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Bullies serve a purpose. Sure, they’re a pain in the ass but they teach valuable life lessons. One of those is that some folks will use their size or physical prowess to intimidate others to bend to their will. It’s good that kids learn that there are folks like that in the world. It can also be a bad experience for kids, of course, but it’s something we all have to go through. Take comfort in the fact that someday you’ll be at your high school reunion and you’ll realize the high school bully is still driving the same car, living at home, and working at the same job he had in high school. Or you’ll be like me and start making fun of the bully to other people at the reunion and they’ll tell you he died in a tragic car accident a few years ago. Awkward.

When I was about seven, there was this other second grader named Neddie (no, it’s not the guy from high school I was talking about). He was kind of a prick and he was the class bully. I guess he was angry his parents named him Neddie because I would have been.

For the longest time, I never had a problem with Neddie but that ended and I became the target Neddie’s dorky-name-induced aggression. One day after school (I walked home), for no good reason I could fathom, he started calling me names. I didn’t really react to it then he hit me in the stomach and I went home crying. It was tough being a seven year old and having been beaten up. And tough to go home to your drill sergeant dad and tell him you’d gotten punked but that’s only because in 1978, we didn’t really use the word punked. When I got home, my dad asked me what was wrong. I told him about Neddie and me getting picked on, that I had been hit and that I wasn’t going back to school, which is a perfectly reasonable solution when you’re 7 years old. He asked me what I did and I said that I just sort of took it as I was unsure what to do. That’s when dad got on the phone and called the school principal to yell at him; and the called the school administrators and told them it was all their fault that I was getting picked on. He demanded something be done and the school established guidelines to eliminate bullying. And the teachers were given anti-bullying courses. It worked and we all smoked dope and sang Kumbaya my Lord the next day. They even passed a law banning bullying.

Nah, I’m fuckin’ with ya. Dad took my little hand in his big hand and said This is how you make a fist. No, don’t put your thumb in your hand or you’ll break your thumb when you hit someone. I looked up and made a swinging motion like I was going to hit someone. He corrected my form and told me when I hit someone, to aim at some place that hurts such as the face, nose, stomach, or head. He also told me that once you’re swinging, you’re committed to that fight so don’t swing unless you mean it or someone will call your bluff. He also said that once you hit someone to keep hitting them until they give up. He then held out his hands to let me practice punching on his palms. He said that if Neddie came up and threatened me that I should just haul off and knock the living shit out of the little bastard and not to stop hitting him until he gave up or ran off. Then my mom (oh how I love her) chimed in with: And if you get your ass whipped again, expect to get another ass-whippin’ when you get home.

The next day, I did just as dad said. Neddie started shit and I punched him square in his stomach. Apparently, Neddie wasn’t used to kids fighting back. When I punched him in his gut, he fell down and I jumped on him and kept hitting him. Then Neddie started to cry and I got up. He ran off crying. I expected more of a fight. Neddie never bothered me again and I learned that you should stand up for yourself.

I told dad about it. He laughed and told me I did right. And no one called any school administrator. In that time, judging from the stories my parents and their friends talk about, every kid got that exact same lesson. Kids were told to stand up to bullies and to fight back. We were also told not to start fights but to damn-sure stick up for ourselves. In today’s world, I don’t know of any parents that would offer that advice to kids. But in today’s world, you see kids on bikes who look like they’re wearing armor. When I was a kid only the goofy kid up the street who was kinda slow had to wear a helmet. Of course, kids dont walk home from school these days either.

13 Responses to “Bullying”

  1. Chris Wage Says:

    Bullies serve a purpose. Sure, they’re a pain in the ass but they teach valuable life lessons

    Sorry, but this is a stupid premise. That’s like saying “Nazis serve a purpose. They teach valuable lessons in concentration-camp survival.”

    Yes, I realize I’ve just forfeited via Godwin’s Law, but you know what? It felt good, and I’d do it again.

    I agree with most of the rest of your post, but come on. “Bullies serve a purpose”? No.

  2. SayUncle Says:

    Would you have felt better had I said ‘we can learn from bullies’?

  3. bob Says:

    One of the lead engineers where I work has a saying: “Everything serves a purpose. Sometimes the only purpose is to serve as a bad example.”

    Bullies have the “bad example” part down pat; they also teach a few of life’s other lessons. One of those lessons is (when carried though to its conclusion) that, given the “right” environment, we’ll end up with Nazis. Another is that it is easier to knock them down a notch or two immediately rather than put off the inevitable and have a bigger problem later (e.g., Nazis).

    Hyperbole about Nazis aside, bullies really do serve as part of the education of the well rounded person. A kid that never gets the chance to observe a bully in action has a hell of a shock coming when the adult world sneaks up on him.

  4. Ravenwood Says:

    It’s the classic good vs. evil fight. If you don’t defend yourself, there will always be someone there to take advantage. Whether it be not securing your computer, not locking your car, or walking down dark alleys at night. There are predators and there are prey. That is a fact of life you cannot change.

    I was taught similar lessons from my father. Once I was beat up by 3 or 4 guys. My dad told me next time to grab a stick, a pipe, or some rocks if I had to. He said I should threaten to at least take a few of them with me. That might make them leave me alone.

    No matter the situation, you have to stand up to predators. Make them want to go find easier prey.

  5. Tom Says:

    “In todays world, I dont know of any parents that would offer that advice to kids.”

    I’m 27 (so childhood wasn’t all that long ago), and I got exactly that advice. My parents always told me if I got into a fight and I told them the truth afterwards that (assuming I didn’t start it, which was part of the deal) they would be behind me 100% against all comers whether they be Principles, Superintendents or police.

    I certainly hope that parents these days still tell their kids the same things. When I have kids I sure as hell plan to.

    As for bullies serving a purpose, of course they do. Sports teach us that we can compete, really really hard, on a fair field of play against people and shake hands afterwards. Bullies teach us that some fights aren’t fair and have only one rule…win. If you don’t learn that rule as a child (and how to tell the difference between the two situations) you stand a dang good chance of turning out to be a wuss or a psychopath. Thanks, be we’ve already got more than enough of both.

  6. Drake Says:

    It’s comforting to know that dad advice from that era was pretty much consistant. Don’t start it, but finish it, the advice about the thumbs, vulnerable bully spots. etc.

  7. #9 Says:

    Sage advice from a wise man.

  8. Rustmeister Says:

    When I got that advice, my mom chimed in “and if he’s bigger than you, grab a stick and wail on him”

    Of course, if I were to tell my son that, and he did it, I’d most likely lose custody and go to jail. As it stands, it’s just the Dadly advice now.

    And, I’m with the majority. Bullies most definitely serve a purpose. In addition to all above, it also teaches people that there will always be someone who doesn’t like you, no matter how nice you think you are.

  9. Hooz Says:

    I gave similar advice to my oldest son. His first response was he would get in trouble with his teachers. I told him that yes, his teachers wouldn’t be too happy, but that I would back him up and they’d get over it. Also, the bully would most likely leave him alone afterwards. He liked that part.

    Bullies do serve a purpose.


  10. countertop Says:

    We moved between2nd and 3rd grade into a town that was pretty much rural and blue collar. The fact that we purchased a lot in what was going to become the “rich side of town” made me stick out like a sore thumb when I showed up to school that fall. I was pretty quickly pounced on the first week and my father – being the former green beret he is – took me out and purchased both a punching bag and a speed bag and gave me an intensive weekend of fighting lessons. He also told the mayor what had happened (the mayor was the one who was trying to develop the town and the jerk who beat me up was the son of the mayors former political opponent who had been strongly opposed to newcomers).

    Needless to say, I broke Jeff’s nose with one punch Monday morning sending him crying to the nurses office. Wasn’t bullyed ever again.

  11. Chris Byrne Says:

    I was never bullied, though some idiots tried; because I was bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, and MEANER, than jsut about anybody who wanted to set themselves up as a bully anywhere near me as a kid.

    This is what happens when you are the size of a third grader when you’re in Kindergarten, and a full grown man (6’2″ 265lbs) by sixth grade.

    I was instead the anti-bully. I would beat the hell out of any kid who was bullying other kids. I figured it served the bullys a useful lesson: Remember, there is always someone bigger and meaner than you.

    Of course I would let the bullys target get a LITTLE bit of bullying first. After all, we cant go around teaching people that the big strong guys will come to the rescue without you ever getting hurt now can we.

    Oh wait, isn’t that what they ARE teaching all these little idiots being raised today…

  12. _Jon Says:

    My son was 13 (last year) when he got sent home for pounding the bully on the bus.
    He’d been complaining about the bully for a bit, listing minor annoyances to him and others.
    I just told him to beat his ass. So that’s what he did.

    And he got an adult-rated game for his XBox to pass the time off from school. 🙂

    Kinda related – I’m an adult bully.
    In many situations, I use logic and reason to make my point. But in some situations, that doesn’t work. So I will lean in and make a forceful statement like “Well, this is what I’m gonna need you to do.” It’s pretty effective. But that’s just the way it is. When I need something and I’m tired of talking, I use intimidation. :shrug:

  13. t3rrible Says:

    wow. I was going to make the same comment as Jon. I am forced alomst daily to be an adult bully. It is amazing how hard it is to get people to make a decision and stand behind it.

    I was on the Chris Byrne side of the argument most of my life right through college. I am firm in my belief that if you can walk away do, if not then don’t stop until the deal is done. I think I got more jacked up over stopping or preventing a fight, especially in a college fraternity, that actually being in and winning one. Usually by just using my size to explain to everyone involved that I would end any fight started. And not the way they would like.