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Discussion: (42 comments)

  1. In a world (the one I think you grew up in) where a child has a mother and a father who are married to each other, and a relatively safe haven of home to retreat to, I agree wholeheartedly with your words.

    The public policy implication is there for the understanding. Rather than advocate for common sense about bullying in today’s world, which is quite different — in part thanks to all the public-policy meddlers, do your utmost to advocate for the conditions in which a child can safely confront adversity.

    The place where a child receives the sort of “life education” you think would be best is a home with married mother and father. And it doesn’t really matter how remote that place seems now. What’s best for kids is that we bring it back or lose our public-policy cred trying.

  2. I think there is a difference in “socialization” involving others who tend to be more aggressive in their interpersonal behaviors – and those that actually
    seek to do you harm if for no other reason than
    they themselves are sick and seek to hurt others.

    there is a difference and I think sending a child out to
    deal with any/all variants of such behaviors is misguided.

  3. The issue is not “bullying, harassment” etc. You cannot legislate behavior. What makes anyone think that a dirtbag ambulance chaser can write a decent law, just because his title becomes “Honorable”? Behavior is taught in Saturday or Sunday school. “Friday school teaches you how to blow up people”. Since they have been marginalized, if not banned outright, expect more of the same.

  4. Seattle Sam

    I agree that children should grow up becoming accustomed to how the world will work as an adult. Therefore it is important that children learn that they may not say anything to another child that might be offensive — unless it is directed toward someone who is white, male, heterosexual and Christian. They should also learn that life is supposed to be fair. In the event that something unfair occurs (e.g. you worked hard on your homework assignment and only got a C ) an authority figure such as your school superintendent will intervene to right that wrong (e.g. add on an extra letter grade). Furthermore, there really is such a thing as a Free Lunch. And a Free Breakfast. And a Free Dinner.

    1. SS – have you thought about how kids become bullies?

  5. I think this one comes down to degree. Many kids are emotionally disturbed and are predatorial – not just hurtful, but downright scary. You can’t defend against those kinds of people. And you can’t (really) get along with people who don’t even want to get along! Where would the positive socialisation be in that kind of a bully-type relationship? Frankly I think it’s just toxic. Kids need to learn to get along with associates – not their blatant enemies.

    I say keep kids away from horrible kids, and keep them away from gangs. Also kids in schools do not have enough power to choose their own company. There is too much forced-association.

    1. Most kids that are bullies – do have parents and I’ve not read anything that says that most bullies are emotionally disturbed in the sense that they are diagnosed as such and put into special programs to deal with it.

      the question is how do kids of SOME parents grow up to be bullies while the kids of OTHER parents do not and some parents are worried about their kids becoming victims to bullies and others not – when it’s pretty clear now days that bullies are pretty common?

      bullying is a learned behavior and it’s a behavior that a parent would know about either through direct observation when their kid is with others or messages sent home from school about his/her behavior towards others… it’s not like they don’t know.

      Not unusual to see bullying behavior of one spouse towards the other escalating to domestic violence, etc ether.

      There is a difference between being taught to be assertive, to understand that there will be times the kid needs to stand up and defend themselves, etc and a kid whose parents are not worried about that – but their kids grow up to be bullies.

      It’s known that some kids who grow up in abusive families grow up to become abusers themselves… it’s a learned, “cultural” behavior in some families.

      and if you teach your kid to stand up against _a_ bully, what then do you teach him when the bully comes back with others – a we know that bully’s tend to be cowardly when someone does stand up to them.

      But what DO you teach your kid about how to deal with gangs of bullies?

      right now – some kids are actually harassed until their parents send them to other schools – and even then the same perpetrators will go after them on social media.

      and make no mistake – the “assault” part of assault and battery – IS verbal assault – threats… intimidation, etc. In other words, it _not_ _normal_ social behavior, it’s an illegal activity.

      this is a much bigger problem now than it used to be – why?

      1. I think it’s much, much more than learned behaviour. I know what a screwed up kid looks like. I saw them at school when I was a kid myself. Their horrible family world was explicitly obvious through their characters. You could just see it – you just knew.

        The problems begin with infantile damage and maybe even damage within the womb, and ends with general child abuse and neglect.

        Bullying is at base heartlessness (gone cold from deep repression) and toxic neurotic acting-out. It’s about damage before anything – not basic monkey-see/monkey-do.

        …and to say, there is a ‘bully factor’ in countless kids. I grew up in what you would call an upper-middle class public school and it’s certainly not just the “underclass” kids that have problems, I can tell you. The truth is most kids have a significant amount of damage. In my prior post I’m really only talking about the extremes.

        If you’re curious on my perspective. http://andrewatkin.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/understanding-mental-sickness.html

        1. interesting. so you feel that most bullying is related to an illness?

          1. When shrinks refer to a ‘mental illness’ they are usually (wittingly or not) just talking about the effects of a shaky defence system…leading to strong over-reactions that make someone dysfunctional. Night terrors, for example, are what happens before psychotic episodes, and we don;t call them a ‘mental illness’…yet both are ultimately the same thing. And both come from heavy infantile pains (repressed) and a shaky defence system (we progress on to psychotic episodes when we our defences start to break down completely. A psychotic episode is a night terror that happens when you’re awake).

            But all of us, to varying degree’s, are saturated in blocked pain–well contained or not–and our pain affects everything we do, because it literally constructs the emotional/psychological world we live in. We tend to label certain problems are “mental illness” when we don’t accept what we see. That’s all it really is (and frankly, I think the labelling is often abused. We label people to put pressure on them to behave the way we want them to. Ultimately a form of social pressure via humiliation).

            Regardless, I cannot believe that bullying behaviour will not be found to correlate to a higher-than-normal amount of deprivation coming from the home world. So yes, I suppose, to your question.

          2. re: ” Regardless, I cannot believe that bullying behaviour will not be found to correlate to a higher-than-normal amount of deprivation coming from the home world. So yes, I suppose, to your question.”

            serial abusers and worse do exist in society …

            there are also relatively law-abiding people who tend to bully others..

            I don’t know a lot of this but it just appears to me that we have more incidents of bullying and more severe incidents of bullying than we used to.

            perhaps it was always that way and I supposed a study could be done – to see how much came from the folks that raise you verses innate personality flaws.

            It does appear to me that parents of kids who are accused of multiple incident of bullying tend to DEFEND their kids… and I find that troublesome.

        2. This also shows that our outrage may be stronger than our desire to be helpful. I cannot help but notice how easily attention turns to the factors in leading to a child becoming a bully.

          While I was not comfortable with the tone of the original Charles Murray post, it did at least focus on the victim. Some thought deserves to be dedicated towards what skills the victims need to learn to stop being victimized, beyond self-defense that fends off pummeling. For those whose parents are asleep at the switch, what can be done in mentoring for them.

          And for those who feel as though social liberalism is coddling criminals, why not put your time and thought where your mouths are and figure out how to help the blameless victims? No coddling of miscreants there.

          1. I guess I’m a “find out what is going on” type guy.

            and I do not believe that most kids – in a loving environment – grow up to be bullies.

            it bothers me that we’re seeing increases in incidents of bullying, an increase in bullies – and an increase in intensity of bullying… or perhaps it’s just that it has not changed and we’re just “reporting”… better..

            I dunno. but I do not think you can inoculate your kid against all types of bullies or bullying…..

            it’s like sending you kid out to deal with knife-wielding thugs in an effort to teach him “defense”.

          2. But this is where the isolation factor comes in. Some children may be common targets for one particularly badly behaved child. But most will have a peer group and will muddle through, talking with each other and some adults. The true bullying targets are those who are isolated from all peer groups. That is what really makes it bullying rather than a bad day.

            Yes, I want to know what is going on with bullies. But also with their victims and who needs the most assistance.

          3. Help the victims, yes – but find out what there are people who have patterns of bullying.. also –

            or else we’re going to have more victims to help.

          4. Can’t you see that all we need to do is empower kids to get away from abusive people.

          5. I agree, they need to know WHEN just being assertive is not going to dissuade “professional” grade bullies who have graduated to true predator/abuser roles or a gang but if our schools end up infested with bullies – they are going to become unfit places for many kids… just as much a threat as allowing non-school bad actors on the grounds.

            the legal treatment of this kind of behavior is evolving because there is a line that is crossed when the bully is engaging in criminal behavior. all in my view of course.

  6. I just wonder how you can expect an “offensive” lineman not to bully. Offensive is in the title :P

    1. is that why we have Offensive Line Judges?

  7. Evan Dickinson

    Learning how to deal with bullying never ends because the bully keeps learning how to bully too. This is simply an arms race that can occur because the bully doesn’t have to take school seriously. And while you are in your never-ending quest to learn how to deal with bullying, you’ll be sacrificing arbitrarily large amounts of academic learning that could have occurred.

    In truth the bullies don’t belong in school. They are not helping people deal with life, they are just holding back society. They deserve to be in a special extra-disciplinary school where they are beaten with bamboo rods.

    1. re: ” In truth the bullies don’t belong in school. They are not helping people deal with life, they are just holding back society. They deserve to be in a special extra-disciplinary school where they are beaten with bamboo rods.”

      I still ask where do school bullies come from to start with?

      we have one set of parents worried about advising their kids how to stand up for themselves and apparently another set of parents who either don’t know or condone their kids bullying activities.

      we have two things in our school system that put a crimp in the bullies..

      1. -cameras
      2. – separate schools for kids that get caught engaging
      in anti-social behaviors – as a pattern.

      you get on candid camera – you get a visit to the deputy
      next time – you get a defined suspension.

      third time – you get indefinite “in-school” suspension at a school for others like you.

      but I hold parents responsible.. kids do not grow up genetically predisposed to seek to harm others. They get taught that.

  8. Equally as absurd are the 0 tolerance policies of schools when it comes to bullying, or rather defending oneself from bullying. My son recently got in trouble for hitting back to defend himself when a bully tried to pick a fight with someone who actually decided to stand up. Since our district has a 0 tolerance policy towards hitting another person, BOTH got disciplined, even though my son was defending himself. Exit question to the administrators – how many times does my son have to get hit before he gets to hit back without any punishment – 1, 2, 3, you get the idea. . .

  9. I agree that children need to learn to handle adversity. That’s why sports are great for kids to begin with: learn you don’t always win, you don’t always make the save, and sometimes you lose. We also need more television shows and movies that promote a positive home and family life for both parents and children to aspire to instead of the lame examples that the free networks and cable provide offer us today. All we see are dysfunctional people and families that we are supposed to laugh at or laugh with. Oh, for the days of the Waltons, Little House on the Prarie, and the Cosby Show. Good times, good times…

    1. ” Oh, for the days of the Waltons, Little House on the Prarie, and the Cosby Show. Good times, good times…”

      I know teachers in grade school. They give “hugs”. In more than a few cases, it’s the only hugs those kids get.

  10. Raul Allegre

    Most of us would agree the harshest cases of bullying definitely need to be addressed. Ones where the bullying is repeated daily, it’s unrelenting, it’s especially mean, it gets physical, it involves theft, one kid is singled out and targeted, etc… shouldn’t be swept under the rug. However there’s a gray area where a kid may be occasionally mean to others or an overly sensitive family may run to the principal at ever perceived mean act another child does to their child. We shouldn’t overuse the term bullying to the point where it encompasses many things that are not bullying. This is where we need strong administrators to come out from behind their “zero tolerance policies” and make judgements on where the biggest problems are and address them, and not just lump every case together as bullying even when the circumstances are extremely different.

    1. I totally agree but most bullies are not one time offenders.

      be fair to all but document.

      you cannot legislate behavior but you can include such behaviors – of record – on things like high school transcripts.

      there needs to be a clear and unambiguous message to would-be bullies that it’s not an acceptable behavior and others will be told of it so they are forewarned.

      you can do it like drivers license demerits for speeding/infractions that allow them to melt for continuous good behavior.

      when a kid is found to be involved in bullying – the parents should be called in and given the riot act.

      not zero tolerance but defined consequences for future occurrences.

      Make sure the parents know the behavior is being documented – and shared…and let employers and the military and colleges decide according to their standards of acceptance.

      We should not lose a single child to death – as a result of bullying.. it’s a horrific tragedy that we should make clear
      is not how people conduct themselves with other people.

      It won’t stop the behavior – but it will reveal it and forewarn others that such behavior could be a an indication of more anti-people behaviors.

      Not zero tolerance but consequences.

  11. There is a great deal of imprecision going into the discussion of bullying, and this article is not helping. It really is necessary to drill down into what the actual behavior and actual situation is.

    Not every interpersonal conflict in school is bullying. Every child will have some days where he or she is on the outs with his or her group and the interactions may be mean-spirited, but that is not bullying.

    There may be some particularly big and thuggish children around who want to get into fights, especially ones where they know it is an easy win. That is not necessarily a bullying situation as much as a violence or criminality situation (and self-defense is entirely appropriate, as is punishment of the instigator).

    Real bullying is more like abuse and is characterized by the child’s isolation from other children. There, saying that the child should just toughen up and learn is unforgivably cruel.

    There can be any number of reasons that the child becomes isolated and there are an infinite number of ways that parents can fail to provide guidance which go well beyond changes in culture or public policy.

    But saying, “I took my lumps and I was OK, so let’s ignore the little weaklings” is just awful. Let’s take each situation on its own facts and merits and keep ideology out of it.

    1. good comments and in agreement.

      bullying is not one incident. it’s a pattern.

  12. It seems like all the commenters here are re-arranging chairs on the Titanic.

    Fifty years ago, most children went home to a mother and a father who were married to each other.

    The implications for psychological and sociological health of changing this reality — as we have done — are huge. Face them.

    1. well.. where did kids learn bullying behavior if not from their parents?

      is that how abusers in general become abusers?

      1. Children become bullies for various reasons. Children are bullied for various reasons.

        The issue to me is that this post dodges a problem. It discusses the issue of bullying with an attempt to make distinctions, but it doesn’t take into account the reality that public policy makers (including the author) have changed how kids grow up.

        So Charles Murray would like to make observations about possible positive effects of bullying, sort of as a father, but not as a public policy maker.

        That option isn’t really open to him, is it? He does influence public policy. Thus, he ought to discuss it. He doesn’t address the context which would make the positive effects possible — namely, a stable family for the child to seek refuge in when he’s attacked.

        If you don’t take reality into account, then what is the point of discussing a problem? How can society help a child if it is unwilling to provide the basis for that help, namely, a stable family?

        Fifty years ago, most children grew up in an intact family with their mother and father. We didn’t have the public policy problems we have now. Of course there were problems — there will always be. But — Connect the dots.

        1. If an innocent child who happens to NOT have a stable family life – is victimized by an abuser – perhaps an abuser WITH a stable family life how does family life help the victim?

          DO bullies predominately come from broken families?

          DO bullies predominately come from intact families where there are one or more abusers as authority figures in the family?

          I have my doubts that abusers primarily come from broke families… but maybe so.

          I suspect that like other kinds of abuse that adults commit – that a pattern of it is found in their family life.

          Can bullies come from totally intact families?

          I’m all for helping the victims in any way that can be done but if we do not deal with how bullies are being created – it seems backwards…

          it’s like blaming a youngster got beat up because he/she were not properly instructed to deal with a bully and that was because they grew up in a family that did not instruct them.

          I dunno.. I’m sort of thinking out loud here and would certain other views on my thinkings..

          I just tend to think the bully needs the attention.

          1. I’m sorry, I’m just not thinking that a person is serious about solving the problem if they don’t see that intact families are the #1 priority — that we are putting all children at risk when we don’t address that issue.
            It’s not about who bullies or who gets bullied — it’s about asking the government (public schools) to solve a problem with a process that becomes increasingly irrational, instead of seeing that the problem was manageable (on a public policy level, yet paradoxically by families) when the family was supported.

          2. re: intact families – the reality is that about 1/2 of families are not “intact” and if we hold off everything else until we fix that problem .. what happens?

            Bullies can come from intact families. They learn it from their parents. Serial abusers in prison are found to have experienced that abuse themselves – in their families.

            Behaviors in school and behaviors in society are similar in some respects.

            If you “bully” other people as an adult – you could well be arrested…

            there are behaviors in schools that can lead to arrest also.

            just because kids are in school does not exempt them from laws.

            serial abusers do come from intact families. There is no magic bean about intact families.

            some intact families teach their kids very wrong behaviors that lead to prison.

        2. Leila,

          I think the exact opposite: people are not serious about the issue of bullying if they prefer to change the topic to something other than bullying.

          Family structure is a worthy issue for many reasons. An intact family is usually good, in and of itself, with no need for further justification.

          But bullying is bullying. I can tell you those anyone who is systematically receiving bullying would much prefer that the bullying be addressed than having people organize symposia on family structure and culture.

          And whether it is bullying or anything else, a good test of someone’s commitment to solving someone’s problem is whether they are prepared to deal with the actual problem before them, moving on to bigger, grander issues both only as dictated by those immediate facts. Talking about family structure allows us to talk about all sorts of exciting things like government expansion, Hollywood influence, the role of attorneys, critical race theory etc. Too bad that a child who is isolated from his or her peers and experiencing the worst of times is not nearly as fascinating.

          1. I don’t say don’t talk about it. I say don’t talk about it without addressing the context, especially if you are a public policy person.

            Murray’s piece implies a vision of family (as in his example of his own experience) that public policy at the moment is tearing down as fast as it can.

            Thus, his comments seem unrealistic to me.

            The context is “can a child ultimately benefit from a bad experience if his family helps him.” But that is not the context of bullying today.

            The child is left entirely on his own, to fend off whatever superior forces are out there. Parents have abdicated, government applies processes.

            I’m addressing his piece and its assumptions, given his field, not bullying in general.

          2. I understand, but I find that approach problematic. Whether it is bullying or anything else, I think the place to start with is what needs to be done to solve the particular problem experienced by whomever we want to help. Then finding out what barriers stand in the way of doing what is necessary.

            Once there is a problem of law or regulation or financial incentives that reveals itself as the barrier, there is your public policy issue (and maybe it justifies governmental involvement, maybe not). The reverse is trying to move big blocks of law or appropriations and waiting one turn and seeing if it actually helps the people we want to help.

            I have something of a public policy background myself. That being said, I have come to believe that the public policy approach must come in service of the hands-on approach and hands-on learning about any particular problem.

          3. But you didn’t write the piece.

            Murray’s piece is about something different. What it is about takes for granted something that no one is working for or sees as a piece of the big picture — the family as guarantor of the child’s ability to salvage something out of a bad experience and use it for growth.

            If the family itself is under attack (bullied, you might say), it’s dishonest to neglect to take that into account in the discussion. Speaking here of Murray’s discussion.

          4. Circling back, Murray then misunderstands what it means to be a victim of bullying. it is more than “a” bad experience. It is receiving consistent abuse from one or more members of the child’s cohort, and so is characterized by isolation. Calling intermittent bad experiences based on the ups and downs of the peer group “bullying” trivializes the issue.

            If a child is experiencing something like that, someone if providing an inadequate response, whether a two-parent household or a broken home, nothing good will come of the child’s experience of that. This is why I say that sliding the discussion to family structure and claiming to be concerned about bullying is itself dishonest.

            So Murray is not being accurate about bullying or simply is not interested in it and is interested in some other phenomenon. And in your response, I detect a similar disinterest in drilling down to what bullying is as experienced by the victims and how to help them.

            Among people who are inexperienced in a field (including Obama as president), there is a marked tendency to say, “Them’s just details. I’m interested in the big picture.” But the big picture only makes sense if you first grapple with the details, which in this case, starts with being interested in what the victims actually experience.

          5. On the contrary, I am very interested. But for one thing, your definition isn’t the one currently in vogue, which unfortunately does include a lot of things that most of us would indeed consider part of normal growing up. If you don’t believe me, just go online to any school’s bullying policy and check against common sense.

            The fact — also not addressed in this piece, yet surely known by Murray — is that bullying policy is now yet another tool of social remodeling in the hands of progressives.

            I would not trivialize actual bullying, according to your definition — abuse of a weaker person by a stronger one. I would say it has to be addressed immediately by authorities. This is something that was more successfully done in the past (not completely successfully, don’t misunderstand me — human nature is what it is) when authority itself was answerable to something other than public policy.

            Bullying must be addressed by communities. The foundation of the community is the family. If the author can’t bring that to light, then his discussion is taking place in a dream world of the past.

            That was my comment about the piece.

            In fact, I think Murray commits the very sin he speaks of in his book. His children have the benefit of interested and committed parents. He asks his question as if most children do, but they don’t — and yes, much less now than 50 years ago– something verifiable by his own studies.

            Thus, to minimize bullying (not the original thrust of my comment — not that I’m not interested), public policy should indeed address ways of shoring up the family. The family — married mother and father of the child — is by definition the best mechanism of insuring the safety of the child.

            To call this inattention to detail is to simply gloss over what is demonstrably true (read Murray’s own book), and act as if there is some other remedy.

          6. Leila,

            The current vogue is truly unfortunate. It reminds me a little of what was said of the SEC after the Madoff story broke: they were equipped to find misdemeanors but not felonies.

            The social engineering vogue is yet another phenomenon that is in no way structured to deal with the problem it purports to deal with and instead prefers to deal with a more exciting agenda. To get around that, it defines the problem so broadly as to cover minor things. Then when the programs purportedly reduce those things, the program is defined as successful.

            A last thought on this approach, as further and we may be going in circles. I am not saying the family is not part of the solution. But if the interest is in bullying and the bullied, at least the chronic cases of children experiencing isolation that characterizes what I regard as true bullying, it starts with granular detail about who gets victimized, how and why. Then figuring out what works to deal with the most severe cases of victimization.

            Yes, families can help. But some two-parent households will not know how to be helpful. And there are existing one-parent households that have to deal with a bullied child and do not have the luxury of waiting until marriage/remarriage. So I would want to know what types of intervention work. Then, ideally two-parent households can get some guidance on implementing that which is most protective.

            None of this in any way prevents or argues against policies that are pro-marriage and pro-family.

  13. Some people found that it really worked while others considered any success to be a placebo effect. Comparison Guide (that discusses things about setting goals, doing physical activity, and getting over bumps in the road) 3.

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