I remember well the moment my husband and I were asked the question. A question that made me travel light years back to my growing up days. It was a warm late afternoon and we had been talking to a friend who is a fellow pastor. A lady who went for Bible study fellowship together with her son had come to see her about some bullying her son was being subjected to by some of his playmates. “What do I do pastor?” she asked. “Do I tell him to turn the other cheek or do I teach him to fight?”
I can’t remember what answer our friend gave but he later asked us the same question. If our child was being bullied, what would we do? Like I said earlier, the question transported me back to my own childhood. Being a first born with a smart mouth as my only weapon, I had no one to protect me when the bullies came knocking. I learnt fast though that the mouth can be an equally painful retaliatory weapon and that flight was not always a bad option. It sure beat giving the other cheek, more so when the other kid was bigger than you and a Sunday school dropout.
Luckily for me, my mother found out and dragging me to the bully’s house made sure that never again did I fear harm from the boy. His dad after hearing the story made sure he could not comfortably seat for a long while. In the meantime I learnt not only to run fast but also to self protect. My answer to my friend’s question was easy for me. I would teach my child some basics on martial arts!
I am currently reading a book about a 17-year-old boy who having been bullied most of his school time, went to school and shot his fellow students most of whom were his tormentors. Unfortunately like in most similar cases, a lot of students were caught in the crossfire and died. Whereas this scenario may never get to play out in our schools or with our children, reality is that many of our children may be victims of bullying that we never know about. It could be by fellow students, playmates, teachers or any other person.
According to Patrick Obel, a counsellor in a local university and a former high school chaplain, bullying can be both positive and negative. Positive in the sense that it hardens the victims and teaches them how to survive life’s hostility. Negative in that for some people it punctures their self esteem and some victims never recover, as in the case of the student who shot his classmates.
As a parent one needs to keep open the channels of communication to understand the nature of bullying your child could be going through and to be able to give them survival skills. Where necessary, a parent should not hesitate to get involved and follow up the matter with the relevant authorities, including legal action.