Turn the other cheek.
Don’t stoop to their level.
The above statements are often offered as advice on how a child should deal with a bully at school.
Unfortunately, many school bullies are not thwarted by any of these actions and sometimes will continue to escalate their behavior to illicit a response from the child being bullied.
Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have experienced this first-hand as our oldest son has been dealing with a bully at school.
Our son was being pushed.
Our son was being called names and teased.
Our son was being punched in the back.
Our son was being pinched to the point that he came home with bruises.
Now our son is not a small boy. He is a pretty big kid and has learned to handle himself fairly well. Not too long ago, he achieved his purple belt in Kajukenbo and had been progressing towards his blue belt when the instructor changed and he lost interest in the program.
Basically, he can take care of himself but has an easy-going demeanor and tries to be friendly with everyone.
All along, he was being respectful of the bully and turning the other cheek while my wife and I communicated our concerns to the school. First the teacher and then the principal. Initially, we asked our son to do his best in avoiding the bully but that proved difficult since they are in the same class.
We had a meeting with the principal after our initial communications appeared to fall on deaf ears.
The school responded by preventing the bully from participating in outside recess, instead having to sit in the office.
For one day.
As you might imagine, that did nothing to curb his actions towards our son.
The school informed us that our son should write a letter to his teacher whenever the bully was bothering him. Last Wednesday he wrote his teacher a detailed letter about what the bully was doing to him.
On Thursday, our son had reached his tipping point.
He walked up to the bully and punched him in the face.
Now I have to admit that my actions and comments likely had an influence on this course of action. When my son had told me that the bully was pinching him and calling him a “bitch”, I too had had enough and informed my son that he had our blessing to defend himself.
I told him that he would not be in trouble at home and that my wife and I would deal with the school if he were to get in trouble. The point where I probably crossed the line was when I told my son that if he did have to defend himself, he should lay the bully out and say “Who is the bitch now?”
After releasing his frustration on the bully’s now bloody face, our son was sent to the principal and we received a phone call informing us that our son was going to be suspended.
As noted over at Tip Dad, our son’s school opted to punish our son for self defense while the bully that has been pinching, pushing, and punching him has received no such punishment.
The school initially told my wife and me that they would simply have our son serve the suspension in the principal’s office until it was time for him to leave school. In our eyes, he was being punished for something that we did not feel was wrong. Therefore we informed the school that he would serve his one day suspension at home and we would pick him up.
Normally, I would not condone fighting for the sake of fighting.
But our son was standing up for himself and at that moment, I could not have been more proud of him. There was no punishment awaiting him at home, as a matter of fact my wife and I took him out for lunch; although we did communicate to him that fighting is not the way to deal with problems.
After the incident at school, the principal informed us that she was disappointed that we did not trust the school to handle the matter. The point that the principal was missing was that we did trust the school to handle the matter, yet they failed that trust when they did nothing to curb the bully’s behavior.
To make matters worse, we were given a few documents by the school regarding how to deal with a bully. One of the documents indicated that sometimes kids will be bullied if they act different, dress different, or talk different and that they should try to change their behavior to fit in.
Whatever happened to accepting people for who they are and not judging someone because they are different. It is absurd to see that a school system is trying to make the child being bullied feel it is their fault that they are the target of a bully.
The following day at school, my son was not sure what to expect and I told him to be cautious as the bully might want to try and punch him back. Quite the opposite occurred, as the bully now wants to be friends with my son.
When faced with a bully at school, you can do your best to avoid the situation and turn the other cheek.
However, as my son found out, sometimes you need to stand up for yourself and punch the bully square in the face.
Photo credit: Greencolander