“If you don’t want to do anything, don’t blame me if I do something nasty”…

…that was what I said to my parents after telling them about my problems with bullies in my class. I was at my wits’ end when I was at risk of physical harm.

I gave my parents the ultimatum when one of the bullies shoved my wheelchair in order to get through the gap between it and a desk. He did not have to use that way but chose to do so as an excuse to make his presence felt.

In response to the shove, I yelled: “What’s your problem!” The teacher – who did not witness the incident – glared at me. It is true that I should not have shouted in class.

There was a small group of boys who took pleasure in taunting me, ‘mutilating’ my pictures and blaming me for anything they could think of.

Other than ignoring them or being assertive, there didn’t seem to be much I could do but endure.

I complained to my mother about the bullying problem and she brought up the matter with my father. That was when I witnessed yin and yang in action.

While my mother was seething and ready to put her taekwondo skills to good use, my father nonchalantly told her: “You must let him tough it out.

“He has to learn to deal with hard knock. He must learn to fend for himself in the real world and the bullies are helping to strengthen him.”

Although what my father said made sense, I don’t think that kind of logic applies to everyone. Some will grow from being bullied while others crumble under its weight.

People who say that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” do not understand the power of words.

Words are magical in the way they can affect the mind. They can break a person. That is why there is this warning: Be careful what you say. Don’t let it go off accidentally.

Children who are bullied need help. Most parents would advise their kids to ignore the verbal insults. It is easier said than done, there is no other way. Kids have to be protected from the bullies or trained to handle them.

I believe that bullies also need help. Their bullying behaviour is a sign that they are insecure, intolerant or jealous. That was why I could tolerate and forgive them for what they did.

It is unfortunate that students study so many different subjects in schools but are not taught how to manage life’s challenges such as:

– How to handle bullies.

– How to deal with failures and difficulties.

– How to live in a community.

Perhaps, “life management” can be introduced as a non-examination subject in schools. It can make a difference to the bullied, bullies and others.

Anyway, back to the ultimatum I gave my parents. It worked wonders. For the first time, they agreed to do something as they felt the bullying posed a physical danger to me. They are confident of my mental and emotional strength but, with good reasons, are worried about my physical weakness. They approached my teacher and had the matter resolved.

Unfortunately for me, my parents also found out a lot about the “real” me. It was enough for them to withdraw my privileges for weeks. Don’t ask me for the embarrassing details, I can tell you that I was not a bully but I was not an ‘angel’ either.

Mmm…I guess boys will be boys.

(This journal entry was published in TODAY on 21 September 2004)