I have decided that there is a good chance bullies in grade school grow up to be bullies as adults if not redirected early in life. I recently had a maddening encounter with a grown-up bully. I was at an intersection, stopped about 5 cars back from a red light. To my right was a small cross street. Cars at this cross street usually wait until the light at the larger intersection turns green and the traffic clears before safely exiting onto the busier road. Well, apparently the driver of a brand new Lexus sedan didn’t like that plan.
HONK! HONK HONK HONK!! HONK HONK HONK HONK!!! The series of urgent honks from the car got my attention, and I immediately thought something was wrong or he was in trouble. This was so not the case. I observed a man in his late-50s urgently motioning for me to back up, in between his fervent honks. It took me a moment for my brain to register that he actually wanted me to reverse my car so he could cross in front of me and turn left. Glancing into my rearview mirror I saw two cars closing in on my bumper. I knew that if I backed up there was a good chance the car immediately behind me would hit me. I looked at the man, who continued to honk and motion, and held my hands up, then pointed behind me to the approaching cars. This was obviously not the response he was looking for from me, because suddenly the gray-headed bully came barreling towards me, clearly determined to make his way into the road and force me to back up. I couldn’t believe what was happening. In that moment, I realized the car was going to hit me if I didn’t move back. My instant reaction was to quickly move into reverse as his car wasn’t slowing down. I braced myself for impact from either the front or rear. The shocking thing was that this bully apparently decided he had no regard for my situation and selfishly wanted to move through. I backed up at exactly the same time he literally came whizzing by, barely missing my car. As he moved past me, I looked directly into his eyes and met the face of an angry person. He glared back at me as though I had done something wrong. The nerve of that man. Thankfully the car behind me was paying attention and slammed on brakes, avoiding my car.
I had to pull into a nearby parking lot to compose myself. It was difficult to process how someone could be so obnoxious. So much a bully. It would have been different if he approached it differently, if he had sincerely been in a hurry for some urgent reason. I didn’t detect any remorse or emotion that would lead me to believe he had anything going on other than a mean spirit and a bullying energy.
Later in the day, I thought about this incident again. It struck me that there was a good chance this gray-headed bully started his bullying behavior at a much younger age. I thought back to other bullies I had known in grade school, as well as those I have observed in schools and other environments with children. I know of several, and hope many more, that eventually chose a better path as they matured. I know, sadly, this isn’t the case for all young bullies.
I think it is important to teach our children about bullying behavior at a young age, and continue with this discussion all through adolescence. Not only is it important for children to recognize when they or people around them are being bullied, but to also recognize if they are, at all, exhibiting bullying behavior. Nobody wants to believe that “their child” could possibly be a bully, but it happens. It is the responsible, aware parent that accepts that their child isn’t perfect, and is willing to address it head on in a positive, constructive manner. Turning a blind eye or making statements like, “boys will be boys” or “girls can just be like that” are poor excuses, in my opinion, for not making the effort to be an effective parent. There are way too many stories in the news of the horrible affects of bullying. It must be stopped, the earlier the better.
If you are unsure as to how to address situations, whether your child is on either end of the bullying spectrum, there are many programs, books, and resources you can consult for guidance. I have included a few for your reference:
http://www.micheleborba.com (Dr. Borba is an an internationally recognized author, speaker, & educator on parenting, character education and bullying prevention)
Just for girls:
http://www.findingkind.indieflix.com/home/ (Information about the Finding Kind movie and the Kindness Campaign)
http://www.girlcharge.org (in the Piedmont area of NC)
Books for children:
What we are reading:
Me: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
My son: The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls (school summer reading :))
My daughter: When The Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little