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Solutions To A Bullying Problem

My son came out of gymnastics yesterday in tears. Two "teammates" had grabbed his pants while he was changing, thrown them out of reach, and restrained him while slapping his calves. I'm almost impressed - they achieved "Bully Bingo" with a combination of teaming up in greater numbers, depriving someone of their personal property, humiliation and physical violence.

Of course, I was livid, but we ended up discussing it as a family before taking action. N.B. I don't actually want advice, I'm just using this as a topic for today's idea list...

    1. Ignore The Problem

    My son is going on 14 so I need to respect his wishes in handling his own problems. Bullies like the reactions they get from their bullying, so it's possible downplaying the whole incident will be the best option in the long term.

    2. Talk To The Coaches

    This was my wife's choice of strategy. The problem occurred within the gym, so it's a gym problem. At the end of a long training session, these two bullies seem to still have energy to spare - maybe a few extra rope climbs or something would teach them a thing or two.

    3. Talk To The Parents

    This was my preferred strategy. Being a parent to a competitive gymnast is expensive and time-consuming, in addition to the drop-offs and pickups you also have to commit many hours as a volunteer to help run competitions. I'm sure any parent would be aghast that some of the work and money they put into supporting their athlete is being squandered with this kind of behaviour.

    4. Violence

    I know, I know, it isn't the answer, but hear me out. Back in the 80's the advice was to stand up to bullies, and fight back. We now live in more "enlightened" times, but for all the zero-tolerance policies and anti-bullying messaging, we have a problem straight out of the past and it looks like the modern ways aren't really working. Viewed from an economic standpoint, bullying provides a value (the pleasure and "fun" of it) with no cost associated with it. When there's a cost (pain), it becomes less appealing.

    5. Revenge Prank

    Hide or spoil their clothing/personal possessions. Less risky than #4

    6. Negotiate for Sympathy

    "Guys, I know you were just having fun, but I got in trouble for being late; I'm tired at the end of the day and I just want to go home

    7. Intimidate The Bullies

    Probably the worst idea. If I talk to them directly and let them know I'm on to them.

    8. Gather Allies

    Some more senior athletes eventually intervened and got his pants back. Between teammates like that and maybe any other victims, presenting a united front against these kinds of shenanigans might be helpful. Inspired by an early episode of the Simpsons.

    9. Stealth Version of #2

    Maybe I'll have a chat with the coach and casually suggest he take a moment to take a peek into the change room to see what the athletes are getting up to. The authority intervenes, and the risk of snitch blowback is minimized, because the authority "stumbled" upon the problem themselves.

    10. Bribes/Payoffs

    "I'll give you a dollar to give me back my pants."

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