My mom always says "adversity is a key ingredient to growth", and I've tried to keep those words in mind as I raise my son. But when it comes to bullying, things get much more complicated. The new norm to teach kids to turn the other cheek , after being hit by the school bully, feels to me that we are teaching them the wrong lesson.
My son is in an aftercare program at his elementary school. My wife and I both work as partners in our company Ez Sox, so we need the extra few hours a day this program offers. Monday through Friday he stays after school for one hour of homework and then free time to play with his friends.
Our son is a good kid. He's empathetic almost to a fault and like all parents I try to prepare him for situations that might arise in his young life. When he was 6 years old another child punched him on the school bus. My gut tightened and my blood boiled as I thought, "I'm his father", I have to teach him how to protect himself. My son is not a fighter. He leans much more towards the artist, dancer, musician type rather than the sports jock, but he just got hit and humiliated and I was going to teach him the art of the sweet science. Boxing.
In my mind there are no rules in a fight. You fight to win. Period. Luckily my wife is there with good common sense to keep me civilized and aware that he is 9 years old and just needs a few simple moves to protect himself. These were the basics we taught him:
1) No hitting girls even if they hit you first.
2) Always walk away if you get the chance.
3) NEVER, EVER HIT ANYONE FIRST!
Next was my rule, and the code of any father teaching his son the ways of the world;
If a boy hits you first, you punch him straight in the nose. No talking. No questions. This will pretty much end a fight immediately and guarantee that any bully will think twice before he picks on you again.
So, 3 years later, when Harrison got punched by another boy, his immediate reaction was to punch back. That's what I taught him. Protect yourself. Mano a Mano. Battle of the 9 year olds.
Unfortunately, he was on school grounds and the aftercare program has a strict rule called "Zero Tolerance". No hitting even if you get hit first.
I got the phone call from the head of the program. Harrison will be suspended from aftercare unless he attended their bully program one day a week for 10 weeks. I was livid. Was my son supposed to just take it? I tried all rational conversations with the program director which was like speaking with nurse Ratched in "One flew over the cuckoo's nest". Rules are rules. Even if you get hit first you are not allowed to hit back. You must go to one of the counselors and let them know what happened first even before protecting yourself.
Really? Is this what we teach our children? When they grow up and become adults will this philosophy work in real life, business, jobs or relationships?
Not in the world that I am living in. Life is full of challenges and it gets more challenging the older you get. Facing adversity and overcoming it, even if it's the school bully, is a part of growing up. We will never completely eradicate bully's from the playground. So rather than punishing the victim, why not teach our children lessons that will prepare them for their whole life? Childhood tribulations are the foundation for the decisions your child makes and the path to how well prepared they are as an adult.
So I repeat to myself and try to teach my son.
Don't give into mediocrity.
Don't follow the pack.
Do what you think is the right thing to do.
Learn from adversity.
What do you think? How do you think this should have been handled?