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Big Bully
Mom with a View

Big Bully

To make a real change in the school yard, we need to stop rewarding bullying in the business world.


If you want to gauge how "hot" a particular topic is these days, what do you do? Google it of course. Noticing that there have been a number of books released of late about bullies, particular female ones, and about aggressive bosses (defined recently in Fast Company magazine as sociopaths), I went to my favorite search engine and lo and behold, on the first page alone I found,,,, and, as well as articles entitled "Don't Suffer in Silence," "Anti-Bullying Activities," and "Bulling Online -- Helping Children and Their Parents with Bullying." And this is not an exhaustive list.

The statistics suggest a constant problem, and many unhappy children. On the one hand, although I believe you can't rescue your children from every unpleasant situation in life, I did agree with the writers who suggested parental and school intervention particularly in egregious situations. And of course in the Berenstain Bears and the Bully, the overly aggressive young bear has to visit the school psychologist "twice a week for quite a while."

I also think it's important to teach children ways of coping with bullies and non-violent responses, including the idea that it is not shameful to walk away from a fight. (Although since very few adults or even countries do, I'm not sure that argument will be very successful).

Only recently has society begun to deal with female bullying, perhaps more insidious because it rarely involves fists. Rather pointed barbs and cruel remarks are used, frequently leaving much more lasting damage.

Although these are serious playground problems and children can be traumatized and wounded by schoolyard bullying, I don't think it's the place to begin to solve this issue.

I think in this case we need to begin at the top and work our way down. Corporate America (this is not a diatribe against Big Business) rewards bullies. My father-in-law worked for ITT for a boss nationally if not world-renowned for abusing and humiliating his employees. He was not above embarrassing his subordinates even in front of their children, so deep-rooted was his unpleasant behavior. Everyone knew about it, but it didn't affect his job, his position, his power.

Studio heads, directors, people with any slight power in Hollywood often behave the same way. They are known for their abusive tirades, for treating their employees like slaves.

We have friends who are business managers and agents for people in "the industry" (as the locals call it). Their clients expect them to drop everything if they call. In the midst of a father's day barbecue, our friend was once called away to purchase a new car for his client. It had to done now. The client clearly communicated that his needs were all that mattered. No one else was very real or significant to him.

As long as we pander to this (if you don't, there's always another agent who will!), as long as corporate big wigs get multi-million dollar salaries no matter their interpersonal behavior, it's hard to tell our children that bullying is bad, that it doesn't pay.

Bullies get a taste of power in the school yard and it's a heady experience. But it we want it truly stopped, we have to stop rewarding it in the business world. We definitely have to stop exerting power in inappropriate or demanding ways ourselves.

Nothing teaches children like example. Unless "adult" society demonstrates real change, I don't think all the sensitivity training and thoughtful intervention on the play ground will make any difference.

February 18, 2006

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Bobby5000, January 16, 2013 1:59 AM

confusing two different things

Having a boy physically beaten and scared is a terrible thing. Tough boys may be good and bad and sometimes employees need to be positively and negatively motivated. Workplace cannot be confused with schoolyard. In a schoolyard, one must fight and stand up for him or herself. Different considerations apply in a work environment. My son had a coach who used to openly scream at people on his team. He turned out to be wonderful and fair man and someone whom we consider a close friend. He pushed hard, very hard, but I would not consider that bullying.

(8) Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc., June 14, 2010 7:58 PM

Bullying Ignore him/her or hit him/her

You're correct As both a martial arts instructor and dual certified teacher I find the nonpolitically correct response to bullies is ignore them or hit them. Even if you just hit them by reporting them either school or workplace. EVERYONE has a boss. Just fine him/her. I went to the school board with the principal screwed up with my son. Rick

(7) Paul, September 3, 2008 2:22 AM

Joe put it the best! Sometimes you do have to punch the bully. Whether on the playground or at work, figuratively or literally (I'd suggest figuratively at work). Once the bully realizes you mean business and will not be terrorized by their antics, they will learn their place.

(6) Joe, February 24, 2006 12:00 AM

The only way to ever deal with a bully is to not let him win.

Don't let him win. Sometimes that means just walking away and not letting him get a rise out of you. Sometimes that means simply and frimly saying "no." Sometimes that means punching him in the nose (either figuratively with legal action, or literally in the case of the school yard).

The bottom line about bullies is that they are emotionally very weak people. They make up for this by over-compensating with aggressive behavior. Scratch a bully, get a sullen kid with some insecurity or infriority complex. This is why they only attack if they smell fear. A real challenge puts them too much in mind of their own chance of losing.

If it becomes plain that they can not win with you, they will go to pick on someone else. Of course, if you punch him in the nose, he may be too scared to pick on others.

This strikes me as one of the classic mom vs. dad debates. We all had to deal with the big mean boy at school. Mom gave me all the kumbaya speech in the world. Dad was proud when I beat the little punk down (growl!).

Dad and I were right. The bully not only never bothered me again, but he stopped bothering others when I came around...and let's face it, there is a certain satisfaction to the thumping sound that they make when they hit the ground. You get to know that you are not weak yourself, that you *can* stand up to them.

This principle applies to bosses too. If you are truely pulling your weight, and they are truely being unreasonable, then stand them down. It is not as if there are not others who will help you. Sociopathic boss types always have enemies. It is also not that your skills are so lacking or that there aren't other jobs.

(5) Anonymous, February 21, 2006 12:00 AM

previous sent prematurely (my comment cont'd)

the lunchroom staff and recess aids at the school seem to relish having control of these elementary age children! The kids have to keep their voices low at all times: while eating and when exiting or entering the building for recess. The line goes straight outside from lunch to the playground... it's not like they have to walk through the school where their chatter might disturb other students!
I am not doing justice to the level of harassment these women dole out. But I will add two things:
1. My son was once suspended from recess for laughing on the way out to recess

2. The guidance counselor herself remarked very casually to me upon our first moving to the area that the lunch ladies can be "tough"!

In the very same building where my kids are learning anger management skills, how to stand up for themselves against a bully, and when to tell a grownup, it's the adults who need the lessons (or should I say counseling!)
If you ask me, the school principal should take away the microphones from the lunch staff!!! Apparantly, the school policy is "No fun at lunch time!" , and trust me, the lunch ladies are loving the sound of their own booming voices!

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