How should I respond when interacting with a bully?

By Stephen C. Schultz

The 1971-1972 school year was looking to be a good one! With the wind whistling through my hair, I coasted down City View Street on my green Schwynn Stingray, complete with the slick back tire and the gear shift on the center bar, headed to school at Westmoreland Elementary. Even though it had been a couple of weeks, I was feeling comfortable and getting settled in to 3rd grade at my school.

I came to a stop at the corner of 18th and City View and waited for the light to change. The school was directly across the street.  I stepped off the curb and into the cross walk. Once I was safely across, I rode on to the space behind the gym where the bike racks were. 

I took the combination lock off my bike and rotated the tumblers to 9399 and pulled the green vinyl coated chain apart and ran it through the front tire and around the bike rack. I put the chain back together and rolled the tumblers to random numbers. This was the routine just about every day, rain or shine, for many of the students living in Eugene, Oregon.

As with most neighborhoods at the time, there were a few kids who were bullies. I always tried to stay clear of those guys. While I certainly had my mischievous side, I wasn’t a trouble maker.

I recall a time later that same year riding my bike down the same route I would take to school. It was a Saturday and I was on my way to the corner 7-11 convenience store to buy some candy. One of the local bullies stepped off his porch when he saw me coming down the street. He stepped out in front of me and motioned with his hand for me to stop. I slowly coasted to a stop as the brakes made that squeaky brake sound that is so familiar when riding a bike.

I hopped forward off the seat and stood there straddling the center bar. This particular boy was probably 3-4 year older than I was, had straight brown shoulder length hair and walked up to my bike like he’d seen one too many James Dean movies.

I stood there trying not to shake too much. I knew instinctively this wasn’t a friendly visit, but one that might end badly for this 9 year old second grader taking a Saturday morning excursion to get some candy!

The bully stepped to the front of my bike and grabbed the handle bars.

He said with a snarl, “Get off!”

In a second grade screechy voice I responded, “I’m just going to get some candy”

“Get off”, he grimaced!

I slowly lifted my leg over the bar and stepped aside. He proceeded to get on my bike and he rode away. I stood there watching him ride down the sidewalk and around the corner.

I recall thinking to myself, “Did I just get my bike stolen? How am I going to tell my parents? Crap…now I have to walk home! Should I still go get the candy?

To a second grader, the decision was easy. I started walking down the street in the direction I was already headed because the store was just a block or so away and the mission for this particular day was to get candy!

I made it to the store and was walking across the parking lot when the bully rode up to me on my bike. The squeaky brakes shuddered a bit and he came to a stop. He slid off the seat and leaned the bike in my direction and said in a sharp toned voice, “Here!” and he proceeded to walk away.

To this day I have no idea where he went or what he did. Since I was already at the store, I was able to get some baseball cards, Bottle Cap candies that tasted like soda pop and a box of candy cigarettes that were eaten and gone long before I got home!!

As I have thought about this experience from an adult perspective, I have often wondered what ever happened to the “Bully” boy. I would not be surprised to learn that he had been raised in an abusive home or that he found himself in trouble with the law as he got older. I certainly hope not, but having other memories of interactions with him and his family, I am lead to believe it’s a long shot that he didn’t have continued problems.

However, this is not the point of my article. I would bet that everyone who reads this piece has had some type of experience with a bully. It may have been as a child, it may have been when you were older. Sometimes we encounter bullies at work and sometimes they are within family relationships. Sometime we have random experiences simply because we live in large communities or small towns.

The question then becomes, “How should I respond when interacting with a bully?”

Some might say the best way to deal with a bully is to fight back! They espouse the scriptural reference of and “Eye for an Eye”. Others may recommend a more passive approach that follows the teaching of “Turn the other cheek”.

I am interested in your thoughts on this topic. What would you do personally? What should we teach our kids when they face bullies? What were you taught as a child about bullies? Please share!


Anonymous said…
Was that a blue house? I bet it was! I grew up in Eugene. Went to Westmoreland Elementary. Your story doesn't say the year? But the bike says late 60s early to mid 70s. To me. I was bullied in those days myself. Then came a day for me, that I took a different path and fought back.... Things changed, after that!
Thanks so much for your comment "Anonymous". I do recall the blue house on City View, but this particular boy lived in a light brown house on the West side of the street. I attended 1st - 6th grade there in the early 70's. We probably crossed paths many times.

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