Over at Pandagon, they're talking about bullying. It's well over 200 comments at this point, so it's probably futile to try to wade in and see what everyone is saying, but I did glance through. One of the questions that seems to have come up is what to do about it. In particular, how does one respond to a bully?
Because, despite the possibly well intentioned adult advice of my youth, "ignore it and it'll stop" is bullshit. Ignoring bullies doesn't make it stop. I'm sure that some bullies will stop if they don't get a rise out of you, but most? I doubt it. Because even if they don't get a rise out of you, they get a rise out of other people. When a bully knocks your books out of your hands, it doesn't matter how you react, because the act is done, and you've got to pick your books up.
I'm not really sure what the best way to deal with a bully is. I spent a lot of my youth getting bullied. When I was in first grade, a bully who was at least three or four years older than me used to pick on me every day on the bus. He'd knock my books out of my hands. He'd flick my ears constantly. He'd trip me while I was walking. He'd push me down when we get off the bus. He wouldn't stop, and the bus driver wouldn't do anything about it. One day I'd finally had enough. He flicked my ears and I turned and told him that he better stop. We stood up to get off the bus and he flicked my ear again. I turned and smacked him in the head with my snoopy lunchbox. It was a metal lunchbox, and I smacked him with it as hard as I could. He fell over and started screaming, and I got kicked off the bus for a month. But, he never picked on me again.
Now, obviously, I'm not suggesting that we arm kids with metal lunchboxes and tell them to go to town on bullies. I got lucky that this kid decided one smack was enough. You can't always count on that, though. And you shouldn't have to. Some of the other kids who picked on me would have only taken that as a sign to escalate the abuse- they'd have become more violent and have beat me up if I tried to fight back.
One of the things that I noticed about the bullying I received is how much it affected me later in life. I was picked on and abused for so long that, when I got to highschool and the other kids apparently forgot or moved on and decided that I was okay, and even kind of cool, I couldn't see it. It made me paranoid that people were always looking for a new angle to abuse me through. And that still happens to this day- I find that I have a difficult time in many social situations. I find myself expecting people to think the worst of me, or thinking that people must have alternative reasons for being nice to me.
I attribute a lot of that to the bullying that happened at such an important and formative time of my life. When you're learning who you are and what kind of person you're going to be, and the people around you- your peers- are constantly picking on you and denigrating you, I can only assume that has an important impact on the type of person you'll begin to see yourself as.