Confronting the Bully

by Christa Hines on February 13, 2012

I always figured that we’d have to deal with bullying at some point. Since my son doesn’t always tell me what goes on at school, I wondered if I would know if he was getting teased or bullied. My son’s an exceptionally empathetic child. He’s the caring kid, who hugs and kisses his little brother if he falls and hurts himself, or diplomatically solves an argument between two friends by giving up a toy that he’s playing with. Sports are not his forte since the ideas of “defense and offense” are pretty much foreign concepts to him. I talk to him about asserting himself. If someone’s bugging him or getting in his space, I tell him it’s his right not to tolerate it. And, usually he doesn’t.

My peacemaker recently put this sign up in his room.

We’re blessed with a boy whose spirit overflows with such warmth and kindness that his little body can hardly contain it. He still gives me big warm hugs, even in front of his friends, and isn’t ashamed to hold my hand. When I ask who is friends are at school, he says everyone is his friend – until recently.

His rosy outlook on the world as a sunny, nice place is beginning to crack. These past few weeks he’s learned a tough lesson that’s particularly difficult for the non-cynical among us. The lesson that everyone is not nice. My grandmother, in particular, had a deep distrust for “nice” and it’s taken me a few years to work it out. It’s true though. Nice is overrated and often shallow and meaningless. I’d much rather be friends with someone who’s honest, follows-through with what she says and is warm and kind. Anyone can be nice, especially if they want something from you.

My first grader is troubled and confused by another boy’s attempts to make him feel low. The kid, who I’ll call “Billy” used to be “nice.” Now, Billy tries to trip him at lunch, stomps on his foot because he thinks it’s funny, bumps into him and makes threats about his “invincible” robot that he says is going to crush our house. The latter comment sounds pretty ridiculous to my ears, but my son worriedly says, “Mom, he says he knows where we live.” To which I respond, “And, we know where he lives.”

Having written articles about bullying, I’m on high alert. I know the red flags. I’m relieved that my son is unafraid to talk to me about this issue and patiently answers all my questions. His willingness to share tells me he knows that this kid’s actions are wrong, but he’s not sure what to do about it. He thought Billy was his buddy. In fact, right after Christmas break, Billy was telling him that he wanted to come over and play. All of a sudden, in just the past two weeks, Billy prefers to find ways to torment my son rather than befriend him.

My husband and I plan to speak to the teacher about this situation. In the meantime, we continue to talk our son through this and help him find ways to keep his head held high by asserting himself in a positive way by ignoring the boy; responding to crazy comments with a bored “whatever” and walking off; and generally, staying away from him whenever possible.

While I’m not suggesting he needs to tough it out, he does need to learn to deal with this punk. The sad fact is, this is life and if he doesn’t learn to deal with the bully now, he faces may years of problems with these difficult personalities. Let’s face it, bullies don’t go away. They grow up. I knew quite a few when I was in the workplace.

Part of me would love to tell my son to handle this situation the old-fashioned way, but as you can imagine, this isn’t the way things are done anymore…. And frankly, I’m not entirely sure my peace-maker would even know what I was talking about anyway!

Have you dealt with a bully yet? How do you talk to your child about it?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: