Welcome to Great Moments in Parenting, a series in which fathers explain a parenting hurdle they faced and the unique way they overcame it. Here, Chris, a dad of three from the Philadelphia suburbs, talks about the moment he encouraged his daughter to stand up to a playground bully.
My daughters and I were at one of those trampoline parks, an indoor place where kids can bounce around and act crazy. It was the first time we had been to this new one. They have one of those old school, American Gladiator-style jousting beams. Of course, my eight-year-old wanted to get on it, and there was a boy on there who was probably nine or ten. He was being, basically, an asshole. This kid was basically just on the beam, bashing every kid who came on, just throwing them off.
My younger daughter, who is generally pretty tough, she said, “Okay, I’ll go knock him off.” And she went on and he just clobbered her. So my older daughter is like, “Okay, I’ll go try.” She’s gangly and scrawny. She’s not the strongest girl in the world. But she wanted a shot.
Before she went on, I said, “Okay. Listen. You need to take him out.” I mean, the kid was just yelling at everyone and being a big jerk. I told her: “You need to do what you need to do to take him out. Take the stick, push it right into his gut. He’ll fall right over.”
She looked at me and said no. I said, “He’s not playing fair. This is what you need to do. Just surprise him and knock him off.” I really didn’t want her to go up there and get clobbered and fall off right into the ball pit.
But she actually did it. She went up and as soon as she got within reach she jabbed him and took him out. There were a bunch of parents watching, and everyone just erupted in cheers. This kid was just being a jerk and it was good to see a young girl take him out because he was clearly on his little masculine high. That’s fine — that’s what little boys do. But I was super happy to see a young girl take him out.
The kid was fine. He was deflated, because he had been up there, and some scrawny girl knocks him off, and the whole place saw it. But he went and started acting crazy somewhere else. You can’t keep a boy that age down.
We had dealt with bullying in the past. The first time she was bullied was on the school bus was when she was five. She was in kindergarten. It was the first time she wore a Halloween costume to school, and some kid, who was an overgrown eight or nine year old pushed her and made fun of her because she was wearing a costume. That made her very timid and afraid to stand up to people and afraid to fight back. She’s sort of been that way since. So this moment of seeing her actually fight back, stand up for herself, and her sister, and realize that she can do anything was amazing.
It’s something I’ve always tried to instill in them. My boy is only two, so he already assumes he can do anything. But for my daughters, I constantly try and reinforce that they can do anything they want to do. That they can be anything they want to be. That they are as strong as anyone else out there. I just try to enforce that and teach them to empower them to go through things.
My daughter was stoked. She felt great about it. We talked about how proud we were of her and how awesome she was. Her sister was super excited, she ran up there, too. It was a great feeling for her. And I think even since then — that was only two weeks ago — she’s been standing up for herself more. The kids go to YMCA after care, and she’s been a little more vocal and has been standing up for herself and her sister.
I didn’t really expect to be that proud, if that makes sense. I mean, I expected to be happy, and like, “You got him!” like a sporting event, but I really felt extremely proud. I just felt really excited for her that she was able to do that. There have been so many times where she hasn’t been successful in things like that, and she hasn’t had things go her way. She’s not super athletic.