In the wee hours of a sleepless night, I like to pass the insomniac time by perusing and commenting at a site called Quora, where members dream up questions and other members write answers to them. This morning I came across this question:
If you had a child in middle school who was being bullied, how would you handle it?
Yeah…that one sure rang my chimes. Here’s my story, in response to folks who said you need to teach your kiddies to stand up for themselves and fight back:
Well… As a girl, no amount of “standing up for yourself” would have done a darned thing for me. First, I didn’t have the physical strength to fight off several boys, even if I knew how to do so. Second, indulging in any such unlady-like behavior (this was in the 1950s) would have caused unutterable trouble for me.
The only thing I could do was what I did do: watch the clock leading up to the 3:00 p.m. dismissal time. Have all my books and things stacked on the desk and ready to go. As soon as the bell rang, grab my stuff and RUN out the door and RUN AS FAST AS I COULD RUN back to my house. Fortunately we lived only about three or four blocks from the hateful school.
After about a year of this, my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher (whom I abominated), caught two of the little darlings where they had cornered me at the entry to the school.
To my horror, she said to dear little Tommy, “Go ahead. Hit her!”
I was too young and too terrified to understand what she was doing.
He stared at her.
“Go on! Hit her!”
Tommy, being a great deal smarter and world-wise than I was, paused. The temptation was huge, but he resisted and stood down. I got up from the pavement, grabbed my books, and ran away.
She must have given Tommy (and Barry, and Bruce, and the rest of the little charmers) quite a fine go-to-He!! lecture, because after that the worst of the harassment stopped. I was still miserable because I had essentially no friends. None of the little darlings would have anything to do with me. But at least they quit harassing me.
This took place in an American oil camp overseas, a compound much like a military base where we were trapped for the duration of each of my father’s two-year contracts. There was no place else my mother could send me to school. Finally, I got sick, and she and a friend who was a nurse persuaded the doctor to say I had infectious mononucleosis and must stay home. My mother hired my former third-grade teacher to tutor me — this woman had married an employee of the company; married women weren’t allowed to work for the company at the time, so she’d had to quit her job at the school. After some months of this, my mother managed to persuade my father that I was too sick to stay there and that she and I needed to come back to the States.
Never been so glad to get away from someplace in my life!
When we got back home, I tested several years ahead of my sixth-grade cohort, suggesting that home-schooling is a good thing. Once in the new school, where none of the new classmates knew I was the weird little kid, I got along just fine and in fact thrived. National Honor Society, accepted to college a year early, Phi Beta Kappa, three-year Ph.D. program….quite the opposite of what would have happened if I’d had to continue hiding from little criminals for several more years.
All of which suggests, I think, that if your kid is being bullied at school — especially if the kid is a girl and unlikely to have the strength or skill to fight back — one effective remedy is to take them out of the school. Transfer them to another school, even if it means you have to move to a different district.