welcome to the dollhouse


Unlike gun control, the subject of bullying seems to be maintaining some traction in social media and elsewhere. Now we have a 12 year old girl who killed herself following a long reign of terror by schoolmates who even gloated after her death.

Yesterday, I read about a father who had taken to Facebook to denounce the bullying that preceded his son’s suicide, and was subjected to a barrage of nasty comments.

The two responses that bother me most are these:

“Kids have always been mean and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”


“Parents should monitor what their kids do online.”

Both are just excuses for maintaining the status quo, and the status quo is pretty fucking alarming.

I don’t believe that kids are born mean, or that bullying is a developmental phase that is hard-wired and natural. The old adage that Kids are Just Mean is as stupid as the injunction that allowed parents to beat their children with impunity: Spare the rod and spoil the child. We now agree that the latter is outrageous. It has been a slow change in our culture but nonetheless it is a significant shift in thinking and behavior.

I think that our culture can eliminate bullying by a concerted effort at home, in child-rearing, at school, and in legislation, to make it clear that bullying is socially unacceptable, period. Where it occurs, just like smacking your kids around, it should result in sanctions like fines or hearings in Juvenile court.

The opportunities for bullying have obviously multiplied with new technology. There are brand new platforms for bullying every day. Like the news cycle, the bullying cycle is now 24/7. There is no safe place for a kid unlucky enough to be targeted by bullies. You can’t just go home and watch TV to forget about it.

When I talk about cyberbullying with friends, they tend to blame the victim for going online or using their smart-phone. But that’s what kids do! Why should a kid have to give up this means of recreation to stay safe from other kids urging them to drink bleach and kill themselves?

A couple of months ago, I read about a programmer who had developed an algorithm that Facebook could use to raise a red flag for bullying or suicidal ideation. But guess what? Facebook was not interested. They are busy suspending users for posting depictions of nudity for other adult friends and followers. The safety of teens is a non-issue to Facebook. In fact, Facebook has just relaxed its restrictions on teen users, to compete with other forms of social media that are gaining popularity with that demographic.

Bullying is out of control. Most schools just give lip service to “Zero Tolerance.” This is clear in every tragic news story and in my own experience as a mom. We need to agree as a culture that kids are people, with the same rights to safety and dignity as adults. Kids can be fragile and insecure and kids can be angry enough about their home-lives that they seek relief by abusing someone they perceive as weaker. We need to intervene.



Thoughts, anyone?

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16 Responses to Bullies

  1. Heidi says:

    I totally agree with you on this one.

  2. Bessie the Cow says:

    Love you!! A brilliant post!

    I was bullied in grade school by a boy whose father beat the living crap out of him daily. He killed all my brother’s pets, including his homing pigeons, with rat poison. He just hated me and my brother for no reason in particular. He was a bloody terror. And I remember people saying, “He’s just a kid, he’ll grow out of this.” I learned 25 years later that he beat his own kids and his wife divorced him, and asked for a restraining order.

    My son’s tires where slashed in high school while 50 kids were in the parking lot and no one saw anything.

    It has to start with adults. They must learn and teach tolerance. There’s too much bullying, too many school shootings, too much violence in the world. People, kids live what they learn and learn what they live. It’s time to teach kids to live more gently, be tolerant, be resplendent in divergence, as the song suggests, to walk a gentle path, including standing up to bullying. Maybe it’s time to turn off the TV, the games, the phones and go out into the streets.

    In Canada there’s a movement to bring yoga, meditation, mindful awareness into the classroom. Kids seem to respond to this, calm down, and feel better.

  3. Dj says:

    I was bullied in grade school, three girls, a grade lower. I know how tough it can be. I don’t have children, but if I did and I knew they were being bullied in school, I would take names. I would call the parents and tell them to tell their kids to lay off. If that didn’t work I would go directly to the school, go to the classroom, find the little fuckers and raise holy hell in front of everyone. I am so tired of everyone being soooooo carrrreeeeful around teachers, parents and bullies. Can’t say this, can’t say that. Time out! Please! I was terrified of my dad and for good reason, he would not let anything like this slip by.sorry everyone who wants to “reason”with people who will only blame you.

  4. Haydee says:

    I agree with this completely. It has to start at home, with the adults. When the child starts socializing and interacting with other kids, the environment will play a vital role in the child’s character but we should remember that that environment is created by the kids themselves and however they were raised at home. So it still boils down to the child-rearing at home. And yes, I agree that it’s time to take drastic actions to stop bullying -making it clear that it is unacceptable and that there are sanctions for such behavior.

    It is very, very unfortunate that bullying which was already a big problem before social networking has now become even worse because online social networks have been used as another platform propagating it. And that it has resulted to suicide/deaths.

    The first time I’ve heard about the issue of bullying, I admit I was confused. I am from the Philippines and although bullying is not completely unheard of, it has never been serious here, too serious that it leads to violence and death. It’s more along the lines of some rich/popular kids in school feeling some sort of ‘entitlement’ so they say things that could hurt others or that they’d choose not to hang with those they see as weird and not like them. But this has long been the social dynamics. I’ve never heard of physical violence in school, trauma or suicide because of bullying in our country. That should make me feel lucky I guess. But my heart goes out to every kid and parent who are going through such terrible situations.

  5. Haydee says:

    To add, we cannot control the interactions our kids have outside the home so it is always good to keep a good relationship with them at home and keep the home a place for them to feel safe and happy. Being kids, they may not volunteer information as to what happened to them in school or if they were bullied, but as parents if we help them by giving them a good home where they can say things without being judged and where they can feel love, safety and comfort, it will help them with coping with external factors that could lead to stress, distress and depression. Leading by example, we can show them how to react to certain situations to control it instead of exacerbating it.

  6. Debbie says:

    I was bullied by a little Japanese girl who was a straight A student. All the teachers thought she was perfection but she was really a MEAN GIRL and I FUCKING hated her all through school. For many years whenever I saw successful Japanese girls (ala Kristi Yamaguchi) I wanted to gag. I know that’s terrible but it left a lasting scar. Probably because when I did try to tell my teacher that she was bullying me she didn’t believe me and told me to quit being a crybaby. This was in the 1960’s … a gazillion years ago. I do not have kids either but if I did, and they were getting bullied, I find the little fuckers, tear them a new asshole and then make serious threats that if they didn’t leave my fucking kid alone I’d break both their legs.

  7. Haydee says:

    Oh, that is so sad, Debbie 🙁 I feel for you. When I was in Grade School, one of my classmates invited the girls over to her place because we didn’t have a class that afternoon. I tagged along thinking everyone was invited so that included me? But when we got there and they all went in, she blocked me at the door and said that the house was already full so I had to go home by myself. That was about 20 years ago and it’s still clear in my head. Sad thing is I have always been a shy girl and that was one of the few times, I tried to be out there and be friends with the girls. One of the few and I was dumped! Superloved and adored at home (being the youngest and a Papa’s girl!), I reigned in our house but I rarely went out and was socially awkward. Until now, it’s still not that easy for me to socialize. I work better when I’m alone and I socialize better when I’m in the background and a supporting cast in a big group. Later, I focused on academics, earned a degree and I’m in a good place now! So I’d say what happened might not be that bad compared to yours or other people’s experiences but it affected me a great deal. It was both good and bad. And the fact that I have a loving family (although they didn’t know what happened to me outside) really helped me cope. I don’t have kids. Tried but couldn’t. Maybe it’s a blessing because everything’s different now and like you, I know I can very protective of my children.

  8. Lynn says:

    I know a woman who wrote a well-known book about bullying. She’s an expert in the field, and is invited to talk on tv and such when a particularly egregious episode of bullying captures public attention.

    I know this woman because for three years, she rented a house I own. After she moved out, she decided she didn’t want to pay for something she had broken and had suggested we deduct from her security deposit. She wrote us a letter refusing to pay, saying she had engaged a lawyer and if we didn’t give her the $$ back, she would sue us and we would have to pay three times the original security deposit. She had money and lawyers, all we had was a lovely house we had to rent out cuz we couldn’t afford to live in it any more. So we gave her what she wanted so she would leave us alone.

    In summary, I was bullied by a world-renowned expert on bullying! I despair that this method for some people (bullies) to get their way will ever go away.

  9. Liza says:

    Sea of Shoes agrees

  10. Kellie says:

    The hard thing about bullying, is that if you can survive it-you end up the better person. The more interesting person, the more worldy person.
    You don’t stay in the same small town, with the same friends from school you have always had.
    You move on.
    And things get fun and interesting in ways you couldn’t have imagined going through the daily hell.
    But its tough going, I know. That’s how my life was for a long time. Bullied before there was a name for it.
    The kids who were mean to me have stayed exactly the same, in the same suburb, doing the same things.
    I have done nothing the same-and have been all the happier for it.
    But it was a fucking misery for many years, and I would have loved to have been “popular” and had them as friends.
    Now you couldn’t pay me money to talk to any of them, or go to the reunions.
    Living well is the best revenge, but it is hard to tell that to someone who is 12 and having to deal with the bastards every day of their lives. For 6 more years.
    You couldn’t pay me money to go back to High School.
    But I think I would do things much the same if I did have to go back. I ended up pretty much ok, and I may be done being bitter about that whole school time, too.

  11. We’ve dealt with 4 years of our daughter being bullied. Go to the administrators raise hell what do they do? Nothing. They put a stupid assembly about anti-bullying that all the bullies scoff at as they get away with it. Had to go legal on the entire school system and the parents of the sociopath (seriously she created a situation only a mastermind serial killer could and has been a pathological liar since age 4). They all buried their heads. At 10 my daughter was cornered in a hallway & surrounded by 4 13 yo boys calling her every filthy name they could come up with. Imagine the tears rolling when I had to steal my little girl’s innocence by telling her what those meant and why they were bad words. Its learned behavior. I do believe that many of the bullies are children of abuse acting out. We need to teach compassion as well as tolerance to our children. But unfortunately there are too many people who should have been sterilized so as not to reproduce. Sounds cruel, but if you can’t break the cycle of abuse then you don’t deserve children. Thankfully my daughter is strong — she hides the scars — but she never once cowed to be “one of the crowd” and if anything got wilder in the way she expressed herself with her clothing and attitude. I’m proud of her for that (gets it from mama! I also refused & went wild — which led to an amazing life!) but we still struggle even though things now that she’s in HS are much, much better. Thanks for bringing this up. I’m saddened by the stories here and hope each of us can leave the ugliness behind and live in peace.

  12. David Duff says:

    ‘Parents beating their children with impunity’ is a ‘strawman’ argument, Sis, you should know better! At certain points in a child’s development – and by and large the younger the better – a short, sharp slap across the legs is the very best action a parent can take. It is worth about 10 hours of usually useless verbal admonitions. And when it is done to re-enforce safety rules – like don’t fiddle with the electric socket – it is absolutely crucial.

  13. Cricket9 says:

    @David Duff- a slap across the LEGS? Why, is spanking, birching and whipping not popular in Britain anymore? Such a time-honored tradition, or so I hear. Reminds me of he wonderful movie “If”, especially the truly satisfying ending…

  14. David Duff says:

    “Across the legs”, dear Cricket9, because with young children that is usually the only easily available bare part of their anatomy on which you can apply an instant punishment – and if the reprimand is needed to re-enforce safety instructions then the quicker it is inflicted the better.

    And the film “If” was a bit of ‘agit-prop’ tosh by yet another well-off, British. Leftie toff with more attitude than brains!

  15. Dj says:

    Thank you Debbie…I’d smash their iPhones too

  16. All of five years old and arriving half way through the school year. We moved houses so much that I barely remember all the places I lived in as a child, but maybe it was ten by the time I was ten years old. It started well, with stories each afternoon like” The little Mermaid”- though I was sad about the knives she felt with every step on dry land. And then there was the very first art class ever where my daffodil painting burst out in yellow and green on the the page as if it had been waiting inside me forever. And Julie Foster was having a Birthday party on Friday after school so we danced around her at break time singing ”going to the party…. going to the party” round and round and round until someone broke the daisy-chain suddenly dropping hands and pointing at me and shouted” You are NOT invited!!!!!! we don’t know you” . The chant changed , along with the mood of joy and something else took its place, something that made the afternoon sunlight shining on the bricks of the school slide away into shadow. ”You’re a liar” said the girl in the blue dress-‘Liar, liar liar’-‘and in an instant that became the chant, on and on and on……..And so for two years I stood at the edge of the playground and was called a liar and no-one ever invited me to anything or even spoke to me except the ”Other Michele” who had one leg shorter than the other and had a limp. So I developed a limp as well and we would hold hands and leave school together, both of us limping home, ostracized at five, like fish out of water- little mermaids.

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