There are many blogs and forums dedicated to this topic. Many of them say it better and more eloquently than I can. But... I'm gonna say it anyway.
We're raising a society of wussies.
In this age where everyone has to play fair, be nice, speak softly and not carry big sticks... we're trying to teach our kids to be gentle, well-mannered and kind.
But what happens when one person in the group wasn't taught the same way? What happens when all the other children are playing fair and one kid isn't? When one kid steamrolls in and snatches the ball away? When one child insults, demeans, laughs at or humiliates another? I'll tell you what. Nothing. My kids have no idea what to do. They can't complain, they can't react, they can't respond. Every single reaction they would have -- I have told them is not okay.
You can fight back -- it's not nice to hit.
You can't tell -- it's not nice to tattle.
You can't say something mean -- it's not nice to call names.
Well... no more. Bullies, all bullies, are cowards at heart. They expect blind obedience and, when confronted, they don't know what to do. And that's true for bullies of all ages and genders.
I was bullied as a child. I was small, and awkward, and a non-conformist. And, well, the world doesn't always encourage the non-conformists of the world. But, I was smart, and scrappy, with a quick-temper and a big mouth. And, by god, I knew how to use it.
When the girls (and boys) I went to school with would pick on me, or make fun of me, or shove me, or kick me -- I fought back. I was quick with the insult and, let me tell you, I could insult someone from the top of their ratty hair to the bottom of their clown feet. I have total recall of the time in junior high school when I was in the middle of the ring of jeering children with the class bully who was waiting to kick my whole ass, and I made fun of that girl so bad that, once she realized that everyone was laughing at HER, she ran away crying and my ass remained intact.
I remember the time that another girl spent weeks harassing me: kicking my feet out from under me when I was walking to class, pushing, shoving, jabbing. She was a foot taller than me and outweighed me by a good 50 lbs. and was mad that the guy she liked had a crush on me. After weeks of this torture, I finally snapped. Her and her two cronies were walking behind me and she kicked me -- for the last time. I stopped and spun around, glaring. She sneered at me and said, "What's your problem?" I charged, got both my hands around her neck and ran her backwards, choking her. As I repeatedly slammed her head into the lockers I said, "I think you're a complete bitch. THAT'S my problem." With a final slam -- and a hard one at that -- I asked, "Do you have a problem with THAT?"
She left me alone after that. Of course, she told everyone I was a complete nutjob but -- I was okay with that. Better to be left alone as the class psycho than to endure torture at their bullying hands (and feet).
When I had my kids, my plan was, should they get bullied, hire the class bully from 2-3 grades higher than the kid who was picking on my kid and have the older bully go kick the other bully's whole ass. And yes, I know that's not the most realistic of battle plans, but it was certainly the most satisfying.
My kids are in second and fourth grade and we've experienced no bullying -- until now.
It wasn't my second grader, Claire who was getting bullied. Claire is the cute, little, skinny girl in class with the fabulous wardrobe. She's going to be (god help me) the head cheerleader someday. But I swear on all things good and holy (and not-so-holy) that she will not be the mean girl. So help me -- I won't allow that. At every school conference she's had since she was in kindergarten, I've asked her teacher if she's noticed any mean girl tendencies. Because, if I EVER find out she's been acting like those bitchy twits I went to school with -- I will shave her head and cut her fabulous wardrobe into ribbons. And she KNOWS I will.
Nope, the child getting bullied was Quinn. Last week my normally smiley, happy-go-lucky son got in to my car after school in a foul-temper. When I asked him what was wrong, he held back tears as he described a situation where he was picked on by a group of students in his class. We've had issues with these students all year long. I would have spoken to these children's parents by now (the grown up thing to do) except -- they don't speak English. Grrreat. So we, the teacher and I, are stuck trying to manage unmanageable children and my child's reaction to them.
To the credit of my kids' school -- the extracurricular teacher did handle the situation as best she could, but not before things got completely out of control and Quinn got his feelings really hurt. And, later, his homeroom teacher read every student in the class the riot act for their behavior.
It's hard to explain in a simple blog post the type of kids I have. Quinn is not a whiner, and he's not one to cry very easily. So when he gets in the car and is literally fighting back the tears -- something is very, very wrong. Every Mama bear instinct in me was calling out for me to charge in that school and start bashing some heads together. I'm still fighting back that instinct.
But Quinn needs to learn how to handle these kids himself. And who better to teach him than me? Fortunately, Quinn is a pretty confident kid, despite his outward appearances. His therapist (and yes, he's had one since I separated from his father -- and therapy is a wonderful thing) thinks it's hysterical how very confident my child is. He thinks he's fabulous. He's very matter-of-fact about his fabulousness -- he's not cocky, just self-confident. Thankfully, this bullying -- no matter how hurtful it is -- hasn't affected that.
Thus I am teaching my children how to fight back with the tools that they have available to them -- their brain and their voice. And I am raising them to be quick-witted and smart, not mealy-mouthed pushovers. I don't think it will take much with Claire... she told me later that she happened to walk by the class and saw Quinn getting picked on, saw how upset he was, and almost went in there and kicked some ass. Okay... actually she said that she wanted to go in there and tell everyone to stop being jerks but I like my version better. My little warrior child.
The next time someone makes fun of Quinn for not understanding the class work, he's going to ask them who's on honor roll, him or them? And the next time someone makes fun of his jacked up teeth he's going to say that he can get his teeth fixed -- can they get their stupid fixed?
And if that doesn't work -- I've got $50 for the first 6th grade bully who feels like kicking some ass.