I don’t remember how it all went down, I don’t remember exactly what was said. But I do remember the basic details of the first time a kid tried to bully me.
It was my first day of school. I was home schooled most of my life, but my parents decided to give the public school system a try when I was in 5th grade.
There was a boy following me around and making fun of me because I had a “weird” name (both my first and last names were “misspelled”, apparently) and I was the smallest kid. It went on at every recess. I remember I tried to avoid him all day. I had befriended another kid and she and I spent the better part of our recesses trying to hide from him.
That evening after my dad got home from work he asked me how school went. I told him about this boy and how he wouldn’t leave me alone. I told him I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with him the next day at school.
This is the one detail of the story I remember most clearly. This is what has stuck with me for nearly 2 decades. It’s the absolute most important part of my story.
I may not remember that kid’s name and I may not remember exactly how many times I ran away from him or all the places I hid from him during recess. But I do remember that my father was upset with me for reacting to this kid the way I had.
Did he tell me to tell my teacher? NO.
Did he tell me to find an adult the next time it happened? NO.
Did he go to school the next day and talk to the boys parents? NO.
He told me he was disappointed in me for not standing up for myself. Then he taught me how to throw a punch.
And he said there was just one rule when it came to handling these situations:
You better not start the fight, but you sure as hell better be the one to finish it.
Did it ever end up coming down to me needing to punch this kid in the face? No… all it ended up taking was me standing my ground and letting him know he didn’t bother me. I most likely made fun of him right back, too, but I can’t remember for sure. What I do know is that I felt ready for a physical altercation if it turned into that. I also know that this lesson my dad taught me gave me a new outlook on life.
Luckily for me I was never physically assaulted by other kids. I’ve spent most of my life being told that I put off some kind of don’t mess with me vibe. It’s kinda nice. It usually keeps strangers from even initiating conversations with me!
My father and husband, on the other hand, were physically assaulted by kids in school. Because they, too, were the kids who were small for their age. Both have stories about kids assaulting them in various ways, and the stories generally end with them standing up for themselves and the other kid getting his butt thumped. And here’s why that’s important: the “bully” didn’t mess with them again.
I hate the word bully. I prefer the term being picked on to being bullied. For me, the word bully is almost as annoying as the term rape culture.
Over the last few years, bully has been turned into so much more than just a simple word. It represents a thought process which encourages people to be victims. And that’s a thought process I can’t support.
It’s all over the news. How do we stop bullying? Because the kid doing the bullying is the only one that people think is to blame. And by teaching kids that it’s their bully’s fault that they are being picked on, we’re also teaching our children not the stand up for themselves and their beliefs. We’re teaching them to run to other people to solve their problems. And, most importantly, we are teaching them that they aren’t in any way responsible for the things that happen to them.
It’s all the bully’s fault.
In the real world, this is a horrible thought process. Everyone should stand up for themselves and their beliefs. Everyone should be capable of solving their own problems. And everyone is, to some extent, responsible for the things that happen to them.
Take, for example, my husband’s being put on a salary earlier this year which resulted in him receiving a pay cut.
Does it suck? YES.
Did the company do it to benefit themselves, with no care as to how it effects him? YES.
Is he somehow responsible for this and the impact it has had on our family? YES.
He chose to start working for that company. He chooses to continue working for that company. He is responsible for where that decision has led him. He is also responsible for the impact that decision has on his family on a daily basis.
Just like the kid who chooses not to stand up to his bully day after day.
It seems these days I hear most parents telling their kids to find help if they are being picked on by someone. Or, better yet, to “just ignore them” and “be the bigger man”.
Come on guys, you do know that even if your kid doesn’t say anything, his body language and attitude are going to let the other kid know that what he’s doing is bothering your kid, right? And kids who pick on other kids feed off that.
I’m aware that my opinion on this bullying “issue” really doesn’t matter to anyone outside my family. Parents aren’t going to change the way they parent simply because I think everyone would be better off if they kicked their bully’s ass.
However, I’m also aware that my opinion will influence how my daughter handles these situations.
She will know how to handle a physical altercation. She will be taught that if someone hits you, kicks you or pulls your hair, you have every right to physically assault them in return. Even if the kid is twice her size, she had best not back down and allow him to get away with treating her like that. I don’t care if she has to hit him with a damn chair, it will be in her best interest to make sure this bully never wants to mess with her again.
She will be taught not to go looking for fights, but she will know how to handle them if they ensue. She will be raised to stand up for not only herself, but also those weaker than her. She will know that she is responsible for herself, her life, how she is treated, and the things that happen to her.
The only way to stop bullying is to teach your bully not to bully.