Recently, we needed to deal with a bullying situation in NHL’s school. A child, with a history of violent acts, punched NHL in the stomach hard enough to send him to the nurse and cause bruising. The punch was in retaliation for NHL telling the child that he shouldn’t be jumping over people (NHL included) to reach his seat. Around the same time we were dealing with this, I saw @sociallysmart (Corinne Gregory) post about how many bullying incidents are covered up by schools.
My mind goes back to a story from September. This dad’s 13 year old daughter who has cerebral palsy was being bullied. He tried three times to work with the school administration, but they weren’t acting. So he took matters into his own hands, got on a school bus, and yelled at the bullies. While it might have felt good to vent at these kids, sadly it probably didn’t do much long term good. He was arrested and the bullies probably had a nice chuckle at his and his daughter’s expense.
So taking the law into your own hands doesn’t work. What does work? How can a dad effectively react if his child is bullied?
The best offense might a good defense, but the best reaction against bulling is preparation. Talk with your child before bulling becomes a problem. Let them know that you’re there for them no matter what. Make sure that they realize that they aren’t alone; you are on their side.
Bullies can and will try to set the “rules” for interaction between them and their victims. These “rules” are stacked in the bully’s favor. Playing by their rules is about as smart as walking up to the roulette wheel at a Vegas casino and betting everything you have on the number 9. Yes, you might get lucky and beat the odds, but it’s not the smartest bet you can make.
One of the main “bully rules” is usually “This is between you and me so don’t tell you parents, teachers or anyone else who might help you out.” (Sometimes, “you and me” is modified to be “you, me and this group of my friends".) If you reinforce with your child that it is ok to talk with you or your teacher about it and not abide by the bully’s rules, you will be preparing your child well for any future bullying they might encounter.
So your child has just been bullied and talked with you about it. What do you do? The first thing you need to do, obviously, is talk with the teacher. Sit down with him/her, talk about what happened and how both of you can put a stop to this behavior. Most times, the teacher will be very helpful. What if he/she isn’t, though? Or what if they try to be helpful but the problem is out of their control?
At this point, move a step higher. Talk with the principal. Let them know what happened and what you would like done about it. Don’t yell, scream, and curse. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to be a push-over. Be clear and calm, but be forceful as well.
What if the principal tries sweeping the whole affair under the rug?
Time to climb even higher. Now, it is time to talk with the superintendent. This person has quite a bit of influence over the other schools. If the superintendent isn’t happy with how things are going, they *WILL* change. Explain your case (calmly but firmly) again and work to figure out a plan of action.
What if the superintendent isn’t helping?
To The School Board And Beyond
Go to the school board and complain. If they don’t help, move on to the Department of Education. If you get the runaround there, threaten to go to the local media. Then make good on your threats. Bullying is a hot topic and a school trying to ignore a bullying situation would make for a nice story. No school district wants to see their school on the evening news in that context.
Should My Kid Fight Back?
A commenter on my wife’s blog suggested that NHL should have just punched the child and broken his nose. I won’t begrudge a child fighting back in self-defense. After all, I wouldn’t want my son to just lie in a fetal position while a bully punches him repeatedly. Still, kids should know that intentionally fighting to injure will not help. Yes, some bullies will back down when physically fought against. However, if your child is weaker than the bully or if the bully has a group of friends, your child will just get beat up and made fun of more. Besides, having your child attack another child physically will just cause you to lose any leverage you have when complaining to the various school officials. And, as mentioned before, never ever take it upon yourself to verbally or physically confront the bully.
Has your child been bullied? If so, how did you react and deal with the situation?