One day last week, my 7-year-old son Noah asked me if I could buy him an extra Nintendo DSi. As most parents know, these things aren’t cheap, throwaway toys, so after laughing through an emphatic “No,” I asked him why he thought he needed two of the same handheld game consoles.
As it turned out, a boy on his school bus had demanded that he give him a DSi by the next school day, “or else.” Noah said that the boy had also punched him in the stomach, called him and our family names and said a lot of mean and threatening things. And, my sweet boy told me, the kid had been bullying him for a few weeks.
By this time, I was no longer laughing.
As many parents have experienced, my initial reaction was one of the protective mother bear—I wanted that kid to experience the same pain my son did. My oldest son informed me that “no one messes with his little brother” and asked me to let him deal with it. Of course, that was not the right answer. I do not encourage violent behaviors in my kids, and I don’t believe that you solve violence with violence.
So, being the reasonable and law-abiding citizen that I am, I quickly put my irrational personal feelings in check and decided to take a proactive approach to ending the bully’s reign of terror instead.
Because it was Friday evening and the beginning of a long weekend, the first thing I did was e-mail the school’s principal. I explained what was happening and asked for her help in ending the problem. Though I didn’t expect her to react until the following Tuesday when school resumed, I was pleasantly surprised that she e-mailed me back that same evening.
She had already notified the school’s transportation company and Noah’s teacher, the e-mail said, and she would talk to and deal with the student in question on Tuesday. And, she did just what she said. Noah came home on Tuesday and told me that both boys were brought into the office and even though the bully lied and said he didn’t do it, she issued a punishment. She also made sure that Noah and the bully would not be seated near one another on the bus from that point forward.
While I was impressed with the principal’s quick action, I also sat down and had a talk with Noah about how to deal with bullies. First things first, I told him that he should never try to deal with these things himself. Instead, I told him, he should always tell me about things like this immediately so I can help him. I also explained that bullies only have power because we give them power, and that if he could try to avoid reacting to their initial jabs, they might get bored and move on.
This leads me to this week’s question. What do you tell your children about how to deal with bullies? If your children have been bullied by other kids, how did you deal with it?