Dave and I had an interesting talk this morning. His job takes him to schools all over the state, and he said he’s having a hard time watching how they deal with bullying. He said the idea that you make the kids say they’re sorry to each other doesn’t work, because you’re not addressing the bad behavior. Instead, you’re just teaching the child to say a word that lets them off the hook.
I had to agree. Older Son just had a dust-up last week where he had to say he was sorry to an aggressor. In typical fashion – and this is the way it happens everywhere, school hallways, workplaces, professional sports – the aggressor picks the fight, the target responds, the person in charge sees the response rather than the attack, and punishes the target.
I have previously written about making kids say they’re sorry, and I should probably clarify my stance in that post. While I think we should be modeling and teaching kids how to say they’re sorry, it may not always be the best solution.
The ideal situation would be if you know the kids (and if they truly care and are motivated by making each other feel better), and what happened, and who needs to say sorry to who, and if saying sorry will fix it or if the aggressor needs a consequence. If you can fairly judge all that, then go for it. “I’m sorry” may be just the thing.
And in the un-ideal situation, which happens 95% of the time, “I’m sorry” won’t cut it, especially if the wrong party is forced to say it. Talk about subjugation.
We should keep in mind that there will always be Eddie Haskells:
I have to go back to what I always say when it comes to teaching kids how to deal with all these people and personalities. Stay out of the way when you can. If you can’t, then just worry about yourself. Don’t worry about what they did, or what they got away with, or how unfair it is. They know how to play the system and probably always will. There may be nothing you can do about it. Just protect yourself and remember not to do the same thing to the next person.
That’s the best I’ve come up with for my boys (besides enrolling one of them in tae kwon do). What do you think? How do we teach our children to deal with bullies? Any suggestions (besides going to school and passing out the beat-downs) would be greatly appreciated.