Teaching Bullies Better Manners

I detest bullies. In my humble opinion they are sniveling little cowards with no manners or sense of human decency. They pick on those they perceive as weak, vulnerable, or helpless. If only we could teach bullies better manners, I do believe that the world would be a better place. And I believe we can.

I recently taught a self-defense class for women and girls. There were several grown women as well as two petite and quiet teen-aged girls attending the class. Well, at least one of the girls were quiet. The other one was a lot more verbose and outgoing. They were sisters, and they were adorable. They were in the class accompanied by their grandmother, who thought it would be a beneficial experience for all of them. She was right about that!

Although it usually takes awhile for ladies to get comfortable in a self-defense class, this group quickly got into the spirit of the class, and started to have some fun with it. However, I noticed that the quiet teenager hung back and silently watched the rest of us as we played with a few techniques and walked through several different scenarios. I thought she was just shy, so I decided to engage with her and make her feel more comfortable.

I caught her eye and made an effort to draw her into the class. I usually don’t focus on bullies or anti-bullying in women’s self defense classes, since we focus more on random attacks and “what-if” situations. But, for some reason, I said to her, “Let’s pretend that someone is picking on you at school…” Before I could finish, she shot a look at her grandmother. After a few moments of silence, her grandmother said, “That’s exactly what’s happening.”

I thought blood was going to shoot out of my eyes. Just the thought that a bully (or bullies) were picking on this adorable young girl enraged me. I wished I could go to school with her the next day, stand in front of her, and make them go through me before they could get to her. Instead, I continued teaching from a slightly different perspective, making sure that I kept this girl front and center.

Pretty soon, something remarkable happened. She began standing taller (all five feet of her), and started looking us all in the eye. She paid closer attention to what we were doing and got a lot more talkative, although not nearly as loquacious as her sister. Eventually I slid up beside her and whispered, “You’re getting it now, aren’t you?”

I wish you could have seen the look she gave me. She had a gleam in her eye and a knowing smile on her beautiful face. As a matter of fact, she actually glowed with a wisdom well beyond her years. She nodded her head and replied, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” I wanted to weep with joy. 

For the next several days I could not get this girl and the bullies out of my head. I wondered if the lessons she learned that evening had any impact on her and her situation at school. Two weeks later I finally got my answer.

Her grandmother sent me a beautiful email thanking me for teaching the class. She also wanted me to know her grand-daughter told her that one single class changed her life forever. She was no longer having problems with bullies and was enjoying going to school again. Or at least, as much as any teenager enjoys school.

I cried when I read the email. As a matter of fact, to this day I cannot tell the story without crying. It’s a little embarrassing, because as a rule I do not cry in public, although I seem to be getting pretty good at it lately. Especially when I repeat the story of the petite and precious teenager who was being picked on in school, but found her strength and confidence in one two-hour long self-defense class.

The one thing I would love to know, but probably never will, was how the whole thing went down. I would have giving anything to see how she stood her ground. I really would have loved to see how her tormenter responded. Especially since I know it was done in a non-violent manner. 

Like I said, bullies are cowards. All you have to do is look them in the eye, stand your ground, and walk tall. Even if you are only five feet tall, you look like a giant. And you get to teach them better manners, which not only changes your life, but changes theirs as well. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t you agree?

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