How Did We Survive Bad Parental Advice?

When I was a kid, I was convinced parents and teachers gave terrible advice. When it came to dealing with playground issues — bullies, being teased, being picked on — they had no clue what was going on in a kid's world or how to handle certain problems.

Now that I'm a parent myself, dealing with my own kids' problems, I realize their old advice is still pretty terrible.

Remember "if they tease you, it's because they like you?" I heard it in the first grade when a girl told on me for teasing her.

I thought, "Eww! No, I don't." and I quit because I didn't want anyone to think I actually liked her. But we all realized that was patently absurd and no one ever believed it except for the teachers who kept saying it.

Teachers continue to perpetuate this idea despite it being a) false, and b) dangerous. Not only are you telling the teaser that this is how to tell someone you like them, it teaches the other person that being picked on is an acceptable demonstration of love. Teach a kid this is acceptable, and this is how you end up getting stalkers in your bushes.

Besides, what happens if I retaliate? Is that the beginning of a courtship? What if I stab the other person with my compass? Does that mean I like them back? I don't want to send any mixed signals or anything.

Of course, the friends who made fun of me weren't doing it because they liked me. They thought the plaid pants I was wearing in the third grade were hysterical.
However, those kids weren't my "real friends," because as everyone knows, friends who judge you because of your clothes are not your real friends.

Apparently, my real friends were some secret plaid pants-wearing nerd cabal who met every week to play Dungeons & Dragons, but I never actually met them.

This "not your real friends" business was never very comforting. Of course, kids will tease each other about their clothes. It's what kids do. They're rotten little turds who don't know you're supposed to hide your true feelings behind a frozen mask of civility.

But they tease because they're just jealous. Apparently, that's the only reason kids are mean to other kids. According to my mom, it's because I was smart, handsome, and loved to read. (Hey, just because her advice was bad doesn't mean she was wrong about everything.)

And also my pants, apparently. They were jealous of my pants. Not every kid got to wear pea-green-and-burgundy plaid pants, so I was special. To hear my mom tell it, these kids would run home after school, fling themselves on their beds, and sob and wail that they didn't have pants like mine. My pants gnawed at their very soul, and they hated me for it.

The dumbest piece of advice I heard was how to deal with bullies.

"If someone is picking on you, just ignore them and they'll go away."

Clearly, someone has never dealt with bullies. They don't go away because you don't react. They continue picking and punching until they get a reaction, which is what they want. They're patient in their cruelty and they'll punch you over and over until you finally acknowledge them.

Don't believe me? How many times will a little kid shout "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" before he gives up and goes away?

Trick question. The little turd won't shut up ever. I've been in restaurants where the mom is talking and is ignoring her kid or just hasn't taught him what manners are. Either way, the kid ain't going away no matter how hard she pretends he isn't there.

The only thing worse than a parent not understanding how bullying worked were the teachers and principals who were either unsympathetic or unwilling to listen. There were a couple times I got punished for fighting when it was basically just some bully beating the crap out of me.

I mean, I can see getting in trouble if both of us were whaling away on each other. But when it's just one kid repeatedly punching another kid, there's no reason the second kid should face any kind of punishment.

Ice cream was not an unreasonable expectation.

But the principals and teachers were as unsympathetic as prison guards. They would claim they had to "be fair" and couldn't show favoritism. Except it's not favoritism when you only punish a bullying A-hole for being a bullying A-hole. That's justice.

You don't prosecute both the burglar and the home owner, or the car jacker and the car owner. But this notion of "fairness" in punishing both the bully and the victim was one of the dumbest things any school administrator could have done.

Or maybe they just really liked me.

Photo credit: Thomas Ricker (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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