June 19, 2009

How to Deal with a Bully

You've had self-defense advise from Tristan. That advice was, of course, filtered through big brother Julius. Apparently, not only does Julius know about what to do when a burglar breaks into your house, but he also knows how to deal with schoolyard bullies.

There was an incident at boyscout day camp last week that I'm only now finding out about.

As it was told to me over a lovely dinner of homemade spaghetti and salad, a very troublesome boy came up to Julius and put his fist very close into Julius's face and said, "I'm gonna bloody your nose!"

Julius's response was to grab the boy's fist with both hands and bite it really hard. The boy ran away crying.

I couldn't help myself, but I laughed so hard spaghetti flew across the table.

I know as a mom I'm not supposed to delight in my son biting another boy and making him cry. But on the other hand it's nice to see my son stick up for himself, too.

When I was a kid, the party line about fighting at our house was "never start a fight, but always finish it." I don't know if that's right or wrong. I don't like violence or condone it. On the other hand, I know a lot of people who don't stand up for themselves when I think they should. I don't want my kids to look for a fight, but I also don't want them to shy away from one when it's time to stand their ground.

A few years ago we had Julius enrolled in a mixed tumbling class that teaches kids to balance, roll and other basic physical skills. One couple brought their two little girls and the dad looked really familiar. I could tell that he thought I looked familiar, too.

In fact, Dwayne remembered me very clearly. As we were talking he said, "You were the only one who would let me sit by you on the bus." As he said that it all came flooding back to me.

Many years ago, Dwayne and I rode the same school bus together. I was in high school and he was probably in middle school. I was one of the first kids on the school bus and got my pick of seats. I was a voracious reader and mostly just hunched down with my knees pressed against the seat in front of my so all you could see was the very top of my head.

Dwayne was a shy and skinny little feller and by the time we got around to his part of the bus route there were very few seats left open. There was always one next to me because I was one of the older kids and I think maybe they didn't want to bother me while I was reading. Or maybe I just smelled funny.

At Dwayne's stop, he'd climb those dreaded steps slowly and at the top of the steps his eyes would sweep back and forth across the aisles like a guy with a metal detector searching for treasure. He'd ask kids to share their seats. Denied. Denied. Denied again. It happened over and over. Nobody would let him sit down. Finally to my seat, always halfway back, always on the driver's right.

"Can I sit with you?" And my only answer was to slide over. Not the warmest person to this scrawny, abused creature, but apparently he was grateful as evidenced decades later by his admission that I will never forget as long as I live...

"You were the only one who would let me sit by you on the bus..."

I smiled to myself as we watched our kids tumble and roll. He sat next to me in his nice slacks and shirt, him a department manager at a big store, him with his attractive wife and his gorgeous girls. I think about how well he's done compared to many of those on the school bus in those days and I chuckle.

He looked sideways at me, probably a little afraid. I laughed.

I said, "Sorry. I was just thinking how nice your life has turned out."

And he said, "Yeah, me too."

We watched the kids continue to tumble and roll.

39 comments :

  1. When my daughter was in middle school and high school, she was always told in her year books "you are such a nice person!". She hated it, wanted to be told how cool she was. I told her that being nice was a good thing, that she was very nice, and cute, and smart. But instead of sitting with the cute and smart kids, she sat with the fat and pimply faced kids. Said she didn't like the way the "cool" kids treated them. Ended up being an elementary school counselor. And is still nice. Sounds like you were, and are, too!

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  2. Wow. What a great story. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  3. I always feel for those kids or the ones who sit in the lunchroom by themselves. What will be remembered for? Our little acts of kindness. Thanks for reminding me!

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  4. Great story and so, so true. My 8 year old is very sensitive to the bully issue. She's the helper bee, even started the "recess help group, for kids sad on the playground". It's the little things that can make a huge difference in someone's life. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Myyy Goodnnesss,, you get a big SEAL of APPROVAL..

    It is very important to take up for yourself (ie.finish it), and maybe more important that you take up for others, that are in the right.. you made me smile,

    Thnx,, glenn

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  6. Cruelty comes easily to people (especially children). Kindness has to be taught and practiced. Your friend's memory of you showed you to be a master of your craft. Your son's actions toward the bully show your teaching as well. He showed the bully that sometimes cruelty can neither be ignored nor tolerated.

    You needn't second guess your son's reaction. You set a fine example.

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  7. It's good how little things like that can make such a positive difference to someone's life. So much of what we do seems to go unnoticed, it's always surprising when someone remembers a little thing like that.

    Much like that other child will. Bet Julius won't.

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  8. Wendy,
    I love to read your blogs...they always make me smile (and sometimes just laugh out loud!). Today's story made me smile in two ways...in amusement at the way your son took care of the bully...and then in quiet appreciation of your own story. So many times we're making an impression on someone without ever realizing it. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. great story. thanks for sharing

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  10. That was really nice, good for you!

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  11. How cool it is to run into someone that you knew from your childhood, and see how their life turned out despite shaky beginnings...

    There are a few kids that stand out in my memory of decades ago, that were picked on throughout their school years...I haven't seen any of their names come up in the news, which is probably a good sign.

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  12. I would have to agree with you about people not standing up for themselves these days due to the "you don't fight no matter what" that their parents taught.

    I am PROUD of your little guy for standing up for himself and I chuckled a little bit, its true that you should not condone violence but as my dad always says," I didn't start the fight but I finished it."

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  13. Really lovely story - love it when things like this happen...

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  14. OMG, that took me back for a minute...riding the bus (1st one on, last 1 off!)I probably would've spewed spaghetti too! No harm done.......

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  15. A short sharp lesson like that can sometimes nip bullying behaviour in the bud and prevent a lot of future problems. Politically correct? No. Effective? Yep!

    Love the story about Dwight. I often wonder about the girls who used to bully me at school and ponder on how they turned out and what they're doing now. I bet they aren't as happy as those they bullied .. unless they changed their ways and grew up entirely differently, of course. ;)

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  16. As a teacher I must say that I do not approve of biting at all.

    As a parent, as a person, as a once bullied person, I say :

    "GO JULIUS!"

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  17. Tell Julius that I'm proud of him. Of course, he might not think much of a compliment from a random, disembodied Voice From The Internet...and it might give him nightmares. Ok, maybe you should leave the compliment out.

    Still, I get very tired of hearing the "violence never solves anything" line. While there are non-violent ways of dealing with the bullies of the world later in life, when you're a kid, finishing the fight is pretty much the only option. That, or meekly walk away and endure the torment forever.

    I firmly believe in never starting a fight, and in walking away from one when it's the best option. However, a snappy punch to the nose is a quick lesson taught to a bully that he'll not soon forget. There's wisdom in that somewhere, I think.

    Teaching your children to stand up for themselves now reverberates later in life, just as teaching them to meekly accept abuse would. I think you're making the superior choice.

    Kristian
    Coquetting Tarradiddles

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  18. Wendy, I knew I liked you from the beginning. I was one of those kids too! On both ends of the deal.

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  19. I've tried to think of a better reaction than Tristan's and I simply can't do it!
    Our kids are definitely not confrontational (except with each other,) but we give them the same advice. I don't think they've had to use it yet?!

    Your bus story was awesome.

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  20. Tell you what: Julius saved himself a potential ongoing problem by making a no-nonsense response to a bully. Well done.

    My father had once told me that "if you get thrown out of school for fighting, you're in worse trouble when you get home". That, coupled with "turn the other cheek", got me plenty of bullies and both cheeks mussed up until high school. There, I stood my ground the first time a bully came calling, and that ended that. Important life lesson. And one I endorse.

    Don't go looking for trouble, but if it comes, meet it head-on and hard. Bullies steer clear of that philosophy.

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  21. Great story - it's nice things turned out well for both of you. Kids can be so cruel, it is hard to figure out how to tell them to stand up for themselves without endorsing violence.

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  22. One thing I've learned in life is that the smallest deed can make the biggest impact for the longest time on someone's life.

    Cool that you got to find out how you impacted him!

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  23. Its so many people's story isnt it - Im so glad his life came out good.

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  24. Who knew that Boy Scout camp, of all places, would be somewhere to worry about bullying. Sounds like your little one did a good job "finishing it." Seems like a wise policy to me.

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  25. That reminds me, Wendy - I need to get around to talking about how I got kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being honest, one of these days.

    Well, maybe it was less to do with honesty and more to do with my love of debating authority figures with my pig-headed need to Always Be Right...

    Kristian
    Coquetting Tarradiddles

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  26. What a touching story. I agree with you. I wouldn't want my kids not standing up for themselves.

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  27. Human compassion can go a long way as you proved with your kindness. I always hated the way people made fun of others less fortunate. When growing up I always befriended the ones who had it harder. And, I still do it today when I can.

    Love that your son took up for himself. I've always told my daughter not to start a fight but, if someone is hitting her not to take it. Sometimes a fight just can't be avoided. So far we've been lucky- no fights here. Have a great day.

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  28. In elementary school, I was the kid no one wanted sit with. I was the nerd. The square. I wish I had had someone like you to sit with. We could have read side by side. Great story. I like it when the underdog wins.

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  29. Kids can be so cruel and who knows what gets into their heads regarding who they decide to pick on. Many of the ones that are shyed away from are really the nicest ones. When all is said and done and the fat lady sings, those that are good will remain good to the core. Unfortunately, there are scars along the way, but it teaches them perseverance just like the guy on the bus. To Julius, I say he did just fine by standing up for himself! I would have laughed at that as well!

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  30. When my son was in second grade (in a parochial school) he came home day to tell me we had to buy the school bully a new gold chain. Because my son had ripped it off his neck. I asked why would you do such a thing. Because the bully had scissors at his neck trying to cut his throat in art class. When I looked down sure enough there were red marks across his neck.

    Not being known as a meek person the school and I had some conversation about art class.

    We also switched schools.

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  31. Perfect timing, Wendy. I'm hearing many bullying stories from moms as we get together over the summer and have more one-on-one time.

    Kids can be mean. It's nice to hear, as a grown-up, about the lasting impact one small act of kindness can have. Well done.

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  32. This is so lovely. What a perfect ending. Just perfect.

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  33. that's awesome!!

    go julius! i encourage my boys to stick up for themselves too....so far, no physical fights but, a few good screaming matches....hahaha

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  34. Great story. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Have a great Sunday.

    Cindy

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  35. That is so sweet about your friend. As for your son, I heard on the news recently about some serious bullying that took place at a Boy Scout Camp, leading to a court case! So I'm glad your little boy put that bully in his place.

    I love the way you tied the Boy Scout Camp story to the one about your old schoolmate. And by the way, you've inspired me to give a little more dignity to my writing. I started out scrap-blogging which lead to journaling & commenting more & more. Along the way I found your blog. I am relocating my comments over to a new blog called Parke It. Thanks again for a wonderful read and for encouraging me to tell my own stories.

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  36. 1. I rememer those cub scout/boy scout spaghetti blue and gold dinners. lol.

    2. good for Julius for sticking up for himself. it's a valuable way to be. I hope my boys will do the same if a bully ever confronts them like that. Jerk. (not Julius).

    3. I KNEW I liked you; what a nice girl you were to be brave enough to let the boy nobody wanted to sit next to you. If more kids would be like that, then the world would be a better place.

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  37. This story made my day. Thanks for sharing

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  38. I knew you were a fellow "let strange kid sit with you on the bus" person! I love this story, especially the part about your kids tumbling together. You tied the story together beautifully.

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