Bullying: A Time to Fight Back!
“Mom, he slapped me in front of everyone & threw my backpack in the garbage!”
“What If I’m Hit First?” “When Should I Stand Up for Myself?” “When Should I Take Things Into My Own Hands?”
There are thousands of kids being bullied on a daily basis who end up blaming themselves as the reason for their torture. If your child is being bullied, the first thing that you should tell them is that they are not alone.
Some kids clam up, back down and suffer through it (which may lead to other serious issues). Some kids, however, are ready to fight and defend themselves at the drop of a dime or right as the feeling “I just can’t take it anymore” hits.
Should Kids Fight Back?
When should kids stand up for themselves? What if your child gets smacked right in the face in front of the entire school? Should they walk away and take the high road or make a bold statement and smack them back? I’ve heard my many stories from friends, co-workers, and online sources where children suffered through bullying or took matters into their own hands.
Currently, there isn’t a school policy that prevents a kid from being suspended due to self-defense.
If your child hits back, both children will be punished, period.
Transitioning from Elementary School to Middle School
As a single parent, first, let me introduce myself. Hi, I’m Mona; I am a single mother and a parent of one, an 11-year old boy who is in his first year of middle school. Let me salute all the parents who have more than one child!
I researched information on transitioning from Elementary school to Middle school, and I learned that middle school was the worst of all of the school stages and let me say, they were not wrong.
My Son Got Bullied
The first time my son was bullied in middle school was within the first two months of the first day of school.
Because I drilled the following messages into his head from elementary school, he always knew to tell me everything; no matter what:
- “Is there anything going on?”
- “It’s important you tell me everything.”
- “I can’t protect you if I don’t know what’s going on.”
- “It’s important that you talk to me.”
- “It’s important that you’re OK.”
The first time he was bullied, it was for his tape line (or haircut). His hair often grew in too fast, and I am sorry to say, I didn’t get his hair cut in time. He got bullied for his clothes and his sneakers. My son wasn’t wearing Sketchers, he was wearing Nike’s Jordan (an older edition, but they were Jordans!) His clothes had the cute “dabbing” symbols and some “Fortnite” symbols which he loved to wear often.
Counseling My Son
I told him as I normally do when it comes to having the things he has, there are children out there whose parents have died, who don’t know where their next meals will be coming from, or have been abandoned and are currently in foster care.
Always be grateful.
Harsh? Maybe, but because of this, he is always very grateful for everything he has. To this day, when I offer to buy him things, he asks how much it costs, LOL. (Maybe that’s just a single-mom-and-boy relationship.)
Action Causes Reaction
As appreciative as he was for everything he had in his closet, he couldn’t take the bullying anymore. One day he came home, and he didn’t ask for new clothes, which would be the normal response. Instead, he asked, “Mom can I just hit him?! Please! Just one good punch and I can knock him out. I can take him, I know I can.”Ugh… No, You Cannot.
Talk to Your Child
A part of me was proud that he came to me to ask for permission, and another part wanted to laugh a little, but I replied, “No you can’t ask for permission to hit someone.” After the shock wore off, I felt heartbroken. He felt so bullied that he wanted to take things into his own hands. I immediately thought of suspension.
I told him, “No, I’m sorry, but you just can’t.” You have to be so confident that people eventually won’t care anymore. From there, the bullying died down; he made one savage move, and he told me things at school were normal; everything was good. You’ll learn about this savage move soon.
How Things Got out of Control
I didn’t hear the stories anymore, and I was relieved until… I saw the school’s number on my caller ID, and my heart dropped. I just knew they weren’t calling for anything positive. My son was in the front office; he had been in a fight.
A child called my son a name, and he called him one back. As he was walking out of the class, he was shoved in the back. He said, “Don’t touch me!” and the kid did it again, the rest was history. My son smacked him right in the face.
I knew my child was scorned from the previous bullying; he had his fill at the moment and lost all control. He felt the sting of being emasculated. The feeling “enough is enough” swept over him. Was my son completely wrong? Yes and no. He could’ve kept walking, even if he was fed up, angry, or on emotion overload. Other boys would have bullied him the next day for being “soft” or a “punk” if he had walked away (a rumor did spread that he lost the fight, but this is another story).
The Aftermath of the Fight
After the fight, I discussed the situation with the assistant principal. It eventually became a debate.
“What is my son supposed to do when he is provoked? What is my child supposed to do when someone puts their hands on him? What is any kid supposed to do when they are hit first?”
Needless to say, I didn’t get any solid answers. My son was served with three days of internal suspension. Later that day, I talked to him. I explained,
“You got into a fight, and you had to suffer the consequences, I don’t have all of the answers, and I can’t tell you when you should or should not walk away, but you’re growing up and you have to figure out what’s worth it and what’s not.”
In the next few incidents, he did.
Just Be There
Be there for every incident. Talk to your child, but don’t get too upset when you know the answers. Don’t leave them afraid of wanting to tell you things in the future. Remember to be on their side, even when you’re not.
Learning from mistakes
The next incident occurred when my son got switched to another class due to the overcrowding of classes. The school didn’t have another teacher in place, so there was a substitute every day. Why on earth would you split a class when there isn’t a permanent teacher in place is beyond me.
It was a total nightmare. Everyone in the class was horsing around. There was a kid who was hitting everyone with water bottles and stealing things out of backpacks! Then it happened; this kid slapped my kid in front of the entire class and threw his backpack in the garbage. He came home and told me what happened.
I asked him, “What did you do?”
He said, “Nothing, I just sat there.”
Learning to Make their Own Decisions
He had been learning to pick his battles. Some of these incidents, I wouldn’t have been so accommodating myself, but I couldn’t tell him that. All I could tell him was that I was so sorry someone put their hands on him and that I am glad he made his own decision to walk away.
Again my heart dropped because I knew he suffered the embarrassment of being slapped in front of the entire class. He didn’t want to get suspended, and worse, he did not want to fight and not win… the bullying would be worse. Needless to say, I brought fire and fury and countless emails to the substitute, the assistant principal, and the guidance counselor. After a few efforts, he was switched back to his normal class. That child was eventually kicked out of school. This was not even before Christmas.
The third incident was the hardest.
How he Snapped: The Story Behind It
My son was in lunch and accidentally spilled milk on a classmate (a troubled child). The assistant principal was there, (the one I had a debate with). He told my son to apologize, but as soon as he was about to, the other boy said, “You’re lucky he (the assistant principal) was there.” My son, being prideful, didn’t say sorry. That same day, in class, the kid wrote on a piece of paper, “[my son] is gay”. My son tried to take the note to the teacher, but it got snatched away and put in the garbage…the taunting continued.
The Dreaded Call
My phone rang at work; my heart dropped again. It was his 6th-period teacher. My son was in trouble… and did the most horrific thing; the blood from my face drained; I was devastated. “That can’t be true. That’s not my child. There’s no way.”
I was told that the assistant principal, his teachers, and a school psychologist would have to assess the situation, and the worst-case scenario would be that he will be expelled from school…
How I Handled It
I got home and treated it like a normal day. I laid down on the bed, and he came to me and said,
“Mommy I have to tell you something.”
I said, “OK.”
- Listen to their side of the story
I tried to hold my patience so that my child could tell his side of the story without any fear. And it worked. Here’s what happened:
Immediately tears started strolling down his face,
“Mommy, I accidentally spilled milk on this guy at lunch.”
He continued, “I tried to apologize, but he said ‘You’re lucky [the assistant principal] was there.’ So I didn’t apologize. In class, he started talking about me and wrote notes about me and passed it around the class, calling me gay. I tried to grab the paper, but he crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage. I tried to tell the teacher, but the teacher told me to go back to my seat… When I got back to my seat, they were tormenting me.”
- Give them time to tell you everything
I asked, “OK, then what happened…”
He said (tears streaming down his face), “I said….” (more tears)… “I said, ‘If I knew where you lived, I would kill you.'”
“Baby I know.”
“You’re not mad?”
- Counsel them when they’re done
“Hell yes, I am mad! But I’m more concerned than anything! Honey, what are you doing? Have you lost your mind?! I get it, Middle School is a bitch, kids are horrible! You’ve been bullied! But how did we get to the point where you threaten someone’s life? Do I really believe that you will miss the school bus and follow someone’s home to do something crazy? No! But is it possible?! Look at what happened in Parkland! Do you know the consequences of saying those specific words? Do you know the consequences of kids being troubled when no one takes them seriously?! Look at Parkland!”
“Mommy I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it. I was just angry.” (Tears turned from slow in a full out sob).
Discussion with the school
The Assistant Principal called, they assessed my child with all of his teachers. They were not going to expel him; they were not going to suspend him either, but he had to serve a week in Internal Suspension.
I told them, “THANK YOU. I am so sorry this happened, I appreciate the caution you took, but my baby will NEVER EVER go down this route again.”
I was grateful for the strategies they had in place.
It’s Time to Take it Seriously
We live less than 3 miles away from Parkland, FL. If you know anything about Parkland, you know that a gunman opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students.
The school took it seriously, I took it seriously.
I knew this was serious. I knew my kid was tormented for his clothes, his shoes, his haircut, and he walked away. I knew he was provoked and pushed, and I knew he was slapped in the face. I knew we could handle this together. Never in my wildest dreams would I think he ever would EVER utter those words.
After a well-deserved break of no phone calls, no crazy stories, I felt at ease… until my son told me he had a “girlfriend”. I knew the girl he liked; it was Alison from Elementary school. I was kind of happy, after all the embarrassments and the bullying; he was still managing to make his way through life (LOL), great! I still remember my innocent “boyfriend” in Elementary School.
During this time, a “friend” walked up to my son and said, “Hey, are you with Alison? Because she asked me out first.”
How Should Parents Handle “Dating”?
Let me just pause here for a minute; yes, “dating” does happen in Middle School. You may think they’re too young and as innocent as it may seem, this type of development needs to be watched closely INSTEAD of a firm hand of “No girls! Or no boys!” type of approach. It’s best if they tell you everything, rather them being sneaky and not telling you anything.
And the story continues…
My son came home and told me,
“Mom, my friend tried to get me mad. He said Alison looks like a buffalo.”
“A buffalo! What did you do?” I asked.
My son said in the most fashionable way, “Alright, run my fade in the bathroom tomorrow.”
(“let’s fight” is what the phrase means, as I found out later.)
So why did he come home and told me about this?
It’s because, since elementary school, I had continually urged him to talk to me about EVERYTHING.
After a deep sigh, I asked him if Alison there when he called her a Buffalo? As an adult, you and I know that if someone disrespects your partner, you’re going to feel a slight compulsion to react, especially if this is done in front of your partner.
Counseling My Son
Fortunately, Allison was not there when she was called a Buffalo. I told him that as a man, it can be extremely embarrassing to find someone disrespecting your girlfriend in front of you and that one can make a choice to defend their partner. This is not something he should be faced with, and fortunately, he did not have to make that choice. The next day I asked my son, “So, did you fight him and defend her honor?” My said “Nah, I let it go.”
In Conclusion Advice Works!
HA! YES! That was a win for me. Folks, sometimes your advice works out. You know your child inside out and you just have to trust yourself. Coach them off the ledge and tell them about the consequences, what’s worth it and what’s not.
- When Should Your Child Say Enough is Enough?
- When Should Your Child Stand Up for Themselves?
- What If Your Child is Hit First?
- When Should They Take Things Into Their Own Hands?
If you know about every incident your child experiences, kudos! Your child is talking to you, and you can get a handle of each occurrence.
How Many Strikes till’ They’re Out?
In my home, I implement the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” rule. If one child is verbally abusing my child, I tell him to take the high road, laugh it off by saying NOTHING; it makes them look stupid. Bullies eventually have no choice but to walk away because they are waiting for a reaction and they don’t get one. Trust me, it works! My son came home and said, “Mom I did what you said, and he looked so dumb in front of everyone.”
Now if this specific child is being relentless, I invoke the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” rule.
My son doesn’t know about my rule, It’s my rule based on the advice I give him.
If he used the trick I mentioned above, and the verbal abuse continues, I permit him to shut them down. You have every right to say something back and don’t be afraid to get a little savage. You’ve kind of earned it. But it’s your call. My son DID get little savage. He mentioned someone’s father not being there and the kid started crying and that was the end of that. 🖕🙈. Ouch! I told him that it was a little harsh. He said, “Sorry, not sorry.”
Save your child from serious problems
Fortunately, only small incidents happened. Why did the small incidents not turn into anything more serious? It’s because I taught my child to tell me EVERYTHING.
First of all, no one should be putting their hands on your child. I am a firm believer that your child should not be punched in the face 10 times over, have their lunch tray slammed to the floor while kids laugh, or be shamed and provoked for wearing the wrong shoes. When is it enough for a child?
It’s when he/she comes home crying because they just can’t take it anymore.
Every action shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it’s up to your parenting style to whether you want to teach your child to hit back or walk away.
Document Every Incident
First things first, every incident should be documented. I have the assistant principal on speed dial and his email address on file; if I had his home number I’d have that on speed dial too.
When the very first incident occurs you must contact the proper authorities, the principal, the assistant principal, the guidance counselor and the teacher(s) and let them know you want them to be aware.
Depending on the incident you may just want to make them aware because you have the situation handled but you really want them to know something has happened. Initiate a phone call, a conference (if necessary) and follow up with an email. This way if a second or third incident occurs you will have proof that your child is being bullied.
Be Prepared for Defense
If you implement the 3rd strike rule and you tell your child, “You have every right to defend yourself,” and he pops them right back you still have the documentation that your child was not the aggressor. This happened to my child, and after defending himself (after enough was enough) he received a lighter punishment.
Teach your child that the best course of action is to walk away; however, if your child should say “enough is enough” and hits back just make sure that you take the proper precautions beforehand.
I am a firm believer that it’s OK for anyone to stand up for themselves. Here are some affirmations your child can mentally repeat to themselves or declare out loud to their bullies:
- “I AM NOT YOUR TARGET!”
- “I AM NOT YOUR PUNCHING BAG!”
- “I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY!”
- “YOU’RE PROBLEMS WON’T BECOME MY PROBLEMS!”
Moral(e) of This Amazing (True Story)
Most bullies don’t even want to fight. They feel empowered simply by belittling others or they are showoffs. Other bullies want to feel the pain of being in a physical altercation.
Training in martial arts or boxing can provide benefits for handling a bully.
It teaches principles of patience, special techniques of defense and gets out physical frustration in a safe environment.
Combating bullying starts with the WARNING SIGNS: IS YOUR CHILD BEING BULLIED? Is your child starting to act differently? They may be exhibiting some signs of being bullied? Read about specific warning signs here: WARNING SIGNS: IS YOUR CHILD BEING BULLIED?
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All kids should be told that you got their back when it comes to defending themselves or when they are defending someone who is incapable of defending themselves. My son got into a few scraps in school..but was always defending himself or another smaller child.
We had one incident where 14 “gang members” in our front yard wanting to jump on my son because of a neighborhood girl he was trying to tell she didn’t need to be involved with those people. Rather than call the police we stood in the front yard with them and told them they could fight but it would be one on one. The boy that “wanted” to jump on him wouldn’t fight.. another one tried to come up to him he simply walked in the house and grabbed a 2×4 and walked back out and said you both want to go let’s do it.. naturally the other boy backed off so he set the board down and walked back to the original instigator and told him to either swing or shake his hand and get the **** up out of his yard..boy never shook his hand but they all walked off..next day at school the boy that started it all was pulled out of their “gang”..they called my boy a crazy mf’er and some of them still do today but he didn’t have anymore issues from kids at school,🤣 He developed a lot more self confidence that day …they had their gang but he had his family behind him..
Of course at the time my son not the others knew that we had a couple bats and a gun in the truck Incase things did go bad. Luckily this was when kids still threw punches instead of bullets..
What a treasure trove of information.
We absolutely agree! What do you think about schools that punish kids who defend themselves?
I believe my child has the right to defend their self. Nobody should have to tolerate getting hit on.
Thank you! It’s important to put these issues in the forefront of parent’s minds! I shared very personal stories but it was something that had to be done.
Recognizing the early signs of bullying has been an eye opener.