Chris Bernholdt tries to teach his kids by example. It sounds like his son has been paying attention.
My son is a good kid. He sticks up for other people and tries to always do what is best. I try to instill in him that he needs to take care of other people and treat others the way that he would want to be treated. He knows what is appropriate behavior and he knows when kids are going too far.
That’s why today, when he came home from school, I got a little riled up. He told me that some kid on the bus was hitting other kids with his coat and that he knew it was wrong. So, he stood up to him and told him to stop. The fourth grader, “Matt,” said “Shutup you bitch!” He told me in the car, “Dad, he told me to shut up and called me the B word”
Now, I am normally a calm person and I know that kids are going to say things that they pick up from other people, but I honestly just wanted to storm the bus and ask everyone in there who “Matt” was and make an example of him. I wanted to stand over “Matt” and ask him “Who’s the bitch now?” Of course I didn’t do that, but the papa bear in me wanted to, badly. The safety of our children is a thing that you don’t trifle with.
You mess with my kid and you mess with me. It is that instinct that isn’t just motherly but for all parents who protect their young. In the animal world, lions of a den and herds of elephants circle their young and keep them close when there is a threat. I wanted to maul this kid for calling my son a bitch. I can’t imagine what my very sensitive son felt when this kid opened his mouth to call him a name.
Bullies. It’s something that isn’t tolerated in my son’s school, and schools these days don’t take it lightly because we have seen that kids being bullied can lead to terrible stress and anxiety about school when it should be a safe place.
I couldn’t be more proud that my son, a third grader, stood up to a bigger kid and tried to protect the younger kids on the bus and himself. He’s not an aggressive boy. He doesn’t run the fastest, isn’t coordinated enough to hit a baseball every time, and doesn’t jump off of things like most do.
He is careful and maybe too careful at times, but the one time that he could have been cautious and look the other way, he did what most of us would do when we see the weak being attacked by the strong. Up until this summer he didn’t even know what the “B word” was and thanks to some kid at the Norristown Zoo Camp, he was taught some choice swear words by kids that were incredulous that he didn’t know them by now.
I am proud of him for being strong. I would like to think that my staying at home has influenced this side. That he has seen what it means to be a man and caring for others every day.
I have seen the nurturing side in him much more often. He takes care of his younger sisters and they love him for it. I catch them together somewhere with their arms around each other, my 6-year-old so enamored with her older brother that she is often draped over him giving him hugs, and the special bond he has with our youngest, her often following him endlessly asking to play. His patience is something I think I have passed on to him.
How would I have felt if my son got into a fight when I have never been in one myself? While I am 6’7″ and can look intimidating, I have never been in a fight. The times I have been close, my would-be opponent sized me up only to walk away. I have no idea what I would be capable of, but I am glad that I have never had the need to find out.
It is an underlying parenting clause that you want him to stick up for himself but you don’t want things to get out of hand either. We want our kids to be strong, but not overly aggressive. We want them to stick up for themselves and not be pushovers. The way he handled it calmly is a reflection of how I take care of things at home. Be levelheaded. Be firm. Assert yourself.
I followed up with an email to his teacher who talked to the principal. He addressed the entire bus yesterday before the kids were released. He spoke of inappropriate language and his disappointment in some of their actions. Needless to say, “Matt” quickly exited the bus that day. The principal praised the people that stood up for others and said he was proud of them for the way they handled the situation.
As much as I wanted to treat this boy like he treated mine, my son handled it the way we all should react to confrontation. I didn’t need to be the angry bear dad coming to his rescue. He fought his own fight, and I couldn’t be more proud.