Monday, June 19, 2006

Does being a childhood bully predict their future?

I'm serious about this question and worried by my inner answer.

If you are in a rush and not in the mood to read a long blog, pass today. This is not a fluffy post.

Last week I had to drop off lunch to one of my sons at his school. (special day required a special kind of lunch - you know how it goes, they give you the "notice" the morning of ?)

There was this young boy about 12 years old. He sat in the main office waiting for who knows what. What I saw was a sullen, angry, bitterly self-contained, frozen in rage, young man. My youngest recognized him, and being as young as he is, didn't clue into body language - there went the bright and chipper " HI ---!" he said "How are you?" and as we were leaving he said, "Bye ---." At no time did the other child's eyes move, shift or blink. His head never moved in acknowledgement of the hello or goodby greeting. He sat hunched over, frozen with a tense, contained look on his face. Anger. It was damn scary seeing that on the face of a 12 year old.

Know this.
This same boy shares the bus ride with my kids and all I've heard about this boy is negative. Three years of negative. No one likes him. He's been suspended from the bus a few times every year. He targets younger kids. Sets them up and then takes advantage. He taught my eldest about spit balls (bombs they're now called?) and got my son in trouble. Mine thought he was so cool. Taking him under his wing - so to speak. Trouble is cool to those that are younger - until they are faced with the consequences. How often does the duped youngins get the brunt of punishment as the true perpetrator gets off scott free? ( they've had enough practice to know how to work the "system")

I'm actually scared for this boy. Not my kids, but the "bully".

The last post was delving into the past. How does an event in your youth affect the present, remember?

I ask this: What kind of future does a bully have? How does being a bully now affect their future life path?

I have one scenario that I lived through. Please allow me to tell the tale.

As young as third grade this boy was a "trouble maker". Yes his family was incredibley dysfunctional. His brothers and sisters all had different fathers. It was a large clan and he was the eldest. What did he see that twisted him at such a young age? He ended up being belligerent, harsh, agressive and unforgiving. Contained rage. Third grade.

I made the mistake of doing the old "pull the chair out from behind him as he sat down" gag. Not funny. For him or me. It may have been funny with the Three Stooges, or cartoons but in real life, it's not and there are consequences. Granted, I'm talking third grade here - not rocket science. I WAS angry at him and I thought, clever me, I'd get back at him.
I never claimed I was a smart third grader.

Yep, the principal "talked to me". No need to explain further - you get the gist. It's what happened on the playground during recess that sticks in my mind.
Recollect that boys and girls were segregated during those days. Didn't stop him. I was far on the other side of the grounds, hunched in the shade drawing pictures in the sand. The sudden silence from the kids around me kind of let me know something wasn't right. It was one of those moments of perverse and morbid fascination that humans have with the thrill of viewing imminent violence while knowing they are safe from any fallout themselves. Kids start young.

There he stalked, his face a grim and furious cast of hate and intent. He never wavered from his path or took his eyes off of me. You know that "deer caught in the headlights" phrase you read about all the time? It exists. I'm sure I wore it because I was frozen to the spot by the shock that I was a target, that I wasn't safe on the "girls" side and no one was stopping him. Three steps away, his fist was brought up and back. On the final step it was coming around and slamming into my stomach. I stood there and watched it coming, hitting and being amazed at the pain.

He stepped back, looked arrogantly at me, his eyes still blazing with internal emotion then he turned and walked away. No words were said, before, during or after. Silence. Again, no one stopped him. No one came to me - to give comfort or concern - or alert the so called "recess aides". I was given a wide berth by all the other students around me. It was damned freaky.

I stayed away from him after that, but he left me alone too. I call that lucky.

Decades later I read the newspaper. This same boy who was now a man, stabbed and killed the mother of his three year old daughter - while his daughter was present.

So you might ask "Why write this post and ask these questions?"

Remember that boy sitting in the main office I first told you about?

He wears the same look on his face. The same intense anger - internalized and festering.

What is in store for HIS future?

Yes , I am worried - for the bully.


Farm Girl said...

How absolutely terrifying. I was nervous just reading your post, for you as a child. As far as the boy in the office, gosh only knows what his future holds. Unless some extremely positive influence enters his life he will probably be headed down the same path. It's sad.

Michele said...

Thanks for taking the time to read this, Les.
I was worried that the long post would put off many from reading , but I felt so strongly that I HAD to write it. The simularities between this boy and my past were bugging me to no end. Blogging about the story was therapeutic.

I agree, Les, that it is very sad. I've not heard of anyone taking this boy aside with patience and love. It's more of exasperation, impatience and "here we go again" kind of view. That helps no one. I'm not in a situation to be able to intervence one way or the other. If either one of my kids were in his class, it might have opened a door, but he is two grades above.
*sigh* Prayer is my only option.

Les, I made you "nervous" reading about me as a kid? You mean I wrote well enough to invoke (evoke) that feeling? Cool! I was worried for me back then too, LOL.

Actually, that was a compliment, thanks!
(well, I'd like to write & publish a short story someday, so your comment is appreciated!)

Brandy said...

As you explaining the boy from your past, I noticed you said there was no permanent positive role model for your bully. Unless there is one present for the boy in your Son's school, you are right. His fate may be the same.
I was a victim of bullying, but not the physical kind. I was taunted and teased for being quiet, shy, rather read a book, and then was diagnosed with manic depression when I was 9 years old. (chemical imbalance). Bullying is something that we wish we could eliminate, but have no idea how.

Bailey Stewart said...

I had the same kind of bullying as Brandy.

Unless someone steps in, somewhere in this child's life, the future is grim. There have been success stories of former child bullies, but they are few and far between. I feel for the child.

And you write very well - a lot of feelings in this. Write that short story.

Avindair said...

I've experienced both kinds of bullying. I was always short for my age, had a shoulder that would dislocate playing any sports, and had an unfortunate propensity for being both well-read and articulate. I might as well as had a shirt that said "Kick me first!" written on it.

After years of taunting and the occasional punches, I got beat up severely by four kids in a field near my home. Two held my arms, while a third punched and a girl laughed. I was all of 10.

The experience was frightening and humiliating. Not only was it painful, but seeing the Base Police show up (I grew up in the Air Force), and then being forced to identify the kids was scary. I couldn't help but feel like a victim, like a weakling, in front of the SPs.

Yet here's where my experience differs from most: I grew up in a society where there were consequences for these kinds of actions. Those kids got their parents in serious professional trouble because, as the military put it, a service member was responsible for their children's actions. I never saw those kids again, and they were moved off base shortly thereafter. Their actions had, in short, ruined their life for a long time after my bruises had healed.

After that, ironically enough, I was less timid, not more. Kids would get in my face, and I'd get right back in theirs. That's when I learned that most bullies are cowards, while others are just smart-mouths that are looking to get a rise out of people. The latter actually took a shine to me, while the former ran.

Of course, my kids have dealt with bullying, too. We've taught them all of the standard coping techniques...but I've insisted that they take martial arts, and keep in shape.

Do I like that? No. But it's a necessity.

As for the bullies themselves, well, some of it is just human nature. My suspicion has always been that you can trace a bully's behavior right back to the home. And that raises a whole other series of issues that need to be addressed.

So yes, I worry for the bully. I hope that somewhere he gets the right combination of tough love and kind words that will break through his self-imposed shell so he can become a better human being. But, in the end, we have to watch out for our own first.

Kara Alison said...

Hi Michele - I know it's been a long time. Thanks for the message. I've been out of the country and just returned a few days ago. Now I'm just stressing and looking for a job. Lucky me!

THis post is very thought provoking. I wish I knew what to do for kids like this. I was so oblivious to this sort of thing as a kid. I think if I had been bullied (and maybe I was) wouldn't have even known it. I never saw it and I never experienced it. It's horrible though. I suppose the best we can do is to teach our own children right from wrong and try to act as positive role models for any children with whom we interact.

Not assuming the worst of the bullies would probaby help. Like you suggest, understanding their circumstances and being sympathetic to that likely goes a long way.

Beth said...

Michele, what a great post, and yes, well-written. I think you should give this post to your son' school. I read an article in the Reader's Digest talking about how some schools have taken a strong school-wide stance against bullying, teaching all children how to react. Much of a bully's power comes from those who stand by and do nothing, as your own story illustrates.

I absolutely think this boy is headed for trouble unless someone steps in. Prayer is a great option, but maybe the school would take this more seriously if they read of your eerily parallel experience.

Dr. Phil had a very disturbing episode where he interviewed parents of a child who had all the earmarks of a future serial killer. Fortunately the parents seemed like the kind of people who would honestly try to change once this was presented to them. And I hope thousands more saw the show and will be influenced as well.

Bullying is something we CAN eliminate if we all take a stand together.

My favorite movie scene on this topic is from Dinosaur, where the hero motivates the crowd to "Stand Together" and sure enough, the bad guy is eventually defeated.

Thanks for raising awareness of this important topic.

Michele said...

Brandy, - Bailey too - verbal abuse whether it be from peer or adult is still terror inducing and effective in scarring a person's sense of self worth and self esteem. Doesn't matter that the scars are on the inside - the mind is a powerful tool - and abuse (taunting/teasing) cripples it just as any physical handicap can.

Brandy, I wonder if you'd have been diagnosed with the same outcome if you were tested today. Something tells me "no". And I agree - it would be an amazing and blessed event if bullying was eradicated. Beth has a good comment about that in her reply. Did you see it?

Oh and Bailey - thanks for the compliment about my writing. *happy grin*

Michele said...

Avindair - Thank God for the Air Force. They've the right idea, too bad that's not the norm. It would circumvent all those parents who have their heads in the sand and say "Not MY child", and do nothing to intervene , correct or address their children's actions.

You can be proud that you are a Pro-active parent. Your kids are so lucky to have you as their dad.

You're comment, " My suspicion has always been that you can trace a bully's behavior right back to the home." - is exactly right. I was talking with my son's hairdressers (yes, plural) yesterday and they said the same thing. You wonder what kind of environment makes up their home life.
When all is said and done, as a parent, you are so right - we DO have to watch out for our own first - School is out now, and it's frustrating that this stuff comes to a head right at the end, no time to address it with any effectiveness with the school itself or the bus company. *sigh*

One more year before this boy goes to a different bus schedule than my kids. Is it uncharitable of me to say "Amen!"???

Michele said...

Kara!!! Wow! You were out of the country?? Well, that explains the humungous blog absence. I was a tad worried. Glad you are back safe and sound. I already commented on your very interesting post. Good luck on the job hunt!

I agree that there is a major need for these kids to have positive role models, but not all parents have that ability. If they never had it themselves, a vicious cycle is being perpetuated. That's why I think Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs are awesome. But that only will work if said parents let go of their complete denial, think beyond themselves and put their children first. Sometimes, that is a Herculean task. Not impossible, thank goodness.

So glad you dropped by Kara!

Michele said...

Beth, - Thank you!

Your comment: "Much of a bully's power comes from those who stand by and do nothing" ... is very true. It also can be applied to govermental dealings as well as close to home . Human nature is human nature - the difference is our choices and the will exererted to pursue that choice - passive or aggressive.

I don't watch Dr. Phil, but I would have been interested in that particular segment.

Thanks for stopping by Beth and sharing your thoughts.

Betty S said...

The bullies from my childrens early years were the same bullies when they were in high school. I think they will be the same people we see abusing others for the rest of their lives.

Shesawriter said...

He's headed for a rough life. I can see him as a lifetime member of the penal system. Sad.

Annalee Blysse said...

I had something like this happen in my life too Michele. It's a long story, but I do think of him still because I carry a scar on my arm he left behind. When he was in his late teens he killed a cab driver for a few bucks. I saw him at the story one day 3-4 years after he murdered someone. That would be about when I started paying attention to the idea of mandatory minimum sentences.

Kelli McBride said...

Michele, I echo the praises for your storytelling. It was very exciting and tense - I could see it all happening.

As for bullies: I was bullied. I was taller than most of the boys in class up to the 3rd grade. I was chubby, and I was an advanced reader.

The worst bullying I endured was in 2nd and 8th grade. In 2nd grade, 2 boys (both named Tommy), would chase me during recess, kicking and hitting me and calling me names. The teachers (we had 2 for our class) never said or did anything. One of the Tommies was one of the teacher's pets. It got so bad, that I would have panic attacks and develop hives every day. I started having migraines. The school counselor told my parents I needed therapy - in the 2nd grade! My grandmother told my dad all I needed was hard work. And my mom told me to take up for myself. So I did. And when I kicked them back one day, I got sent to the principle's office and my mom was called. They threatened to expell me, but Mom said they'd better expell the 2 Tommies as well. So nothing was done. We moved out of the distric soon after that. But I always remember feeling betrayed by the teachers who never did anything to help me.

In 8th grade, I was tormented by a couple of football players. I was still chubby, didn't have all the cool clothes (this was a rich school), and I'd only been attending since the middle of 7th grade. Everytime I would pass them in the hall, they would make kissing noises and ask me out. I had geography class with them, and everytime I had to go to the front of the class, they would taunt me under their breath. No one ever took up for me or tried to stop them because they were athletes and part of the cool crowd.

I learned to use humor to deal with the pain and taunts. I ignored them, or would reply with a "you wish" - lame, I know, but I couldn't say what I wanted to because that would let them know they were hurting me. Eventually, the taunting stopped, and I grew popular in school because I could sing and act. By the 12th grade, many of the guys who taunted me were my friends, or at least friendly acquaintances.

It still hurts to think of those times, but I know I was changed for the better because I survived. I learned to be more tolerant of others because I knew what it was like to be the outsider, the one that didn't fit in. I learned to control my emotions.

However, I was lucky that I never had to face anything as serious as you did. Even the 2 Tommies only gave me bruises. My mom even thinks the one had a crush on me, and that's what caused his bullying. He was much shorter than I was. ;-)

We need to seriously pay attention to what we teach children. When we cut programs in the arts and humanities that teach teamwork in positive ways and that all people can take part in in order to finance athletics that are prone to violence and elitism, what are we doing to these young, impressionable minds? Don't get me wrong - I love sports, but school is for learning, and we can learn all the lessons that people claim are good about sports in other, more positive and fruitful ways.

M.E Ellis said...

When reading the start of this post about the kid's face, I felt sorrow.

He has issues and an underlying problem. He isn't loved, nor shown how to behave. He is hurting.

Poor little man.


Michele said...

Betty and Tanya, you paint a scary picture! There MUST be an intervention program out there to help somewhere - where to find it and how to hook it up with this child and his family... that is the underlaying challenge, isn't it. How daunting!

Annalee! He was out already? No Way! Death is forever, how can he be let out so soon? Where is the justice or correction or consequences? And you were marked physically as well as mentally at that time? Oh, ((HUGS)) Annalee.

Geesh, I thought Betty and Tanya's comments were scary. **shudder**

Kelli! I am not too sure if I can pinpoint a specific moment in your comments to reply to. What an amazing experiece you had! I mean, you are right that you are a stronger person for having dealt with the situations that were thrown at you. To have teachers go as far as they did , to not protect a CHILD because of the "popular" crowd is simply reinforcig a horrible practice. They are guaranteeing that bullying for any reason will continue in those schools and what's worse, that they'd be tolerated. That just inflames me with anger! Grrrrr.

However, after saying that, and being witness to your clever and genius level humor, I'd have to say that you are a much better person for having survived all those trials of youth. If only every victim was as fortunate.
Your story gives us hope , Kelli and highlights what needs to be changed. From Adult level to peer.
Thank you SO much for sharing, Kelli.

Hey there, M.E.! You are So right. Hard to see something like that and do nothing. My kids come first, however.
I wish a professional could have weighed in on this discussion to impart advice - how useful it could be!

KelRhiasMum said...

You saw it and as a mum felt bad for him and his future, why then do the so called trained professionals, teachers etc. not see what you do, and help him. I don't know if somethings are inborn, and no matter what is done the person will still follow the same path ultimately, but there's always "what if......"

My daughter suffered for years at the hands of bullies, and it culminated in her being severely beaten in a dark desolate field by GIRLS whilst others looked on and encouraged the bullies, my daughter had to feign unconciousness so they would stop, then crawl to a nearby shopping area, where a shopkeeper let her use the phone to call me as the bullies had stamped her mobile into the muddy ground making it useless, they had made her say sorry to them, but she had nothing to be sorry for, but she said it anyway in the hope that they wouldleave her alone, but they just kicked her more and said they couldn't hear her, in the end she was literally having to scream it at the top of her lungs, whilst they and the crowd all laughed at her humiliation, they pressed her beautiful face into the ground and stood on her head twisting their feet calling her all sorts of terrible names, I'm stopping now as I am getting upset, but you get the idea. The whole thing lasted for about twenty minutes, but for her it will be there for the rest of her life.

These girls are also from dysfunctional families, who's parents do not appear to care what their kids are doing, they get no love nor encouragement, and that is very sad for them. My daughter was a target because she is pretty and popular, and we love and care about her and it shows.

Even though she has the mental scars of this terrible beating forever, from that night she was determined that the bullies would not make a difference to her in other ways, she went on to excel in her exams, got a good job, then a promotion, passed her driving test, runs a home with her boyfriend of 4+ years, and is a thoroughly lovely girl, and she's still only 19, and has a wonderful future.

She passes by these same girls in her nice car, when the weather is bad and they have to walk or get the bus, with their offspring by various fathers, freezing cold and miserable, then goes home to her nice little house to her nice boyfriend, and she knows that IF they hadn't done what they did she MAY not have tried so hard to make something of herself.

SO I'm sure that they didn't mean to, but they helped her and have made her future different, but in a good way, so thanks girls.