Bullying Stand in the Gap

What’s up, everybody? So, we have a little bit of time to … The awkward FaceBook live pause at the beginning of the video, right? Let’s see if I can get this a little straighter. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll just mess with it and make it worse. Probably. Anyway. We’re going to leave it right there. I’ll just sink down in my chair a little bit more.

So, today I want to talk a little bit about standing in the gap, and that what this refers to is as we raise our sons, and our daughters, but that piece of standing in the gap for others; whether that’s your brother, whether that’s your son, whether that’s your daughter, whether that’s your wife, or whatever that is. It’s that fine line between standing up and standing in and being too aggressive, right? That aggressive thing. What I’m referring to today is the … I just … I hate it, because I think it’s an over used word, but it’s a real word, and it’s bullying. So, I’m actually kind of talking about what has happened with my one boy and my nephew. Here’s the thing … It’s almost kind of comical.

I’m going to preface this a little bit about who my boy is. So, he’s 14. He’s about 5 foot 10, maybe a little bit taller. He works out with a trainer. He’s benching over 100 pounds. A bigger kid. He’s not some … The typical what you think of somebody who gets bullied is being that little math nerd, and nothing against math nerds, but let’s just say that’s that stereotype, right? It’s that little math nerd that’s half the size of everybody else in the class with zero coordination, zero muscle mass, all that … That’s kind of what everybody thinks of. Yet, let’s be honest about what this bullying is. This bullying isn’t necessarily … There’s no physical violence that has happened to this point, it’s more intimidation type stuff. That type of thing.

So, as I’ve been processing through how, in raising them, how do I go about this? How do I raise them? So, in the book I talk about the three animals and my boys are going to be one of three animals. Pretty much everybody, I think, breaks down into one of those three animals. There’s only one option for my boys. The three animals are wolf, sheep, or sheepdog. The only option for my boys is a sheepdog. Wolves are predators. Wolves prey on the weak and the sick. Sheep. Sheep don’t think for themselves. Sheep just go where other sheep go. But sheepdogs they look out for sheep, they look out for the people who can’t look out for themselves. They stand in the gap, if you will. They think for themselves. They protect against predators, right? So, that’s the only option for my boys. The rule in my house is: if somebody starts something, you have my approval to finish it, but if you start something, then you’re going to have to deal with me.

And so, I’m trying to teach the boys it’s okay to stand up. And Wyatt, he’s got one of the biggest hearts there is. He turns the other cheek and just walks away. We had a talk the other day about what that looks like to not turn the other cheek, but to not be aggressive, if you will. We’ll talk about that in just a second when I have what I think are some simple steps for men in these positions. Now, what I say isn’t going to necessarily be popular with everyone. I know it won’t. That’s okay. I’m not looking for approval, and I’m not looking to be popular. What I’m looking for is to try to hopefully lend some thinking to men as far as how they’re raising their boys, how they’re raising their daughters, how they’re looking at other people in life and standing in that gap. That’s the whole purpose of this.

So, this is just to stimulate the thought process. You still have to make your own decision on what that looks like for you. Here’s why I’ve been … One of the things that I do with Wyatt, or have been doing with him is role playing. That role playing piece of okay, when somebody does something, verbally abuses, not abuses, but bullies here’s something you can do. Here’s something you can say. Now, I’ll have him do that and I’ll have him say something, and I’ll come back with another response. I’m not telling him what he has to say, but showing him, giving him different instances, different things that most likely will come up based on our experience as dads, as men, as people who have seen other people doing this. Giving them just a piece in the puzzle that shows okay, you’ve already thought about this. When you’ve thought about something it’s much easier to have a response, right? When you’ve gone through the process in your head already, at least once, it’s much easier to come back with something rather than to be stuck on your heels having to come up with something new. Right? So, that’s what I’ve been working with him.

Because, my feelings are this. Again, these are my feelings. They talk about let’s educate, we’ve got to educate people on what bullying is. We’ve got to teach people about bullying. I agree. Bullying needs to be brought out into the light. But, here’s the thing that I know, and I do know, with bullies. Education doesn’t stop them. Education puts it in other people’s minds. The only thing that stops a bully is someone standing up to that bully. That’s it, because they don’t care. Here’s the thing, bullying is … Okay. It’s like smoking. Right? Smoking becomes addictive. Bullying is power. That power becomes just as addictive as smoking, as anything else that is addictive. So, by somebody … How many of us have known … In fact, when I used to chew I knew just how bad chewing was. All the education in the world didn’t mean two cents to me. I was a physician, I knew … In the cadaver lab I’d cut open a lung on somebody who’s a smoker. I’ve seen it. I know what chewing does. I’ve seen guys with half their mouth missing.

The education didn’t stop me from doing it. I had to stand up and make a decision. Just like with the kids nowadays. I told my boys that you need to stand up and make a decision. I also told them this, that anytime that they stood up for somebody else, their cousin, their classmate, or anybody else like that and protected them, did the sheepdog thing and protected them from somebody else who was doing something like that they would never be in trouble with me. Ever. I will back them 100%. The only time I won’t back them, and they know this, is if they start something. That’s it.

This brings me to my next point, when I gave Wyatt the permission to stand up for himself and to say, you don’t just have to turn the other cheek. You have the right to bow up, to be a young man, and to say, “Screw off. I’m done. I don’t have to take this anymore.” Just that piece alone, to see the switch flip, to see his confidence go from here to here, and to watch that piece alone just from saying I believe in you, I trust you, I trust your judgment in this, you have my permission to stand up. Just for that piece … If that’s all you did as a dad, as a parent for any of your kids, for anybody else, that alone makes a big difference. Giving them the permission to stand up for themselves gives them their power back.

There was a study and it talked about helicopter parents, where some of the most socially anxious kids come from parents who are over involved. They did studies on it. They showed that parents, when they put them in a room with a puzzle, and the kid was touching the puzzle. The parents who touched the puzzle more than other parents were the parents whose kids had more social anxiety than any of the other kids, because the parents never let them … They’re always there to pick them up. They’re never there to … Here’s how I look at it as a parent.

My job is not to hold them up, to stand behind them with my arms under their armpits, and walk behind them everywhere they go, and hold them up, and keep them from falling. If we did that when they were learning to walk they’d never learn to walk. My job as a dad is to teach them, to role play with them, to support them to the point where okay, they’re on their feet, now to step back. I’m still close. It doesn’t mean I just walk away, wipe my hands away from it, but I’m still close. I may be walking with my hand on their shoulder for a little bit as they go through life. But then eventually, the hand on the shoulder comes off, and they need to get out, and they need to experience things, and they need to fall to learn how to get back up. They need to fall to learn that life isn’t all just one bucket of unicorn poop and roses. Right? And glitter. It’s not that.

When you’re not there what are they going to do when they fall? Right? What are they going to do when the shit storm happens? Are they just going to fall apart, or have you equipped them with the process to think? Have you equipped them through spending some time with them and talking, like sitting down and actually talking with them and role playing with them on different things in life that you know that you’ve had experience with, that you’ve made mistakes in. Right? The mistakes that we make in life are incredible learning tools for our kids. I’m going to tell you this, do it before they get to their teenage years, because they get to their teenage years, and I’m already starting to see it, dad’s an idiot. I don’t want anything to do with mom and dad. It’s not that extreme yet, but you can see it come. You can see that independence that’s starting to happen, which is what we want. So, take that time and do that.

Here’s the thing. Always having an adult there to tell them what to do, to tell them what’s right or to tell them what’s wrong, to pick them up after they’ve fallen, to hover over the top of them and redirect them at every instance robs them of their ability to learn. Robs them of their ability to think.

This goes for everything. I mean this is school, this is interpersonal stuff where they’re learning how to deal socially with other kids, with other adults. It doesn’t mean you just hands off, and you’re that absentee parent. It means that you have taken the time when they’re younger to pour into them, to get them thinking. If my boys have a question it’s never give them an answer. It’s give them a question. Ask them another question. Ask them what they think. Don’t just give them an answer. Challenge them to think and to come up with an answer of their own. I love it when I see kids come to their parents, and I see parents asking them, well what do you think? And the kids says, oh I don’t know. And they come up with some off the wall stuff. Right?

I mean, some of these kids come up with stuff that’s like when my boys do it, I’m like all right dude. It could be something like he wants to create a time generating thing that takes you and puts you into the TV. All right. Am I going to sit there and go dude, that’s not possible. Just forget it. That’s ridiculous. Don’t think about stuff like that. Or, am I going to say, all right how would you do it? Give me an idea. Tell me how you’re going to do this. That’s what I’m going to do. Make them think. Stimulate that thought process.

Now, in the case of bullies here’s a few different steps that I think are good and important. And then I’ll wrap it up, because I know it’s getting a little bit long. The first one is to stay connect. Here’s the thing, bullies operate by making their victims feel like they’re isolated. That’s what they do. They want to make them feel like they’re isolated, so that staying connected piece is to stay connected not just with other adults, you as a family, you as dad, you as mom, but it’s other kids. And, getting these other kids together and telling them the same thing. Hey, it’s okay to stand up, and it’s okay to not be a victim. It’s okay to not take this crap anymore. So, that staying connected is one.

Number two is creating awareness. Kids need to feel that they’ve been heard. Everybody needs to feel that they’ve been heard. If the come to you and they say so-and-so … I feel like I’m getting bullied, and just kind of blow it off and say, you know what get some tougher skin, kid. Or they go to a teacher and they don’t hear it. That piece there … Or they tell their friends and their friends are like don’t worry about it. If they don’t feel like they’re heard they’re going to retreat inside. So, at the very least, make sure your kids feel like they’re heard from you. At the very, very least make sure that they know that you hear them, and that you’ve got their back. Remember, as dads you are your kids first superhero. I mean truly, realistically, you are their first superhero. Don’t release that power to anybody else. Be that superhero for them.

The next thing is there is a place for “tattling,” right? I hate tattle-tales. But, here’s what I’ll say. That place for tattling comes after acting. And, that means it’s in some fashion, form, or another standing up; whether that’s somebody else standing up for you, you have to be there with yourself, you have to stand up for yourself as well, but that has to happen. There has to be you standing up. That has to be them standing up. They have to be empowered. And they have to feel from you, and be taught from you, how that happens and what that looks like, maybe. Some kids it’s going to come a little bit more naturally to, other kids it’s going to feel completely foreign, and then that’s where that role playing piece from you as a dad, you as a mom can come in and can be so important.

The third or fourth one, act quickly. This has to be something that it takes place sooner than later. The bullying starts in one place and it always escalates. Always. There isn’t an instance where it doesn’t. It either escalates or it stops. That’s a fact. It’s been proven over and over.

The next thing is for them to be able to respond assertively. There’s a difference between assertive and aggressive, right? You teach your kids to stand up, but you don’t want them … There’s a fine line between standing up and being labeled as the angry kid. Right? Now, my son Wyatt, he’s an emotional kid, and he wears his emotions like right here, on his sleeve, kind of like his dad does every now and then. When he gets ramped up you can see it in his eyes, you can hear it in his voice, you can see it in him, and you know he’s getting angry, or he’s frustrated, or he just doesn’t know what to do. A bully sees that and they’re like gotcha. Every single time. Teach them about that. Show them what that looks like. Help them. Here’s the thing, again, that role playing piece where you’re working and talking with them, that helps to calm that piece down. They’ve already been through it, it’s not something new, they’ve been there. That helps calm them down a little bit. Again, so important.

This one goes right along with respond assertively. Responding assertively is just being sure in your response. The next piece is keep the emotion out of it. That’s like I was talking with Wyatt, the more emotion … That’s what they want, and that’s what they want to see. They want to see that emotional piece so they know that they got you. Now, sometimes you’re not able to hide it completely, but there’s still that assertive piece. That’s the big one. The body language says a lot. So, again, using a calm voice. Using their name back at them. Look them in the eye. You know, when I was taught when I met someone new, an adult, I always shook their hand and I looked them in the eyes and gave a good firm handshake, right? There’s something to that. There’s something to that. There’s that piece of when you call somebody by their name, when you look them in the eye, and you do not waver there’s something there that says something about who you are as a person. That’s of being … That assertive piece once again. It’s not looking down and looking away, it’s that assertive piece.

And then, the last thing, prepare them for the what ifs. Because, here’s the thing, and this is what I told Wyatt, when you stand up for yourself, here’s what could happen. They could call your bluff. I told him, you’re bigger than any of these kids, stand up. Look at them and laugh. One of the biggest things that you can do, laughter, not taking them serious shows them that you’re already up here but, I said, here’s the thing, they may call your bluff and they may try and get physical with you. So I said, now here’s the thing, if the kid isn’t able to get physical I get it, I understand it, but Wyatt can. I said, this is your last option. Number one you don’t get physical unless they get physical first. You continue to try to use your head to get you out of a situation. You try to talk. But, if things happen, you need to be prepared to protect yourself.

I think there’s two … Here’s where … Everybody is probably all going oh yay, this is good, this is all great, up until this point. Right? Where kind of the wheels come off the cart. I do believe that there is a time where sometimes when all else fails, and you are standing up for yourself, and somebody gets physical, you need to be prepared to get physical back as a young man. There is a time in your life where that may happen. Hopefully it doesn’t. Hopefully it stops. You’ve stood up, you’ve been assertive, you’ve been clear, everything just … They’re like, ope I can’t mess with this person. But, it may happen. What I told my boys is the same thing. I said, you guys are sheepdogs. You’re not starting it.

It’s like in football. I said, when you play your football games here’s the thing. What is the most important hit of the game? They’re like, I don’t know. I said, the first hit. The first hit sets the tone of your football game. So, when you come out, you make sure you hit harder than they do in that football game, because that’s going to set your tone. I said, the same thing happens here. If they come after you, you make sure your response is measured and is the right response. And, for them to see that, and feel that, I have their back. For them to know … I gave all three of my boys permission. I said you know what, here’s the deal. Again, anybody that you see that needs your help, you’re brothers, if you see your brother having a tough time, you have my permission to step in and to support and to be a sheepdog and to protect. You will never, ever be in trouble from me for standing up for yourself, for getting physical if needed as a last resort, and for standing up for others. Never.

Our kids need that permission from us. I mean, they really do. Again, this thing, this bullying this, it is like a drug, but it’s power. And people abuse that power, and they get off on that power. It’s up to us to let them know that we got their back, number one, and that they are okay to stand up for themselves, number two.

Now, here’s the other thing, as a parent, guess what, you may end up having conversations with other parents, because your kid stood up to their kid. Your kids need to see that. They need to see you modeling what it is that you stand up … You know what, I said I got your back, I do have your back. I’ll go meet with their dad. If it comes to that. You need to be prepared for the what if as well, and that may be standing up to somebody else’s dad, or somebody else’s mom who doesn’t see anything wrong with what their kid is doing. So, that’s what I got guys. It was heavy on my heart.

Again, the main purpose of this is to get dads thinking, to get moms thinking about what permission they’re giving their kids. Are they allowing their kids to stand up for themselves? Are they encouraging their kids to think for themselves? To pursue life assertively, not passively? And, are they getting permission to be the best version of themselves, and are you modeling that for that? I’m not saying I’m right, just to get you thinking. And, for you to figure out for yourself what does that look like for you, what does that look like for your kids, what are you going to do for them? What are you going to model for them? How are you going to show them that you have their back?

And, here’s the thing, the first time it happens they better see you having their back, and they better see you standing up for them, because if they don’t they will never ever stand up for themselves again and that goes into adulthood. The last thing you want is your kid, your son, your daughter getting walked over the rest of their lives; whether it’s for jobs, whether it’s for friendships, whether it’s for whatever it looks like, the last thing you want is for them to be a doormat for other people. Raise them right. Raise them early. Talk with them often. That’s all I got, guys. Thanks for watching. If you thought this was valuable share it with a friend, that’s all I ask. Catch you all later.