A few years ago my son was having an issue with a school bully. He’s never been, what you would call, big for his age. He’s always been a bit wiry but quite strong for his size. He is a very gentle soul who is more into music and art than sports. He’d feel horrible for days if he ever hurt your feelings, so taking a swing at you would be the very last thing he would ever consider doing. But sometimes… a kids gotta do what a kids gotta do.
I have always been very protective of the boy. I made him hold my hand while walking in parking lots until he was 12 years old. I planted rose bushes under his bedroom windows as a deterrent to would-be child molesters and kidnappers. I got him a GPS enabled phone at age 6 just so I could track his whereabouts at all times. I have always considered it my job to protect him at all costs and I take that responsibility very seriously.
When he told me, one day, about a bully at school, I was perplexed. I had no control. I realized that the reach of my safety and security measures had their limits. I couldn’t physically protect him at all times and in all places. The thought literally took my breath away.
I felt helpless at the thought of my son being picked on or taunted by a bully at school. I did what I thought I should do as a parent. I contacted the school, but they wouldn’t do anything. I contacted the bully’s parents. They said they would speak to their son about it, but that only made things worse. The bullying at school intensified. There was very little I could do. I wanted to march down to the school myself and give this bully a piece of mind. But I knew, that too, would probably do more harm than good.
I say bullying, but it was more taunting, intimidating, threatening and terrorizing. This other boy would block my son’s path in the halls and chest bump him, saying that he wanted to fight and that my son was a chicken if he didn’t want to. He taunted him in front of other students. He did this frequently and it was starting to take a real toll on my son. He was becoming more introverted, scared and depressed. All the typical signs of someone who is being bullied.
My son didn’t want to fight. Even though he had two years of karate under his brown belt (pun intended) he was more afraid of hurting the other kid than of getting hurt himself. He knew that if push came to shove, he wasn’t going to come out on the losing end of things, and yet, he still didn’t want to have to hurt anyone. I had to convince him to.
I know. I’m a bad parent. I get it.
I was telling my child… heck I was demanding that my child stand up for himself and put this bully in his place. I hated myself for it. I felt bad for the poor kid. Not my son, the bully. He had no idea what he was getting himself into. My son knew how to fight. In order to earn his different belts in karate, he had to fight as many as five other students at once. It was like a gang initiation. He had to defeat all of them to show that he deserved it.
Regardless of whether or not the fight was fair. I am sure the bully thought he could take my son in a fight and he was bringing it on himself. I couldn’t allow the principal and the other kid’s parents to get away with doing nothing about this other kid while my son’s self confidence and lively personality was being stripped away from him by this punk who had likely not been hugged enough or hugged just a little too much, if you know what I mean. In either case, the bullying was about to end, one way or another.
How do you stop a schoolyard bully? A good ass kicking should do the trick.
My advice to my son was simple.
- You pick the time and place. Don’t let the other kid dictate when and where it happens. You want home field advantage.
- Make sure there are plenty of other kids and teachers in the area. That way, no matter who is winning, it won’t last very long.
- Strike first. The bully never expects that and you’ll have the element of surprise on your side.
- Don’t give him a chance to get in the fight. Once you start, don’t let up until someone pulls you apart.
- Let the playground rumor-mill do the rest.
I think to some degree he was looking for my approval. He wanted to know that he wasn’t going to get in any trouble from me for taking care of it himself. He knew that he would get suspended for fighting no matter who started it, and he did. He was more concerned about getting in trouble with me over the suspension than he was about the fight. As soon as I told him he had to stand up for himself, his whole attitude changed. I think he was looking forward to putting it all behind him.
He got suspended the next day. For fighting.
Apparently the bully had again threatened him in an unpopulated hallway during school, but my son brushed it off. It wasn’t the right time or place for it. He stuck to the plan. As the day finally wore down, the final bell rang out. As all of the kids were filing out of the main doors near the principal’s office the bully approached to menace my son one last time. Only this time the bully found himself facing a much different target. No longer was my son the shy and diminutive young boy, seemingly afraid of his own shadow. The bully was now face to face with a well trained young fighter who, not only knew how to take a punch but how to land a few of his own.
I like to imagine the bully felt at least a little bit of the fear he had been instilling in my son over the last several weeks. A fleeting realization, as he looked into my sons eyes, that he may have bitten off a little more than he could chew this time. I would have loved to have seen the way my son dropped him with a blindingly fast right-cross to the face followed by a leg sweep that put the bully flat on his back and bleeding in less than a second. I had seen it before in karate class. I can picture it now. I wonder what went through the bully’s head as my son then slammed down on top of him and delivered the only other blow of the scuffle before the vice principal came out of his office and separated them.
I like to think it was the same thing the entire school was thinking the next day, “I sure don’t want to mess with that kid.”
I got the call from the principal’s office to come and get the boy. While on the phone, I reminded the principal of my efforts to prevent this from happening. He agreed, that sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself and asked me not to quote him on that. None-the-less, the boy was going to have to serve out a one day suspension due to the school’s zero-tolerance fighting policy. That was fine by me. I took the day off and we went fishing.
The playground rumor-mill did its job too. When he finally returned to school he was somewhat of a hero. Word of the fight had spread and the tale had grown a little taller already. Someone bought him lunch in the cafeteria and the posse of people who wanted to walk with him in the halls grew a little larger that day. He hasn’t been bothered by bullies since that day. He hasn’t been in a fight since then either.
I just love that kid.
Have you or your child ever been bullied or been a bully? Share your experiences with us in the comments.