The older kids in the neighbourhood prepared me for entering elementary school.
They told me how the principal had a spanking machine, and if I was bad it would be used on me.
Next they told me about the Knuckle-Crusher, a punishment reserved for the worst offenders.
Their work was done; I was scared of school before I even started.
As the weeks went by I adjusted to my new life as a first grade student.
We sat through lessons, went to lunch, went to recess, then back to lessons.
Then one gloomy rainy day, as we were walking single-file down the dimly lit hallway to the cafeteria, I saw it as we passed the principal’s office.
The Knuckle-Crusher was parked right outside his door.
I was terrified.
The torture device looked medieval. It was wedge-shaped, and about the size of a large bread box.
It appeared to be made of dark gray iron, and sat upon a wheeled cart.
I could see the platform on which an innocent child’s hands would be placed, as well as the knobs that were used for cranking down the heavy metal lid which would squeeze flesh and bone until broken.
As I passed it, I found myself involuntarily veering toward the opposite side of the hall.
I felt a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach. I might as well have just looked upon the electric chair.
Days later, I saw it again.
We had just returned from recess, and it was sitting in my classroom! The fear rose up through my body, and I was on the verge of tears.
I knew it was going to be used on some poor kid in my class, and I prayed that it wasn’t going to be me.
We took our seats and my teacher turned the lights off. Then she walked over to the Knuckle-Crusher and flipped a switch.
A beam of light shot out of it and a picture appeared on the wall.
It wasn’t a torture device; it was an opaque projector. I have never felt so relieved in my life.
Until I was about ten years old, I was fearful. Afraid of nearly everything.
And this made me a bully magnet. I have written in this column before about how I was bullied.
I was bullied at school, at church, at after-school activities, and while playing in the neighbourhood.
Authorities tell us that kids are bullied because they are different.
They are fat, skinny, wear glasses, have braces, or have some visible departure from the norm that makes them stand out.
But not every kid who is different gets bullied.
Pretty much everyone gets bullied once, but how that turns out for them depends on their self-esteem.
Confident kids shrug it off, laugh it off, or dish it back. Kids who are unsure of themselves, who lack confidence, will get upset, cry, or run away. Those behaviours almost guarantee that you’ll be bullied again. And, once you see yourself as a victim, the bullies seem to come out of the woodwork.
I wasn’t visibly different.
It was my fear that made me a victim.
I grew up in an unstable household with a narcissistic mother.
She always needed to be the centre of attention.
When things didn’t go her way, everyone suffered. She was verbally abusive and occasionally physically abusive.
And my father never defended me; he was too busy trying to please her.
Parents who create unstable homes are fostering victimhood in their children.
They are setting them up to be targets of bullies.
Narcissism, alcoholism, neglect, abuse, divorce, and heated arguments can lead to an unsound environment for a kid.
These situations stimulate a fear of abandonment and the child does not feel safe.
A child in these conditions cannot develop the self-esteem and self-confidence necessary to protect himself.
When he goes out into the world, he is easy prey – exactly what the bully is seeking – because the bully himself is suffering in a similar volatile environment.
Bullies and victims are opposite sides of the same coin. I’m not saying that the victim is to blame, but simply that bullies do not pick on strong confident people.
They don’t attack the strong and confident because the bully himself feels weak and insecure. It is the attacking of someone weak and defenceless that makes the bully feel powerful.
If a child grows up in a safe, loving home, it will not matter if he has a major defect, because he will have the positive self-beliefs necessary to thwart a bully attack.
Around the time I turned 13, I began to develop some self-esteem. My home life underwent a transformation. My sister and I were old enough, and self-sufficient enough, that we didn’t need much parental attention.
My father’s business was taking off. We moved into a new big house. And, my mother had the money and time to pursue all her interests. When Mother was happy, everyone was happy. I remember those as golden years, and during that time my confidence grew. I shed my victim mentality and the bullying stopped.
Bullying victims are created by unstable households. Parents can unwittingly groom their children to be victims of bullies.
If your child is the victim of a bully, then perhaps you should look closer to home for the answer. You might be the problem.
– Robert Wilson
• Robert Wilson is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He is also the author of the children’s book, The Annoying Ghost Kid and the recently-published Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. For info, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com. Brian Greenberg is a multi-faceted entrepreneur who has founded and now spearheads multiple online businesses. He currently co-owns and operates three entrepreneurial companies with his father, Elliott Greenberg, which have each flourished for over 10 years: www.WholesaleJanitorialSupply.com, www.TouchFreeConcepts.com and www.TrueBlueLifeInsurance.com.Posted: Apr 1, 2016