Bullies? I wonder where they got that.

Where are all of these bullies coming from? The rest of us can't really be part of the problem, can we?

It seems that almost every day we read a terrible story of a child suffering chronic abuse at the hands of bullies.   These aptly named people seem to be relentless in their ability to attack, demean, and belittle their intended victim.  In trying to understand why people bully I see hand wringing, finger pointing, and general confusion as to how and why people become bullies.  I’m not feeling that confusion. 

This week Ann Coulter called the POTUS the “R” word.  A few months ago Bill Maher called former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin the “C” word.  Rush Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a slut, and the list goes on.  Coulter, Maher, and Limbaugh all defended themselves by criticizing political correctness and rolling out the free speech argument.  They are right, they are entitled to say cruel, abusive, judgmental things and they are protected by free speech.   Yet, can they really defend themselves as people who care about the feelings of others?  I think not and isn’t that ultimately the definition of a bully? 

Politics seems to be a hot bed of bullies (myself periodically included in that list) yet we can find examples of it everywhere we go.  The sports arena where we see people yelling aggressive and belittling comments to the other team players, coaches, and referees is a fine example of bullies gone wild.  I have videotape of a popular coach in my community yelling aggressive comments at my then little league playing, grade school son as he took his first shot at pitching.  That coach has been a fine example of a bullying role model if ever there was one.  How about reality television?  I think we can find an example or 1,000 of bad bullying behavior.  

When Michelle Obama and Ann Romney took to the convention stage to speak about their spouses they were each treated to outrageous social media attacks on their appearance, their race, religion, ethnicity, social class and their NAIL POLISH!  When Michelle Obama spoke, the increase in the presence of the “N” word in cyber world went off the charts.  What horrid crimes did these two women commit that so entitled the world to rip them to pieces?  They shared with us their commitment to their husbands.  How dare they! 

This blog would have been far more entertaining to write if I were not complicit in all of this.  Recently I had my soon to be driving, 15-year-old in the car with me.  After a bit of confusion (probably on my part) at a busy intersection, an older man on a motorcycle flipped me off while mouthing some unpleasant words at me.  Not to be outdone by his kindness I rolled down my window and screamed, “Relax old man!”  Not my finest parenting moment.  I gave Limbaugh, Coulter, and Maher a run for their money when after hearing some particularly disturbing comments from a local political candidate I let out a rant of insults that wouldn’t be fit for even the most ardent of Bear’s fans.  

Look at the comments at the end of almost any news article and you will find lovely examples of bullying.  Twitter and Facebook are the perfect venues to attack, judge, tease, and hurt.   Why do so many of us behave this way?  The answer of course is hugely multi-faceted but the most prevalent reasons for our bad behavior?  We feel bad about ourselves and/or we are afraid of something.  It is far easier to lash out at someone else than to actually look at our own insecurities and weaknesses.  Civil debate is difficult to do because we feel passionate about what we are discussing and it scares us to think we might not be understood or get what we want.  It takes hard work to learn how to disagree while still respecting the person we are disagreeing with.  The results however are worth the effort in that kindness trumps cruelty, not in the game of free speech, but certainly in the game of a life well lived.  

So when people ask me as a mother, psychologist, and a life coach why kids turn into bullies, I won’t have to look too far to give them the answers.   How to change that behavior?   That is a tough question.  Though that old golden rule might be a really nice place to start. 


Dr. Lisa Kaplin is a life coach at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com

You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com


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Lisa Kaplin October 27, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Thanks Donna. It was hard to admit to my bad behavior but I thought maybe some other parents could relate.
Eric Pelletier October 27, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Well I have seen many articles and thoughts lately on bullying and the effect it has on kids, adults and any victim of it. I believe that bullying is terrible to do to a person, no doubt, but I think the way we go about addresses it is flawed. Any successful movie, story or cartoon in which someone overcame bullying, it is usually the product of the person being bullies finally standing up for themselves. I think this is the major issue that is not addressed. Kids are allowed to be bullied because they lack basic skills and understand about how to belong to something and be confident. I am a CrossFit coach and going to be opening CrossFit Overcome in Wheeling very soon and as a CrossFitter I have noticed in my own life that the confidence that comes from training transcends the training itself. It pours out into other areas of life as well. What if instead of pointing fingers at bullies (which is it's own form of bullying) we take the kids who are BEING bullied and give them legitimate tools to improve their self esteem?
Lisa Kaplin October 27, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Ah, got it and I strongly agree with you. We do need to give kids emotional and physical skills to stand up for themselves and feel confident. I do think adults, however, need to also realize the bad behavior we are often modeling to our kids. It would be great if you offered a class for kids "the bully repellant" class! Best of luck with your endeavor. It sounds like a great way to improve people's lives.
Eric Pelletier October 27, 2012 at 11:22 PM
True. Kids see the world through our actions which creates their worldview and develops their thought processes. Part of the reason I reached out to comment was an interest in working to actually bring something to them that can help. You are, obviously, much more involved in this than I am but I would like to be a part of it. I would love to know more about what YOU do.
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