DR. WALLACE: Your column might have saved my life. Before taking the advice you gave to another boy, I had thought of killing myself. I'm 14 and very big for my age, but not very coordinated. In physical education, I'm always the last one chosen to play on a team. Because I was considered to be a sissy, a lot of kids called me names. One boy not only called me names, he made me give him my lunch money or he would hit me.
I told my teachers and even my principal about this, but nobody seemed to care enough to eliminate the problem. I hated school. My mom kept telling me to walk away from the guys who were bothering me. I don't have a father, so I listened to my mother's advice, but deep down I knew it would never work.
Then I read your column where you said that you detested violence, but when a bully uses you for a punching bag, defend yourself, even if it means that you will be suspended from school.
Last month, the bully slapped my face and kicked me in the leg because I wouldn't give him money. All of a sudden, I remembered what you said: "When all else fails, defend yourself." I pushed the bully down and jumped on him, hitting wherever I could. I got in four or five good blows to his head before a teacher broke up the fight.
Yes, I was suspended for three days, but the bully no longer bothers me and the kids at school are now showing me a little respect. My grades are getting better and I now look forward to getting an education.
Thanks for your advice. You now have a fan for life! — Nameless, New York, N.Y.
NAMELESS: The sad fact is, bullying is a terrible problem in many schools because teachers and administrators fail to take appropriate action — even, as in your case, when it includes lunch-money extortion. The good news is, bullies are invariably cowards. The last thing they want is to be challenged. When they are, they back off.
As usual, I had many letters telling me the best way to stop a bully is to simply walk away. By all means, try it once. If it works, great, if it doesn't (and believe me, it usually doesn't) then you must stand your ground. If no responsible adult intervenes on your behalf, then I say fight back.
For those who say that teens who are being bullied should "turn the other cheek," it's obvious that they had never been bullied. It's a horrible feeling that can lead to psychological and other health problems. Bullying at school is a major problem and it must be eradicated!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.