Has your heart ever sank? Mine did on Tuesday morning as I took my son to school.
“Daddy… I don’t want to give my speech in class today.”
“Will, you have to give your speech today. You can’t—“
“No, Daddy… it’s not that I’m not prepared… it’s just… last year, when I gave a speech, some kids made fun of me because I couldn’t say my l’s and r’s .”
I know we have a lot of new friends and readers here. Our son, Will, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. His Mama first suggested it to me when he was 13 months old. He just turned 13 years old.
Will’s no longer at that school, and he’s in a much better school this year, but:
- He didn’t tell his parents for at least six months.
- He’s been holding this up inside for at least that long.
- Mean people suck.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one out of every five students reports being bullied. I wonder how many more don’t report anything?
To the Kids Who Bullied My Son
Let me give you some advice. Please pass it along to your parents because I’m guessing you weren’t born a bully.
You want to be a real leader? Don’t beat others down (verbally or physically). Lift them up. Every child deserves a champion. Use your gifts, talents, and charisma to show others the right way to treat others.
Celebrate Quirks and Differences
As my friend Roy asked, “Why is it everybody wants their children to be normal, but no one wants them to be average?”
If you liked the X-Men, you already know how to celebrate quirks and differences. Embrace them. Welcome them.
Meet People Where They Are
You know what? We all have quirks. We all have challenges. Work to understand another person. Find out their interests. Be curious.
Default to Kindness
As Dalton said in the seminal piece of cinema, Roadhouse, “be nice.”
Stand Up For Those Who Need Help
Coming full circle, be ready and willing to defend others against bullies. To continue what our teacher Dalton had to say, “Be nice… until it’s time to not be nice.”
A Message For Adults
Our kids learn their behaviors somewhere. While we may not demonstrate active aggressiveness toward others, if we exhibit merely indifference, this serves only to empower bullies that their behavior is acceptable.
Have You Seen This?
Burger King (IKR?!?!) produced a short video that will—or should—bring tears to your eyes, heat to your face, and a lump to your throat.
We encouraged our son to embrace his differences. We suggested he look out for others who are being made to feel somehow-less-than and stand up for them.
What are you saying to your children? How are you behaving?
This? This is up to us.