He needs to do it, not just for her, but for himself.
She sits alone at lunch. She wears the “wrong” clothes. She often refrains from speaking up in class and elicits cruel snickers when she does. Yes, this is the “weird” girl in class, and I teach my son to stick up for her and everybody like her.
It’s so easy to forget the survival skills needed get through middle school and high school. Often times, it feels like no matter what, someone is getting mocked; it’s just a matter of whom. It’s far too easy to take the approach of, “Well at least it’s not me,” where you allow or even enable someone to make fun of someone else, knowing full well that you could bear the brunt of the embarrassment instead.
Defending someone getting teased – choosing to associate with someone with this level of social capital – is dangerous at this age. It could result in the teasing (or worse) getting lobbed in your direction.
And that’s exactly why I teach my son to do it – defend the weird kid. By putting himself on the line for someone else, he can improve that person’s life. Simply speaking up in the defense of another person is often enough to stop the teasing. Could it sometimes lead to him getting teased as a result? Possibly, but it teaches him to handle himself and helps him realize that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. You can’t go through life worried about what people will say about you, and you certainly can’t let that it be a reason to not to the right thing.
The long-term effects these kids being bullied face are troubling.
Think about it. Imagine a world where no one ever helped out anyone else that was being oppressed. The single mother that gets dropped illegally by her insurance company. The same-sex couple that just wants to get married. The Muslim woman who gets treated differently wherever she goes because of the hijab she wears on her head.
You see, bullies don’t just disappear when you leave grade school; their bullying just becomes more integrated into daily society. When you’re a child, bullying is as obvious as it gets. When you’re an adult, it can become institutionalized and much harder to fight. If you’re not willing to stand up as a kid, you’ll be even less likely to do it as an adult.
That’s why it’s so important to teach your child early on not to turn a blind eye to this sort of behavior. By developing a positive pattern now, he can not only help improve other people’s lives, but he can develop a self-worth that is derived from what he thinks of himself, not what other people think of him.
Photo: Flickr/chloe delong