Most of you have probably seen the YouTube video from Australia of the bully who picks on his subject just one too many times and then gets body-slammed to the ground. Details came out after that video made that the specific incident had been years in the making and was in fact the child’s last straw. 15-year-old Casey Heynes said he had considered suicide because that bully had made him feel so miserable.
Our own Monica covered that aspect of the story: “Casey says the bully, 12-year old Ritchard Gale, had been slapping him in the back of the head and teasing him, calling him a “fatty” for weeks before he retaliated. “Everything just built up for three years”, Casey says, and that’s when he snapped.”
That is what often happens with bullies. They can cause children to withdraw into themselves to the point of total isolation and/or self-hatred. Some just grow up and make it safely into adulthood, although still carrying the scars. And those are the lucky ones.
Others become consumed by such fierce rage that they wind up hurting the bully, or killing them. Or they kill themselves.
Over at Shine, writer Jessica Ashley asks if it is ever OK to teach boy to fight after seeing the despicable video where the mother not only advises her teen son to beat another boy in the street but films it. Ashley asks the question after her 4-year-old son was punched by a preschool bullied that lied about his violent act. “He punched me right in the heart,” my little boy said to me through tears. And I felt the blow, too.”
I understand that.
After having two girls, I knew that mothering a boy would be different. When my girls had disagreements with their circle of friends, the group would talk about it, roll their eyes, blame each other, and gossip about it some more. There wasn’t one incidence of physical fighting.
With my son, his group of friends get along well with each other. He’s only eight so we haven’t (thankfully) graduated to any physical fights yet either, but I wonder how long that will last. Already during play, the boys are so much rougher, often playfully pushing each other.
As girls’ social status is largely determined by the group they hang out in and whether it’s popular enough, and also through clothes and looks, a boy’s school status is usually determine by toughness and masculinity as much as some moms don’t want to admit.
If faced with a bully situation, I wouldn’t teach my son to just walk away. I would teach him to stand up for himself. I wonder if Casey stood up for himself years ago how his life might have been different. He probably would never have reached the point of no return, and would not have been forever remembered as “that kid in that video”. Even worse, what if instead of fighting back that day, he went home and killed himself? Or came back the next day and killed the pint-sized tyrant?
If my son ever gets in that situation as horrible as it sounds, I hope he fights back, and if he ever gets punished by the school, I would back him up. Fighting is not something I can even fathom him doing now and I teach him to use his words instead of his fists, but I also want him to be able to defend himself.
My daughter’s teacher spoke about the Casey Heynes video and told the middle school class that bullies know who they can pick on and who won’t let them, and that while you should never take advantage of anyone or be a bully, you should learn how to defend yourself as a last resort. I have to agree.
It seems counter-intuitive to most everything I have taught my son, which is to be kind, compassionate and help others. Yet a line has to be drawn where he will decide what he allows other people to do to him.
Raising a boy can be hard. I want him to be rational and work out disagreements using common sense, but I also understand that sometimes a boy’s best option is to throw a punch, as odd as that sounds. I just hope that for my son, the times are few and far between… and not for many years to come.
Has your son ever been bullied or gotten into a fight? Would you advise your son to fight back or turn the other cheek?