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Author Topic: "If you ignore the bullies, they'll stop bothering you."
Puffy Treat
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Recently I've been motivated to look into the root causes of certain quirks of my behavior. One thing that's become apparent is my inability to deal with certain emotions without shutting down emotionally.

While I'm sure it's a lot more complicated than this, I think I can pinpoint one cause of this.

When I was a child, I was often bullied. Regularly, often...sometimes to the point that I got physical injury. (Once just short of requiring surgery.)

Most of the bullying was of the verbal and emotional kind.

My parents sympathized, but the teachers and other adults at school did not seem so sympathetic.

Their advice (in fact, about the only response I ever got to complaining about it) was "Just ignore the bullies, and they'll go away."

But I did ignore them as best I could. And they never went away, they only escalated their bullying.

It got to the point that in order to ignore the stuff being done to me, I had to shut down most of my reactions, period.

I became very withdrawn. I took refuge in books and in daydreams. Both were okay. Both helped with the ignoring but neither escapism nor the ignoring took care of the problem: I hated being bullied. I hated it. I got so sick of feeling like a freak all the time. Of wondering what it was I did that made me deserve being treated this way.

That was the underlying message I got behind all that "just ignore them" advice. I _know_ that's not the message they were intending. But it's the one I heard at the time:

"It's your fault. They're doing this because you're a flawed person who doesn't know how to stop his feelings from being hurt. Stop trying to express your emotions, or even deal with them. Just tune it all out."

So, I did. And I became reclusive, slow to react not just to bullying...but to lots of other things.

I would watch people break down into tears when a loved one left on their mission or something and wonder why I felt nothing at all.

Didn't I love them too?

It just got so hard to connect with my emotions. To express them.

I started hanging around my room all the time alone while the rest of my siblings had a seeming parade of friends.

Of course, by that point I had convinced myself that I didn't want that sort of thing. That I was happy as a loner.

Even though I just felt blank and empty most of the time.

I'm so thankful that my mother made sure I participated in any Scouting or Priesthood activities that came along.

I might have lost all social skills altogether, otherwise.

By the time the bullying period of my life died off, that was the year my parent's marriage fell apart. And that brought a whole new set of problems.

Still, sometimes I wonder if I would have found healthier ways to deal with my grief over that if I hadn't been (unintentionally) taught to repress and hide from any negative emotional reactions by certain well-meaning influential adults.

[ March 21, 2005, 05:05 PM: Message edited by: Puffy Treat ]

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TMedina
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That's an interesting idea and one that I can, partially, relate to.

I have difficulty expressing certain emotions and actions that have been repressed or modified almost from the word go.

It's not an easy thing to overcome - I certainly haven't and my experiences were nothing as extreme as yours.

That said, your tendency to isolate and shut down is like any other problem - once you recognize it and understand, possibly, the reasons behind it, you are in a position to try and fix it.

-Trevor

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Icarus
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quote:
"If you ignore the bullies, they'll stop bothering you."
This is simply wrong.

Sorry.

Teachers and parents give this advice because they don't know how to solve the problem either, and this is the "solution" that requires the least from them. If kids ignore/absorb bullying, the teachers don't have to face their inability to prevent or adequately deal with this. When kids stop complaining (because complaining, after all, is useless) parents and teachers can imagine that the problem has ceased, and they never really had to take any action.

Frankly, a better piece of advice would probably be "fight them." Bullies, of course, pick on substantially weaker kids, so a kid standing up to a bully is looking to get creamed. A parent advising his or her child to fight a bully would have to deal with the guilt of having given advice leading to suffering, and to the disciplinary consequences that bullied children face when they stand up for themselves. Parents often prefer easy solutions, and this is not one. A teacher advising a student to fight would, of course, be fired.

(However, it is my impression that bullies stop bullying someone who stands up to them, even if they kick their butts first. This might not be true. [Dont Know] )

Avoidance would also be another possible strategy to teach. Don't be alone where the bully can catch you. Surround yourself with friends, and stick to organized activities. This would certainly be safer advice for a teacher to give, anyway. The downside of this is you still feal weak, inferior, and cowardly.

In my grouchy old age I still find myself leaning toward the modified Ender approach: find a way to kick the bully's behind, and suffer the consequences. (Don't kill the bully, though. In real life, kids that do this go to juvie.)

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TMedina
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"Ignore them and they will go away" advice should have ended as soon as the physical abuse began.

As for the solutions - it depends on the type of abuse and the bullies in question.

-Trevor

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Dagonee
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quote:
"Just ignore the bullies, and they'll go away."
I wrote in a landmark that this is one of the worst lies we tell children.

I stopped the bullying when I no longer had to take non-honors classes like P.E. It didn't necessarily end the teasing, but I could handle teasing. Anyone with my mouth can handle teasing if they're not in fear of their life.

Plus, I hung out with the theater tech people. They were some scary, scary dudes.

quote:
However, it is my impression that bullies stop bullying someone who stands up to them, even if they kick their butts first. This might not be true.
This is not true, at least it wasn't for me. It usually led to worse physical pain, and to several suspensions, but it became necessary. 4 guys tried to lock me in a locker once (I was 5'4" and about 110 pounds, they were all football players). They couldn't do it. I couldn't get away, and I got bruised pretty badly, but I wasn't locked in the locker.

However, every one of them came after me at some point and hurt me later - punches in the gut, knees in the crotch, or stomps on the foot with boots.

After that, my method of resistance was to pick one person and hurt them as badly as possible, ignoring defense. That worked much better, but was only safe when the fight would be broken up soon.

Once I wasn't seeing bullies every day in class, they never tried to seek me out.

Dagonee

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ketchupqueen
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The best solution I've seen is training peer couselors and informing the entire school that bullying is not okay, that it's not "tattling" to tell an adult that bullying is going on, and training adults to stop bullying as soon as they see it start.

I was never physically abused, mainly because I'm a girl, but the emotional and verbal abuse, I got plenty of. I could tell you all about my horrible self-image and it's downhill from there, but I won't right now, because it's very long. However, I will say that if I ever see anyone bullying my kids or any of my kids bullying others, it will be stopped immediately. There's a difference between bullying and the normal things kids do while learning to interact as humans, and bullying is a serious problem.

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Taelani
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I find myself remembering my own childhood with this one... I was also the kid in class that everyone picked on. my 8th grade year (Lutheran grade school, no middle school for me) I was pretty much tortured... My parents had no idea how to help me, and instead took me to see a counselor who gave me an outlet with which to deal with my frustrations...

Now I've found myself on the other side of things as the parent of a child who gets teased and picked on in school... Having learned from my own childhood, and the advice of my parents who have gotten older and wiser as well, we taught him not to ignore them, but play along with them to some respect (ie: be proud of who you are, if you make a mistake and they teas you about it, try and make a joke out of it)... I've also just enrolled him in Karate, to help him with some self confidence, self discipline and self control issues that have cropped up. I'm hoping what he learns will help him in all aspects of life.

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TMedina
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I would have recommended Judo or boxing myself. [Big Grin]

Sorry, carry on.

-Trevor

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Xavier
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quote:
Frankly, a better piece of advice would probably be "fight them."
On my hockey team I was a victim of a substantial amount of abuse, in the form of hazing, but which was really just bullying. I would go home crying from every practice, usually with bruises. The two sociopaths were 6'5" and 6'3" respectively and were much stronger (one grade but over two years older).

I figured it would just go away on its own when I got to be sophmore, and perhaps a better hockey player. Nope, my sophmore year was even worse.

So I get into the the locker-room as a junior, and sure enough they started up again. I decided I'd had enough. I stood up and told them that if they didn't shut the **** up, they would have to fight me. They were shocked. I had never stood up to them before in any signifigant way. They could tell I was ready to pounce.

They didn't bother me at all that year.

So my advice for anyone who is being bullied is for God's sake stand up to them. If they beat you up, wait until you are healed and fight them again. I guarantee there won't be a third time.

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Book
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I sympathize.

I recall one time in gym I was in the bleachers with some fine human beings behind me. They got their kicks tickling the back of my neck with hairs. I didn't do anything. I just ignored them. I didn't even move. They laughed more. then they started pulling hairs right out of my head. Just ripping them out. And I didn't move. I didn't cry, but I didn't move.

Ignoring doesn't help. People will kick you if you let them.

It's my opinion that, if you stop a person you don't know, a person you've never met, right out on the street, at that moment, they'll be a jerk. People, just naturally, are jerks. They don't care. Once you get to know them, they're fine, they're okay. But if they don't know you and you don't know them, they don't care what happens to you, and might screw you over to get something they want.

As I've said before, the only way I see the meerk inheriting the earth is if we kill off all the jerks.

[ March 21, 2005, 05:42 PM: Message edited by: Book ]

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Puffy Treat
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I was a weakling back in the days when I was bullied, and not good at fighting. Standing up to them physically wasn't a choice that would have worked out.

(The few times I _did_ try to do that turned out pretty ugly.)

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Book
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At least you did something. I envy you for that. Maybe it's stupid of me to say it, but I wish I had stood up to them. Yeah, I probably would've gotten beaten to a pulp, and, yeah, the adults probably would've done nothing. But I least I would have done something.

I wish I had been more aggressive as a kid, so maybe now I wouldn't be so passive in my public life and so angry in my private one.

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Icarus
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quote:
and training adults to stop bullying as soon as they see it start.
The problem is we don't see it start, because they don't do it when we are looking.

All we ever have is one kid's word against anothers.

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Book
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Yeah. Personally, I don't see much of a way out of the whole bullying situation. If you go home and tell your parents about it, they get upset and go over to that kid's house and yell at his parents. If you tell the teacher, the kid gets a week out of recess. Maybe. I'm not sure what either solution solves.
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jeniwren
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The problem with adults stopping bullying before the children resolve it themselves is that the victim then sees himself as *needing* rescue. Instead of strengthening the child, they've weakened him.

Obviously there are cases where rescue IS needed. But the truth as I see it is that adults tend to rescue far sooner than is actually necessary. In doing so, they rob the bully victims of the opportunity to solve the problem themselves, and thus gain selfconfidence from the experience. In saying "solve the problem themselves" that means they handle the situation without 3rd party interference, NOT that they be left strictly alone. I mean, as an adult, I'd be okay with consulting a kid about bullying and what they might do about it. I do think education is important, but I think that kids should resolve their own problems as much as they possibly can. We teach, but they need to do, if that makes sense.

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Book
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Yeah. If you go for help, you still lose. And everyone sees you as a loser.
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TMedina
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Which brings us back to self-motivation and initiative.

If you've been taught all your life to not fight, it's a little difficult to rise to the occasion when the situation calls for it.

And in some instances, "turning the other cheek" just presents a target of opportunity.

-Trevor

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Alix
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The first step to deal with bullying that they are teaching my kids at school is to ignore it, then tell them to stop, then tell the teacher if it keeps going.

I am assuming that if the bullying results in physical harm that there is some sort of legal action I can take to force the school to take care of the problem. Is going to the bully's parents ever a good idea?

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punwit
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When I was very young (6-11) I lived in Kansas City and I was having problems with neighbor kids beating up on me. My folks enrolled me in Judo and shortly thereafter I was never beaten by kids in the block. I didn't have less fights, I had more (everyone wanting to test the kid that was taking Judo), but I never lost.

We moved to a small town in Kansas the year I turned 11. The following year was my first year in Jr. High. I was quite small for my age and I suffered dismally from bullies. I was reluctant to use my skills at school and I suffered mostly in silence. As well as ignoring the miscreants I also tried befriending them. This was semi-successful on some boys but others were immune to my boyish charm. There was one kid that tormented me endlessly and I tried avoidance and silence. This tactic wasn't very successful and eventually I resorted to violence. We were in gym class and this cretin sat behind me in our row. One day he was repeatedly kicking me in the back. I tried sliding forward and he slid forward and continued to kick. I lost it. I let out a banshee yell and jumped on top of him. I grabbed him by his hair/ears and proceeded to smash his head against the gym floor. The gym teacher seperated us and class resumed. That young man never harassed me again. Several years later he offered a heartfelt apology for his treatment of me and I reluctantly accepted it. As much as responding in kind is verboten it occaisionally can be very effective.

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TMedina
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Legal action can be tricky and the bully's parents may or may not be receptive - I know my cousin was very, very angry at her son when he was caught bullying one of the neighborhood kids.

Punwit...I know it was a serious moment for you, but the mental image is hysterical.

-Trevor

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punwit
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At the time it wasn't funny but it is now and I'm glad you saw some humor there. [Wink]
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Kwea
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I had the opposite happen to me. I enrolled in Judo to learn to take care of myself because of bullying problems in 5th grade, and when I got into class all the other kids in it with me were the ones who were bullying me.

Not a good time.

Kwea

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TMedina
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Ouch, not good. Where is Mr. Miyagi when you need him?

-Trevor

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punwit
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I took Judo classes from 2 different dojos and I can't imagine either one of those establishments allowing something like that. Both places stressed Judo as a defensive philosophy. It's regretable that the instructors didn't have a firmer hand.

[ March 21, 2005, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: punwit ]

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Kwea
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No, not that...the class was full of the kids who had been bullying me before...it was an after school class, and all the bullies took it with me...

So as I learned a new techinque, so did they. [Frown]

Kwea

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:

Obviously there are cases where rescue IS needed. But the truth as I see it is that adults tend to rescue far sooner than is actually necessary. In doing so, they rob the bully victims of the opportunity to solve the problem themselves, and thus gain selfconfidence from the experience. In saying "solve the problem themselves" that means they handle the situation without 3rd party interference, NOT that they be left strictly alone. I mean, as an adult, I'd be okay with consulting a kid about bullying and what they might do about it. I do think education is important, but I think that kids should resolve their own problems as much as they possibly can. We teach, but they need to do, if that makes sense.

There is something to that. In addition, from my experience, the problem isn't with the bully and the kid, the problem is all of the other kids standing around looking at their shoes while this is all going on.
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Puffy Treat
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Bringing the thread back on topic, my thought wasn't so much "I wish there had been a way to make sure that bullying never happened"...I know that's impossible. I even knew it then.

I just wished I hadn't been taught (intentionally or not) to repress and distance myself from my feelings about being bullied. It influenced some stuff that I feel was detrimental to me.

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Dagonee
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quote:
the problem is all of the other kids standing around looking at their shoes while this is all going on.
I only wish most of them had ignored it. There was egging on and cheering.
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Stan the man
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I read your opening post and was wowed to how much it sounded like me back in grade school. I was very detached at most times. However, the biggest difference being, I was a very......angry kid. I pent up all my anger. I tried to ignore them, didn't work. Got in a fight, lost the fight and got suspended. I went to the principals office so much I had my own chair. It boiled down to at some point after 8th grade I was going to a shrink. The shrink found no problems outside of the bottling up of anger. Except he did one thing no one else did at that time. He became a friend, expensive, but friend none-the-less. By my Sophmore year of High School, I had calmed a lot. Most of the kids started leaving me alone or were acting like normal nice people. I know this had to do with something else I had done a couple years before that. The reason they put cameras in the busses.

quote:
It's your fault
Pshaw, pure manure. Kids are cruel to each other. No doubt about that.

quote:
wonder why I felt nothing at all
I'm still like that most of the time. Even when my Uncle Walt died I just shrugged it off. An' he was my entire reason for studying World War II. I was even more so when my grandmother on my mom's side died. I didn't even care to go to the funeral. I don't do funerals.

quote:
I'm so thankful that my mother made sure I participated in any Scouting or Priesthood activities that came along
I'm glad to read this. Yes, the greatest way to break out of it is to join a program. I did QuizBowl and Scouting. Your mother is a smart woman.

For the rest of it (((Puffy Treat))). I don't know what I would do if my parents split.

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Book
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Hey, I'm considering taking judo over the summer, because I miss physical contact sports. What's it like?
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Kwea
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Painful.

Until you learn to break a fall that is, then it is fun.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
There is something to that. In addition, from my experience, the problem isn't with the bully and the kid, the problem is all of the other kids standing around looking at their shoes while this is all going on.
That's why one of the most important steps in succesful bully-prevention programs is training peer counselors.
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Book
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quote:
Painful.

Until you learn to break a fall that is, then it is fun.

Cool. I'm into pain. [Wink]

Yeah, I'm a self-destructive weirdo and I know it.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
That's why one of the most important steps in succesful bully-prevention programs is training peer counselors.
I'm not talking about counselors to minister to the victim after the fact, my problem is that schools are to scared to try build heroes. Maybe that's not as important as the Kreb's cycle and setting a derivative equal to zero, but I think the lack of heroism/humanity in the curriculum speaks to fear and incompetence and skewed priorities in our educational institutions, which flow from the same skewed priorities of the legislators and the general run of citizens.

It's a lot easier to teach and test for subjects like math and science, rather than going about the business of cultivating character.

[ March 21, 2005, 11:44 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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Book
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quote:
It's a lot easier to teach and test for subjects like math and science, rather than going about the business of cultivating character.
Word to that. A lot of teachers, I think, don't want to (or maybe they just can't) get close to or touch the personal lives of their students. There's a lot of distance between teachers and students now.

When I grow up and become rich from my career as a professional killer and writer of the Great American Novel, I'm sending my kid to a private, all-boys or girls school. My mom and my brother's girlfriend went to schools like those, and they said they never had problems like my brother and I had.

Maybe it's just boys.

Maybe.

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Telperion the Silver
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Wow, Puffy Treat, this is exactly what I'm dealing with too. Same causes. Wow. Scary.

You've put it so perfectly. I've been trying to think about the causes for my apathy lately (hard to do when you're apathetic). I too suffered from horrible abuse from my peers for the first 16 years of my life. And I too could not fight.

Theater and the arts, as apposed to religion, saved me from total social collapse.

But I still suffer from tuning out any stress I encounter... to the point where I think it's hurting my ability to actually make a life for myself.

Thanks for your story.

[ March 22, 2005, 02:46 AM: Message edited by: Telperion the Silver ]

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TMedina
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Judo is a sport, started in Japan.

It revolves around wrestling, grappling and holding.

You will have to invest in a judogi (Judo uniform).

http://www.judoinfo.com/

-Trevor

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Icarus
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I went to a private, Catholic, all boys high school, and if those are your reasons for choosing such a school, I have to tell you that they are seriously misguided.

In my experience/observation, boys are crueler when there aren't girls around.

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Zeugma
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quote:
A lot of teachers, I think, don't want to (or maybe they just can't) get close to or touch the personal lives of their students. There's a lot of distance between teachers and students now.
With good reason, in many cases... I had an excellent 5th grade teacher, the kind who had a workshop in the back of the room so we could build massive diorama-cityscapes using real tools, brought in his own computer so we could use a Macintosh for our science fair projects, dressed up as a Greek scientist and stood on the desks while he taught.... you name it. But he also pulled my best friend aside after class one day and told him that he shouldn't spend all his time at recess playing with a girl, he should be playing with boys, and pulled me aside one time to tell me that I was too arrogant. I'm sure his meddling was well-intentioned, but I didn't really appreciate it, and it certainly didn't seem appropriate for 5th graders about to hit puberty and the accompanying low self-esteem. [Dont Know]

[ March 22, 2005, 11:55 AM: Message edited by: Zeugma ]

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Space Opera
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"The problem is all the other kids standing around looking at their shoes..."

That is so right, Irami. We've talked to our son a lot about bullying, and he knows he is *expected* to come to anyone's defense that is being pushed around by a bully. Coming to someone's defense can take several forms, of course, like calling the teacher, using verbal methods, etc.

Icky brought up an interesting point about fighting. I've really struggled with this. My son is small for his age, and has been bullied a few times. When he was younger we worked on ignoring, etc. Now that he's older there have been 2 cases that I know of when he physically challenged a bully. One part of me says, "Oh no! Don't resort to violence!" while the other part says, "Ha. Teach that kid to pick on my boy." [Razz] I don't know, but I sure wish I did.

space opera

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Myr
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Puffy Treat, your initial post, like Telperion and others, describes me perfectly.

_Except_ I was never, ever bullied. Which makes me wonder about people who hole up inside, what causes it, and what it means.

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Agnes Bean
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quote:
Maybe it's just boys.

Maybe.

It’s not, I can assure you of that. While girls often don’t stoop to the level of physical violence, they can be devastating bullies emotionally. Throughout the entirety of my lower school experience I was teased and put down because I was really shy and I wasn’t part of the “cool” crowed (which developed quite early—I was mocked as far back as first grade).

And middle school is even worse. Fortunately for me, I managed to make some great friends in fourth and fifth grade, so the emotional withdrawal I went through for most of lower school managed to be reversed, and in middle school I managed to pretty much stop caring what the “cool” kids thought. But I still know about the emotional abuse the “queens” of the middle school ladder of higherarchy put those who do care through. I know of one girl who would complain of a stomach ache just so she could go home and escape the taunting. And because so much of the teasing is based on girls’ appearances, such abuse can lead to serious eating disorders.

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amira tharani
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Icky - agreed. I went to a private all girls 90% day 10% boarding school and both my sister and I were bullied. Admittedly the vast majority of that was perpetrated by other boarders in the boarding house and not so much in school when we were surrounded by day-kids. The worst was over by year 10 for me, mostly thanks to my unlikely friendship with the school wild-child. I'm not sure quite why that would have been the factor that stopped it, but for some reason it did. I also think that people eventually realised that I had a sense of humour, which helped. I wish I'd found out before the age of 15 that I didn't have to take everything seriously!
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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My deep dark secret is that I think the bullying is good, to an extent, in a controlled environment blah blah blah. There is a character building aspect to it.

I know three formerly homeschooled guys who are unbearable. Had they been bullied a little bit more and coddled a little bit less, I think would be better people, or in a strange way, more compassionate.

There are other ways to build character. But I am going to say that in some kids, getting bullied has an upside.

[ March 22, 2005, 02:10 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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Teshi
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You know, I don't know any people who look back fondly on being bullied, even if they survived it, even if it was hardly anything.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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I didn't say it was fun. I don't look fondly back on eating broccoli, but I'm a better person for it.

The random fear inducing threat of being bullied comes with the lesson that one doesn't always deserve the punishments and benefits that one enjoys. Kids who never learn that lesson sometimes become entitled jerks as adults, and since I believe that some people can live their long life ensconced in the warm abode of their privilege and die the same jerks that they were at twelve, I think bullying can facilitate personal growth.

[ March 22, 2005, 02:18 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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Dagonee
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There are lots of bad events that make a person better for going through it.

Those benefits don't justify those bad events, nor excuse failures to stop them when possible.

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Teshi
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But even besides it being fun, even if it were character building, the people who I know who have been bullied, physically or mentally, are people who still metaphorically look behind them before doing anything or speaking.

Also: What Dag said.

[ March 22, 2005, 02:14 PM: Message edited by: Teshi ]

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Lady Jane
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That's the way to build character. Humiliate and beat them.
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Teshi
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Very "David Copperfield"

Very "Les Choristes"

The character built is not character anyone should aspire to: cold, lonely and often violent in reply.

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