As an adult, I stand a whopping 4 feet 10 inches tall. Growing up, I was teased constantly about my height and can recall countless occasions when I would come home crying over the latest nickname I was given – shorty, shrimp, midget. Despite my mother’s attempts to calm my frustrations, it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school when I finally began to stand up for myself.
As I was digging through my locker prior to lunch one day, I realized my lunch money had been stolen. The guy who had a locker next to mine wasn’t my favorite person – and known for doing drugs. Upon questioning him if he stole my money, he said, “What did you say bitch?” Astonished, I looked at him and calmly asked again, “Did you steal my lunch money?” He replied, “I didn’t take your money bitch,” and then proceeded to shove me. Trying not to lose my temper & hoping if I sounded harsh enough he would leave me alone, I responded, “Don’t f*#ing touch me.” At this point, he shoved me again – and I lost it. As the adrenaline overcame me, I grabbed him by the throat & shoved him with all of my might into the lockers and said again as I held him in place, “I SAID don’t f*#ing touch me.”
I will never forget the look of surprise on his face that little me – at least a foot shorter than him & a girl, no less – was able to shove him into the lockers and hold him there while I gave him a piece of my mind.
Needless-to-say, I was paid a visit by the school’s Vice Principal that day. After relaying my story, I was free to go back to class without punishment. It turns out, standing up for yourself when you’re being bullied is 100% acceptable – within reason.
At the time, I didn’t realize what an impact that fateful day would have on me. To be honest, it wasn’t until a few days ago that it even crossed my mind again. From that moment on, I began standing up for myself; but, it wasn’t until my own son was dealing with bullies himself, that I realized it had been a turning point for me.
Fast forward a few years and my now 9 year old son, Bryce, is dealing with bullying. Within the past couple of years, he’s had at least 5 separate encounters with children bullying him. On one such occasion he was on the ground in the fetal position as a little girl kicked him in the ribs, simply because Bryce didn’t want to play with her. That same girl’s little sister pushed my youngest son, Kade, into the swing set – giving him a black eye – because he had a toy she wanted to play with. Two days ago, those same little girls and their youngest sister held Bryce down as they jumped all over him. Coincidence that both of my boys were bullied by a family of bullies – on three separate occasions? I think not.
Bullying is a learned behavior and we have the ability to stop it.
Just as children learn manners from their parents, they can also learn to scream, tease and bully from their parents as well as those around them. This isn’t to say all kids who bully have parents who are bullies themselves. However, it is our responsibility to be mindful of our own actions and how they affect our children. Are we unintentionally teaching our children to bully when we tease them for things? Are we unintentionally making them a victim by telling them to not let what kids say bother them?
As one of nine kids, I had my fair share of teasing from my siblings. And to some degree, it was completely warranted. I’m not the type of parent that raises my children to be the constant tattle tale or have no backbone. I firmly believe that kids must learn to ignore harsh words. But that’s where I draw the line – at words. When my child is being hit, kicked, pushed or having things thrown at them, that’s when I have a serious problem.
I realize that parents, teachers and all those in authoritative positions, have an issue with kids tattling. I realize it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the truth as well as the severity of the situation; however, I also believe that it is our responsibility to put a stop to bullying, whether it be with our own children or someone else’s.
As parents, what type of example are we setting if we aren’t willing to stand up and say something on behalf of our children? As teachers, what are they teaching our children by telling them to stop tattling? At what point does that “tattling” get recognized as reporting a problem?
By not demanding better of adults, how can we demand better of children?
It breaks my heart to see Bryce feel so defeated, despite how much I tell him what an amazing child he is. More so, I am outraged that my children are being hurt – emotionally and physically – because of bullying.
I don’t condone or encourage fighting; however, sometimes you have to learn to stand up for yourself. I’m proof of that. Rest assured if Bryce gets in trouble for fighting due to someone bullying him, I’m going to take him for ice cream.
In the meantime, maybe we can all start making a difference by opening our eyes and paying attention. There’s a line between kids teasing one another and bullying. We are meant to parent and protect our children. It’s our responsibility to teach them how to treat others and how to handle difficult situations. We can put a stop to bullying and it starts at home.