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JewishJournal.com

July 21, 2011

How to tame your bully

http://www.jewishjournal.com/tribe/article/how_to_tame_your_bully_20110721

In the dictionary, a bully is defined as “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” It sounds likes an accurate definition, but it’s not absolutely true. Sure, there is always the stereotypical, all muscle and no brains guy walking around punching lockers and dunking kids in trash cans. And every school has the beautiful yet snobby rich girl who cheats on tests and calls everyone insulting names.

However, I know from personal experience that there are other kinds of bullies at school, too. There’s that friend who acts so sweet to your face, then backstabs you the second you turn away, telling your darkest secrets to others and ruining your social life.

There are kids who pretend to be “cool rebels” and beat your lunch box with a baseball bat on the soccer field just to “make a statement.” There are flirts who ruin your relationships, guys who push their bad influences on you, and girls who are so smart but refuse to tutor you because of how you dress. Some people even have a friend who constantly tears them or other people down. The list can go on and on.

I was bullied by these kids, and I wanted to learn how to take them down painlessly and innocently. In other words, without violence. I started to write and read and think, desperately trying to uncover clues for dealing with mean people. I began to understand that, while being bullied wasn’t my fault, I should at least try to understand the reasons I was being teased, and if I decided to change those things, whether it would benefit me in some way.

For example, now that I’m a little older and wiser, I can look back and see that my purposeful lack of social skills and “nobody gets me, so don’t bother” attitude made me an easy target for other kids. I started to understand that while I should never change myself for a bully, it wouldn’t hurt to look at myself critically from time to time.

I also realized the power of just walking away. I discovered that I won or prevented numerous incidents by raising the flag of firm peace and leaving the battlegrounds. My reaction to bullies went from sharp, biting comebacks to looking them in the eye and saying, “I do not consider your comment to be very nice,” before walking away. Not only have I stood up for myself, I also have infected them with my contagious positive attitude (hopefully). It’s a secret win-win, even though the teaser doesn’t see it that way.

I once got myself into a deep, dark place because of the bullies that tormented me, as well as other events in my life. Kids teased me for being “weak” and “emo” whenever I expressed any sad emotions. Although it would have been much nicer for my classmates to help me and respect my feelings as I was going through a hard time, bullies saw my vulnerability as a “Kick Me” sign.

To my surprise, I learned mean people will sometimes back off when they know the whole story. After a friend of mine and his little sister were killed by their father, I formed a silent but strong bond with one of his friends. Even though the kid was a bully and later expelled for harassment, he and his friends never said an unkind word to me. One time, I was frantically searching for my missing lock after someone had broken into my locker (and stolen my lunchbox and beaten it with a baseball bat). One of his friends (infamous for smoking and partying) came down the hallway, silently handed me the lock, patted my shoulder and walked away. It may not be easy to tell, but bullies have hearts, too.

I can’t sit here and claim that I know how to stop bullying forever. Even now, I face bullying at school, and it doesn’t hurt any less than it did in fifth grade. But with the few tricks I’ve learned over the years, I believe I have found a good strategy to manage the problem. It’s not a quick fix or a cure, and it’s not foolproof. It’s a large jagged pill that I’ve learned to swallow so I can raise my head, take a deep breath and not allow bullies to determine where my life is heading. 

Hannah Goldenberg is 14 years old and will be a freshman in the fall at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley.

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