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September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

BULLIES AND BULLYING


The light colored fowl in the middle is the guinea.
Last fall my daughter-in-law gave me three Ameraucana hens that lay blue and green eggs. My motley flock of old mixed hens had dwindled to four. I’d long wanted to have a few Araucana (or Ameraucana) hens for the uniqueness of their eggs. Mine all lay brown eggs. At first the three hens, a buff colored one and two dark ones, stayed away from the others. For those of you who don’t know, chickens have a pecking order in which one hen gets picked on more than others. The one picked on in my four was a silver laced black and white hen. She was missing feathers on her back and tail, but since she seemed to be getting along okay or at least dealing with the bullying, I didn’t worry about it.

Then several weeks ago the largest Araucana hen started picking on one of the dark Araucana hens. I’d hear horrible squawks coming from the chicken coop. I tried putting up tall fencing in one corner to keep the bully away from the others. She escaped. Then I tried putting fencing around the bullied hen and the bully got in there. Finally, I captured the bully with a large fishing net and put her in one of the pony’s stalls when they were out in the pasture. There was no way the hen could get out of there. She had food and water and found a place to roost on an old feeder in a corner. I thought my problem was solved. Not to be.

That evening after putting food and water in each stall, I opened the gate and let the ponies go to their stalls, and closed the stall doors. In moments, I heard Phoebe snorting and pawing. I saw her standing at attention with ears cocked staring at the critter perched in the corner. Even though in the summer the hens will wander into their pasture, she had never had one in her stall. I closed the barn doors, let her out and captured the hen. I put it back with the other hens and tried to lead Phoebe back into her stall. Even for the feed and apples, she didn’t want to go back. Finally, with some nudging from a broom she did.

This experience got me to thinking about bullying and why people or animals bully. I had my ideas, but decided to go online and see what information I could find. I found so much information I could write a thesis paper on the topic. Certainly there was too much for a blog so I’ll compress the information as much as possible since we all know what bullying is.

Much has been studied about the problem of bullying in schools, but it also happens in the workplace, home, playgrounds, the military, sports and in nursing homes. Research conducted in the UK by Ian Rivers of Brunell University, found that bullies were more likely than non-bullies to live in families without two biological parents which could imply the children bully because they don’t receive enough attention. Bullies were at a high risk for alcohol and substance abuse, and also at higher risk for mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and hostility. They tend to pick on others who are not as good in sports, or school work, or who they perceived as being gay or lesbians. Because society places a lot of value on possessions, “envy can become a motivator,” Rivers said. He also found bullies tend to have a negative view of themselves, thus suggesting they pick on others to feel better about themselves.

The reasons for bullying are many. In a culture fascinated with winning, power, and violence, some experts suggest culture might influence bullying. If the home, school or workplace doesn’t have high standards against bullying there is a greater likelihood of bullying.  There’s also the fact some people get more social recognition for negative behaviors than positive ones. This is shown in reality TV and many comedies. In school, the student who acts out gets more attention than the ones who don’t. Jealousy, envy and a lack of personal and social skills can cause bullying. Also, families not warm and supportive or with an abusive parent are more likely to have children who bully.

Some research indicates the very fact of having power may make some people wish to wield it in a noticeable way, or some people may be given power without being trained in leadership skills that will help them wield it wisely.

Jennifer Ralston has researched the problem and written articles about it discussing the impact on children being bullied, and how sometimes it causes them to become violent. Of course, we’ve read of the many suicides caused by bullying. She identifies three main forms of school bullying: verbal, physical and relational bullying. Verbal is “name calling, taunting and racial slurs.” This kind is the “most common and can have the longest lasting impression on the bullied. Relational bullying “consists of gossiping, ignoring and isolating the bullied. Ralston’s main argument demonstrates the correlation of these types of school bullying to tragic events like the Columbine shooting. The two teens were constantly teased, picked on and tormented by the school’s athletes and other students. Due to the constant torment, they went into deep depression and hatred towards the school.

The National Association of School Psychologists and the U.S. Department of Justice “estimate that 160,000 students miss school every day because they are fearful of being bullied.” A study performed by the National Mental Health and Education Center states: “Bullying is the most common form of violence in our society and between 30% and 50% of students are bullies or victims.”

Ralston believes bullying is a “learned behavior” and thinks schools should implement bully prevention programs geared to influence and change the social norm of bullying. One school I substituted in had such a program and I think more and more schools are instituting such programs now.

Is bullying getting worse? I was never bullied in school, but when my younger brother, who was small for his age, started first grade before he turned six, some older boys on the bus started teasing him. I’ve never been a confrontational person, but I stood up and yelled at those boys for making fun of my brother.  I only remember one case in my classroom when the boy, who always sat in front of me and was shy, was teased by the large boy behind me. Our last names started with “H” so many classes we sat in that same order. I never liked him because he seemed like a bully so one day I called him on it and it never happened again, although it probably did when I wasn’t around.



So what caused the Araucana hen to suddenly start bullying? Well, as with people, victims of bullying often end up bullying others. Because of the cold and snow, I coaxed my last remaining old male guinea fowl into the coop with the hens. Guineas are known as guard birds because of the loud noise they make when strangers come. They lower their heads, spread out their wings and dash at the intruder, even if, as in the case of my old bird, the so called intruder is my barn cat, my dog or me. They never quite attack, but fake the intruder out. Although my older hens have wintered with the guinea before and hung around him when they were out in the summer, the new hens had no relationship with him so he upset the social order they’d established.  

What has been your experience or thoughts on bullying?



13 comments:

KM said...

I've working in settings that lend themselves to bullying. I think the staff should set very definite standards for "respectful" behavior, stepping in to intervene quickly, rather than concentrating on "bullying." The alternative school where I work has an entire procedure for handling bullying, but it requires the victim to report the bullying and fill out a form. How many kids are going to do that? Even when questioned by supportive staff, most victims deny that they feel bullied. The bullies, on the other hand, are all too ready to report that they feel harrassed, and fill out the forms. I try to remove the bullied student from the equation by maintaining that certain conduct is unacceptable to me, so the situation becomes something between me and the bully, not between the victim and the bully.

The general reaction of the bullies, if confronted, is "Aw, I was just kidding. He can't take a joke." Most bulied kids will reluctantly agree that it was all a joke and that they don't want staff intervention.

While some bullies may suffer from low self-esteem, I've seldom seen that. In my experience, they tend to exhibit a feeling of superiority and entitlement, using the bullying of others to enhance their position of power among their peers.

So many of our students these days come from very small families, where they are, as the Chinese say about their only children, Emperors and Empresses, with very little empathy for others. Add that to the self-esteem movement, where children are praised excessively, not for their efforts, but for the very fact that they exist, and we have some truly ignorant, arrogant people who feel they should be permitted to lord it over others.

Gloria Alden said...

KM, I think you're right on the mark. I don't know the family dynamics of the boy, who sat behind me so often, but I know he strutted around like king of the road. One thing I did hear about him after he graduated is he was responsible for a car accident in which someone was killed - I think he hit someone pushing their car - and I heard he laughed about it later when telling his friends.

I'm glad you take a stance with those bullies you come across in your classroom. I think you're experience is what makes your books so good. You're characters both bullied and bullies are written from what you see.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

As a kid who moved a few times in grammar school, I was sometimes bullied, simply as the new kid with a funny accent and I wore glasses. (Interesting, the short story I am working on for the Guppies Anthology call, Fish or Cut Bait, involves bullying.

I also had several growth spurts that took me from smallest to tallest in a year. When small I was picked on some. To my embarrassment, I must admit that I returned the “favor” some when I was bigger.

One of my sisters was bullied in junior high at the bus stop. I came back from college and spoke with the prime miscreant—which did end that bullying.

KM suggested kids bully for the status it provides them and that they seem to feel superiority and entitlement.

While I agree with the exterior traits, my experience is that those with strong self-confidence did not need to bully to achieve status in class and with friends.

Only those with lower self-esteem (not to be confused with the patina of superiority) found bullying to be useful.

But all that was 50+ years ago, and the dynamics may well have changed.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I wasn't bullied, but I don't think it was much of an issue back in the day at least in our school. I went to a small rather rural school, and we had our cliques, certainly. I wasn't with the popular girls, but they were never rude or unfriendly. If my brother was bullied, he never mentioned it.

I'm glad you took care of your sister being bullied. Sometimes that's all that is needed is someone taking their part. My youngest daughter was picked on by a boy on her bus. My second son, Joey, drove to school then, but one day he rode the bus and sat down next to the bully and threatened him. Unlike his older brother, Joey was a tough guy and had anger issues dealing with the death of his brother so no one messed with him. The bully left my daughter alone after that.

Warren Bull said...

I think there are more than one set of circumstances that lead to bullying. Like, KM, in my experience bullies had a sense of importance and entitlement way out of proportion to their accomplishments.

Shari Randall said...

We often think of big boys as being bullies, but one of the worst bullies I ever saw was a girl in a school where I worked as a substitute teacher. She made a lot of kids absolutely miserable - and so many teachers thought the world of her. She was very petite and pretty, and her mom actually told me that she worried about her daughter being bullied because of her size. Believe me that mom had nothing to worry about.

Nancy Adams said...

I find your experience with the hens very interesting. We're used to thinking about human bullies, but anyone who has spent much time around animals knows that they have their own strong personalities.

Funny that the bully in the new set of chickens turned on fellow newcomers. Maybe she was intimidated by the established hens. Sounds like she bullied the pony, too!

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Sarah Henning said...

As a parent, I worry very much about bullying. I want to make sure I know if it's happening to my son or if he's partaking in it or if it's even going on at all at school. I'm assuming this will only get more frightening as he gets older. Right now, he's at an age (five) where it's very difficult to tell if something happened exactly as he described it. And it's worrying to think that he's either making a mountain out of a molehill or not saying anything when he really should. Makes me so nervous!

E. B. Davis said...

In my school, the different kids were subject to bullying--we had two black kids in the entire district. A little Spanish girl on my bus was bullied so I stuck up for her--of course the bullies tried to give me trouble then--that lasted for exactly one day. I didn't have to do anything except yawn at them.

Another time in high school a new very big girl said she wanted to fight me. I bit back a laugh, turned to her, and told her at our school that wasn't done. We were more the verbal, stab-you-in-the-back school. She got a genuine look of surprise on her face and said she hadn't known that and then thanked me.

I think you have to have some sympathy for the devil--they realize then that you are onto their game.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, in most cases I think you could be right about that.

Shari, I think maybe girls can be the worst bullies although it's more subtle. It seems to be girls that do most of the Facebook bullying and gossiping and excluding other girls from their cliques. Maybe it's not as physical, but definitely causing as much or even more harm.

Nancy, even herd animals like my ponies have one that is more dominate. In my ponies case, it's the younger one although she doesn't actually bully. That being said, they'd be lost without each other.

Sarah, that's always a worry when raising kids. You do the best you can and watch and listen and hope everything will work out with them.

E.B., I love how you took charge when someone was bullying without turning into a bully yourself. Instead, you used your brain.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I think we write about bullying a lot in mysteries without actually calling it that. Often, our victims or suspects are people who push others around or dominate them in some way or other. That kind of thing often leads to violence.

Kara Cerise said...

As the new girl in school—we moved eleven times over thirteen years, I went to three different junior high schools, and had an unusual New Jersey/Southern accent—I received some nasty comments. But it was more low-key than today’s verbal abuse that is sent (sometimes with photos) via social media to the entire school or world.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I agree with you. I think we do to some extent, but I'm going to make it more obvious in my next book.

Kara, eleven times in thirteen years! You couldn't have formed long term friendships and sometimes it's hard to join circles of girls who have been together for a long time. On the other hand, one of the most popular girls in our school was a new girl. She was very friendly and made friends instantly. I imagine you were one who made friends and only the few who resented you making friends so quickly were the ones who said the nasty things. From what I hear, I do think it's worse today. It's much easier to text or post on Facebook nasty than say it to a victim's face.