Can Our Children’s View Of The Bully Be Tied To Their Future Success?

It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in the middle section of the school bus feeling so uncomfortable. The bullies sat in the back, the majority of the kids were prey in the middle, and the most vulnerable sat up front. It’s a universal seating arrangement known to all kids in any suburb of the United States.

I was not a target on those long bus rides, but I was scared. I was scared for myself and I was scared for the kids that got picked on everyday. I believed that the bullies were strong and could hurt any of us. I bought into the entire power play that they were somehow more sturdy and resilient than me, if only because they seemed to understand how the world works and could control everyone around them. I remember that they yelled and screamed loudly and laughed at other kids for everyone to hear. I was intimidated and that made me feel weak and doubtful.

I never expressed how I felt to anyone when I was young. Perhaps I just felt that was the way of the world or maybe I didn’t understand my feelings. But interestingly, as I aged, bullies still brought out those feelings of inferiority. Whether in a college sorority or a conference room at work, I still felt doubtful and insecure around loud, mean and forceful personalities. Although on the surface I seemed okay, I did not always voice my opinions, even when those opinions were strong. I feared retribution and I doubted myself against what I perceived as power. The grown-up bullies seemed as self-assured as the young ones, able to put others down so easily and manipulate most in the room. I was still buying into the power and control of the bully hook, line and sinker.

As my spiritual life grew over time, love became more important than fear, and fear began to melt away. I started to automatically focus on the true strength of kindness and compassion. I saw that getting angry, lashing out, denigrating and attempting to control other people are products of weakness.   It is much harder to consistently respond to all others with love and understanding.

I realized that someone must have hurt the bully very much for him or her to act that way. Maybe there was a mean parent or sibling, maybe a tragedy at a formative age – who knows?  But the bully is, in fact, really scared. The bully has shut his or her heart and is cruel to the world so the world can’t hurt the heart again.

Here is a set of rules that I teach my children to remember what real strength is when faced with a bully:

It takes more strength to stick up for someone than to put them down.

It takes more strength to compromise with a friend than to force your way on someone else.

It takes more strength to listen to someone with whom you disagree than to ignore them, yell at them or scorn their ideas.

It takes more strength to understand someone that is different and try to include them instead of excluding them from an activity.

It takes more strength to express yourself with your words than to resort to physical force.

It takes more strength to be peaceful, loving and kind in the face of adversity than to yell and scream and hurt the ones around you.

It takes more strength to be humble in the face of triumph than to recklessly brag.

It takes more strength to act on what you know is right than to follow the crowd.

Real strength does not need to prove anything. It can stand on its own without a word spoken and that is the real power.

With these rules of strength, it is my hope that my children will not give their personal power away to the loudest voice or the child with the most controlling personality. It is my hope that they will be able to see the truth behind the bully so they don’t feel intimidated or doubt themselves. It might not dictate how they will deal with the bully on the outside, but it does allow them to keep their inner world strong and intact by seeing the truth of what they are experiencing.

My hope is that true strength will follow them through life so their success won’t be determined by the bully in the room.


14 Comments on “Can Our Children’s View Of The Bully Be Tied To Their Future Success?”

  1. Caroline says:

    “I saw that getting angry, lashing out, denigrating and attempting to control other people are products of weakness. It is much harder to consistently respond to all others with love and understanding.”

    and

    “It is my hope that they will be able to see the truth behind the bully so they don’t feel intimidated or doubt themselves. ”

    are truths that you write that have brought me to tears this morning. In my inbox was an email about this post (since I am one of your subscribers) and the timing of this is perfect. There is a bully at my daughter’s school and she has been bullied some by him. Yesterday there was another incident and I was not sure how to handle it.
    Now I do.
    Thank you, Allison.
    Love, Caroline

    • Caroline, It is such a challenging issue for our children and for us. I am glad that you found the true pillars of strength helpful. Please keep in touch and let me know how your daughter is doing.

      • Caroline says:

        Thanks, Allison. I definitely will. I have emailed the Principal again today. My daughter is in kindergarden (can you imagine this happening at that age?) and she is such a sweet and thoughtful little girl. I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter but she really is. She has not been the only one targeted by this bully–and it had gotten so out of hand that he was removed from the class and placed in another. But he still sees the students in the hallways and at lunch and finds opportunities to misbehave. It has been frustrating. But anyway, your post helped me with a perspective today that I feel is much healthier than getting angry about it.

        Again, thank you

  2. Lisa says:

    Such a beautiful message, Alison! Although rarely a target myself, I remember that feeling of fear, when confronted with bullies. You describe it all so perfectly. I love that you teach your children what true strength means – such a great life lesson, one that I want to keep in mind.

  3. Howie Krizer says:

    Allison, very well done & well put. Bullying must be stopped at all levels. It’s very scary for our kids/grandchildren. Keep up the good work & hopefully your message will get thru

  4. You know… speaking from personal experience… is a child’s view of a bully tied to their future success? Absolutely.

    I have to say, I wish I could be more forgiving and understanding, but I can’t. I cannot forgive those people until I forget. I simply can’t. To me, abusing another for fun and entertainment, tormenting another simply because you can and because you derive pleasure from the suffering of another, is something I cannot forgive.

    I couldn’t do it then and I can’t do it now. Truthfully, I highly doubt I ever will. My son is home schooled and i am fine with that. If he ever attends a regular school and I find out he is being bullied… the school had better take action or else I will… I’ll sue them and anyone else I can find to hold responsible for allowing that to happen, including the parents of the bullies themselves (if they were aware it was happening and didn’t take action.)

    Likewise, if I ever found out my son was a bully… we’d need to have a very serious talk because I know I would’ve failed him as a father.

    …sorry… 25 years later and it’s still an extremely raw nerve…

    • I really appreciate your honesty and your willingness to be open about your experience. Years ago I went to a gathering about forgiveness and they showed a movie called the Power of Forgiveness. When the movie was over I cried and cried. All my life i thought forgiveness was about letting the other person off the hook. I had no idea it was about me and letting go of my pain and finding my peace. It is a very powerful film. It is currently on Netflix, Thanks again for sharing. It is so important that we all have a place to communicate and share. As Ram Dass said, “We are all walking each other home.”

  5. lesliesholly says:

    I was bullied on the bus. It is still a terrible memory. How I dreaded those rides. I still don’t understand what was wrong with those girls then, some of whom have grown up into very nice people whom I talk to today. I have tried to raise my own kids to stick up for those who are being bullied and to value kindness above all.

  6. Speaking as a kid who was bullied, the way that I ultimately dealt with it was to call their bluff and sometimes that meant fighting with them but it stopped the bullying. Bullies only understand one thing, you can’t reason with them,

    • Thanks for your comment. There appears to be many ways to deal with Bullying. I think it depends on the particular circumstance. In your case, it seems like you took care of it. Other times parents need to get involved and sometimes it stops on its own. The intention of my blog was to discuss how we deal with the bully internally so we can cultivate real strength and not shy away from similar situations as we grow older. I am really glad you voiced your opinion on the matter because I did not want to give the impression that how we deal with bullying on the outside is a one size fits all solution.


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