Our First Bully

There is a bully on T’s baseball team. The age of the kids is 4-6, but I’m sure it shouldn’t surprise me that bullying starts this young. T had his first game last Saturday and there was a moment in the dugout during which which the bully grabbed T’s hat off his head and held it out of reach. T stood there with a puzzled look on his face then reached for it, and when he did the kid shoved him backwards over a cooler. It’s hardly the first incident.

Then I tripped the bully and he did a face plant in the dirt. Just kidding- I didn’t. But it felt good even to write that. Wow, it sucks to watch your kid get shoved around.

I’m not sure what to do about it. Part of me wants to tell T to go ahead and sock him. T is smaller, but he’s ridiculously strong and coordinated and could easily lay that kid out. I know this is going to be controversial, but that’s my usual policy about bullies (as a kid who was mercilessly bullied for years). You turn around and fight back. Even if you lose, you’re bound to get a few good shots in, and given the choice, no one is going to keep picking on a kid who nails him in the jaw.

But in this case, we’ve been struggling for years with T’s aggression and impulse control and we’re just starting to make progress. I’ve been astounded by his growth lately. I watch kids shove T on the playground while he literally stands there holding his hands behind his back. He’s attending his second week of preschool, and while it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing, the challenges seem manageable. He has gone nearly a week and a half without ONE incident of aggression. I feel so encouraged about his healing and growth. I’m not about to turn around now and be like, “Okay, you know how I told you that we don’t use our hands for hurting? I meant we don’t use our hands for hurting, EXCEPT when faced with a first-class jerk. In that case, go to town.”

That doesn’t seem productive. So instead, I told him to walk away.

Near the end of the game, when the other parents were in a little huddle talking about the bully kid (whose parents were unsurprisingly absent entirely), my heart actually hurt for the boy. I kept thinking about all the times that people might have been saying similar things about T’s behavior, making similar assumptions that he’s mean, pushy, an all around bad seed. In our case, those things couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is that when T is aggressive, it’s because he’s terrified. His behavior gets better and better as he feels safer in the world- as he learns slowly and consistently that the people who love him can be trusted not to disappear.

As much as I want to kick that bully when he shoves my son, I can also see how scared and hurt that kid’s eyes are. It doesn’t make his behavior OK. It doesn’t make me like him any more. But it does give me a shred of compassion. I figure, if I can’t dig up some compassion for a neglected six year old, I need to seriously look to my heart.

3 Responses to 'Our First Bully'

  1. Colleen says:

    Our policy is for our kids to ask nicely for the person to stop, if that doesn’t work to ask a parent or grownup for help. Then, (or if they are actually physically being hurt) it’s OK to push the person away so that they can get away from them. I think community parenting is VERY important. It’s every adult’s job to help the next generation grow up to be the best they can. So if I’m the only one who sees an incident at the park (or no one else is doing anything), it’s my responsibility to go over to the kid and do the same thing I would with my own: Explain that it’s not OK to hit, or to tease, or to call names, because that hurts people or their feelings, and then offer some other way to play nicely. Don’t be afraid to talk to him, and encourage the other parents to also! And I’m so glad that you felt that “shred of compassion.” Because THAT is what that bully needs, more than anything. Well, that and parents who are loving and supportive. :)

    This article is awesome:

    http://www.thepostgame.com/features/201108/real-it-gets-victims-schoolyard-bullying-can-fight-back-help-ufc-royalty

  2. Karin says:

    You’re a better person than I. Yes, I get that bullies need compassion and that they are often victims of abusive parenting. Still, when it happened to J, I wanted to kick the s*%! out of the other two kids. In our case, they were supposed to be his best friends. And I know that at least one of them has parents who are not at all abusive. I admire J because he was able to move past this with his “friends.” Me, not so much. I still have fantasies of drop kicking them. Those mama-bear feelings of mine trump all reason. Nice, huh?

  3. Melissa says:

    My son has been bullied for years. Most of it stems from his disability. So truly bullying has no boundaries. I see it being done to kids with disabilities and without. But what I instil in my son is that it is NOT okay. Our school is supposed to have a no bullying policy, but my son was bullied more last year than any other year he has been in public school. It got so bad I almost considered pulling him out of public school and homeschooling him again. But his psychiatrist suggested keeping him in school because my son needed the social interaction. It is very hard to see your child bullied. I tell my son that it is NOT okay when someone pushes or shoves him or even makes fun of him. That usually those who pick on him are only doing so … so no one picks on them for their insecurities. My son has just started sticking up for himself. He makes sure that people respect his personal space. Yes I want to go all “Mama Bear” on not only these bullies but the school as well … but I also have to trust that I as a parent is doing my job and instilling the tools in my son that he needs to defend himself. Sometimes I want him to sock them … trust me I do … but it isn’t what always is right. Sometimes I don’t think it is necessarily the bully that is abused at home or bullied themselves at some point … but I do think some parents are so consumed in their own life that they are oblivious to their own child/s actions. If I ever see a child bullied whether it is my child or not … I step in. This world is so much more different when I was a kid growing up in the 70′s and 80′s. You can’t go after someone and meet them in the school yard after class. Today you can get tossed in jail or sued for attacking someone and ironically sticking up for yourself. Sometimes you have to just love your child and give them the confidence and tools to know that their personal space can’t be intruded on … and that they deserve to be treated with respect. Hopefully as your child grows and their confidence grows (boys take longer than girls), that the bullies will know your child will not be a target for their aggression and anger.

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