How to bully-proof 
your 4-year-old

As it says in the Bible, when someone harms you, “turn the other cheek.” Unless that someone is a girl who pinches and shoves your 4-year-old at the Del Taco play area, in which case your daughter should knock the snot out of her.

We are struggling with how to teach our daughter to react to bullies. And by “we” I mean “my wife.” I know exactly how our daughter should react. Which is why I gave her the can of bear spray and the 2-by-4. But my wife is a more compassionate “turn the other cheek” New Testament gal, whereas I feel the Old Testament’s “Eye for an eye” judicial philosophy is severely underappreciated today.

Do you teach your child to hit back, or to flee? Part of me says she should walk away and tell a grownup about the incident. But part of me has watched “The Departed” 27 times and doesn’t want his child growing up to be a rat. “Snitches get stitches” is what we used to say back in the hood where I grew up. We’d say this in-between hay cuttings.

So I’m firmly in the hitting back camp. I’ve already tried to instill in her the importance of reactionary violence. “If a boy tries to kiss you, you punch him in the face,” I’ve told her repeatedly. But 4-year-olds lack nuance, so I’ve had to clarify this instruction. And apologize to both of her grandpas.

My advice to her with bullies is that anything goes: kicking, hair pulling, scratching, etc. Fighting fair is less important than letting the bully know that pain avoidance can be achieved by seeking out a softer target. Punish the bully, I say, then stand over her as a conqueror. “You want some more of that?” would be a good send-off.

This all came about after a night at Del Taco, when Marilee fled the children’s play area, running to us in tears.

“That girl pinched me!” she cried, sporting a sizable bruise.

Suddenly my heart raced, my blood boiled, and a gnawing feeling developed in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t sure what caused my body to react this way, but I knew it had to either be that bully, or the crispy beer-battered fish tacos.

The idea that someone would harm my little baby elicited a pure rage unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. And I watched Rahim Moore give up that 70-yard touchdown pass against the Ravens last January.

It’s hard to describe, but seeing your child hurt can incite anger too strong for words. So much so that I fear one day you’re going to open up your Daily Sentinel and read about how one of their columnists was arrested for threatening a 5-year-old kid at a playground. It will probably be Sherida Warner, the quilting columnist, but it could also be me.

So I tried to calm myself, as I went into the scene of the crime to help serve play area justice. I wasn’t going to hit a 5-year-old girl, but her dad sitting there nearby was fair game.

OK, not really. I didn’t have the guts, as much as he deserved it for not raising a polite child. But I was going to make sure my daughter was safe — acting as her own little Secret Service agent.

Later, as we were leaving, the bully’s dad fortuitously was out of earshot. This gave me a chance to calmly and rationally speak with the young lady, as only a reasonable and mature adult could.

“Tonight,” I said to her, “when you’re trying to go to sleep, there’s going to be a scary monster under your bed.”

This probably isn’t the best way to deal with a bully, but it’ll have to do for now.

At least until my daughter figures out how to use the bear spray.

Reach Steve at beauregardsteve@ hotmail.com.


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