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Tales of True Bullies


by Izzy Kalman (June 2002)

In the last two newsletters, I’ve been presenting stories of “true bullies” — individuals who act as bullies and without seeing themselves as victims. My point in these vignettes is to show that bullies are not as evil as we are generally led to believe.

This month’s featured bully is unusual in that he is none other than a psychologist. Steve Sussman, PhD, is the most outrageous psychologist I have ever known. And he is certainly one of the most effective therapists you can hope to find anywhere.

Dr. Sussman, director of the Child and Teen Success Centers of New York and New Jersey, has created a unique method of turning around oppositional and defiant children of all ages. Most of the kids who are brought to him have been to other therapists for years with no results, and their parents turn to him out of desperation.

Dr. Sussman doesn’t commiserate with difficult kids about the abuse and neglect they have supposedly experienced at the hands of their parents and society. He doesn’t try to boost their frail egos by pointing out their good traits. What he does, plain and simple, is bully them. He insults them with the names they really deserve. He threatens to make their lives miserable if they don’t improve their behavior at home and in school, and he carries out these threats when necessary. He will have the police called on them if they are violent or destructive. He will ruin their relationships with friends if they fail to respect their parents. He will have them sent to boot camp if they can’t discipline themselves. He will do whatever is necessary to get these kids to listen to him and to become good citizens. Dr. Sussman is so good at bullying that none of these kids, as street smart as they often are, ever get the better of him.

But also like true bullies, he helps and protects those who submit to his will. He rewards them with money or presents if they improve their behavior, and will plea their case to the authorities when they really deserve it. He will get them jobs so they can become more self- sufficient while taking pride in contributing to society. In the process of treatment, he also teaches their parents how to become the bullies of their kids rather than the other way around.

Do you think that the kids hate him for bullying them? Many do at first. But before long they love him, and they love coming to the sessions. The happier they make Dr. Sussman, the better their own lives become. They not only win money and prizes at the sessions. They become winners in the game of life.

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