It is hard to admit that you were once a total jackass.
It is harder to have to worry that your children, one day, might run into someone just like you were.
Campbell River mother “Tammy”, who does not want to use her real name, is a devoted parent to three children, a volunteer in the community, and unless she revealed her browbeating past, one would never suspect she once wore the title of “bully” proudly.
She has come a long way from the days when kids like hers would suffer verbal and physical assaults by the self proclaimed mean girl.
“There was nothing anyone could say or do that made me feel bad for it or want to change.” said ‘Tammy’. “I think that correcting a bully is just impossible until that person decides they don’t want to be like that anymore.”.
‘Tammy’ said that she began being a bully in Grade seven at age 13 “right after I switched middle schools and made friends with the wrong crowd.” It carried on all through her time in school and outside of school until she was about 16.
“I would bully anyone who seemed weak, including my own mother and even my father but not as much .” she said. ” I would target girls who were my own age and even some that were older, social groups of girls, and guys who were typically seen alone, but never groups of popular guys. It was always circumstantial with me, not premeditated. It could be any one of those or all depending on weakness.”
” I honestly think it was a defense mechanism to begin with as I was in a new school had a hard time making new friends and eventually it became a feeling of power, if I could make someone afraid of me then I felt in control and like I was something special.” Tammy said. ” I actually remember thinking that everyone thought I was cool for it and wished that they could be like me. “
While the cruel and sometimes violent behavior started at school,’ Tammy’ said it carried on to other venues. ” The mall was a huge hang out place for the crowd I was with .” she said. “Admitting that I was a teenage bully is incredibly embarrassing, but by far the worst of it is the knowledge that I caused another person psychological or physical harm.”
‘Tammy’ recalls having many meetings with parents of kids she had bullied at school, and once faced an assault charge that ultimately ended up being dropped. She was suspended from school and eventually expelled.
“I remember this one time the most, it was a boy who I don’t remember ever speaking to before but we were at school and I was at the smoke pit and I think he had walked by with a friend and made a comment about the smoke.” ‘Tammy’ said. ” I told him off and called him names and he continued to put up his stance and argue his point and I remember throwing him down a hill into a bramble bush and then walking away back into the school. I found out later that he ended up really hurt and his parents were the ones who were going to press charges. What I remember most was not fear of being charged or empathy for what I had done but anger that someone had thought they could say something to me about my bad habits and not expect to end up hurt. I also felt powerful for showing him what I was capable of doing.”
What ‘Tammy’ is more terrified of as a parent is how unconcerned the bully is with their actions. ” I think, for the bully, awareness of stronger consequences is key and strong parenting as well.” said ‘Tammy’, who did spend time in foster homes, group homes, and juvenile detention. “From a very young age you must teach your children that any form of bullying will not be tolerated and will have extreme consequences, for them, right from the start and even later in life. “
But the consequences have to be there.
‘Tammy’ believes bullying in any form , in school, in the community, at employment, and on line, should be punishable by law.
” If all bullying was reported to the police who were then allowed to hand out community hours the same that we as adults get traffic tickets on the same point style system then maybe it wouldn’t be so ” cool” to be feared anymore.” she said. ” Basically if you get reported and, say after getting 20 or 40 hours of community service you do it again and know you will be prosecuted, I think it won’t be worth the kick you get out of it. Maybe that kind of punishment sounds unreasonable to some, but children are dying so its too late to just talk about it. It’s time for immediate action.”
” I can tell you first hand from someone who was once feared as a bully that if I am ever told any of my children are bullying someone it will not be tolerated.” Tammy said. “And to the parents of children being bullied I say do not accept schools’ consequences the way they are now. An apology letter and garbage duty is not acceptable. Ask for a meeting with that child’s guardians, and perhaps even the bully and the bullied child, show your emotions, show your pain and make sure when they leave that meeting they can feel it through you. And don’t stop. Even if it means you’re in there every day. Because bullying takes lives, it destroys lives, and you are your child’s best defense. if you’re not making the biggest deal about this then you’re not doing your job.”