Sometimes when I see bumper stickers that say "War Is Not The Answer" Iwonder if those people ever raised boys. We can all go around hugging each other and saying things like "Make Love Not War" but even kids know that's pretty silly. Just go sit on the playground and watch. Bullies laugh right in the face of bumper-sticker platitudes. And then punch you in the stomach.
James is getting bullied at school. The details are irrelevant, but the principle is as old as time.
You can't negotiate with bullies. Bullies smell blood and go in for the kill. They won't stop until they are stopped.
We've tried all the polite ways of dealing with this. But "please don't hit me" falls on deaf ears when you're talking to a bully. And playground monitors are absolutely useless. They don't see 90% of the bullying and when a hurt child notifies the monitor, the bully lies about it anyway.
The hurt child ends up being called a Tattle and sometimes gets benched with the bully for "not playing nice."
At dinner last week, Matt told James a story about when he was being bullied as a kid.
"Some kid tried to get me in a headlock," Daddy said. "So I just flipped him over. He never bothered me again."
James' eyes lit up. "No way, Dad!"
"Yep. So James, if someone is hitting you, you are allowed to push them off."
"You mean, I can let 'em have it?!"
That's my James. Give him an inch....
"No, son. I don't ever want to hear that you started a fight. But if someone is hitting you, you don't have to stand there and take it."
James pondered this for awhile. He's a slim kid, quick and scrappy. Up until now, he's been taking the punches and then going off to the grassy field to lick his wounds.
In other words, letting the bullies win.
"Sometimes you run away, sometimes you try and find an adult to help, but sometimes, you fight back," Daddy explained.
I was worried sick. What if he got beat up? What if he got his nose broken?
The next day, I picked James up from school and asked him how it went.
"Fine!" he chirped, happily.
"Really? What happened?"
"Oh, that bully punched me again. But I stopped him."
"I pushed him back and I yelled 'STOP HITTING ME!' And he stopped."
"Wow, James, that's great."
"Yep. Soooooo...can I have some candy when we get home?"
That's my boy.
Playground bullies are less complex than the bullies we face as adults. But the principle is the same. You don't negotiate with bullies. You don't sit down and "have a talk" with people who are screaming for your annihilation.
Sometimes, you fight back.