Many of us have had to suffer the rude treatment of bullies. The common misconception is that these ruffians are only active in our school systems and playgrounds, but young bullies, if they don’t reform, grow up to be old bullies like gang members or linebackers.

However, our first encounters with these intimidating louts occur in our youth when it would be useful to learn some defensive tactics. An upperclassman was making a habit of pushing me around in grammar school. I finally went to my father for help and he gave me the standard advice about avoiding the hooligan as much as possible and otherwise trying to appear unafraid when confronted. “But, Dad,” I said, “sometimes he corners me in the hallway when there’s no one around and starts roughing me up!”

“I guess in an extreme case like that you’ll have to take action like I did once in school, Son. Punch the villain in the nose smartly. It will become his complete focus for about ten seconds while he gets over the pain and checks for bleeding.”

“Then what, Dad?”

“Son, I’ve just given you ten seconds for a getaway. By the time he’s thinking about you again you should be out of sight or just outside the principal’s office.”

As an undersized tackle on my high school football team I was usually just casually pushed aside by opposing linemen, but one hulking brute decided to pummel me on every play. I played a mean trick and gave him a terrible scare near the end of the fourth quarter. He thought he’d killed me. He was quite upset.

Years later my little son came to me with a neighborhood bully problem. “He’s always calling me names and pushing me around, Dad, and he’s too big for me to fight back.”

“Okay, I’ll have a talk with the boy’s father,” I said. “Which family is this?”

“The McThrashers, Dad. You know, the father is the professional wrestler, Slammer McThrasher.”

“Really? You know, Son, you’re going to have to learn to get along with a lot of different people in this world. Perhaps young McThrasher will respond to a kind word, a little flattery or a dollar bill.”

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