Love your bully

G got hit in the face by a bully yesterday.

He was extra anxious at the beginning of the school year because he heard James* was assigned to the same teacher. James used to tease G relentlessly about his tics in math class–two years ago. I’ve heard that James is a sensitive kid. I’m sure his mother loves him. I’m sure there were all sorts of traits that I would have found endearing had I known the kid, but I didn’t. I knew my kid, and I knew he couldn’t control the sounds he made, and further I knew that this kid was making the tics worse with every passing day.

Aside from indulging in a little mental name calling, I really try to be a peaceful person. I have tried to impress on G that not reacting to a bully is the strongest, bravest thing you can do. “Bullies will get bored if you don’t react.” Isn’t that what we were all taught? But then I backed down. As I wrote in a pervious blog, when G got into a fist fight with a kid who made fun of his figure skates on the ice rink, I was horrified at how violent G could be (toward someone beside me, I should add). Everyone else just wanted to know if G won the fight. (He did.) I figured I was being too much of a pacifist. I gave G a little more permission to fight back–”back” being the key word if he couldn’t get out of the situation. Then I helped him think of snarky remarks he could make as he was (hopefully) walking away.

So I was surprised when just before school started for the year, G announced he and James were going to be friends. Ay, I thought, love your enemies. Interesting. Fresh. Everything is possible, I tried to believe. And then yesterday. James and another boy started teasing G about ice skating. It ended with G getting hit in the face–after making a snarky comment, of course. (Great idea, Mom.)

But G didn’t hit him back. He was angry, but he waited and took it out on me later. Once I figured out what was going on, I responded mostly with empathy and, with permission, I called the teacher to inform her of the incident. I assured G that the teacher was on it and James wouldn’t get away with that again. Then I found this website–posted by another family in the Children’s National Gender group–called Bullies2Buddies.

After reading their article on the golden rule, I’m going back to my gut, and G’s, on this one. If I can get my kid to love one bully, and if that bully stops harassing him as a result, that would be pretty awesome.

So, here we go…

Can I teach my kid that being nice to someone might actually be the surest way to get them to be nice to you? In this punitive, zero-tolerance age of ours, this sort of radical. After all, is there anything worse than a bully?

As a parent, of course I want the school to have zero tolerance for bullying. I love hearing G’s teacher talk about creating a safe place for learning. But, this kid who is picking on my kid, is just a kid, too. “Walk away” is fine once something bad has happened, but I’m hoping to be a little more proactive, a little stronger. We’ll see.

2 Responses to Love your bully

  1. My Son Skates says:

    My 8 year old son has autism and systemic sclerosis and loves skating. He had his ears pierced (they were ripped out by his hockey helmet) and loves to have his nails and hair done. He figure skates (ice and wants to do roller) and plays hockey (house team on ice, travel team inline). He is currently on the verge of quitting ice skating because the bullying is so bad. The only way I have been able to get him on the ice outside of practice and a game in almost a month is to drive to another rink. An hour away.

    My son is very tall for his age and as a result of his systemic sclerosis, he is not nearly as fast as a child who of his level who skates as much as he does. Because of his size and lack of speed some of the hockey players who are in middle school have started to single him out and pick on him. The parents deny any wrong doing on their child’s part even when confronted by other adult witnesses. At this point I wish my son would fight the other kid. If nothing else then maybe the middle school bully would be shamed by the realization that he just got his butt kicked by 2nd grader. A year ago I would have laughed if you said I would hold this view. After months of my son being bullied by various kids I have changed my views on violence.

  2. Sophia Cairn says:

    Thanks for the comment. I can relate. We also drive to a rink outside our community where there are several other male skaters. G has a male coach who says he sees a lot of kids drop out because of bullying. It’s so sad.

    In the end G did become “friends” (or at least figure out how to coexist) with James. That’s the good news. The bad news is that G comes home with new stories every day of bullying toward him and his friends. It’s tough, and there are no easy answers.

    Change is slow. I definitely still favor a preventative approach as I don’t think “zero tolerance” policies have helped. However, I’ve joined the camp that says, “You’re not allowed to start a fight, but you are allowed to finish one.”

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