New Blog Post: The Rehabilitation of a Bully

Rustin-Kluge-Tells-Students-to-Say-No-To-BullyingWe see terrible stories in the news of teens killing themselves over being bullied in person or online. It’s an epidemic.

For the past month or so my son Teddy, almost seven, has been bullied by a classmate. This boy, Brandon is a smart kid and had been a friend of Teddy’s. They were brought together by a mutual friend, also in the same class. I think jealousy got the better of Brandon as he started to make fun of Teddy, tell people not to play with him and generally make life miserable for him.

Having been bullied throughout high school, I was very upset about this but I waited a few days to see if it was a passing thing. On the third day Brandon punched Teddy in the stomach and kicked him in the groin. That was it. No more waiting.

I spoke to the teacher the teacher spoke to Brandon and tried speaking to his parents but English is not their first language. He seemed to get the picture though as he started playing with Teddy again and things were cautiously optimistic. I talked to Teddy about bullies who are generally rather unhappy for whatever reason and find someone else to take it out on. They can get more upset when confronted by a teacher or scolded by parents and that embarrassment gets thrust back onto their victim. In short, I told him to keep away from Brandon, play with other friends and wait it out.

imagesIt’s hard at any age to accept someone may not like you but at age 6 3/4, it’s almost impossible, especially when they’d been friends and nothing had occurred to make it happen. Understandably, Teddy just had to keep going back to ‘check’ to see if Brandon was going to be nice to him that day or not. Some days he was, others he wasn’t. Mostly he was, simply put, a little creep. Teddy, who has remarkable resolve, finally broke down at home. He was emotionally exhausted and now physically hurt as well.

10419476_10152744948217767_7615956164128504161_nMore conversations were had with Brandon but he was still meant to Teddy and it was affecting Teddy’s other friendships. Kids weren’t sure whether to listen to Brandon and stay away from Teddy or stick with Teddy and continue to be friends. Second grade is a fickle time.

Every day when I’d go to pick up Teddy at school I’d ask about Brandon. Sometimes it would be OK and he’d say they ignored one another and he’d played with different friends and other times more teasing and more telling people to not be friends with him would have occurred.  He told me he sat at a lunch table with Brandon and a teacher there as well and they got into an argument (about whether praying mantis’ go poo) which then ended with Brandon screaming at Teddy and going off making fun of him to others. Teddy was right by the way, they do poo.

I asked Teddy why he sat at the table with Brandon and he said there was a teacher there so he thought it would be alright. But it wasn’t, was it? Bullies are out of control often with low self-esteem. They remain bullies until they figure out it’s not in their best interest as human beings. I told Teddy that Brandon was not worthy of Teddy’s time, he needed to stay away, it was hard, I understood, but it was his responsibility now to stay away from this guy. Teddy has never said a mean word to this kid and he needed to defend himself by protecting himself. He said he understood. I however, was almost in tears, watching this young boy manuever the awful childish machinations of the playground and this boy’s unwarranted wrath.

94511This afternoon, I picked Teddy up and asked him, as always about Brandon. Today he told me a miracle had occurred. Though he and Brandon played separately at recess, at the beginning of lunchtime while Teddy was getting his food out by some tables, Brandon, a seven-year old boy, came up to him and said, “Teddy, I am sorry I have acted so badly to you. I want to be your friend. I have been really mean and it’s been unfair. Will you accept my apology?” I seriously had to ask him to repeat himself. I was thrilled for him, if not a little wary. I congratulated him on how he handled the situation, not taking the aggressive route and doing his best to stay strong and be his own person, finding other friends, staying clear of this kid who had some crazy ‘in’ for him. I made sure throughout this to keep his own self-esteem high – that I felt was my most important job as a parent other than to make sure the right authorities at school and Brandon’s parents were aware of the actions,

I cautiously told Teddy that things may act up again but I was, for the first time, quite impressed with Brandon. Whatever he figured out he had the maturity at age seven to apologize and say he made a mistake and that hurting someone else was wrong. He was humble and opened the door for a friendship. Seven years old. Maybe this bully has been rehabilitated. Maybe he was having a bad month at home and took it out on his classmate. But, for now Teddy is bully free.

Can children actually understand this process better than adults who get mired in ridiculous pettiness? Children don’t know that stuff yet; Basically they just want to play. They are acting on a primal feeling and when they reach a place where they know they’ve gone too far they stop – they’re not yet in the throws of peer pressure and they are still learning, while adults have been stunted

Teddy and Brandon, I am proud of you both and I hope you have a nice friendship together  ( or at the very least remain civil and pleasant). You are, by far, my heroes of the month.

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