Are Antagonistic Relationships Healthy?


In a recent article from the New York Times, reporter Benedict Carey writes that new research shows that antagonistic relationships like those shared between a bully and the victim can actually enhance social and emotional development. The researchers do stipulate that the psychological impact of these relationships directly corresponds to the level of animosity and how youngsters respond to it.

Maurissa Abecassis, a psychologist at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire explains in the article that:

Friendships provide a context in which children develop, but of course so do negative peer relations. We should expect that both types of relationships, as different as they are, present opportunities for growth.

The researchers are not saying that hostile relationships are good for youth, though. There is enough evidence of the damage they can do, to include mental abuse, physical abuse and in extreme cases, murder and suicide. In their study, researchers found that 15 to 40 percent of elementary school children are dealing with at least one hostile relationship. The percentage jumps to 48 to 70 percent in middle and high school.

While the study concludes that most youth are doing fine, even with these high statistics, they also find that there is a smaller group that suffer from something they call “Peer rejection”. This is when a smaller group of children is so different from their peers that they deal with a larger percentage of bullying. This is interesting, because, while I never considered myself far different from my peers, I definitely dealt with more bullying in elementary school.

None of this makes the suffering of those who confront hostility any easier. The article discusses how the hurt is even deeper when two children started as friends and then it turns to enemies. I certainly know this from my firsthand experience with Robert R., a friend who turned on me that I discuss in several personal stories on this site.

The study really says that only mildly antagonistic relationships have any social or emotional benefit. Melissa Witkow, a psychologist at Willamette University in Oregon, conducted another experiment on the same subject. She says:

You have several options, as I see it, when you become aware of someone else’s antipathy. You could be extra nice, and that might be good. But it could also be awkward or disappointing, and a waste of time. You could choose to ignore the person. Or you can engage. When someone dislikes you, it may be adaptive to dislike them back.”

She says in the study that people tend to prefer balance and that shared antagonism has the same reactive benefit as shared affection. The only problem I personally have with this in theory is that you may be asking a person who is not, by nature, an antagonistic person to become one. What I have found is that, when you ask people to do something outside of their natural emotional comfort zone, they tend to do it to the extreme due to the discomfort. So where someone who has it in their nature to be antagonistic might do it mildly, I find that those who it is not in their nature do it to the extreme end, not naturally knowing where to limit it. So, I’m not a fan of this, but understand the root of the study.

Part of the theoretical benefit of this learned behavior according to the study is that having an enemy as a young person can prepare you as an adult to be able to find and avoid false or unreliable friends, because, according to the article, betrayals as adults are more harmful.

Personally, I have seen many of these studies come out recently, where they ask victims of bullying to behave in a way that might not be comfortable to them. I’m not sure what to make of them. Should we change our natural behavior instinct in order to pacify a bully? Do we start to get to their level and “fight back” in order to make it stop?  I have personally never been a fan of this for the reason I stated above.

I do “get it” though, that you can change a bully’s behavior and suffer less by adapting to these tactics. But my question still remains, do the victims change or do we try to change the acceptance of bullying behavior as a society?

93 thoughts on “Are Antagonistic Relationships Healthy?

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  6. Bullying is all the rage up here. The net of discourse surrounding bullying has been cast wider than in previous generations, and I think that is one reason there is such an increase in reporting of it.

    • I do believe that both the web and television have been much more focused on covering bullying. There is no doubt that people have started to do more studies to try to answer the why question and offer credible help in reducing the issue. I only hope that the advice given helps create an overall better society.

      • Regardless of our knowledge of knowing the answers, credible or not, the ideal behind it won’t fade away. In most cases, even confronting people, especially children is as much productive as it is counter-productive.

        I do agree with the first bit, after all it is always in our learning of both the good and the bad that makes us learn what we should do from a social perspective.

        Though I don’t mean ignore every issue regarding a “Bully” that is brought up, but it would seem as we grow the more hostile and dangerous a bully can be towards us both physically, and emotionally.

        As for your remark about advice, it is seemingly everywhere but as the probability of it becoming worse increases we need to invoke something more then just words of wisdom.

  7. It is an interesting point they bring up, but it doesn’t make things any easier. The thing is that people are who they are…a lot of times you can’t really change that. Kids will continue bullying no matter what and I suppose they are trying to find ways of dealing with it. But, everyons is different and it affects everyone differently. You can tell some bullies until your blue in the face that it’s wrong and they will still do it. I hate that and hope that it stops soon.

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

    • I agree fully with you, Raul, that kids who bully will continue to do so. I am very interested in how we handle these kids and help the kids who have suffered from bullying to avoid the long-term effects it can have. The answer lies there somewhere, but going too far might lead to “a clockwork orange” scenario, so we must carefully figure this out. I certainly hope we can find ways to stop it as well.

  8. well actually, bullying nowadays are something… cool, for some person. i don’t know why. maybe we were asking the same question this time.

    • One of the problems with giving bullying more press, Juno, is that some people will seek fame through bullying. While this is tough to understand, we can see this all the time.

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  10. A person can learn to deal with bullying, abusive language, and confrontations if they are willing to do that. Two people can work together to stop a bully who comes at the same person over and over. Really this is picking on the weaker person. Bullies do not pick on people they don’t think they can contend with. They choose their victims carefully, and I think most of it is preplanned. Sometimes the weakest turn out to be the strongest, because they learn to stand up to the situation on the inside. Then they can overcome anything.
    I was in a situation where I was being bullied in a job. Eventually I resigned with an 80 day notice.I left a good paying job, that was hard to leave,but really it was time to leave. The circumstances made me leave.
    Now I have my peace. I walk into a peaceful workplace now, that has much joy and laughter. I am happier than ever, and the pay is far less. I like it this way.

  11. I think many young people who experience abuse or other trauma from a young age can often be more resilient than their sheltered peers. This, however, is a big leap from saying that bullying is “good” for development; there are plenty of ways to learn social skills that do not involve violence. This was a great analysis of the report.

    If you wouldn’t mind, I would love some feedback on some of the bullying articles I have written at us.reachout.com/blog. Regards,

    40ozmilkshake

    • I do agree that we need some conflict in our lives to learn to deal with it as adults. But hamful or violent conflict as with bullies does not have to be that conflict. I will definitely look at your blog. Thank you.

  12. Well the first thing I think of is that any “problem” can make us stronger, or can help us grow, but It can also cause us to digress. What we do with the problem is all based on how we judge and react to the problem. I work a lot in finding ways to look at problems as actually blessings and this works for many people so in that sense bullying can make you stronger and better equipped to deal with difficult people. However, relationships effect your life, and rub off on you and who you become. The people we associate with greatly influence us, so any relationship that causes unhealthy emotions or dominion is not good, especially for extended amounts of time. Some people are in dating relationships with “bully’s” and this is defiantly not healthy for them. No amount of excuses or proper perspectives will fix another person. We can only fix ourselves so if the other person is unhealthy to you then get out!

  13. As a teacher I have seen that you can stop bullying. I have done it over and over but I can tell you it does not take telling a bully over and over that it is wrong, this will do nothing, it takes time and a lot of it, that is why you don’t see many teachers jump on this bandwagon, they simply don’t have the time it takes or the instinct or training to turn a bully around. In 30 years of teaching I have NEVER seen any benefit in any form from bullying behavior…for the victim or the bully. It would take a long comment here for me to describe what I do to stop bullying behavior but the bottom line word on this issue is teaching empathy…feeling(I dont mean conceptualizing I mean feeling) what others feel by relating it to the self. Because as we all know bulling behavior comes out of a form of insecure narcissistic behavior. I am not saying all bullies are narcissistic but they do have a difficult time UNDERSTANDING how others feel and feeling empathy themselves. When they “Get it” they actually start to teach it. I have at least 35 or 40 stories over the past 30 years of bullies I have worked with successfully and maybe 3 where all my efforts were to no avail, but those children were in situations themselves that was beyond true support.

    • Thank you for sharing your years of experience here. Empathy is one of the major keys to the bullying solution, whether that’s bystander empathy or teaching bullies to be empathetic. Once we respect other’s feelings, how we deal with others changes quickly. Unfortunately, it seems many youth struggle to learn empathy at an early age. Most of us learn, as we get older, that we want to treat others as we wish to be treated, because it soothes our souls.

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  15. I think I may agree with Melissa Witkow when she says it is better to fight back with a bully. I was bullied for around two years by the same girl and her friends, and did nothing but ignore the problem, hoping they would go away if I said nothing and didn’t react. But they didn’t. They found it so easy to carry on with what they were doing because I wasn’t stopping them.
    But at the same time, I do agree that some people may not have the confidence or level of self-belief to fight back. I myself was one of these people. I never said anything because it wasn’t within my comfort-zone to do so.
    In the end, the problem was only solved because I informed teachers, and moved schools. So, you could say that they won, because I had to move from a place that I was otherwise happy with. I still regret today that I didn’t turn around and retaliate.

    • I too wish I had acted and reacted more quickly and appropriately. But for me, that would have had to have been taught at a time when bullying was viewed as “kids being kids” and part of the ritual of growing up. I think we are turning a corner and that belief is slowly changing. At least I hope.

  16. Bad experiences provide excellent lessons. Whether it’s a failing grade on a test, a fall off a ladder or a beating from a bully, adrenaline enhances learning.

    Bullies teach us to be afraid, to feel insecure, but they also teach us survival skills, persuasion and psychology. It’s a little bit like a live vaccine that gives us a small infection that builds our defenses.

    I didn’t like being bullied as a child and it did some damage to my psyche, but I also learned things about others and myself that have helped make me more insightful and competent today. (As George Herbert said, ‘Living well is the best revenge.”

    Michael Rosenbaum
    Author
    Your Name Here: Guide to Life

  17. Bullying now is completely different than when I was younger. No one when I was in 1st of 2nd grade had a cell phone. Now I visit schools and they all have one, even if all it does is call home and a few other places. Texting, calling, IMing, E-mailing, Cyber bullying in general through social networking sites has become ridiculous. For my generation (I feel weird saying that) people would do name calling, maybe a push. Nowadays, people get into full on fist fights, and parents can’t let their kids walk home from school alone like people at my school did. I really wish there was a way to control it because honestly no matter what we do, bullying is never going to stop.

  18. This is a very interesting post, and really made me think about bullying in a different way. I do maintain that talking about bullying in this way holds a kind of distance from the people affected. Wether it is a person who is seriously being bullied or, as you say, people who are not being accepted by their peers, I can talk about it as a social norm all I want until it is one of my younger family members that is being hurt by this process. I loved the post, and thank you for really making me think about this issue.

  19. I found it interesting that the researcher suggests that sharing antagonistic feelings are as beneficial as sharing friendly feelings, due to balance. I’m sure the researcher meant this at an extremely low level, because I doubt sharing antagonistic feelings with a lot of people is a good thing. This reaction suggestion flies in the face of the traditional, ignore it or walk away suggestion.

  20. My friend Chris O. shared the following thoughts he had about this post with me via email:

    “My 2 cents. I do believe altering a victims response to antgonistic behavior is possible and healthy without fostering a bully’s livelihood. Learning not necessarily to fight back but absorb the taunts -physical and mental- as less painful to your core worth is key. Understanding the perpetrator’s lack of strength and their weight in the cosmic world of socio-pragmatic paradigms …hold on the zen will set you free…allows a would be victim to see bullies as small somewhat unenlightened people that really have not evolved. Empowering them with these thoughts allows the would be victim to overcome thoughts of persecution and possibly empower them to the point of a response. We are not souls in isolation we are alive in here .. We are alive in here.”

    • I recognize the title of the blog is bullying from an adult perspective. Unfortunately, too many people in this posting commentary are applying adult psychological tools to an issue that typically involves children. yes bullying does happen involve adults too. But wait a second, I have children and when I became a Dad I know they are not small adults they are children and asking them to be zen like and absorb an experience as a four year old who is being beaten by a seven year old…. Chris O ..what do you think?

      To help a child you have to see through the eyes of a child and they don’t want the pain.

      Being zen like is typically a priviledge of adulthood and rarely a bullied child

  21. One has to be careful with the “Zen” response that passivity often leads to increased violence against said individual. So sometimes, even a minor defense that isn’t passivity increases the likelihood that the bullying stops altogether. This is something rarely discussed today, but it does deal with the cold hard reality of the situation. Sometimes, one has to defend themselves in such situations or else it continues until the individual is practically laid worthless. That is not the end situation one wants.

    • I agree with Adron, that sometimes you must stand up for yourself. As a child I was bullied by a cousin and when I finally stood up for myself, the little creep backed down. So as my children worked their way through school, I encouraged them to feel good about themselves and stand up for themselves. My experience is that timidity attracts the bully, just like mentioned earlier. They do not pick on the kids they are scared of, they zero in on the likely victims. One of my kids was a bully magnet. Like a heat seeking missile, they’d find him. When he finally showed some strength and self respect, the bullying stopped.

  22. Indeed is a difficult issue. Most of the time kids keep it in secret for shame or even worse, they at some point feel guilty about it. I believe that we adults have the responsability to watch out for them, not all the kids around us have healthy relationships at home, or whatever they are raised. We the ones that notice are the ones that can help without invading their own world. Out of love, never out of rage. Good post!
    ~Great Love to you, thanks for the reminder,
    Mirian from peelingtheorange.

  23. In my opinion, bullying is a part of life (throughout school AND adulthood). I think that anything verbal can be thrown out the window. If it gets to physical contact, though, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I have been bullied myself just as most people have at some point in their lifetime. I do stand up for people that are being bullied, but I do not think the victims suffering verbal abuse have a real argument. Regardless, the bullies are, unfortunately, not going to stop.

    • I agree that I’m not sure we can stop bullying. How we deal with helping both those that are bullied recover from the psychological damage and help the bullies learn to adjust bad behavior is the key to avoiding long term damage from bullying.

  24. “Personally, I have seen many of these studies come out recently, where they ask victims of bullying to behave in a way that might not be comfortable to them… Should we change our natural behavior instinct in order to pacify a bully?”

    In short, yes. The bully/victim relationship is one that’ll never correct itself without something changing. The bully has no reason to change; he’s already in charge. Think of it less as making the meek into aggressors, and more about showing them their own worth in the world. Establishing the right to be treated as they desire to be treated.

  25. Bullying should never be allowed…. EVER! Yes, difficult situations do build your character and all children must learn to defend themselves and stand up for who they are- but outright bullying is emotional violence and should NEVER EVER be tolerated!

  26. My wife teaches 7th grade and let me assure you bully’s were much worse when I was young in the 60s. We moved a lot and being the oldest of 6 boys I had to fight at least one bully a year. In those days when you got in a fight the rest of the kids would make a circle around you and not let you stop so easily. It was no fun. Lots of these bullys do not change much when they get older. Many become very good in “business” where being a bully really pays. LaPazAcupuncture.com

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  29. Two of my friends, one of them now my best friend first and second year of highschool were enemies. The other is someone who I now often hang out with. I fought back, and after a while we learned to respect one another. Also we need to learn that there are people who are either bad, of just don’t like us. That is the world, and being bullyed (within limits and it differs with different temperaments) can teach us to be more assertive, and have what I like to call positive aggression, which is essential for leadership. It teaches you how to say “get this done by…”, or “this will not be tolerated”. It also allows young people to learn conflict management themselves.

  30. If you watch any TV sitcom or soap opera or reality TV show you will understand why bullying has increased. That’s where people are learning manners and interpersonal skills. A show like Survivor teaches kids that they have to have enemies.

  31. I too wish I had acted and reacted more quickly and appropriately. p90x dvds
    But for me, that would have had to have been taught at a time when bullying was viewed as “kids being kids” and part of the ritual of growing up. I think we are turning a corner and that belief is slowly changing. P90x Workout
    At least I hope.In those days when you got in a fight the rest of the kids would make a circle around you and not let you stop so easily. It was no fun. Lots of these bullys do not change much when they get older. Many become very good in “business” where being a bully really pays
    p90x Fitness

  32. I have a bully and I have to say I have learned and gained a lot because of what he put me through and what I had to learn to deal with. I handle situations much better now!

  33. bullying has something to do with the past experiences of the kids, traumatic incidents may cause this one I guess.A kid who comes from a family who doesn’t apply much discipline, and acts harsh : Speak harsh (swearing), aren’t open enough to differences in opinions, etc-will make kids become inferior.And somehow he wants to be listened, to have powers which he doesn’t get at home,and “amazingly” ( in his point of view) he can get all he wants as a kid(human) by bullying. Knowing that he is successful in bullying, he will keep on doing so.
    But I agree with you and some of the people here that having an enemy as a young person can prepare you as an adult to be able to find and avoid false or unreliable friends, because, according to the article, betrayals as adults are more harmful.
    It’s a great post, thank you

    • Usually bullies had their own issues / struggles while they were growing up (e.g. anxiety, depression, insecurity, family problems, etc.) . . . It is wrong to assume that bullying is a rite of passage. Physical and verbal abuse can definitely leave an an indellible mark on a person’s self-esteem.
      Victims of school bullying can be deprived of the level of education that they could have had because of physical and verbal abuse. At times the bullied kids contemplate suicide when they fail to understand that what they are going through is temporary (esp. if they already have low self-esteem and lack proper support system). Victims of school bullying might become driven to succeed if they come to realize that there’s more to life than HS and if they are surrounded by people who help them gain a new perspective in life.

  34. There are incidences of adolescent bullying that are more to do with group acceptance for the perpetrator/s than bullying per se on a one-to-one basis. It’s a powerful dynamic to be shunned by a group and equally, or so, to belong to one. You need not look any further for an evidential template than your average reality TV-show format, which is driven by the acceptance of a group through the exclusion of individuals.
    Anyone who thinks a reality TV show is a bit of fun should get themselves back in a school playground for a while.

  35. Bullying in one way or another comes from how children are raised …….what mom and dad saying is forming good deal of it……I believe in that like 80 %

    • The facts in many ADA cases offer examples of what is nowadays called workplace bullying. In one of those cases, Jacques v. DiMarzio, a factory employee with a long history of psychiatric disorder, frequently expressed concerns about work safety and poor ventilation in the facilities. She had disclosed her psychiatric condition to her supervisors when at one point she had to take a prolonged leave of absence to deal with depression-related health complications. The mental disorder did not affect the quality of her work, for which she consistently earned average to above average evaluations. But when the deteriorating ventilation in the factory room sent the employee to the emergency room and she reported the situation to one of her supervisors, her interaction with them changed to “poisonous” over the next several months. As the employee talked about the unsafe factory conditions with her coworkers and asked her supervisors about possible reasonable accommodations for herself, reports began accumulating that she was harassing and intimidating others, and that she had made several insensitive remarks to her Hispanic-American and African-American coworkers. Shortly before she was fired for being a problem employee prone to confrontations with her coworkers, the supervisor to whom she had originally disclosed her mental illness told her that she needed help and should see a psychiatrist.

      After exhausting her administrative options, the employee filed suit, which went all the way up to the Second Circuit. The court determined that the plaintiff was an actually disabled and qualified employee, whose requests for reasonable accommodation had been neglected by her former employer. The court found while she was not discriminated for her actual psychiatric condition or record, her employers had made the erroneous assumption that her actual mental condition must be determining the adversarial way she interacted at work.[

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  37. Bullying not only affects those two parties. It affects their peers around them as well in a very negative way. Sure it can teach you how to pick friends more carefully, but somehow I think the psychological effects out weigh the benefits. How do you think the kids around are affected when they see this happen. It teaches them to be complacent, bystanders, do-nothingers. That, I think, is the worst effect from bullying of them all.

    I have never been bullied in my life. Apparently, I was quite the rascal but it stopped on the first day of kindergarten. I have thought about this for a while and have come to the conclusion that this behavior should not and cannot be allowed anywhere at anytime. And should be eradicated at the source with extreme prejudice at any cost. If there were no bad people around, why would there be a need to pick your friends carefully?

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  39. I honestly can’t say what is the right/wrong thing to do when confronted with a bully. Maybe it depends on the situation and background of the bully/victim? However, I think it’s fair to say if you don’t confront your bully(s) in youth, you’re more likely to continue playing the victim as an adult with friends, boss, etc.

    From my own experience, I fought back against a bully in grade school with a single punch to the stomach. I’m definitely not a violent person, I guess the rage had just built up over time and I finally retaliated. Maybe it wasn’t “right,” but he never did bother me again after that.

    Natina
    My Blog: http://crosswordcharlie.wordpress.com/

  40. bullying no doubt affects the bully & the victim. though i find it quite a debatable issue. bullying may toughen up the mind or could break it. that doesnt necessarily imply that letting the bullying continue will do any good. sometimes, all thats required is actually, a fight back. i do agree that conflicts at an early stage in life do help one analyse possible relations better in adulthood.

  41. Whether it’s verbal bullying or physical bullying, both can take a bad turn on your emotional being. I guess, dealing with any type of bullying can make a person stronger. The person being victimized knows how to handle extreme actions and can form a different defence system against that.
    However, there’s a limit for everything.
    If bullying gets out of control… it can cause some serious tragic situations.

  42. Interesting post! Everyone has some experience with bullying and I liked the point you made about an exaggerated response from those whose instinctive reaction is not antagonistic. If bullying taught me anything, it was that not everyone can be trusted – a lesson that we all need to learn, no matter how hurtful it is at the time.

  43. I’m one of the victims of bullies. i’m not a kid anymore. all my life, i’ve been dealing with them and i hate it because i can never defend myself. that’s because of a simple fact that what they’re saying about me is quite true…i’ve been burying that pain within me for so long..but with the help of blogging, i’m able to express it through poems without having to feel hesitant…

  44. I think more studies should be conducted to understand what factors cause a child to become a bully. I think that there are both intrinsic and extrinsic factors involved, because children from the same family often turn out to have completely different characteristics; one may end of as the victim while the other turn out as a bully. Understanding what causes a child to behave in such a manner holds the key to reducing the cases of bullying.

  45. The remark on the extreme antagonism when ‘forced’ from a non-antagonistic person feels particularly insightful for me- as a non-antagonistic person, growing in hostile world. I myself have dealt with bullying inside my family (from siblings) and later on in the university and at work (the least in school). What has helped when I was a child and teenager was having teachers recognizing the abusive situations and extracting me from them. This has been helpful not primarily because it made it stop, but because what I saw and felt was acknowledged- that some people will bully (as opposed to the denial in my family) and so I could start in life with that truth (no matter it’s a sad one).
    As an young person and adult it is/was still very difficult (because I have been so much exposed to my family). The way to overcome this now is by inner acknowledgment, possibly reinforced by reaching out for books or by regular meditation. For a child I imagine that education is key and that education implies that parents or tutors have a deep understanding and a healthy perspective on aggressiveness and power relations.

  46. And yes, in fact, society trying to correct bullying closer to the source (in the bully) rather than dealing with it closer to the outcome (in the victim) feels more healthy. But since the big snow ball has already started is descend, both parts of the abuse have to be dealt with now, from ‘practical’ reasons: it may be that the dependence of a bully to the feeling of power or to causing pain is so deep or enhanced, that it may actually be more likely for the victim- if previously healthy- to be able to take and transform (adapt to) the hostility.
    The world we live in does not help to alleviate the addiction to power, it partially nurtures it even.

  47. What about when you start out as enemies, and turn to friends? Particularly as a small child, I remember that being powerful. The line between love and hate can be very thin and change instantly. In The Importance of Being Earnest, there’s a scene where two women who think they love the same man are instant foes. Until…
    Jack: I’ll bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.
    Algernon: Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first.
    I can’t speak for boys, but I find that girls, particularly when it comes to their feelings for men, can both intensely antagonize and then deeply bond almost instantly. Sometimes those bonds even last! I’ve certainly made life-long friends that way.

  48. Great post. The study does seem a bit absurd, though. Of course antagonistic relationships will develop a child- but towards what? All things in life facilitate development, I don’t know why they thought that was anything new.

    I wholly agree with you on the idea that asking a non-violent person to be reactively aggressive is just asking for extremes. Worse so if they have endured the bullying already and let the animosity fester. Not what I would see as a positive…

    Interesting discussion on the ‘right’ way to deal with bullying in the comments, though. I have to agree with ilinca, the addiction to power must be addressed in both parties. Practically, different situations will warrant different responses from the recipient of the antagonistic attention, just like in adult life- some bullies will get bored if you ignore them, or disempowered, or some will continue. It is important to know when and when not to use force… It is precious, but also neccesary in life.

    Recently, a few of my friends were beaten quite heavily in Windsor, Ontario (Canada). I wonder, if they had been taught to be reserved in their use of violence but not to boycott it alltogether (they came from ‘violence doesn’t solve anything’ families), whether they’d be better at protecting their lives as queer people now that they live in the real (adult) world.

    Just my two cents.

  49. “Do we start to get to their level and “fight back” in order to make it stop? I have personally never been a fan of this……”

    Since childhood bullies have attacked me, actually group-jumped me, and beat me to the ground—over and over again. I ran. Frightened to the heights, fear–the fluid in my blood—adrenaline—Whew! What bullies?

    Parents should visit the bully’s mother/parents. Often times their parents are not in the know. I did not allow bullies to interrupt my child’s happiness. I befriended them, gave them my personal contact information, and welcomed them into my life. I, then, corrected my child. Believe it or not, the bullies followed through. They came to me instead of harming my child.

    This is a very sensitive subject. It is everyone’s problem. In my opinion, many bullies have problems at home. They need to feel powerful, and, sad to say, many never grow out of it. They will forever be a problem for researchers. Research this: Every human being has the right to defend or to protect himself/herself.

    I read in Portrait of an American Marriage that President Obama reprimanded his bullies by explaining to them the error of their ways. No fight ensued, but everybody just doesn’t have it like that. We are living in perilous times. You have to be careful, but if you want to stop bullies from terrifying you, you must know the criteria—when it’s time to talk or defend.

  50. I was bullied until 8th grade for various reasons. I was too white at a largely Black and Mexican magnet school in Southern California, I was too nerdy, too good with grades, there is a list of “crimes”. I was fortunate enough to have parents who built such strong self esteem that I generally ignored the bullies. And let me tell you, GIRLS are the WORST bullies.

    In 9th grade the abuse stopped because I started talking Takewondo at my school. They offered it along side of dance, and PE. It wasn’t until midway through my 9th grade year that I had to defend myself by kicking the crap out of three black girls who jumped me on the way to the bus. After saving myself and putting three other girls down, I was never bothered again.

    My brother, 9 years younger then I went through something very similar. But his only lasted three days. He kicked the crap out of the biggest guy in school, the gang bangers, cholas, Vatos,and everybody left him alone.

    There is NO place for bulling. If I had been given the chance to study more, an not spend 75% of my time worrying about who was going to pick on me and beat me up that day for being different I would have done better then I did, even at 3.86.

    Bullies aren’t born, they are made.

  51. It comes down to the individual being bullied. Perhaps we need to strengthen the weak links, teach them better self esteem so the “stronger” wouldn’t have prey…~devils advocate

    • I can’t agree more with how bullying forms us. That’s what this site is all about, the Long-term effects it has on who we become. Thanks for sharing.

  52. Funny, isn’t it? That teasing, which can be perceived as bullying, is one of the ways we express love, especially within the family.

    It’s a form of playing. Even animals do it.

  53. I can understand this, but it still doesn’t make it right. Of course children can learn to ‘deal with’ bullying…if it’s an ongoing thing, then they probably feel as if they have little choice in the matter. I think that dealing with both positive and negative interactions helps to let someone see that there are both types of interactions out there. However, I don’t think bullying should become this “acceptable right-of-passage” type of thing. It keeps getting so much media attention, and there have been quite a few suicides reported lately (because of bullying). I think working with bullies and victims would be more beneficial than just working with one or the other; work with them to understand the power and underlying causes for their behaviors..and help victims to be able to assert themselves and not blame themselves for what the bullies have done to them.

    This is just my two-cents worth. I just think that bullying has seemed to get more aggressive, especially since it can not only happen just in school..it can be continued through online means (social networking, IM) and cell phones (texting, etc).

  54. I think, I believe, violence of any nature, has become as prevalent in our Society as it has, not solely because we’ve allowed it to go on, but because we have STOPPED doing something about it… it is so common, and seen so frequently in ALL media forms, we have become numb. Complacent and numb, we not only feel helpless to stop it, but overwhelmed by the sheer volume(s) in which it is presented to us. In sit-com shows, it is now more difficult to find a LACK of the teasing, and insulting aspects of relationships, which are depicted as being a sure sign that “everything’s okay”, and as long as we “take it lightly”, and give a little back, all is okay, it’s just the way it is, and if you can dish it as well as you can take it, all the better “our” friendship, the “truer” the Love, it’s “funny”, so why not?
    We’ve confused apathy for empathy, and are more concerned when one is not willing to join in the banter, than for the content of the “soft hearted” jibe we offer to Friends and Family alike.
    In fact, name ONE media based program that DOES NOT depict this downward spiral in our relational acceptances! I’d be willing to bet if you could, it would only be in reference to something of the distant past…
    We are all at fault. We allowed the degradation of our moral center to bring us to where we stand today: where violence is the rule, not the exception. From the smallest thing(s) as a verbal “jest”, to such extremes as “the U.F.C.”, we have not only accepted violence as a part of our Society, but turned it into that which we choose to immolate. “Oh, I wish I could spit out good comebacks as quick as S/He does…” or “Wow, if only I could fight like they do!” Gone seem to be the days, when our idols were the thinkers, Mohammad, Newton, Socrates, M.L.K. Jr., Gandhi, Einstein, Jesus, Buddha. The list could go on, but what’s the point. They are rarely mentioned in our Capitalistic, glamorized & sensationalized, media driven Lives. Charity and Spiritual growth are no longer profitable enough to be quoted on the front page of any Magazine, Newspaper, or Web-site.
    But hey, isn’t B.P. doing a good job of trying to asses and fix the minor problem being caused by the oil spilling into the Gulf?
    To this DAY, how much air-time does Mother Theresa’s Life get, versus the woman who died the same day… (Need I bother to repeat her name myself?)

  55. Just because “bulllying can build character” dosen’t not mean it should be allowed to happen. I am glad you were popular when you were in school, but not all of us were. In this past year, a girl in Amherst Ma, KILLED, yes, KILLED herself due to unbearable bullying and harassment.
    Respect unlike admiration, should be given, not earned. Also, bullying does not always stop once the kids mature into adults.

  56. There is an important distinction that needs to be made between ‘conflict’ with peers and the victimization that occurs as part of bullying. Obviously we all need to learn how to deal effectively in a world where we are going to encounter people who have different wants and needs to us but this is far different from having your self esteem attacked day by day with no solution that you can effectively implement. We need to be careful with suggestions such as these, lest we stray back into the territory of “manliness” requiring a little “toughening up” or blaming the victim for being a soft target.

  57. I have been thinking about this subject a lot lately. Never again will anyone ever feel so powerless as when one is at school. What’s worrying me is how bullies often learn their behaviour from teachers. I am currently trying to figure out a way to deal with a bully teacher. The problem is sorting it out without my child being victimised as she has to be in his class for the next 18 months.

  58. I’m not going to say I would’ve enjoyed being bullied in my elementary school days, but I DO think having to deal with some sort of kid-to-kid conflict would’ve taught me a special lesson: not everybody in the world can like everybody else.
    I grew up thinking that everyone liking everyone was the norm. Then I got to college, and had to learn the hard way that that ISN’T the norm. A person I thought was my best friend turned out to be saying mean things about me behind my back, turning my other friends against me, and accusing ME of being the problem. I was miserable. And it was the week before finals.
    It woulda been a lot easier to get a good, hard shove off the swingset in third grade than to be stabbed in the back by someone I thought was an adult, and a friend.

  59. My daughter Anya was a bully’s target last year when she was in Grade 1. She reported having her things: eraser, pencil, sharpener, “borrowed” and never returned by classmates. She is quite smart, and so the bully tried to copy from her. When she boldly refused to let her seatmates copy from her, the bully tried to convince her that “It’s alright to copy.” The bully also tells other classmates not to talk with or play with Anya. Good thing she didn’t come home with bruises or anything. Bullying among girls is quite different from among boys.

    One day, she told me that she gave a nice elbow shot at the bully classmate, complete with action. I saw in her eyes how happy and satisfied she was with what she did. I can’t help but laugh and be proud of my daughter.

    No, I do not like my daughter to be hurting anyone. But it was clear to me that the bully got too close for comfort. My kid just had to defend herself and push the bully away with one good swing.

    That act sent the message across that my kid is not gonna allow herself to be bullied. That’s plain, well-timed assertiveness. It’s not fighting back. It’s not planning to get even. It’s just a strong message for the bully to stop.
    And stop the bully did.

  60. Pingback: On the Yankee Station by William Boyd | World University Information

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