Monday, September 07, 2009

On Bullying, Costco Disconnects from Reality

Ed Kaitz found an interesting piece in Costco's monthly magazine: On Bullying, Costco Disconnects from Reality

Since one of the essays promised to take on the issue of bullying, I decided to take a closer look.
Imagine my utter disbelief then when my eyes landed on the advice offered by the two nationally recognized bullying “experts” interviewed for Costco’s story “Stop Hassling Me: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying.” After getting past a rather offensively staged photograph showing two young white girls taunting an African-American schoolmate, the reader is treated to a series of tips for kids by New York City school psychologist and psychotherapist Izzy Kalman. For kids who find themselves on the wrong end of a bully for example Kalman offers the following suggestion:
“Be nice to kids when they are mean to you, and before long they will stop being mean. This is known as the Golden Rule, and is the solution to bullying.”
If the bully however goes beyond mere threats and insults and begins an actual physical assault Kalman advises the following:
“If kids hit you and you’re not hurt, act like nothing happened. This way you look tough and cool because you don’t get upset over nonsense. If they keep hitting or pushing you, ask them calmly, ‘Are you mad at me?’ If they aren’t, they’ll stop hitting you. If they are angry, they’ll tell you why. You can discuss the matter, apologize if appropriate, and they will also stop hitting you.”

Speaker and author Barbara Coloroso, the other expert interviewed for the article, includes a few tips on bullying from her book The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander. Coloroso suggests for example several “don’ts” for parents to consider, among them:
“Don’t tell your child to fight back.”

Kaitz then mentions another expert, not retained by Costco:

Professor Michael Foley, ... with his 3rd Degree Black Rank daughter Melanie Warner, operates one of the most unique, demanding, and inspirational martial arts schools in America.

If anyone understands how to deal with bad guys, it’s Michael Foley. After enlisting in the U.S. Army at age twenty, Foley spent the next thirty years chasing drug smugglers and terrorists around the globe first with the Criminal Investigation Division and later with America’s Special Operations Command and the Green Berets. Having been stationed in Hawaii for much of his Army tenure Foley studied martial arts with several world renowned masters and today holds an 8th Degree Black Belt in Koden Kan Martial Arts, a 7th Degree Black Belt from the American Jujitsu Institute, and a Black Sash in Tai Chi Chuan Gung Fu.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon I sat down with Professor Foley to get his opinion on both the bullying issue and on the non-violent approach to bullying advocated by Kalman and Coloroso. For those of us with small children Foley’s words on this score were refreshing, insightful, and very, very wise.

Foley began by telling me that he himself was relentlessly bullied by a hulking man-child while in the seventh grade. “I tried everything” says Foley, “talking to him, ignoring him, evading him, but nothing worked – he followed me everywhere.” On the bus, the bully would flick Foley behind the ear with his finger and if Foley moved to another seat, the bully followed him and continued the attack.

One afternoon Foley decided to walk home, hoping to protect the brand new trumpet his mother had worked long hours to purchase. But the bully caught up with Foley near his house and after a series of taunts and shoves the bully kicked Foley’s brand new trumpet case down the road. When Foley reached the scuffed and damaged case he immediately turned around and put everything he had into a wild, windmill roundhouse punch and knocked the bully unconscious and clean off of his feet.

Of that day Foley remembers a couple of things: a voice coming from a porch nearby asking Foley if he’d “like to learn how to control that rage.” The voice came from a retired Air Force Colonel and martial arts expert who became Foley’s first instructor. The second thing Foley recalls is that the bully never bothered him again. “His attitude changed” says Foley. “He actually started doing his schoolwork.”

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