I've always told my children never to bully other children. If there's one thing I absolutely cannot tolerate, it's a bully. Someone who uses their size, might or influence to belittle or hurt others either mentally or physically.
I'm not foolish enough to believe my children have never made a cruel remark to someone else or said something they should not have. Sadly, I think many kids do it without realizing what they're doing is classified as bullying. They don't see the damage that it can do.
As a matter of fact, I've tried to encourage my children to stick up for kids who find themselves targets of bullies.
That's gotten my children in trouble at times at school, but as a parent, I can live with that.
All of my boys tend to be smaller in stature. Blame it on my wife's genetics. So they've been easy targets for some of their classmates growing up. My two oldest went through elementary school in Rock Valley, and when we moved to Spencer, found that some of their new classmates - in particular, some of the popular boys - wanted to test their limits a bit.
My eldest was confronted in the hallway of the old Spencer Middle School after going to the bathroom. Two of the "popular" kids caught him in the hall on the way back to class. They took his favorite hat, poured liquid in it, and tossed it into the garbage can. This wasn't his first run in with the young men, but it was his last. He let a few expletives fly and challenged them both. Ready to fight if necessary he stared them down until a couple of teacher ran into the hall.
When they saw who the two boys were, rather than taking them to the office to settle the issue, all three were simply told to go back to their classes.
One can only wonder what might have happened had the two bullies not been popular kids, but instead a couple of skateboarders. One can only wonder.
Now, that bullying has come to the forefront of the national discussion in the wake of school shootings and publicized suicides, we've gone to the other extreme.
One young lady was forced to sign a bullying policy after she and a friend were teasing one another in class. There was no bullying, just two friends mutually goading one another. But one of young girls was hauled in and made to sign the policy.
I know this girl. Have coached her a number of years in a number of sports. She's the exact opposite of a bully and is about as friendly to her peers as anyone I know.
So that doesn't seem to be a solution.
The true solution starts at home. Many times, the kid is a pretty good mirror of what they see at home. Not in every case to be sure, but as someone who has been coaching elementary age young people for more than 15 years, little turds tend to be pretty good indicators of bigger turds at home. The old saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," is truer than some may think.
So because we can't force parents with young bullies to get their bully under control, I've given my kids permission to defend themselves, their siblings, their friends and any stranger they may find at the mercy of a bully. Never are they to start trouble, but they may help resolve it as necessary.
They've been easy targets. If telling them it's okay to defend themselves and others makes me a bad parent, well I guess I'm a bad parent.
*You can go to the Daily Reporter Facebook page and see the preview for the motivation for today's column, a new film dealing with the issue of bullies.