parenting

Life Lessons: A Story About Bullying

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Life Lessons—When I was a kid, bullying was frowned upon but that's about it. If something happened at school a common response would be for the teacher to simply say, "Well, he's a bully." Apparently, a child couldn't help if he was a bully any more than he could help being left-handed. I may not have liked it, but that's the way things were.

Aside from the occasional schoolyard scrap, it wasn't until the fifth grade that I had a bullying experience that I considered worth mentioning. We sat four to a table in Miss Kinney's class, with two of us on one side and two on the other. James was assigned to sit across from me. He was a new student, and he didn't play well with others. I can look back now and see that he probably had ADHD, and he certainly had a difficult situation at home.

As I was leaving the school to walk home one day, I ran into James. We were at a far corner of the schoolyard and there wasn't anyone else around. Except his mom. She was leaning against their car and was yelling something to him as he walked toward me. I remember being puzzled because it sounded like she was telling him to hit me. I just kept on walking but James quickly closed the gap and gave me a shove. With his mom eagerly egging him on, telling him to beat me up.

I was wearing a heavy winter coat and I kept my hands in my coat pockets the entire time. He hit me. He pushed me. He knocked me down. It wasn't so much that I was scared, as I was confused because my mind simply couldn't process that an adult was doing this. I remember hearing James' mom yell for him to hit me in the face, which he must have done because I ended up with a bloody nose. Shortly thereafter she said he could stop.

And then she told us to get in the car, and she drove me home.

It wasn't my finest moment, as I never really did fight back. But through the experience I formed a firm resolve that I would never be dominated like that again. Through the years, I occasionally came across a few other tormentors, but I met their fire with bigger fire and the situations were quickly defused.

Times have changed since I was a kid and bullying is far less tolerated. My boys' school makes very clear that such behavior will not be tolerated, and they mean it. Any time I've become aware of a problem the school has been quick to resolve the situation.

I have no doubt that bullying will always occur to some extent. But as a parent, I am thrilled that the issue is not considered simply a part of growing up.

Has your child ever been bullied? What steps did you take to stop the bullying? What rules does your school have in place to deal with bullying?

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Jen Tilley

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