Question: My child is getting bullied in school. He is getting picked on physically and the school says that, if he fights back, he will get suspended. I went to the school twice and spoke to the principal, but nothing has changed. I want him to stand up for himself. What can we do?
How to stop bullying when your child is being picked on physically
Answer: If your child is confused, you can’t blame him. Unchecked zero tolerance policies in school dictate that if a child defends himself or puts his hands up to block, they’re still in trouble. If we did that as an adult, it would be called self-defense. Whether we agree or not, or bring up “fairness,” those are the rules of the school.
The problem happens when the child keeps the same mindset once they leave school grounds and get off the bus. I believe the solution to how to stop bullying exists in opening communication with your child. Your child may feel that if they defend themselves, they will get in trouble with you, so they allow the bullying to continue, even off-campus. This allows the victim mindset to last much longer in the child. Unfortunately, some victims may become the bully if no interventions take place. These days, that might mean that they may bully themselves to a terminal level (Bullycide) or they might become an enraged bully that brings a gun to school.
When it comes to physical bullying, talk to your child. Tell them your true feelings and expectations. In my opinion, no one has the right to touch anybody else. I don’t teach my students karate so they can allow someone to hit them. My students hit back and hit back hard. I call it the “McFly Principle” based on the Marty McFly character from the movie, Back to the Future. Marty was bullied, but finally punched out the bully and his life changed in a positive way. His self-esteem and self-confidence rose, permanently. Many parents who live in the real world agree with me. Some don’t and that’s perfectly fine as well. How would your child feel if you were out in public, someone hit you and you stood there and didn’t defend yourself? What lesson are you teaching your child? That is for you to figure out.
Your child needs to know that they have the right to defend themselves. If you agree, let them know as well. Let them know that they WILL get in trouble in school, no doubt. That’s the way that school is. They will get in trouble. And when they come home upset you will not be mad at them for defending themselves. I present school assemblies on how to stop bullying and I must, unfortunately, leave that piece out. When I present programs for groups like the Boy Scouts and Pop Warner, I am not restricted by what the public schools want me to keep quiet about, so I recommend that on the day your child physically defends themselves and is suspended, be prepared for one of the most teachable opportunities you will have in your child’s life.
Hug them and tell them that you are proud of them for standing up for themselves. Take the next day off of work and go do something fun. Take them out for pizza and ice cream. Let everyone in your family know how they stood up for themselves. Write on the calendar that date and celebrate that day every year as the day they stood up for themselves. They will never be a victim of anyone ever again. YOU are responsible for teaching your child life skills inside your home. However, keep an eye out that the victim doesn’t become the bully that starts the fight. That is a different situation and a completely different conversation. Prepare your child for the real world. There are bullies in school, college, work, and relationships just to name a few. It’s up to you if you want your child to go through life being a victim or a powerful human being. Good luck to you.