I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.

Trigger Warning: Bullying and Abuse.

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by the kid who lived across the street. It started the day we moved in, and it continued until the day we moved out.

His bullying was relentless: I’d be sitting in my front yard playing with my Star Wars figures, and he’d come over and start threatening to take them, break them, hurt me, whatever he had on his broken little mind, until I either started crying or ran into my house. I remember riding my Big Wheel on my sidewalk, and this kid rode up behind me on his dirt bike, crashed it into my back, knocked my legs under my big wheel, and pushed me up the sidewalk until my screams brought parents out of houses. I had skin torn off my spine, and I still have two scars on my knees, and one on the top of my left foot. He shot me with his BB gun one day, narrowly missing my eye. The one time I punched him in the nose, he ran to his dad, who came out of his house and yelled at me. I remember being terrified that he was going to hit me, or worse.

This kid was abusive and cruel. If he’d been an adult, the things he did to me would have qualified as assault, but whenever my parents confronted his parents, nothing happened. I remember being angry with them for not doing more to protect me, but realize in retrospect that they probably did everything they could; this kid’s father was a gun nut, ran with bikers, had friends in the local police department, and basically got away with anything. Eventually, I just stopped telling my parents about my bully, because he’d just bully me worse when I did.

I don’t know what happened to that kid as he grew up. His older siblings were in and out of jail a lot, has father beat his mother, and I would be very surprised if anyone in that family went on to live a happy and fulfilling life. If I’m being honest, I hope that kid is in jail somewhere where he can’t hurt anybody else.

I haven’t thought about that kid in years — these aren’t the kinds of memories that I want to revisit — but I saw some people talking about stopping bullying on Twitter today, including this from Anne:

 

My son was repeatedly bullied by a kid in 4th grade. The principal made excuses for the kid such as “He comes from a single parent home.”

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

I couldn’t get any teachers, counselors or even the principal to stop this kid from bullying Ryan. The kid did it for years&it was horrible

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

The school finally did suspended the kid who kept bullying Ryan in 7th grade after having to pay for medical bills for Ryan.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

Ryan was shoved over a railing & hit his head,causing a concussion & whiplash. Because it happened on school grounds, they had to pay for it

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

No one should have to endure bullying. It shouldn’t take physical injury for a school to step in & stop years of emotional injury.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

Be a good parent, whether you’re single or not. Teach your child to love & respect themselves enough to treat others the same way.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

I was a single parent for years. That is the worst excuse for allowing bullying, ever. I told the principal that & he had no comment.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

My mom rant is done. #StopBullying

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

Anne and I are both sitting here, in our hotel in Texas, crying at these memories. Years later, bullying still hurts.

I also hadn’t thought about all the torment that Ryan had to endure, until I read Anne’s Twitter. I remembered how helpless we felt, how we tried and tried and tried to get someone at the school to do something — to do anything — to help our son, and how the school just made excuses until our son was seriously injured. The school didn’t care at all that he was emotionally abused, and never bothered to address the physical abuse until it cost them money.

The thing is, the bullying that Ryan and I both endured was entirely random. Though our experiences were roughly 20 years apart, they fit a pattern: We did nothing to deserve it. Some kid who was unhappy decided to make us a target, we were helpless to stop it, and the people we turned to who should have helped stop it either couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Just sitting here right now, remembering it, I want to go back in time and make that goddamn school, starting with the coward who was the principal at Ryan’s elementary school, do something about it, so I could save my son from suffering torment that he didn’t deserve, that no child deserves.

Ryan and I both grew up to be successful and happy adults. I don’t know what happened to my bully, but Ryan’s bully is stuck in the community he grew up in, working a dead end job. He looks miserable, and I’m not proud to admit that I’m glad. I hope he suffers for a long time. I’m ashamed to admit that whenever I see him, I want to hurt him the way he hurt my son, but it seems that life is doing that for me.

Who knows what that kid could have done with his life if he’d gotten the help he needed to choose a different path? Who knows how many other kids he hurt, because nobody did anything to stop him?

All people deserve to be happy, and all children deserve to grow up in an environment where they feel safe and free. Schools need to have clear policies in place to stop bullying. Communities need to make it very clear that bullying won’t be tolerated, and bullies — and their parents — need to be held accountable for their actions.

I often feel like Twitter hashtag things are great for making a lot of noise, but not very useful for actually accomplishing meaningful goals. I sincerely hope that this one will be different. Don’t just talk about how we need to #StopBullying, actually do something about it. Talk to parents and kids, live your life by example, and let’s break the cycle, together.

94 thoughts on “I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.”

  1. John Jerles @11:58: With respect, it’s not true that bullying is a fact of human nature. It’s a cultural effect. You can look at traditional cultures in South America, Australia and elsewhere and find cultures where that behavior is not tolerated, and is swiftly corrected when it occurs; and kids in those cultures don’t grow up persecuted by their peers for the most part.

    Which IMHO reiterates the need for clear boundaries and repercussions for bullies, and yes, their parents. Terrible parenting results in grown-ups with poor coping skills, who then have kids who grow up to be terrible parents because they can’t cope. It’s a vicious cycle that can be broken.

  2. I must admit, reading this post definitely struck a few chords with me that I’ve never been able to shake myself free from. Growing up I was diagnosed with a variety of things that landed me in an awkward position. One where I spent much of my time split between what was labeled as “learning disability” class for special education students and a standard classroom. On top of which, I had the distinct pleasure of spending a week or more every year away from home at a child evaluation center for every manner of testing or study they could imagine.

    Needless to say this lead to me being less than comfortable in either class. I was ostracized by both groups where one saw me as too capable to be among them, the others deemed me to inept to be an equal. I will never forget my first real clue that things were anything but right; when my 3rd grade teacher politely informed me there was no need in me even attempting to study cursive writing with my classmates. Instead I was handed private messages in the script to play delivery boy to other teachers with, knowing I was perfectly ignorant of how to read them.

    As I grew older I began to slowly become accustomed to a growing atmosphere, mixed environment consisting of being invisible, bullied, abused or considered simply a nuisance. Being raised to never strike a lady I even found myself forced to duck and roll frantically under bus seats with bloody noises to flee from younger female bullies. Even those I called friend, some who were also family members weren’t above joining into the violence and ridicule. By High school I had been assigned a rather painful nickname that followed me all 4 years to the point that complete strangers didn’t know my real name, they would simply bellow it down hallways thinking that it was what I was called.

    To this very day if ever I hear that single word it hurts me deep down to the point of making me irrationally angry. Because of such experiences I actually despised the idea of ever having kids of my own with whom might suffer a similar childhood. But I am happy to say I am a father of 4 beautiful and gifted children. And have made it a major cornerstone in their upbringing to reinforce just how wrong bullying is, that we have to stand up to it in all its form anywhere we find it. In fact, my oldest son has been cited with honors several times for taking steps to point it out in his school, to stand up for others being bullied and to be an example for his classmates. Which for me is a great honor, because much like Mr. Wheaton here, I am his step-father(although I’ve never used the term for myself, nor to describe our relationship).

    The pain of bullying scars one physically, emotionally and mentally – it never completely goes away. And it is all the more damaging when you are a child, who can easily be completely defenseless against others. We have to start standing up to those who bully and holding them accountable for their actions. And we all have to start making sure that we aren’t teaching the character traits of a bully at home as well. Its up to us to guide those who follow behind us or else we leave a legacy of continuing torment.

    Be responsible, be compassionate; stop bullying.

  3. When some boys at my son’s middle school began jumping him in the bathroom (the only room in the school not continually supervised), I tried going to the school. I got the usual assurances they would monitor the situation. He still came home with large bruises on this stomach where these boys beat him. Luckily, I was in a situation where I could move him to a different school. Thankfully that solved the problem. We were lucky that way.

    My own bully from high school sent me a “friend request” on facebook around the time of the 20 year reunion of our class. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me?” and just ignored it. But it does make me wonder what she was thinking…

  4. My child was bullied and I was told it was BECAUSE we were NOT a single parent family by school administrators. They don’t want to see reality since they would have to care – and I had enough of watching my child HATE going to school when she loves education. So I found a better place for her – she was homeschooled by professionals in an environment that didn’t allow bullying.
    I myself also grew up bullied and I was not going to let it happen to her. We were lucky that my father left enough in a trust fund for her education that I could keep her safe.
    My life as a bully victim made me learn to not trust people very much, I was picked on being me and having a sister with developmental disabilities…good thing is I learned how to beat people up early. Bad thing was I still self-ostracize in social situations.
    All in all, people are not parenting their kids and teaching right and wrong. My child was not taught bigotry and nor was I – but I do hate those who picked on me for being stupid fools.

  5. I’m glad you shared this. I was bullied as a child as well (for years). So it really hurt me when my oldest son started getting bullied in school. My are a military family, and we really don’t stay in one place very long, so the bullies can really zero in on us (or so it seems). I made a somewhat drastic decision, to pull my children out of school and homeschool them. I wasn’t sure if it was the best decision at the time, but I know it was now. Last year we moved to Washington (state), and we found a co-op. So now once a week my kids go to co-op and have classes with a lot of other homeschooled kids. My kids have wonderful friends, a lot of whom have dealt with bullying. All of us parents know each other and are not afraid to bring up any problems. Plus if you homeschool and are having bullying problems at co-op, you just pull them out and find a new co-op, or just sign them up for a class at the YMCA, and let them socialize there. Okay yes I know not everyone can homeschool, (or should) but I guess my point is, that if every parent would do their part, and teach their child to be kind to everyone, than we wouldn’t have to worry about this. I’ve always told my children that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, everyone, and they are to be treated as such.

    I also find it somewhat sad from the bullies point of view, because every child that has been a bully was taught to be that way, by watching someone else, and that someone was most likely the parent. A child only knows what he or she is taught.

    http://merandilegates.blogspot.com

  6. Please consider that teachers and school administrators can be limited in the extent of their interventions. There are many instances where we know with absolute certainty something is going on, but policies and procedures limit what can be done without first-hand witnessing of the bullying (or neglect, or drug use, other abuse). It is frustrating for parents, but keep in mind it is just as frustrating for us as well. We can’t fix everything. Because there are laws in place guaranteeing an education for pretty much everyone, prohibiting one of those everyones from that education is complicated. Teachers and administrators don’t like a**hole kids and parents any more than decent parents do. Most of us really are trying.

    1. Yes. I have been reading comments here and a lot of ideas have been put forward, but there is not an easy solution to bullying (if there was, I think we would’ve solved it a long time ago… no?). As a high school teacher, I am constantly frustrated that most people think the answer to stopping bullying is just to make the school do something.
      I was not a popular kid in school (too much Star Wars geek), but I was never bullied. I was always comfortable in my skin, I think, so not much of a fun target. I did, however, hate bullying and constantly tried to intervene in the bullying that I saw as a kid. Not trying to toot my own horn, but it always seemed so stupid that I couldn’t figure out why other kids tolerated it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I got in to teaching myself.
      But, it is not easy to be a solution in this position. Public education means I have to accept that everyone has the right to education and the biggest obstacle tend to be parents who aren’t willing to accept that their child is the cause of distress on others.
      I try to teach my students to not be bystanders. You have to stand up for others at all times and if we can remove the bully’s audience then we will achieve some success. I can only do so much as a teacher, the real power lies within the community. And right now I work at a school with a parent council of zero parents. EVERYONE has to make the choice to do what they can do to end bullying.
      In Canada we have a woman named Eva Olsson…. see http://www.evaolsson.ca … who talks to students about bullying and the importance of not being a bystander. She speaks from her experiences as a holocaust survivor… someone who survived the worst case of bullying the world has ever seen because no one was willing to stand up and say “Stop this”.
      We have to make a difference together.

  7. There are two common myths to deal with if we’re ever going to properly address bullying. The first is that bullying is something kids do, when in fact it’s people of all ages, in schools right up to university and in every workplace.

    The second is that all kids who are bullies were bullied themselves and/or have an unhappy/abusive home. There is another kind of bully that’s even harder to deal with, the kids whose parents shower them with praise but don’t properly discipline them. The result is kids with massive egos who genuinely believe others are beneath them and should be treated accordingly. By all means tell your kids they’re wonderful and special and can do anything, just remember to discipline them too.

  8. Unfortunately, I can relate to what you’re going through. I was bullied for most of my childhood because my bully shared a bedroom with me; however, I wore thick glasses starting in first grade, so I was generally everybody’s target. One day, when my sister and her pals were throwing stones at me across the playground, I picked up the rock she threw and threw it back, hitting her squarely in the mouth, knocking her front tooth out. Needless to say, only one of us got into trouble and it wasn’t her. My parents’ reaction to the constant bullying? Hit her back. Yeah. Well, that never happened.

    So when my daughter started a new school for 8th grade and started being bullied, I pulled her out immediately and homeschooled her. The school refused to do anything about it but I wasn’t going to let her go through one more minute of bullying. She graduated from high school with a straight A average in two years, finished her tech school before she was 18 and now, 10 years later, she’s been the longest-term employee at her company and has been manager since she was 23.

    Take care of your kids when they’re bullied. Listen to them and do whatever it takes to protect them; you’re their only protection.

    Thanks, Wil and Anne, for sharing.

  9. I was bullied as a child. Fairly new in the neighborhood …. the neighborhood bully used to pick on this other little boy …. he was my friend and she was a lot bigger than both of us. One day she pushed him and was really picking on him. I punched her in the nose …. the first time I had punched anyone in my life …. scared I ran into my house while she chased me.

    This was the beginning of 2 years of torment… hate letters in the mail box …. picked on so much at the bus stop that my Dad started taking me to school …. being the outcast of the neighborhood because I wasn’t in her “group”. She eventually moved. And our life went back to normal. There is no excuse for bullying.

  10. Most bullies are bullied themselves. I recognize this is the same point made about abusers, but abusers are adults, and as such are fully responsible for their own behavior. Bullies are (mostly) still kids.

    I’m of a mind that the solution is to rethink the whole approach to how conflict is handled by school officials, like these guys in Washington (state) did: http://acestoohigh.com/2012/04/23/lincoln-high-school-in-walla-walla-wa-tries-new-approach-to-school-discipline-expulsions-drop-85/

    1. I cannot thank you enough for the link you provided. I now understand why in spite of a high IQ, I had trouble in school. I got mostly shunned, and home was not a place I could get comforted. My brain was in constant turmoil, distracted by hypervigilance in either location. It wasn’t until I estranged from my parents, that I could start to create a safe place for myself to learn and make mistakes. It hasn’t been easy, because I have difficulty trusting new people. But I’m plodding along, and wish I hadn’t waited until I was 40 years old to cut the parental stronghold.

  11. My brother was bullied when he was a kid by a boy that lived across the street from us. This was back in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s—way before the term ‘bully’ even existed the way we use it now. No T-Shirt slogans, no posters hanging in the school halls, no campaigns, no support whatsoever. My brother was forced to ‘just deal with it’.
    Both of this bully kid’s parents were alcoholics and the father was also a wife beater. I can’t even imagine what kind of life that kid must have had but, now that I’m older, I get it and have a better understanding of why the bully kid did what he did. That does not at all, in any way, excuse his behavior for the things he did to my brother. It has more to do with the adult understanding that I have now and how parents are the only reason, both good and bad, why kids turn out the way they do. I heard recently that this former bully kid had also been in and out of jail over the years. My first reaction was to say, ‘it serves him right’. But, that reaction was immediately followed by my heart saying, ‘poor guy, he didn’t have a shot in hell of turning out any other way’. There is no greater influence on a kid than the kind of home they grow up in and what their parents expose them to day in, day out, every single day.

    We eventually had to move out of the neighborhood for my brother’s sake—either that, or he would have died. The last episode was the bully taking a hammer to my brother’s foot and hammering a nail in it. We sold our house and left the neighborhood a month later. With that kind of behavior coming from a child, you know there is no snowball’s chance in hell that you are ever going to be able to reason with his parents.

  12. This post really struck a chord with me, less than two weeks ago the results of bullying turned my family’s world upside down. Our society needs to change, this sort of behavior needs to be ostracized and there needs to be real consequences for bullies and their parents, no more of the “boys will be boys” BS. I look forward to the day when there is zero tolerance for bullies (and their parents), and no parents ever have to visit their bullied child in the hospital.

  13. Bullies generally need to have their asses kicked to gain needed perspective, but I’m ashamed to admit that whenever I see him, I want to hurt him the way he hurt my son, but it seems that life is doing that for me. runs a close second.

  14. I don’t remember much detail about my pre-high school years. I was bullied a lot though.. so much that I nearly failed grade 8. I had no idea how close I came actually until my mother told me many years later what happened. Apparently she went to the principal and my teacher and gave them a very sizable piece of her mind, because they were doing nothing about it up to that point and it clearly affected my school work.

    That’s about all I know as far as details.. go mom. :)

    I was very glad to leave that school. I recall on the last day when everyone else is crying, hugging and signing year books I was wading through the crowd counting the steps before I’d hit the door and leave. On the upside I moved on to very enjoyable high school years with none of these problems.

  15. I hate to admit this, but it’s something that everyone should know. I’m a monster of a different breed. I have a deep seated hatred of bullies, and those who stamp on the basic human rights of others. I believe, firmly, that a bully needs to be taught…and if there is no one to teach them to stop their ways, then it’s time to crush them. Break them until they understand that it will be a LOT worse for them than it could EVER be for you.

    They say you cannot solve violence with violence, but the truth is: No one has ever won their freedom from oppression with a strongly worded letter. A bully, regardless of how or why they became one, is nothing more than an oppressor. Peace is a wonderful notion, but impossible. It’s time we understand that sometimes we will meet people that words alone cannot reach. That sometimes we have to stand for what is right, and FIGHT.

    “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill

    I live by my own code of honor. It’s a strange code, and doesn’t allow for black and white. Just truckloads of grey. My code defies “karmic punishment”. Because it doesn’t always work. Wrong is wrong, no matter what’s wrong with your life. I understand where bullying comes from. Lady and the Tramp mentioned this, though I did not understand it when I was younger. In the pound, the large grey dog, “Miserable being must find more miserable being, then he’s happy.” What this means is, a miserable person has to find a more miserable person than themselves in order to feel good. And if they cannot FIND one, they will MAKE one.

    This, however, does not excuse bullying. If you cannot respect the rights of others, do not expect YOURS to be respected. No one’s ever thought of this before, but the Golden Rule is actually a very vengeful rule too. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This tells me that a person bullying others desires being bullied in return. If they don’t want to be treated like that then, perhaps, they should start treating others with respect.

    “I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.” ― Leo Rosten, Captain Newman, M. D

    Perhaps I, too, am cruel. Perhaps this makes me weak. But it is a weakness that feeds on the weakness of the cruel. A cruelty-cannibal, if you will. Maybe I’ll have to live with that forever. But I would rather be cruel to the cruel, than allow them to snuff out the innocence and life of another. Feeling better about your miserable life is never an excuse to wrong others.

    Let all bullies be forewarned. If I see you, you will pay your pound of flesh.

    I think I’ve ranted long enough, and I’m sure I seem quite insane to others. But know that I will protect the rights of men, women, and children, for as long as I draw breath.

    I grant my warrior’s prayer to those who have lost their lives to bullying…whether by one’s hand or their own.

    “The universe has accepted her own back home again. May their dreams, memories, and experiences be shared among the cosmos, and may they live again in whatever form they desire.”

  16. I had very similar problems as a kid. They contributed into some fairly severe problems over the next several years with school. I was bullied by several people, often in front of the adults who were supposed to be watching us during recess / lunch.

    Fast forward nearly thirty years. Now we have Facebook, and the worst of the worst contacted me a couple of years ago and apologized. I’m still not quite sure how to take it, because he was one of the things that defined my early childhood. But I accepted the apology, and glanced at his profile. People seemed to hold him in fairly high regard, he had seemingly well adjusted kids, etc.

    But the thing of it is.. growing up, I always wanted to get him back. Make him stop. Well, he died a couple of months ago. I don’t know that I’m sad, but I can’t reconcile it. I’m certainly not happy about his death.

  17. It is not really fun when you are the one that is being bullied. bullying has been the most common issues that is present in every school throughout the world, most of the bullied students suffer from not just physical as well as emotional and psychological distress, this could lower the child’s self esteem and confidence. Parents should always make sure that their children is bully free, they must ensure their child safety and security towards this common problem. So I also suggest a safety application that your child could use if he/she in trouble, just check it here: http://safekidzone.com/#!/page_home.

  18. I was bullied as a child by a neighbourhood boy; I wore thick glasses from age 4 and full length braces on my legs at age nine. I was viewed as a ‘brainiac’ by this kid, who towered over my by several centimeters. For my 12th birthday I was gifted with a lovely suede jacket from my Gran and Gramp; this vile person followed me home from school, spitting on the back of my new jacket until I could take no more. I whirled about and used my crutch as if it were a bat and cleaned his clock before getting away from him as fast as I could manage being loaded down with 40# of metal. He had the nerve to grasp my rucksack and fling me in to the street face first. My older brother saw him and made him one with the sidewalk. Mum and Dad engaged a solicitor to make his parents pay them for my broken glasses which in 1968 were a very, very dear 150 quid a pair. Unsurprisingly he ended up in prison by the time he was 16.

  19. Reading this entry and the comments made me profoundly sad. I’m in my late 50s and I was bullied too, though it was more the shunning, emotional type. When we moved to my street when I was 5, my mother and I walked down to where some kids my age were playing and we asked them if I could join in. They asked me what religion I was, and we were shocked. They added, if we weren’t *this religion* we couldn’t play together because they would burn in hell. This went on through high school, as this is what their church taught.

    Then, my father took a part time job as a police officer in our township which I was in 4th grade. (He eventually had three jobs at the same time, and my mother had to work too.) This was during the Vietnam and Kent State era. I was called ‘piglet’ and ‘narc’ even though I was severely shy by then and rarely talked to anyone. In middle school, I had things stolen out of my gym locker because they thought it was funny to steal from the cop’s kid. In high school, my father got assigned morning security at the school, and had to deal with smoking and loitering kids etc., so I was constantly glared at. Or, he’d had to ticket or arrest someone/’s parent, or even a teacher, for DUI or whatnot.

    To say I was not popular would be an understatement. I never got invited to anything. And I had two friendships along the way that I found out later thought that they wouldn’t get into trouble for shoplifting while my father was security in the store.

    And the worst part is, home was no picnic either. My father could be verbally abusive. His father committed suicide, and any time something hurt my feelings, or I was trying to learn and having difficulty, I got made fun of or yelled at. As if, ‘if someone you loved didn’t kill themselves, you have no problems’. And perfection was expected. If things weren’t perfect, something bad might happen, which is an epiphany I didn’t have until after I estranged from my parents. I couldn’t learn anything while around them because I was always afraid of the next verbal assault, and my mother did nothing to stop it. ***Thanks to the commenter here who posted the link about the school in Washington State. NOW I understand why in spite of a high IQ, I had trouble in school. I was afraid to be there, and to go home.

    I had another thought as I read everything from everyone here. It’s just not the physical and emotional pain felt at the time. It’s also missing out on living life like one’s peers because of fear or sadness. We didn’t go to the parties or games, couldn’t have a fun lunch period with friends. I still grieve for that little girl and teenager. Because she was taught and held up to such high etiquette expectations, it got her name-called and left out. Except at home, it wasn’t good enough, because if I was getting left out, it was MY fault. And I was never allowed to explain it was because the others were doing things I wasn’t allowed to do, and the others didn’t get that I would get in such trouble at home…

    Vicious circle anyone?

    I know that all these things made me 1) not care what religion someone is, 2) not care about what someone’s father did for a living (or how many jobs at the same time) to keep a roof over their head, 3) be a safe place for someone to DISCLOSE their troubles, 4) be compassionate to sometimes an enabling fault. It just gets hard when I hear someone reminisce about all the good times they had in their past. It hurts, because there isn’t anything I can chime in about, all the years later, and I still can’t participate, because the brainwashing of ‘don’t discuss home’ still holds me captive.

    Things need to change.

  20. I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I hope you do. This is something that has bothered me for years, and I’m thankful to share it with the public. Please don’t be afraid to call someone out for treating you wrong…..no matter how old you are!

    One thing I think we overlook, is Adults get bullied, just as much as children do. And people in a position of power, either just don’t care, or don’t want to deal with the “paperwork” that comes from taking action against a harmful person.

    My husband is a hard worker. He will go through hell and back just to make sure we have a safe and secure home. He was unemployed for almost a year (back in 2008) and finally we caught a break. A produce warehouse called him and said they wanted him to start immediately. Full time, good pay, benefits! We were so happy….but the work place, was horrible. He would come home looking so beat down, and depressed. But he kept pushing on, because it’s what we needed at the time. He even got promoted to lead of his area (The Banana room!) And I couldn’t be more proud.
    Until one day, my husband delegated some work to a co-worker…who was appointed under my husband, to do what he was told. When he was told to do something, he looked at my husband and said “No” (He was sour because he was twice my husbands age). So he repeated what he told him to do….again the man refused. When my husband told the man he was going to go to HIS manager to report this insubordination, the man pulled a knife….a KNIFE on my husband. Told him he wanted to stab him….and if he couldn’t do it inside the warehouse, he would need to “watch his back” when walking to the car that night, because he would kill him in the parking lot if he had the chance. My husband was scared. He went to his manager,and told him what happened….the manager had someone escort my him
    to his car, and saw him safely off the property. When he came into work the next day…the man was still there. They were both called into the office, and told to Shake Hands. Get over it. Be Men. If my husband didn’t comply….they didn’t want that kind of drama…and he would be let go! It made me so mad…and we couldn’t do anything about it.
    He left that place, and we struggled for a while, but I wasn’t going to have him put his life at risk, because some violent bully, didn’t want to do what he was told. And the manager didn’t feel like doing the paperwork (Plus, the “knife man” was a cousin) to fire the guy….so he got to stay. People make me sick, and I am usually ashamed to be human.

  21. I’m so sorry to hear about both your bullying and your son’s and I couldn’t agree with you more. I was also bullied and I also still suffer from the pain of it. I couldn’t help but wonder how you got through and over it.. Were your parents loving and helpful? Did the career stuff help?

    Speaking of

  22. Mr. Wheaton, thank you for writing this article. I have survived more than 20 years of bullying by my twin brother. I find myself in the same circumstances and yet slightly different circumstances than everyone else. I’m now 32, but I haven’t found closure yet. My twin brother only quit bullying me a few short years ago when he took a job as an airlines pilot in Denver, Co.

    It seems as though I was in the perfect storm to be bullied and this is probably why the problem has persisted for so long. On weekly basis I have troubling memories and thoughts that are triggered by random things like driving down the road, or maybe noticing a specific object, or hearing a phrase will trigger these memories. I’ve seen where some people have referred to this as irrational anger and that is about the best description of what I feel when I am reminded about something my brother did to me. My twin brother has berated me, insulted me, stolen from me, lied to me and about me, assaulted me, and done so much to me over the years that if you named something like an object or place I could provide you with a story associated with his bullying. The problem is that he was always protected by our parents so I wasn’t allowed to stand up to him without getting into trouble. Even my father felt I should be more like him because he felt that there were things inferior about me. My parents were provided with the idea from our 6th grade teacher that I was being the victim for attention. What actually happened was my brother would bully me at home then provide the kids at school with daily information in order to continue the bullying at school. Then he would bring it back home again and the cycle would repeat. Since this was a private Catholic school there was no incentive for the teachers to discipline the students whose families had made sizable donations. Also, I think it was easier for people just to ignore the problem than to actually deal with it. Since my parents never saw a problem they never pushed the issue. Eventually it was decided that I was just not very good at school and it was only kids being kids and not bullying.

    So the abuse continued and my brother perfected his technique into driving our parents against me. He would always manipulate facts and fabricate something just to make me look bad. Even if it was something simple like trying to make a case against me that I spent too much time in the bathroom or that I believe in god wrong. For some reason my father always backed him and he could never do anything wrong. My brother could lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate facts in order to make me look bad to our parents every chance he got. Then he would attempt to bring things up randomly in conversations with other people to emphasis how stupid I was and how awesome he was. He always loved attention and he did whatever he could do to get it. Then with his showmanship he was provide all the information he could to show how great he was, how the teachers loved him, and how hard he worked to maintain his 4.0 GPA. Most of the bullying from the other kids stopped in middle school and high school because everyone thought I was a nice and friendly guy. I would stick up for many other kids and defend them the best I could against other bullies. Most of the students, not the teachers, saw through my brother’s disguise and saw him for the person he really was. According to him everyone loved him in high school. In reality, not too many people cared for him because they felt he was arrogant.

    As adults you would assume that the bullying would stop. He continued to manipulate our parents and continually manipulated facts to make me look bad to my parents. He continued to lie, cheat, steel, and run my name through the mud every chance he got. He continued to call me stupid and other inappropriate names that I can’t repeat in a public forum. I believe he continued this because there were no consequences for him. I think because he put out this persona that he was just a good boy who got a 4.0 in school that he would never be a bully. I think he knew what he was and that’s why he went to great effort to hide his actions to our parents and to put doubt in their minds about me when I told the truth. Whenever he was caught he played off things to our parents that we were just fooling around, and to me he always gave me the same excuse of “oh, I didn’t think you would mind.”

    I think it was easy for my father to inadvertently help my brother bully me because he was a bully himself and my grandmother, his mother, was a terrible bully until the day she died in her late 80s. She picked out certain family members as favorites and gave them special privileges and then treated the others terribly. She treated strangers and people she was supposedly friends with so nicely. I would always hear how my grandmother was so nice and that she was such a neat person. They never knew the truth. I have seen the same behavior partially in my father , but my twin brother is just as bad as my grandmother and in some ways worse. I have confronted my father and my brother with evidence, but they just treat me like I’m crazy and that I have drawn the wrong conclusions and dismiss everything I tell them.

    My relationship with my father, who is now 83, is better but it hasn’t totally healed. He has mostly apologized for his favoritism of my brother, and has tried to do better. My mother has apologized too for not being there for me and for thinking I was trying to be the victim for attention. They seem toas have been totally clueless to the severe bullying I encountered from my brother and they have trouble comprehending just how much I was forced to endure. It’s hard to break all the bad habits he learned from my grandmother. What’s bad is that my twin brother feels no remorse. He feels that I have fabricated these stories and that we have always been good brothers. I have cut off all communication with him and I only see him once a year at Christmas.

    I wish I could say that I’m healed. Maybe I’m stronger now because of this. I have accomplished so many terrible things despite being beat down by everyone around me. I have achieved my Master’s Degree, led troops in Afghanistan, and I am happily married. I have survived a lot and my only advice to people is that you will never forget the bullying, you may never forgive person or persons, but you can survive to make a difference to the other people who need your help in dealing with their own bullies.

  23. A week after this blog posted, a situation I’ve been dreading for 10 years finally arrived: my little brother is being bullied. He’s an eccentric child, to say the least, and an amazing little guy at that. Of course, this leads the bullies to call him ‘gay,’ amongst other things. As a 10-year-old, this makes no sense to him, and whether or not he grows up to be gay is entirely beside the point. With the 18-year age-gap between my bro and me, I can’t exactly do what I’d like and show up at an elementary school dressed like a biker and threaten to murder the little heathens. I’m also hesitant to get their parents or the school involved because, at least back in my day, it either didn’t help OR made the bullying worse. I don’t imagine you’ll read this, Wil, as this is an older post, but if by chance you do (or if any fellow bloggers are reading this now,) I would very much appreciate any advice.

    And as an unrelated side note: when I initially tried to post this comment last week, a mean little message popped up alerting me that my IP address was blocked, and I thought, “ok, you know all of those stalker-y comments I’ve made are jokes, right?” Anyway, lovely blog and all that. Cheers.

  24. I was recently on the other side of this. My kid was the bully. My husband and I took him to a therapist, had him evaluated at his preschool by a the local public school, and talked to our pediatrician. We got a whole (figurative) bag full of strategies and ‘tricks’ to use to get our kid under control. When I brought that bag to the preschool to share with them, the director said she would try them out.

    Well, I find out this week, she completely lied to me. She had done none of the strategies given to her and had even engaged in strategies that escalated the bullying. Besides my son, she has hurt every single kid under her care by neglecting to use effective methods and lying to me about it.

    It hurts my heart to read about people being bullied – and to hear in it some kind of implicit ‘blame’ against the parents.

    The methods typically, intuitively, used to ‘stop bullying’ actually escalate the bad behavior – especially in very young children. The director had decided, against recommendations from the parents (me) and the evaluation they had asked for, to ‘punish and shame’ the bullying out of my child. He is now in a worse place than he was at the beginning of our ordeal.

    I have (finally) managed to cut ties with this pre”school”. We have managed to find a preschool that says they are willing to use the methods that have been recommended. I do have hopes that he will overcome what’s been done to him. However, I worry about not only the time they wasted, but the damage they caused by giving him a ‘firm hand’.

    Please remember that these bullies are humans as well. Vindictiveness and anger will not solve this problem.

  25. Though looking back at the times I was bullied is always painful, sometimes I have to. My middle school years were hell. I was an outcast and I was bullied because I was different. I was a nerd. I loved sci-fi (this was when being nerdy was not thought to be “cool”) and reading.I always wore black. I only had 2 sort of friends in the entire school for all of middle school and every time I drive past that school, I wish someone would just demolish it- as if that would destroy the horrible memories. But it’s still there. An ugly building that brings up long pushed down torment with the teachers that didn’t care and turned a blind eye. It made me hate school. It made my life hell at the time and if I think about it really hard, I can remember exactly how I felt back then. Alone. misunderstood. hated for no reason. I was never mean to anyone. I tried to make friends and when that didn’t work I kept to myself and STILL I was bullied.I never understood why I was a target. It didn’t help that my home life was bad as well and I had no one to talk to. Not being socially accepted (and even worse, being bullied and humiliated) at school left an ugly scar, both physical and emotional. I fear the day my kids ever have to go to middle school. I have already began to tell them how it is never okay to make fun of someone( or hurt anyone for any reason)because they are different or not popular, that some people are born different and look different and that they should be treated equally. I don’t feel bad saying that I hope the kids that bullied me are in jail. I could have been one of those kids who turned to suicide and I almost was. No one should have to suffer any kind bullying.

  26. After reading this, I was transported back to my bullying experience back in elementary into junior high school back in Glendale, Calif, by the same 2 kids. I, just like Wil, have not thought of these 2 kids in 20+ years. They were the typical smaller kid that had to have an ape to shadow him to protect him. I endured a lot of humiliations through the years this continued. I was a smaller kid, on the verge of an asthma attach at the drop of a hat and just lived with it. Going to school authorities had no effect. I just learned to live with the day to day pushings, trippings, destroyed homework. This slowly built up a level of anger in me, which in retrospect I took out on others, friends, family, etc, that I know realize if things hadn’t changed, might have spiraled me into some type of bully later in life.
    My salvation came one day, while in the midst of a mild asthma attack, trying to cope with just making it to a class, getting pushed against a locker by the smaller guy, Ape laughing over his shoulder. After a few mins of dealing with it, I just snapped. By the time my fit of rage subsided, both were on the ground, small guy with a broken nose, Ape with balls somewhere up near his throat. I still don’t remember most of what happened. Thankfully, that ended their taunting of me, and hopefully of some others, but I don’t know for sure.
    I regret having to have physical outburst. That was the one and only fight I’ve ever had in my life. Thankfully this was at a time when a fight in the schoolyard was not the purview of the police, just school administration.
    Since then, my asthma is no longer a concern, I’ve grown to fill out a much larger body, but yet, I still feel that rage lurking, that I do believe manifested during these years of humiliation. Would I feel bad to learn they ended up in jail, the ground, I hate to say a little. As much as I don’t want any human being to suffer on this planet, even if of their own making, I shame myself by thinking these 2 deserve any fate they brought upon themselves.
    Is bullying ever going to go away, no. But there certainly needs to be steps taken to protect kids from a level of bullying that results in catastrophic events as we have seen all too often lately.

    Wil – I so admire how your life has evolved into the fun slice that it seems to be, with all you have been through all these years. Keep it up. Hope you continue to shape live and keep on inspiring others.

    1. You actually reminded me of something I’d completely forgotten from my past. It was middle school and there were these two guys that tended to bully anyone they could. Well, really it was one big guy and his smaller friend who was essentially the chihuahua following the bulldog. I’d sort of just dealt with it and, like you, suffered quietly since no one would do anything about it. Then I was with this new kid who I’d started hanging around with. He was kind of introverted, someone you could tell wasn’t comfortable in his own skin. One day he was the focus of the bully’s rants and shoving while we were heading to his locker and he just turned on the guy. The look on the bully’s (and his chihuahua’s) face was when I learned just how weak that guy was. He was still a physical presence and it didn’t stop the bullying but it did change my perspective of him. I felt sorry for him a bit…and I think he realized he lost a bit of his reputation as a result.

      These days, I too have grown a bit (to say the least) and I actually have asthma still (living in a house with rescued cats doesn’t help). I do sometimes think about those people who bullied me when we were kids but in the end, I figure karma will catch up to them (act like an asshole to the wrong person and oops!). But, honestly, I couldn’t care less. That part of my life is in the past and they’re out there doing whatever.

      Now, for me, it’s more about making sure people don’t fall victim to the same crap if I’m around. Violence isn’t a solution in most cases but unfortunately for some, it’s all they understand. I tend to be a lawful good sort of guy so I find ways to keep people under control through legal means. I guess in the end though as a victim of bullying, I prefer to focus on being more even-handed and fair (I’m not going to bully someone else in return just for the sake of bullying them back/revenge) but I’m more than willing to enforce the “law” and make sure no one tries to get away with bullying when I’m around. I just hope we can eventually make bullying as universally reviled as any other crime against another person…treat people the way you want to be treated. Not a hard rule to live by.

  27. I have a question for you and this lovely community. My 7 year old son (we will call him Beans) was recently on the school playground with friends who were playing football or tag or some other game 7 year old boys play at recess. Anyway, apparently one of the boys (we’ll call him Joe) became upset with the outcome of said game and began to beat on a few of the other boys. “Joe” kicked “Cooper” in the shins, turned and punched “Sam” in the face so hard he fell to the ground, then he turned and began to punch “Hayden” in the stomach. At this point my son, “Beans” decided that because no teachers were around and no one was doing anything he had to stop this kid so he tackled him. Of course, this is when the teachers noticed the commotion and “Beans” and “Joe” were sent to the office. Luckily, both told the full story to the very sensible principal and “Beans” was not punished as extensively as “Joe”. However he still had to sit out recess the next day as he “resorted to violence” to solve the problem instead of running to a teacher.

    My question to you is this, if “Beans” was your son what would you say to him? We have already dealt with it as we felt appropriate but I am curious as how others would deal with this. (In case it matters, I had to deal with a nasty bully when I was a kid. I am a grown woman and I can still remember the boy that would smack me upside the head with his textbooks on the school bus everyday. I hated that kid.)

    1. Hi Cristi, I’ve had to deal with a similar situation with my daughter, during middle school. She didn’t hit, she pulled a bully away from a smaller kid, and got sent to the principal for ‘getting physical’ instead of just getting a teacher.

      My response to her was that I was very proud of her for standing up for someone else, and that she didn’t hold back because she was worried about getting hit or in trouble. I was proud that she tried words, first, then got between the two kids, even though she is small for her age.

      I told the principal that I was proud she took a risk for someone else even if there were consequences, but that I wouldn’t support suspension if that was on the table (it wasn’t). I explained to my daughter that I always have her back, and if the school had gone overboard, I’d be at the front of a fight, but we agreed that the school had to still give her one morning detention because of the ‘no tolerance’ policy for laying hands on another child.

      We discussed that sometimes doing the right thing has a cost, either in a fist to the head, or a morning study hall, but that’s okay, because the fact that she didn’t turn her back makes her someone to look up to, and speaks to a strong personality and willingness to put belief into action, and makes me very proud.

      We ALSO discussed the fact that jumping in between combatants isn’t always the smartest or best solution and it turned into a ‘what if’ discussion regarding what if the person pulled a knife, or had lots of friends with them, ran with a gang, etc. I want her to be aware of when it is better to run for help rather than put herself at risk and find there are now two people in trouble with no one coming to help.

      And then I enrolled her in Krav Maga, which she adores. ;)

  28. This breaks my heart. While searching for something else I came across this and it pained me so much.

    I am mom. I have a 5 year old son, J. J is awesome. He’s weird and musical and nerdy and an absolute delight. He’s polite. He’s sweet. He wants to be Rory the Roman from Doctor Who.

    He also got bullied badly about a year ago in KINDERGARTEN. My son is American, but born and raised in South Korea. As an only child and one of the few children in the expat community he tends to be doted on. All of our friends are his friends. He’s grown up in a world where everyone is nice to him. Everyone wants to play with him. There is always a lap to sit on or a game to play. He gets to roll the dice when we play DnD. He gets ridiculous life-sized C3PO dolls for Christmas from his “Uncles”. So when the bullying started he had no idea what was going on.

    I was drying his hair one night. His pretty blond hair. So different from all of his classmates dark hair. He started to cry. Tears welled up in the grey green eyes that look just like his father’s. Eyes that are very different from all of his school friends. When I asked what was wrong he began to cry harder and beg me to dye his hair black. “My hair is bad and ugly.” he said. “My eyes are stupid and wrong.” My husband and I coaxed information from him. A slightly older child at his school had been hitting him. Shoving him down. Telling him he looked wrong and stupid. How could he see out of those eyes.

    In the first moments of hearing this mommy rage welled up. I seriously considered finding this five year old and beating him bloody. That he would do this to MY sweet, funny, lovable little guy. For no reason. Simply that my son looked different.

    My rational side took over and my husband and I talked to our son about how to handle it and what to do. But what can you do when a four year old wants you to explain WHY someone is pushing them down? How do you explain to a tiny child that it isn’t something they have done?

    We talked to the school. Excuses were made. “Oh, his mother left. His father drinks.” I am a teacher. I understand and sympathize with that. But it is NOT my child’s fault that he has two parents and a stable home. It is not my son’s fault that this child doesn’t. Why should my child be allowed to suffer?

    Things cooled down. My son stood up for himself. The teacher kept an eye out. The child moved on to the “big school”. But what about the future? The truth is, my son is slight. He’s sweet. He loves Dungeons and Dragons and Doctor Who. He is obsessed with Star Wars and Star Trek. He is never going to fit the mold of a “cool” kid. So what do I teach him? How do I protect him?

    I was never really bullied as a child in spite of my own bookish/nerdy tendencies. Because I had “cool” friends and a reputation for being able to hold my own with my fists. I don’t want my son to have to be a fighter, because it isn’t him. And I have worked hard to NOT use my fists to solve problems. I became a sharp-tongued angry person for a lot of years because I KNEW the world was gunning for people like me.

    Parenting is hard enough without having to fear what happens at the hands of other kids.

    1. Our kids were platinum blonde when they were in school, and we lived in a district that was heavily Asian. Our kids were bullied relentlessly by these little shits just because of the color of their hair. Unsurprisingly, the school did nothing, and we had to teach our kids to just repeat to their tormentors that they had no control over the color of their hair, but those bullies had control over how they treated our kids.

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