Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'To Be or Not to Be' - Bullied? That is the question.

       My oldest son has followed in both of his parents' footsteps and developed a speech impediment.  In other words he stutters; couple this with the fact that he is extremely intelligent, reads all the time, and is clumsy, and you have a Molotov cocktail for bullies.  Like so many stories I have read, we have spoken to anyone who would listen, at the school and on the bus, with very little in the way of results.  So, the question keeps returning: what do we do?
     While I initially thought that the "turn the other cheek" method was the best course of action, I soon came to realize that the parents of these bullies are not teaching them the same lesson.  While I am teaching my children tolerance, "just walk away," and "tell the teacher," these kids are building their arsenal of verbal insults, make-shift karate moves, and mob motivating chants.  So I decided that my children need to go to school armed and ready to fight back. 
      Now before you envision my five year olds with oozies strapped to their backs, I am talking about verbal weapons and self defense strategies.  Let's face it -  good parents expect others to be good parents.  This is not the case.  At the most, a large percentage of parents are absentee and/or couch parents.  These parents only see what they want to see when it comes to their child's questionable behavior. Therefore, when accusations are brought  forth, they are too embarrassed by their poor parenting to admit that they have created a monster - reinforcing the poor behavior.
      First, my husband and I reinforce the notion of Team Rayfield (a term borrowed from our cousins Team Bradley).  What this does is instill in them not only a sense of pride in their family, but also a duty to protect the members of that family.  My husband is team captain but when the kids are at school my oldest son assumes this role.  The team captain's job is to make sure no one is left behind and no one is in danger. (If you have an only child, network with other parents of students that have been bullied and give yourselves a name.)
      Second, we discuss those things that make us uncomfortable about ourselves and serve as potential weapons for bullies.  We do this in a safe space without judgement.  I believe that if you talk about these things you become comfortable with them.  "Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Roman Emperor, A.D. 161-180 (121 AD - 180 AD)."
     Third, we arm ourselves.  I have worked as a middle school teacher for 8 years and as a result I have a cornucopia of verbal come-backs at my disposal.  So, yes, my children and I play "the dozens."  I ask them what has been said about them or to them and we practice quick simple responses.  I ask them to think of things they might say the next time it happens and we practice (remember my son stutters so practice is key).
       As for physical threats of violence - nature has blessed my son with height and strength.  He has strict instructions not to fight.  This has worked well and he has only gotten into altercations due to self defense; and when needed, Team Rayfield is there for backup.  No one sibling is ever to be left alone or defenseless.  Today, physical altercations are worrisome because of increased use of weapons.  However, our children do not go to a school where this is an issue.  Kids still settle things the old fashion way. 
     I will admit that our tactics may seem odd.  However, I grew up in the "hood," and my children attend a "hood" school (although it is a magnet school); because of this "turn the other cheek," just means you'll get slapped on the other side.  We, as a good parents must teach our children that the world is not kind all the time and that you have the right to stand up for yourself.  Sometimes, one heart-filled stand is all it takes to make a bully back down.  Perhaps two or three - the point is, why should your child be the one to give up -- the bully won't.

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