Bully Vs. Friend

Referring back to my previous story on being teased as a kid, I experienced what it’s like to be teased by someone who is supposed to be your friend. As an adult looking back on that vulnerable time in preschool where my friend would pinch me over and over, I think about how similar that bully was to Nelson from the Simpsons. Nelson is a school bully but in many circumstances becomes friends with both Bart and Lisa (he even dates Lisa for a brief moment). His character becomes evolved and is considered by some to be “a nice boy” but he still always has that label of being a bully. 

The teen soap opera The O.C. also dealt with a character, Luke Ward, who went from being a tough-guy bully to being a good friend. In season one Luke was the Aberacrombi & Fitch guy who teased Seth Cohen for being a nerd who enjoyed comic books. He also fought with Ryan Atwood, teasing him for being from Chino and sticking around in the OC, becoming friends with Luke’s girlfriend Marissa. Later on in the show Luke’s character changed for the better and he became a friend to Ryan and Seth and even started transforming into a likable character for the audience. 

Both Nelson and Luke had a transformation that people of different ages ended up liking, despite both considered to be bullies. They are, however, examples of the confusion that can take place like I experienced with my friend/bully in preschool. Yes both Nelson and Luke ended up becoming friends with people but they also were bullies, and in Nelson’s case still remain a bully at times. A young and vulnerable child might have a feeling of being pulled in emotional directions where they want to be friends with him or her that is also on occasion bullying them. I myself recall feeling emotionally tangled where there was a girl that was supposed to be my friend, and was on occasion, but simultaneously would pinch my arms.

So what can we learn from this? Do people who are given the label of being a bully have the potential to change and become a better person? Can they be given the opportunity to change into someone everyone will like and do they want to change? That last question is a big one: Do bullies want to change after they have been presumably called out on their actions. Are they even aware of their actions? And how many of us would actually stand up to someone who has made things miserable for us and tell them that what they are doing is hurtful and they need to put an end to their actions. 

As someone who has studied the field of psychology, my instinct is to dig deeper into these questions and ask the question, are parents who have a child that has caused harm to another child aware of the situation and if they are how do they respond? 

i remember back in elementary school girls teasing me to the point where I would come home crying to my parents. it made me so upset that finally my mom, who felt awful for me, called the parents of these specific girls. All three moms had the same reaction: nothing, it was my fault and not their daughter’s. Here were three girls that bullied me and their moms blamed me for what happened; god forbid their child had anything to do with it and god forbid they look bad. This is an example of when i wonder if the child bullying is so-called “acting out” because of what is going on at home; it’s their way of gaining attention. Maybe the girls that made me feel terrible weren’t getting any attention at home. Maybe their parents didn’t teach them how to act appropriately to other kids without making them feel bad. I am not assigning blame to anyone. All I wonder is when you dig deeper into the question of why a bully bullies to begin with, what are you going to learn? 

All these questions, all these thoughts I’ve stated, the idea is to educate others about what is going on in regards to bullying. A lot of people, understandably, are not educated about this topic and as a result are unsure how to help the victims or even the bully themselves about what to do. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 

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