I can still remember the girl who made middle school a waking nightmare for me. Last I heard she is an orthopedic surgeon which I thought was good because it meant that she would work long hours and not spend too much time with her children. I figure her children would do better in day care. I actually think they might do better raised by wolves.
I was an ideal target for bullies. I was skinny. I was lousy at any sport involving a ball. I had such bad buck teeth that I spent over a year wearing headgear to school. I had a monobrow and asthma and to top it all off I possess an encyclopedic knowledge of insect behavior. I became so used to being told how ugly I was it wasn’t until I got a job as a professional decoration that consisted entirely of looking good and pointing at things that I realized that I wasn’t ugly any more.
I read a lot about stopping bullying, but as I watch my own child go through it I realize that it is kind of like trying to stop the flu. The flu is everywhere. The little bullies are often raised by big bullies and conversations with the big bullies are unproductive at best and depressing most of the time. You can’t stop the flu. You can only get vaccinated so that when you do get the flu it doesn’t make you all that sick.
So here is how we vaccinate our son. Other ideas are welcome.
1) We discuss bullies, bullying and how bullies are different than rude boisterous kids. We are clear that the bully is trying to hurt other kids on purpose. We started discussing this when he was four because, sadly, that is when he was first physically bullied.
2) We don’t pretend everyone should be your friend. There is a kid at my son’s school who shoves other kids around. We tell him to steer clear of that kid.
3) We let him know that we take it seriously and never act like its some “boys will be boys” thing. Crude humor is boys will be boys. Punching people repeatedly is felony assault.
4) We enrolled him in martial arts classes. We tell him that karate cannot prevent a bully from hitting him. It can, however, prevent the bully from hitting him twice.
5) We make it clear that if the situation is intolerable, we will change schools. He is important and his safety is our priority.
6) We tell him about all the famous people who were targeted by bullies when they were little kids. We tell him how even President Obama was bullied.
Will it work? Who knows. It is a bit like the flu shot. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes you wonder why you wasted your time and money. I just want to make sure that when someone does eventually say something horrible to him his first thought is “What is wrong with you” instead of “There must be something wrong with me”.
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