Is “Growing a Pair” the Antidote to Bullying?

Cameron Hamilton, the mayor of Porterville, California, ignited outrage with his comments during a recent town hall meeting when he suggested that kids “grow pair and stick up for themselves” in response to bullying.

So, why the outrage people?

His comments, while unrefined, should be initiating meaningful conversation about youth development and how we are collectively working to shield kids from bullying as opposed to molding them into youngsters who are able to navigate bullying and stand up for themselves. As adults we cannot deny the fact that the bullies don’t go away once adulthood arrives; we instruct others how we want to be treated for the length of our lives.

Unfortunately, the majority of people are going to stereotype Mr. Hamilton as a redneck and dismiss his comments after they calm down. I’ve head the term, “grow a pair,” used ad nauseam from my years in football and construction. If you “wash off” the indecency of this phrase, it’s core meaning is tied to critical personal qualities such as courage and self-responsibility. Coddling and shielding kids eliminates the development of these attributes and we’re talking about a vital life skill here.

Anyone who has stood up to a bully finds that the bully and the bullying shrinks when challenged. It takes courage to do so and that’s a great thing. I’m glad Mr. Hamilton said what he did from a political seat because it made big news and while it’s not quite how I would phrase it, I concur with his message 100%.

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