Sep 082011

On my son’s first day of school, his classmate who has bothered him immensely since kindergarten, came up to him and said: “I am going to bother you this year again.”

My first reaction when I heard this was- how can a child be so obnoxious? Does he have nothing else to do than to go up to my innocent, naive, trusting, little boy and say nasty things in his face? Can’t he think of something nice to say the first time he meets his old classmate back at school after the whole summer?

Then I was reminded of the paradox- that children lacking proper social skills can either become a bully or be the victim of a bully.

Right now there’s nothing I’d like to see better than these two children attending a social skills class together. The bully, to learn how to say appropriate things to friends, and my son, to learn to stand up for himself. I’ll shelve that in my dreams section of my mind.

Over the years I’ve worked endlessly with my son on being assertive. We’ve taught him to put his shoulders back, stand straight, and to look at the bully right in the eye. We’ve taught him to use a strong voice and pretend he is the bully’s teacher, saying: “That is not a nice thing to say!” because obviously- we told him- the bully has never learned to say only nice things.

Typically, my son has done well with some of the things we’ve taught him but not others, meaning, he hasn’t yet been bully-proofed. We did keep in close contact with his school teachers and the administration in case the bullying escalated. We made sure my son was capable of handling what was being thrown at him, and we would have strongly intervened the minute I wasn’t comfortable with the situation.

Just to give an idea of the kind of things the bully was doing: He was never physically violent towards my son. He did things like take my son’s books off his desk and trample on them, rip up the good report note my son was supposed to bring home to show me, and take his snack once or twice.

Last year this child didn’t bother my son at all, so I was surprised to hear what happened on this first day of school.

Then yesterday, my son told me that this same classmate came up to him and another boy (who I know never gets intimidated by anybody), and said: “I’m going to push you down these stairs.”

Okay, a threat of violence is too overboard for my liking. But my son told me he answered in a strong voice: “If you do that, I’ll tell the principal and you’ll be kicked out of school.”

So we celebrated that small victory, my son answering appropriately and in the right tone of voice. We did notify the teacher to the little dynamics between his two new students. And we are waiting to see what today will bring. Hopefully, that will be the end of the story.

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