As soon as my child walked in from getting off of the bus I could tell something was wrong, and I was right. He told me that a boy in his class was making fun of him and imitating the expression he was making on picture day. I felt as if I was being transported directly back to my time in middle school when I was endlessly teased and taunted over my developing curves. Middle school had been rough on me. I was in a brand new school district of wealthy students, and all of my old friends were miles away. Kids can be amazingly cruel, and I have always been worried about my own offspring.
I have always told my three sons not to engage with bullies. I believe that you should always stand up for yourself but that you should also stay away from the mean kids. I encouraged them to look for friends that are kind and courteous. Because of those words, my son did stand up for himself that day. Still, it was obvious how much the incident bothered and upset him.
However, my son is a lot more confident than I was at that age. His response to the bully taught me an amazing lesson when it happened. That’s because the next day in school, the very same kid who was a bully to my son was bullied by others. My son, instead of reveling in his unfortunate predicament, came to his aid. He had been having trouble in band class playing his trumpet and was being mocked for his inability. My son told the kids to mind their own business and to turn around. The boy, who had mocked my own son just the day before, was speechless.
When my son told me the story, he said that the boy may have been having a bad day when he picked on him. He not only decided to stand up for someone being bullied, but he had a big enough heart to forgive his bully for his prior transgression. It was an amazing lesson that I will never forget.
Our society works hard to get rid of bullying, especially in schools. However, middle school kids are often still learning what is appropriate and what isn’t. They will sometimes make mistakes. While I am not saying this is right, I am saying that I understand it is going to happen. I’ve also noticed that young boys and teenagers even tease their friends as a way of bonding. It is very important that we teach our kids to be careful with our words. Even words meant as a joke can hurt.
When I asked my son a few weeks later if he had any other issues with the boy, he told me that he has been “cool” with him since that fateful day. I can’t get over how well my son handled himself on those days. He knew what to do during a very tough situation without needing my input, and it worked out better than I could have hoped.