Bullies are the diaper stain of mankind. They don’t even get to be called p.o.s. in my book. Your kids may face these morons rather early in life. If not before they enter school, by this time they will have a face to go with the term. Whether they are the direct target or not, I can guarantee exposure. Bear in mind that bullies are not limited to the thrills of childhood. As many of you know, there is a plethora of them in adult life. They like hurting people physically, emotionally, or vocationally.
How do you prepare your kids for dealing with bullies? Although it is a public taboo and denounced, it is ever thriving in our society. Differently from when I was a kid, now we have cyberbullies. At least when I was a kid, the jerk had to have enough guts or stupidity to perform a public act. Now, these little cowards attempt to ruin lives from the safety of their computer or smartphone. The Greek fable writer Aesop once said, “It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.” I might add “or from anonymity”. Therefore, the best way to address them is as they are, cowards. Our kids need to know that bullies are cowards that are trying to convince themselves and others that they are brave, strong, in control, cool, or should not be picked on themselves.
Due to the fact that they are cowards in their hearts, our children need to learn that while an action or word can harm anyone, the “person” should not be feared. Everyone has the potential for harming another. However, if they need a visual, think of the almighty chihuahua. They can be one of the most aggressive breeds of dog on the planet, but should we really fear them.
When my father was young, there was a big boy in his class that feared by all. This bully, we will call Ted liked to step on and kick the heels of those in front of him. Kids back in that day were reluctant to “telling on” bullies because they didn’t want to get beat up. I also, can’t state this as a fact, but it appears that teachers and principles didn’t have the zero tolerance that they proclaim today.
One day dad encountered Ted. He had run-ins with Ted before, but this time Ted scraped down dad’s leg with his shoe, taking a layer of skin of his Achilles tendon and heel area. Dad had already told him to stop. They were going upstairs to the music room at the school. Once they reached the top of the stairs, my dad turned around and hit Ted as hard as he could in the nose. The two of them tumbled down the stairs. When they reached the bottom, fortunately for dad he landed on top of Ted, not underneath him. As fast as he could, dad hit the boy several times hoping to hurt him bad enough so that Ted could not get up and beat him to a pulp.
Both my dad and Ted got licks (the paddle) for the incident. My dad thought it was a huge injustice, but could not do anything about it. Oddly enough, Dad and Ted became buddies after the fight. This type of result is more common among boys than girls. According to the author and Dr. Leonard Sax in his book Why Gender Matters, although boys tend to fight more often, there is usually not an ultimate end to the friendship. With girls, however, although their physical aggression happens less than boys when it does happen, the friendship is usually over.
As you prepare your kids to deal with these individuals, note that boys and girls can feel quite differently about the situation. There can also be a difference in how your child reacts to a bully that may be different from how you would react regardless of their sex. Dads, trust me when I say that just because you have a son, does not mean that he is a mini-you. Your boy may have a much more passive or aggressive response to these individuals. Let me give you a visual on this point.
My oldest can get angry, but it takes a LOT to set him off. My middle child…well let’s just say that when we met his Marine drill instructor and HE asks me if my son has anger issues, it can be significant. I find myself in the middle. I’m not really like either one of my boys. Therefore, it was important that I approach the topic of bullies catering to the specific boy I was addressing. You need to know how they are going to act to frustration.
A few bits of advice that I have given to all my children concerning bullies are as follows:
- Physical bullies are usually less intelligent. Hang out with the smart kids and strive towards academic achievement. Upper-level classes rarely have such individuals.
- Be in public or well-populated areas when possible. You don’t have to be a part of a crowd, just in it. This is like insect repellent for bullies. Be around or in the view of adults.
- Be aware of your path throughout the day. Bullies may take transition times as an opportunity to pick on people. This is particularly is true for those kids that walk home from school or ride the school bus.
- There are consequences for defending yourself. This has nothing to do with justice. If you choose to defend yourself, know that although there may be consequences at school, you will not be in trouble with your mom and myself.
- Befriend and defend those that cannot defend themselves. Watching someone being hurt and doing nothing is just as cruel as the one hurting them…and in a way, more so.
Support your kids. Plan ahead. Be the best dad possible.