A couple of weeks ago, my son got bullied. I took my kids to a bounce house playground—perfect for young kids. For several hours, my kids played, laughed, and had a blast. My son is the older of our two children and he is big for his age. Most people mistakenly think he is older. He is strong, sensitive, and almost always tells the truth, even when he knows he’ll get in trouble. As he and his sister went in different directions, I went back and forth to watch them. As it came time to leave, I gathered my daughter and looked for my son. He walked toward me, crying. I noticed two bigger boys leaving the area my son was coming from, but didn’t think anything of it at the time.
I took him to the car so he could calm down. Without going into detail, my son and two bigger boys had a disagreement. They began calling him names and pushing him. My son fought back a little, but eventually, they threw him to the ground and congratulated one another. That’s when my son came to me—humiliated and hurt. Right or wrong, this is what I did next.
My Bad Response
I didn’t speak to the other parent(s) about it. Maybe I should have. But at the time, I just wanted to get my son away and I didn’t know if it would have been good for him. While we drove home, I tried to teach him how to avoid similar situations in the future. I talked about the right ways to resolve conflict. Then I told him when to fight and when to walk away. I lectured him, and now, I’m ashamed of that. That isn’t what he needed—a humiliating experience followed by his dad telling him he had handled it wrong. Fortunately, I realized my mistake when I glanced at the rearview mirror and saw him staring blankly out the window. I stopped talking and we rode in silence until we got home.
When we pulled into the driveway, I turned back to him, put my hand on his leg, and finally said, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” He looked at me for a second, looked down, and then began to cry. I took him out of the car, hugged him for a long time, and told him I love him.
The Conversation That Really Mattered
Later that night, as I tucked him into bed, he asked if I could lay down with him. As we were laying there, we talked about what happened. I asked him if he ever made anything that made him proud. He told me he loved something he had made with LEGOs because of how cool it looked. Then I said that when God made him, God stepped back and saw that He had made someone amazing. I told my son that the feelings he has about his LEGO creation pale in comparison to how God feels when He looks at him. “God thinks you are extraordinary and so do I,” I said. Then he rolled toward me, smiled, put his head in my chest, and fell peacefully asleep.
Being bullied caused his self-worth to take a hit and it needed to be restored. This isolated incident is nothing compared to what many kids go through who are tortured daily and have their sense of value ripped to shreds. I hope this never happens to my son again, but it might. And next time, it could be a lot worse. I know I can’t always be there to protect my son from bullies, but I can prepare him to defend himself, physically and emotionally. I know his true value and I reinforce it as much as I can. My hope and my prayer is that he knows it and never forgets it.
Sound off: What would you have said or done?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Has anyone ever picked on you? What did you do?”