The other day, I was at my daughters school while my kids were playing on the playground. My daughter goes to a magnet school in which all the kids that attend are tested and/or interviewed and basically handpicked. There were a few other parents there, too and they were talking about another school that is also a magnet. I have a friend, whose son attends the other magnet, and I mentioned that he was suffering some bullying.
One of the women immediately responded, “Some kids have target written all over them.”
I was speechless. Really? If you suffer bullying, you are a target and that is your fault? Obviously, I have a little problem with this.
When I was a kid, I would go down to the creek with my sister and girlfriends and when the boys would show up, they would threaten to throw moss and stuff at us unless we showed them our boob sprouts. Actually, I think I got mossed by one of them. After that, I think we showed them so that they would go away.
Later, when I was in jr. high, I would always get harassed by a tough girl on the bus who eventually hit me on the top of the head with a huge wad of gum while she was walking from the back of the bus to exit at her stop. Needless to say, I avoided the aisle seat after having to cut my hair. Incidentally, I think that’s why she hated me (insert hair flip here), I had some really good wings back in the day.
Okay, so I endured a little bit of bullying. Was I a target? Did I ask for it? And is this what people really think? That some kids are just destined to get the shit kicked out of them, the moss thrown at them, the hair cut off of them? And if they do think that, then what are they telling their kids? That maybe you are too passive, too aggressive, too whatever but you are just like that? Can your hear my voice getting louder as I write this? And if I were raped, molested, robbed or killed, would I just have a target written all over me, oh, well?
They say, you know them, that there are some things people do that make them more likely to be targeted by shitheads. According to the literature that I have read*, victims tend to be people who are either sensitive, vulnerable physically or annoying. Some of my BEST friends, you know who you are, are sensitive, smallish in stature and/or annoying. Thank the gods for that, I don’t know what I would do without you!
I also read some literature about parents:It is well established that the child-rearing practices of parents of bullies are markedly different from those of victims [Stevens et al., 2002]. Child-rearing techniques linked to bullying behavior include: coercive parenting (i.e., power-assertive disciplinary techniques),parental hostility, a lack of warmth and cohesiveness, exposure to marital conﬂict, mother’s permissiveness for aggression, and physical abuse [Bowers et al., 1994; Haynie et al., 2001;Olweus, 1980; Schwartz et al., 1997]. Child-rearing techniques predictive of peer victimization include intrusive, overprotective parenting [Bowers et al., 1994; Olweus, 2001], intrusive parental psychological control [Perry et al., 2001], and coercive power-assertive parenting[Kochenderfer and Ladd, 1997; Rigby, 1993, 1994].**
When the mom on the playground said this to me, I think I may have said something like he didn’t seem like a target to me. I am not so good at thinking the right thing to say at the time. It’s only after, when I stew, that I have the right thing. I think this is it.
The other thing I learned in my research is that moral training seems the best defense against bullying.When I see her again, I know I will, will I be able to bring it up?
*I actually did the research Beaty, Lee A., and Erick B. Alexeyev. “THE PROBLEM OF SCHOOL BULLIES: WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US.” Adolescence 43.169 (2008): 1-11. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCO. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.
**Unnever, James D. “Bullies, aggressive victims, and victims: Are they distinct groups?.” Aggressive Behavior 31.2 (2005): 153-171. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCO. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.