I had a lengthy conversation with a Mom today about her son being bullied in school. Mary's son, John is in middle school, very smart, and I would consider him extremely mature for his age. I give high fives to Mary for the way she handled the situation and allowed her son to be a leader and take the action steps himself to stop the bullying.
So often as a parent you immediately start to take action steps to protect your child. There are times when this is necessary, but if you can help your son or daughter handle the issue themselves it prepares them to deal with the tough issues they are going to eventually have to handle out in the world anyway.
In this case John was being bullied daily by another boy calling him names and challenging him to fight. John started by ignoring him. The bullying didn't stop. This continued on for a couple of weeks and finally John had hit his limit of tolerance. John went to his teacher and told her what was happening, but didn't want her to do anything about it right now. He said he would try and handle the situation himself he just wanted her to be aware of it. That day as the bully started antagonizing John he asked him what it would take for him to stop? The bully challenged him to fight. John asked him what the end result would be if he won? The bully told him if John won he wouldn't bother him anymore. If the bully won he would continue to bully him the rest of the year. There was a birthday event they were both invited to the next day. John told him he would fight if that's what it is going to take for the bullying to stop. They planned the fight the next day before the birthday party since the boy lived next door where the party was being held.
When John got home that afternoon from school he told his Mom all the details of what's been happening and what he has chosen to do to stop the bullying. Mary's first instinct is to stop a fight from happening, but instead of saying much she asked a lot of questions to determine how much John had thought this through. Not only does Mary have a lengthy discussion with him but John'sgrandparents did as well. In the end they were willing to stand by his decision to handle the situation. Many times this takes alot of self-control for a parent to step back and let a child take the lead. But watch what happens...
John arrives at the birthday party to celebrate with his friend and there's no sign of the bully. Some time goes by and there's still a no show. John decides he's still going to tackle this issue and wants to go next door and talk with him. His mom gives him permission to do so but is adamant that John be polite when greeting whoever may answer the door. John knocks on the door and the boy's mom answers. John introduces himself and politely explains to her why he's there to see her son. The boy who's been bullying him was standing by when John arrived but as he explains to the mother what's been happening he ran away to another part of the home. The mother was absolutely shocked to hear this and assured John he wouldn't have to worry about it happening again. She admitted that there were some problems they were dealing with but was very sorry to hear this had been happening. John thanked her for listening and left to go back to the party. Mary had witnessed the entire interaction between John and the boy's Mom. She believed the mother's shock factor was sincere.
As you digest each of the interactions that have occurred in this scenario consider the amazing traits of John's character that can be recognized in this situation. There is...
- Confidence: John had enough confidence to decide he didn't deserve to be bullied and chose to confront the issue.
- Leadership: John handled the situation as a great leader. He attempted to talk and reason with the boy who was bullying him several times.
- Communication: John effectively communicated with the boy and the adults who would need to be concerned about the situation, his Mom, his teacher, and the boy's Mom.
- Integrity: John stood for what was right and followed through on his word.
Your child grows and matures in phenomenal ways as he learns how to effectively deal with these issues. As hard as it might be for you as a parent to hold back to not step in, fix the problem and protect your child you must accept these are real issues being witnessed and/or experienced everyday. The more you allow them to do take this kind of leadership the greater their confidence and ability to work with others grows and matures.
What actions steps can you take to insure your awareness and support your child...
- Keep the lines of communication open so your child feels safe to tell you anything.
- Listen! Truly and sincerely listen to them when he/she chooses to be vulnerable to share what's happening and wants your understanding.
- Help them problem solve about the situation.
- Continue to reinforce your love and support for them.
Communication is a critical aspect of a parent and child relationship when dealing with this issue of bullying. Marlo Thomas is beginning a campaign that will assist parents to better communicate about this issue. Read more about it here: Marlo Thomas' Anti-Bullying Campaign .