A Lesson on Bullies For My Daughter
Years ago my daughter who is now 26 had a problem with a slightly older boy across the street from us. She was probably about five or six at the time. The boy in question (we'll call him Tommy) was already off on the wrong track considering the other kids he was hanging out with. It's always amazing to me how some kids seem to migrate or become drawn to the wrong types from the earliest ages. I've watched it happen over and over again over the years. Why don't parents see some childhood troubles coming? Why don't they take action early in grade school?
Some Observations From Someone Who Is NOT An Expert On Parental Issues
As a parent observing the young children around our neighborhood, my wife and I (even our daughter) could pick out who was going to get pregnant before they got out of school or those who would be in trouble with the law. We often wondered why the actual parents of these kids didn't seem to see some of these troubles coming. Quite often they seemed to think their children were little angels. I guess unfortunately, many are not tuned into their children nearly as well as they should be. I truly believe today that too many parents manage by exception, meaning that their kids don't get a lot of guidance or lessons in ethics on a day to day basis. They get attention only when there's trouble. Maybe some of the parents are not setting the best example as well, but too often it seems to me that the parents don't seem to get involved in much of anything unless or until there child gets in trouble. You can't get involved closely in your child's life, attitude and habits by just dealing with the alarms! And then of course, the question is, "what do you do about the alarms?"
While I'm certainly no expert on bullying and parental issues, I do know that children don't grow up well by accident. What I did was no act of genius or great parental wisdom, but I was there. I was engaged. And, I was at least somewhat aware. I will say one thing for certain. Getting your child on track is a lot more effective in the form of grade school lessons than what you might attempt to do in later years.
The Incident & The Bully
The incident that made such a difference to my daughter for years to come was somewhat of an accident, and yet it happened because of some advice I gave my daughter. She somewhat misunderstood the intention of my advice but it worked out. My daughter had come home at least a few times crying because this "Tommy" had been mean to her. He may have hit her, pushed her or even said some mean things to her. She was almost to the point of not going out in our street when this boy was around and visible.
One weekend day when I was around, she came running home in tears and told me that the Tommy had pushed her down while she was playing with friends. I sat down with her, tried to ease her pain and gave her a pep talk. I told her that the only way this boy would probably leave her alone, and the only way she would be able to go out and continue to play in our street was by standing up to him and not letting him get by with his bullying the next time it happened. I also advised her to act like whatever Tommy said or did to her, didn't bother her. The idea being that kids love to continue to push your button once they know they've got your number. Now I know that many of you would tell me that we should have given her somewhat different advice or that we should have talked to the parents. And, believe me, I was planning on talking to Tommy's dad, but something happened that I didn't expect. What happened next was wrong, but at the same time it was funny and shocking at the same time.
Over the next half hour or so my daughter had stayed inside and probably had some lunch. I was in the kitchen doing something when all of a sudden I noticed by daughter out in the front yard. She had spotted Tommy across the street (minding his own business at the time). She walked out to the street curb, so my attention stayed focused on what was going to happen next. Now this was a cold day in early spring so our windows and doors were all closed. I couldn't hear her and she couldn't here me, even if I had yelled to her. All of a sudden she hollered out to Tommy to come across the street to her. He obliged. . .and as soon as he got in front of her, she hauled off and hit him with her arm and hand right across the side of his head. Tommy fell to the ground immediately and ran back to his house. I don't know if he cried or told his parents, or what he did. My wife and I were both somewhat shocked (especially my wife). Then I started to laugh. While I didn't condone what she had done, I was thrilled (as a man and her dad)! Immediately my wife asked me what in the world I had told our daughter! I explained to my wife that I had never told her to go out and pick a fight with the boy. I merely told her to stand up for herself and defend herself the next time it happened. Obviously this isn't exactly what my daughter heard or understood. By the way, I did sit down with my daughter again and explain that what she did was wrong and that she should not go out looking for trouble. Defense only!
The result of all this, was that we never heard from either of the parents. Maybe dad was embarrassed that a younger girl had decked his son! (JUST KIDDING!) More importantly, Tommy never gave my daughter any trouble ever again. They were never good buddies, but they did coexist on the school bus and in the neighborhood from then on. Little Tommy went on to get a young high school girl pregnant and took a construction job. We suspect that maybe he has sold drugs over the years, considering his record in school and the friends he continued to hang out with. Luckily, he just left my daughter alone! My daughter went on to become a Doctor of Pharmacy.