Defending Does Not End Bullying

A recent viral image had me inspired to write a piece on bullying. I was once a bullied kid, and while I never retaliated, I didn’t have the confidence to fight back either. Bullying ends with compassion, not reaction.

“If your kid is bullying my kid, and my kid has tried to tell your kid to stop, and your kid doesn’t.. My kid has been told to punch your kid in the face. Not even sorry.”

Perhaps you have seen this blurb being shared on social media. I have seen it shared too many times by friends and family and each time I am appalled by the meaning of it. So much so, it’s message has inspired this blog post.

This little viral proclamation had to have been written by a bully.

Bullying, the age-old battle for playground supremacy. It is an awful and terrifying thing to endure, both as a parent and as a child. As a child, I was often bullied, just because of hair on my head or the quality of my clothes. Now, as a parent, my child has also been the target of bullying, and I could say that on occasion he has been the source. The thought of my child having to live out his school day in sadness or fear does strike a nerve deep within me, but not one to promote retaliation.

To teach your children to “punch your kid in the face” when confronted with bullying has to be the most absurd thing that I have ever heard. Often, the cases of bullying my child have endured was very innocent in nature, a trip here or a shove there. Yes, it was physical in nature, but instead of teaching my child to lay out a haymaker, I taught him to understand his bully and to understand himself. It is not easy to teach a child to understand themselves and their bully, but it is much more sensible than teaching them to drop their bully like a sack of potatoes and continuing the cycle of violence.

Kids mimic what they see, often children who are bullies are being bullied themselves at home or elsewhere. Teaching your child to punch the bully in the face is merely teaching your child to bully the bully, how does this end bullying? What if your child swings a left hook at the other child and then the other child comes back at them with a knife? When does the bullying cycle end?

Bullying stops with understanding.

Teaching your children to understand others makes them much less susceptible to bullying. When they know that not everyone is going to like them, they will learn to avoid bullies or better, learn to befriend them. When children understand that the negative emotion being targeted at them (physically or mentally) is not really targeted to them but more just channelled toward them from somewhere else, they will relieve the pressure to retaliate and are less likely to absorb the adverse reaction.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that there is no way that my child can change all of the bullies of the world. I know for a fact that he can’t fight them all and I can’t help defend him from every one of them; there are just too many of bullies, and there are more created every day. But I can help change one. What I did realize is that I can change my child’s perspective on bullying. Give him the confidence to take back control over these negative situations in the schoolyard. While he cannot control the actions of the bully, he has complete control over his reaction to them. If he gives in to the bully, then they will come back for more, if he fights the bully, they will come back even harder, if he controls the situation by using his confidence and reacts with understanding, the bully will have no choice to back off. Game over. Some may look at that as being weak, but life is not about who wins the fight, life is about how the fight is won. The power of controlling one’s reactions to the actions of others is the most potent forces we can use in life.

Bullying is purely a reaction to pain that has been passed on by someone else and by teaching your children to retaliate with a punch, you are only encouraging the prolongation and elevation of the pain. Please, stop teaching your children to counter-attack and instead teach them to be strong, confident and compassionate human beings. They can handle the power of thought if we let them think, but I can assure you, they will never handle the power of retaliation; it always ends with everyone losing. There will always be a bigger bully.