Shout! Shout! Let it all out!25 February 2012
I received the following email from a fan in the States:
Although this might not mean much to you, I still wanted to let you know. It might not sound real, but it is true. While reading Demon Thief I came upon the part where it says that Kernel wasnt in fights often because he yelled. I was bullied a lot at school. So much that somedays I didn't even want to go. I didn't tell anyone about it because I was afraid. The teachers saw him bully me, but they didn't do anything about it. At schol they showed bully prevention videos. They didnt work for me because this bully had already bullied me for a couple years. After I read that in Demon Thief I decided to try it out. Every time the bully would bully me, I would yell as loud as I could. He soon stopped bullying me. Although this might not mean anything to you, or seem totally fake, I still wanted to let you know. I'm not afraid to go to school anymore because no one bullies me anymore. You have changed my life Darren, thank you.
Bullying is a horrible part of the human experience. It can happen to adults, but is more prominent among children -- since children are such little monsters!!! I say that jokingly, of course, but I also think it's true to a large extent. I read an interesting article in National Geographic recently about how brains develop in teenagers. It's a wild, chaotic time. The brain undergoes all sorts of fast, monumental changes, most very positive, but some negative -- although a lot of that depends on your viewpoint. Children can be the most loving of creatures, but also the most vile. We learn as we go through life, and by the time we hit adulthood most of us have evened out. We learn to think more about the consequences of our actions, and about the feelings of others, and tend to be more emotionally stable (which is also why adults are, generally speaking, more boring than children!). In our younger years many of us lack the social skills which make us nicer people in later life. I know that I was certainly more cruel and cutting as a child!!
I think a certain amount of peer pressure and bullying is to be expected. In some ways I think it's even important -- it helps toughen us up, so that we can deal with the pressures of life that we will have to deal with later on. I think in the long run it can be a good thing when you are subjected to the occasional bit of teasing by your friends. While sometimes it hurts, over time you learn to bite back and take it with more good humour. This can be a hard world, so it doesn't pay to be too soft! But at the same time, the key words there are "ocassional" and "friends". It's one thing to be mocked from time to time by your friends -- quite another to be targeted by someone who is genuinely trying to break your spirit.
Genuine bullies are nasty pieces of work, and it's important to try to stand up to them swiftly and proactively. They thrive on silence and fear. While I'm no expert on the subject, I think the first step should always be to tell people, your parents and teachers. I know the unwritten rule among children and teenagers is "don't snitch" and, generally speaking, it's a rule I agree with. But bullies lose their rights to the protection of that rule. If someone acts in a horrible way to another person, and does so consciously, over an extended period of time, they don't deserve to be treated with the same respect as other people. So, yes, I think the first step is to speak up. That usually works, but not always, as it didn't in this situation -- alas, not all adults are super-heroes, and some deal less capably with the issue of bullies than others. If speaking out fails, then you need to get more creative, as this boy did, by choosing to shout out loud and draw attention to the bullying. Bullies HATE attention. They hate having people know that they're small and petty and mean. They hate having people laugh and sneer at them. So it's worth trying a few belly-bursting yells. There are other methods, I'm sure, so if that fails, or if you don't want to roar, then have a look online -- there are bound to be loads of sites and forums where you can find advice and assistance.
The most important thing, though, is not to give in. Don't let them crush you. I know it can be hard, when you're young, to see life as a long, meandering path -- but it IS. Your childhood and teen years are just a very small part of your life. You'll move on and change and leave the bullies behind. Never lose sight of the fact that it's a temporary problem. Don't blow it up to be more than it is. Again, I know it's hard, because the developing brain bends your perception of time, but trust me, the pains we suffer as kids and teenagers are almost never as bad as we think they are. There are always better times ahead. Sometimes we have to huddle up and miserably wait out a storm -- but all storms pass. The sun always comes out again. Or the moon, if you're a vampire!!!!