Bludgeoning Children (Not as Bad as It Sounds)

Hi Folks! Below is just one part of a great, fun essay called “Parenting the Way Your Great Grandmother Would.” It’s by Margaret Ables, a comedy writer who has written for Celebrity Death Match and It’s a Big, Big World. She blogs at shortfatdictator.com (Facebook) and has appeared on ‘Steve Harvey’ discussing parenting/ family issues. She lives in L.A. with her husband and 3 kids under 5. – L

SUPERVISING MY CHILDREN AS IF A RABID BEAR WERE LOOSE AT ALL TIMES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD by Margaret Ables

When my father was a young boy growing up in Brooklyn he was free to walk all over the neighborhood unsupervised. The one demand that was placed on him was that he never cross the street alone. And so every time he would get to a corner he would reach up his little hand to whatever stranger was standing there and say,

Hey, cross me, Mister!”

And that stranger, rather than throwing him in the trunk of a car and driving off, would instead guide him across the street and then send him on his way.

My Mom, unknown then to my father and living two dozen miles away in the Bronx, would take to the streets each October for “Mischief Night”. The event involved hundreds of local children dressed in black and armed with tube socks full of flour roaming through the night on poorly lit streets.

The point of the evening, as my mother explained it, was to

Bludgeon as many other kids as possible.”

Kids got hurt. Older kids targeted younger kids in ways that were unfair. Kids ganged up on one another. Tears were shed. And each one of them came out again the next year excited to do it all again.

If I allowed my children to replicate either of these pieces of their grandparents’ childhood, it would no doubt result in my immediate prosecution. — READ MORE!

Fill with flour and head out into the night!

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30 Responses to Bludgeoning Children (Not as Bad as It Sounds)

  1. Emily April 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    I guess this is one of those “you had to be there” things. Free-range is all well and good, but I’d rather see a resurgence of old-school trick-or-treating, with kids out in groups of siblings or friends, after dark, in costumes, bonus points if said costumes are homemade, and no adults required. Kids beating each other with socks full of flour just seems pointless, violent, and a waste of flour.

  2. mystic_eye_cda April 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Beating each other with socks filled with flour seems like less of a mess than the tag with balloons filled with “paint”.

    Also probably a lot more satisfying

  3. Orange Roughy April 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Just like dodge ball, those kinda games help kids grow a backbone.

  4. Nanci April 1, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    @Orange Roughy I agree! Kids are so whiny now about other kids not playing nice. Kids have this false illusion drilled into them that somehow life is fair and everyone should always play nice. When my kids come home saying so and so doesn’t want to play with them, instead of finding so and so and demanding they play nice, I ask my kid what they did to cause a friend not to want to play with them. Kids today are wimps!

  5. Warren April 2, 2013 at 12:01 am #

    We couldn’t have this sock filled flour game today. Gluten allergies…………………….

    I have taken some heat for supporting games like this, and more so dodgeball.

    Too many parents these days are anti competition, anti contact sports, and anti any game or sport that promotes even the slightest bit of aggression.
    Yes there are kids that do not like alot of activities in PE, and personally I wasn’t to happy with the square dancing, but I still did it.
    When your child comes home and is upset because he/she got picked on in dodgeball, you can either let them think of themselves as a victim, which seems to be the norm these days. Or you could tell them to walk it off, and give them some advice on how to better themselves, and get in some good shots the next time they play.

    And for those that think it is the weaker players that get targeted the most, you are wrong. It is the stronger players that are the main target, as to eliminate the threat as fast as possible. The difference being the stronger player enjoys being the target, as it is part of the game. Where as the weaker player thinks of him self as a victim of bullying. That I blame on the parents. Athletic ablility is one thing, but the way you see yourself, that is something parents can deal with.

  6. lihtox April 2, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    @Warren: Bullying is real and not new, and it may be hard for those who haven’t gone through it to understand how debilitating it can be. I’m sure the anti-bullying measures today go too far at times, but the answer isn’t as simple as “tell the kids to toughen up”. I was told that too. My parents never got involved, and I eventually learned not to get the teachers involved lest I be bullied worse. And while as an adult I try to be very open and accepting and trusting, in my gut I’m still the little boy who understands that people (especially strangers, especially males) are cruel. It’s hard to outgrow those lessons.

    But that has nothing to do with the sock game mentioned above, which from the sounds of it was completely voluntary (unlike gym class). Maybe that specific tradition doesn’t sound appealing to us, but it was a fairly harmless tradition carried on by kids from one generation to the next, without parents intruding, and that’s pretty cool.

  7. Donna April 2, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    Mischief night in our town when I was a kid involved kids running around creating mischief – toilet papering houses, soaping windows, etc. The year someone blew up our mailbox with a fire cracker was a tad extreme, but it was generally much more mellow than than that.

    I agree with Warren (shocking, I know) that there is too much anti-competition, everything must be fair today. We had issues with egg hunts this weekend. My daughter wanted a standard egg hunt – turn kids loose and they come back with as many eggs as they can find. Instead she got a school egg hunt where each child brought in enough eggs for the class and the kids got to find one egg from each classmate. And another egg hunt where the kids were told to find a certain number of eggs so everyone got the same amount. She was very disappointed with Easter until we got to the unexpected 3rd egg hunt that had some competition to it.

  8. hineata April 2, 2013 at 2:43 am #

    This sock game sounds terrific, and a lot ‘safer’ than the hijinks kids in Freeman’s Bay, Auckland, supposedly got up to in the 1920s. In those days Catholic and ‘Proddy’ wars were all on, and the kids would meet after school and ‘beat the crap’ out of each other, girls as well as boys, according to the lovely old lady reminiscing about her happy childhood. These were primary school kids.

    My dad talked with glee about the housewives they used to blow sinks of water over, using firecrackers saved from Guy Fawkes stuffed up the drainpipe. They even managed to blow a hole in a policeman’s helmet, after which time he booted them in the behind before dragging them home to their parents, who administered another round. And the Chinese greengrocer chased his mates down the road with the pumpkin cleaver after the little beggars chased his sons for knicking their ball.

    These same delightful people all grew up to complain in their old age about the youth of today, and how appallingly badly behaved they all are.

    Yeah, right…. :-)

  9. BL April 2, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    It’s been my experience that those who claim being bullied “builds a backbone” come rushing to the bully’s rescue when someone actually does get a backbone and the bully is getting the worst of it.

    Funny how bullies are never required to have their own backbone.

  10. Donna April 2, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    It find it astounding that Warren said “when your child comes home and is upset because he/she got picked on in dodgeball” and the next responses were about how awful bullying is.

    If there is one word overused in the child lexicon these days, it is “bullying.” Bullying has come to mean every single negative child interaction. It is ridiculous. While being picked on about dodgeball can be PART of overall bullying, it is not itself bullying. It is being picked on in dodgeball. I messed up the copier at work last week. I got picked on by my coworkers about it. I am not being bullied by my coworkers. They are too different things. Next week someone else will do something dumb and we’ll pick on her.

  11. Sha April 2, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    Except that I was bullied all through grade school and I dreaded dodgeball in PE. We played a lot of different games and I can’t think of one I hated more. I could deal with being the last kid on one side and pelted by two or three kids at once. It was the awful jeering and sneering. It is a game for bullies to pick on the weak and if you can’t see that, I’m sorry for you.
    Now, if you are monitoring how the kids are playing with each other that would be fine. But I am going to guess, now as then, teachers aren’t paying enough attention or they just don’t care.

  12. pentamom April 2, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Speaking as one who was bullied in dodgeball games, bullying is not about sports that have an aggressive component. Aggressive sports can be used by bullies, but then, so can “walking down the hall” and “sitting at your desk.” Taking the attitude that eliminating aggressive sports curbs bullying causes you to ignore the fact that bullying goes on just as much without the aggressive sports, just in different ways, which causes you to ignore the bullying.

    Bullying is about the bullies, who need to be stopped from bullying regardless of the activity that creates the context. Rough games can be fun if properly monitored by adults. This is all about the adults being the adults, not the choice of game.

  13. Warren April 2, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    @lihtox

    It is amazing how narrow minded people can be. I never said just tell them to toughen up. I said you have a choice. Let them continue to feel and think like a victim, or tell them to walk it off and help them prepare for the next time.

    I am sorry lihtox, that your parents let you down, but if you allow your kids to think and feel like a victim you are letting them down.

    It is our job as parents to prepare our kids for the future. That does not mean because our little darling’s do not like something, that we will swoop in and get the school to ban it, or tell our kids that they do not have to participate. No it is our job to tell them that though they may not like it, their participation in mandatory, as in life there will be many more times we have to do things we would rather not. It is called life, grow a thicker skin, and get on with it.

  14. A Dad April 2, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    To paraphrase @Warren
    Prepare you child for the road. Don’t prepare the road for the child.

  15. lollipoplover April 2, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    the flour in the sock made me think of our family Easter egg hunt this year. Someone brought 3 dozen “Confetti Eggs”- these are papermache eggs that you smash on a head to break open the egg which is filled with confetti.
    They hurt!
    They’re messy!
    The older girls made the little girls almost cry!

    We called them Concussion eggs and gave grief to my sister who bought them. I had one smashed on my head (and polluted my wine) and saw stars.

    The kids begged for more, even the crybabies.
    Go figure.

  16. Captain America April 2, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    . . . I’m with the Hey I’m Leery of the Anti-Bullying Movement Crowd.

    Obviously there are longstanding connections (perhaps a start?) with the whole gay movement. This is suspicious to me.

    If that doesn’t concern you particularly, you might want to view it this way: bullying has always existed, and the old expression “sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me” really ends up helping people as adults deal with different points of view. . . rather than demonize and imprison those who have different views.

    It’s good to learn how to shake off a pain and move on.

  17. BL April 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    @Captain America
    “… rather than demonize and imprison those who have different views”

    If having different views is “bullying”, the word has lost all meaning.

    My working definition is “peer-group assault.”

  18. Yan Seiner April 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    @Captain America: I’m puzzled with your tie-in between anti-bullying and “the whole gay movement”. ???? Not really sure what that’s supposed to mean.

    Bullying is a problem for some kids. It’s more than having a different opinion. It can be a relentless assault on many fronts to make someone miserable. And, unlike before, it does not end at the school door; today kids can be subject to constant harassment through facebook, text messages, and so on. With a few basic scripts and a computer, a kid can launch hundreds of abusive messages in a few minutes.

    Is it a huge problem? No, not really, and maybe not as much as some make it out to be. But it is a problem, and it should be stopped. I talk to my kids and they see it in school, and they have taken action to stop it (our school system has various student leadership groups that work together to stop bad behavior.)

    There’s no proof that being publicly humiliated and physically and verbally assaulted repeatedly by a group of one’s peers results an adult who can deal with different points of view.

    And I’m still stumped what this has to do with gays.

    Just because something has always existed does not mean it’s right. Wife beating has always existed; does that make it right?

  19. SKL April 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    We didn’t do mischief night, but I do remember asking people “will you please cross me?” Ah, memories.

  20. Hels April 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    I was lucky to have met one of my great-grandmothers, born in 1899 (the youngest of them all :) ) . Her philosophy, which she imparted onto my grandmother (I spent my summers at my grandma’s from the age of 2 until grandma passed away when I was 14, great-grandma passed away when I was 9), was quite simple. If the kid is older than four or so, the kid does not need constant watching. If the kid is older than six or seven, the kid should know the rules. In fact, the only rule: be home by the time evening news end at 9:30pm simply because at that time grandma would lock the door for the night. It was an old house with a heavy oak door four inches thick locking with a heavy deadbolt, and when I was old enough and strong enough to actually be able to lock the door, I was allowed to stay out as late as I would – around 11pm, usually, because after that mosquitoes would come out in droves and make being outside rather unpleasant). I wasn’t expected to come for dinner because policy was that a kid who is hungry will come to eat, and a kid how is not hungry enough for a real meal can avail herself of the food available. “Bread is in this drawer, salt is on this shelf, milk is in the fridge, and whatever you scavenge in the garden is fair game”. I used to pretty much live off bread (dark, moist rye bread.. yum!) and goat’s milk from grandma’s goat, and fresh berries and veggies. Grew rather tall and lithe on such a diet, if I do say so myself. I was expected to help with some major tasks – like hoeing the potatoes or turning up hay so it dries better – but otherwise left to my own devices. Usually running around the village with my friends (other city kids shipped off to their grandmothers for the summer or locals), and I can’t recall playing with many store-bought toys. We all had them, but we hardly touched them. It was a lot more fun to just run around, or improvise scavenge hunts, or go exploring, or draw our own paper dolls or our own improvised games, or sort through piles of old junk in the attic, or playing in the hay stores… We were utterly happy, I must say. I am sure glad we did not have computers back then, or I would have missed on that whole load of fun…

  21. Warren April 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    The big problem is the definition of bullying.

    Just as with hazzardous materials, sex offenders, and numerous other things, bullying has expanded to pretty much include everything and anything that makes our little precious ones upset. And that is wrong.

    But it is just like with living in fear, when it is actually safer.

    If your kid comes home and says so and so bullied him/her for something, it is easier to agree and let them feel victimized, rather than to set them straight and explain to them that what happened wasn’t bullying. But parents won’t do that, because bullying is now the cool buzz word.

  22. hineata April 2, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    @Pentamon – so true. Bullying will occur with or without aggressive sports.

    That said, some sports do provide more opportunities for ‘having a go’ and do need monitoring. When it comes to something like dodgeball, there are some classes of kids that no way in hell will I allow them to play that, because there are numerous little #$%ts in the class who have a particular liking for harming the small/weak/different in the group. Other groups have a better dynamic, and they get to play whatever they like.

    I agree that not everything unpleasant that happens to kids is bullying, any more than is every ‘rude’ comment. I have always said to the kids that many comments they perceive as rude or obnoxious a/stem from the commenter’s ignorance, (Midge gets a lot of these, usually pertaining to size/lack of co-ordination) b/are the result of differences in culture/upbringing about what constitutes rudeness, or c/are deliberately rude and obnoxious, in which case one gives a certain form of finger salute and carries on with the day.

  23. JJ April 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    SKL, I thought that was made up, the “will you please cross me”. But no? That is about the cutest thing I can imagine.

  24. pentamom April 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    “If your kid comes home and says so and so bullied him/her for something, it is easier to agree and let them feel victimized, rather than to set them straight and explain to them that what happened wasn’t bullying.”

    And jumping to either of those conclusions is easier than finding out what really went on, and determining whether there really WAS bullying going on.

    Assuming your kid was wrong about being bullied and dismissing what happened is no better than reflexively agreeing with your kid that every complaint he has about how others have treated him constitutes “bullying.”

  25. pentamom April 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    hineata — I do agree that some things lend themselves better to bullying, and if you have a group of kids where that kind of thing is already known to be an issue, then it’s best avoided until the trouble-making kids are dealt with, if that’s even possible. But I think we have a larger issue in the U.S. where some particular activities are associated with bullying, therefore those activities are banned, because 1) that allows people to pretend that if you don’t have those activities you’ll have less bullying and 2) it’s easier than assessing individual situations, monitoring the situation, and disciplining the kids who aren’t being merely a bit rough, but actually victimizing other kids.

  26. Warren April 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    @pentamom

    No it is not jumping to conclusions, because if it is a valid case of bullying, then we deal with it in another way. Still not allowing them to feel like victims.
    If it is a case of bullying, then my child is taught what to do, and how to handle themselves. Which starts by calling the bully’s bluff. If that doesn’t work, my girls had my full support to use their right foot to shove the bully’s testicles up into his throat.
    You can tell teachers, you can report bullying, but untill you actually stand your ground, you still feel like a victim. Untill you take that power back, you will always feel weak.
    They threatened to suspend my youngest daughter for pushing a boy to the ground, as a way of standing up to him. They backed down when I told them that the news and media would love to hear how a school punished a girl for defending her friend.
    One of the ways to lessen bullying is to empower their targets. Stop letting them feel like victims. Teach them to take care of themselves. Teach them to defend themselves. Teach them that if they are pushed they should push back.
    My old priest once said ” the bible says turn the other cheek, and when they swing for that one, duck and ram their teeth down their throat. Because the bible teaches us to be peaceful and understanding, but we can not do that as a victim.”
    One problem is that too many kids are told that if they fight back, that if they knock the snot out of a bully, then they are just as bad as the bully. And that is bullpucky.
    Kids have got to be told/taught it is okay to defend yourself, and if the other person gets hurt, you have done nothing wrong.

  27. This girl loves to talk April 3, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    ha @ lollipoplover – I make surprise eggs every year for easter. I felt a little guilty after your comment. I’m THAT sister!! lol
    We have a little rule that you have to kinda smash the egg a little in your hands before you tip the insides out over the persons head. Not had any injuries yet. We make them out of real eggs and fill with birdseed, rice, confetti etc. Kids LOVE them! we actually forgot to use ours at a family gathering at the lake and on the drive home the kids said we forgot the surprise eggs and were really devastated.

  28. pentamom April 3, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    “No it is not jumping to conclusions, because if it is a valid case of bullying, then we deal with it in another way. Still not allowing them to feel like victims.”

    Great, then. But that wasn’t clear from your comment. It sounded like you were saying, “If your child comes home saying he’s bullied don’t believe him.” I’m glad you weren’t saying that.

  29. KB April 4, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Oh yes – my father (in the Bronx or Yonkers) used to ask “Will you cross me, mister?” as well. I had completely forgotten that story of his until I read this! My impression was that was the norm at the time.

  30. Emily April 4, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I see a lot of loaded language here. Not every unpleasant interaction among kids is bullying, but I don’t think denying the fact that bullying exists is the answer either. Sure, it’s all well and good to tell kids to stand up for themselves, or even to enroll them in martial arts for that purpose, but the fact is, the bully is often bigger and stronger than the target, or brings friends into the altercation, thereby making it an unfair fight. Also, “knocking the bully’s testicles into his throat” isn’t always a viable solution, because, besides the fact that a lot of schools punish retaliation, as Warren mentioned, not all bullying is physical, and not all bullies have testicles. When I was in school, I was the target of not only physical bullying, but also exclusion, vicious rumours, and, for a period of time in grade six, stealing. There was an older girl in my split 6/7 class, who would steal my pencil crayons, markers/Mini Stampers, etc., and then tell me that if I gave her my dessert from my lunch, she’d give back one stolen item. She’d also act friendly towards me when I did what she wanted, but shut me out, or even hit me, if I didn’t. When I told my mother about this, she said that it was “extortion,” and it was wrong. That day, I learned both a new word, and a valuable lesson. My teacher didn’t care, because she was tiny, and believed that I deserved to have my lunch stolen, because I was “too fat anyway.” However, my mom told the principal what was going on (because I didn’t want to make waves with my ‘friend,’), and he put a stop to it.

    Also, Nanci, I’m not sure I like the mentality of “What did you do to make Sally not want to play with you.” That kind of attitude implies that it’s always the fault of the kid who wants to play. Sometimes kids exclude other kids to be mean (hell, sometimes adults do the same thing), and other times, it’s nobody’s fault. Suppose Sally wasn’t up for a game of jump rope (for example) that day, because she was in the mood to read or draw quietly by herself instead? That doesn’t make her a “bully,” but it doesn’t mean that the other kid is in the wrong either. I’m not saying you’re not a good parent, because you’re obviously on the right track, getting your kids thinking about their words and actions as opposed to just blaming the other person when they don’t abide by their wishes, but I’m just saying that, in some situations, no blame needs to be assigned at all.