Would someone please stand up and do something before another life ends too early and another family suffers such a loss?Tim's story started me thinking. My son, Harrison, is turning 1 in a few weeks and has a long way to go before he heads off to school on his own, without the watchful eye and protection of my wife and myself, but yet this story seemed to touch me deep in my gut. Perhaps it is because I am a parent that any story about the tragic loss of life of a child tends to stick with me. What will I do? How do I address this very real issue that Harrison may have to deal with? How do I make sure that he does not become a bully himself?
I remember school, and while I had a good group of friends, I was not the most popular kid to ever grace the halls. In general, I have good memories, and while there were a few people that made disparaging comments about my struggle with being overweight, I would not call myself bullied, and certainly not physically bullied.
So what about Harrison?
I do not pretend to have all of the answers, and parenting is not the type of thing that you can do by mapping out your child's life and your response and then following said map; it changes and you have to adapt, but I also will not pretend that I have not thought about how I will deal with issues that could arise in his lifetime. That is part of my job as a father.
First and foremost my wife and I are going to strive to teach all of our children respect for themselves and for others. This means knowing you have worth to yourself and to your family and friends. Act like you have worth and do not allow others to treat you as if you are worthless. My goal in teaching him (and subsequent siblings) self worth is for them to recognize that just as they have worth, so do others and they need to treat them accordingly. People look, act, smell, talk, think, have hobbies and love differently but that does not make them worth any more nor any less than you.
I also want my children to know that they have an open line of communication with me whenever they need it. I will admit, and my wife will agree, that I am not the best listener in the world. I get distracted by things and before you know it I have stopped listening, but this is a flaw that we have to address with our children. If children think that you are not listening and that you do not care that they are being bullied then you have essentially cut off their most important means of coping and have validated that what the bully is doing to them is fine. Children do not have all of the answers and do not always have the necessary coping mechanisms to deal effectively. You have to be there for them and they have to not only know that but you have to reinforce that...by actually listening and being there for them. Sure, we really do not care what Matt said about Johnny's dog at recess, and we tune out at hearing the story about the alien for the ump-tenth time, and that is okay, but our children need to know that when they have something serious to say that we are going to listen.
I am going to strive to make Harrison understand that I am always in his corner and that he does not have to go at the world alone. As parents, and adults, we have lived a lot longer than they have and we have also been through some of the things they now struggle with. While I am not going to give him all of the answers, I will certainly be available to double-team some issues for a bit. Sometimes, when an issue such as bullying arises, it is necessary for us to come out of the corner and to come out swinging. Every parent that goes into to speak with a parent of an offending bully, a school official or goes before the school board for an issue like this should be the angriest parent that they have ever seen. Remain calm and civil but at the same time your anger should convey that you will protect your child and that this will not go away. They say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and you should be a squeaky wheel
engulfed in flames
setting everything else on fire
every single day
until someone pays attention.
What happens if I do everything above but Harrison or his siblings still become the victims of bullying? What I am about to write will anger some people. Other people will criticize me and tell me that I am wrong. That is fine, and to each his own.
We have to teach our children to defend themselves both mentally, and yes, physically as well. I am not an advocate of violence and will do what I can to avoid potentially dangerous or violent situations but I also carry a firearm almost daily because I know that bad people do bad things and sometimes we have to met violence with violence. I can hear some of you already "are you advocating that kids solve their problems with guns"? Well, no, of course not, but what I am advocating is that when all else fails our children just may have to hit back and do so harder and faster until they can get away from the threat. When you really look deep inside of yourself you will see that you would never tell your child not to defend themselves and to just take the beating. Sometimes, in order to stop someone from bullying us, we have to show them that we will not be a victim in the first place.