen those boys up by verbally abusing, hitting, and intimidating them. If this is how my dad acts, someone I look up to, then that is how I should act too. My grandpa has since passed away but later in his life, especially when great grandkids started to enter the family, he softened and took on a completely different personality.
He was even pleasant to be around. This got me thinking that people do have the ability to change their outlook on life or how they treat people. They don’t have to be products of their upbringing. My conclusion is that bullies are created depending on the circumstances in their life. I also am confident in saying that bullies are not born that way; otherwise people like my grandpa wouldn’t have had the ability to change. I close by quoting my favorite verse from the Bible, “Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). ”