Katie Bryant is a 31-year-old writer, speaker, and activist who lives in western North Carolina. She’s also a mom of three, including her eight-year-old middle son. In December 2019, Katie went to pick her son up from a drop-off school science program. She had her toddler on her hip, and her third child was just across the hall. So, just another day. Until the school’s volunteer assistant came to Katie and said, “There’s been an incident.”
It was pretty obvious from the scene in the classroom that something untoward had occurred. Over there was an embarrassed-looking child crying and holding his face. Across the room, Katie’s son stood with arms folded across his chest and his eyebrows furrowed. Crouched in front of him was a teacher trying to navigate it all. The teacher asked, “Did you hit him?” Katie’s son had punched another child. Katie wanted to understand what had gone on. She believes that “it’s important to look for the why not just the what.” She asked her son to explain, and here’s the story she heard:
Three students were sent to the bathroom — in a group for safety. So far, so ordinary. There, a “big kid” started pushing a “little kid.” Katie Bryant’s son told her that the “big kid” pushed the smaller child “again and again and I told him to stop!” He could have gone to go get a teacher, but that would mean leaving the smaller child to get hurt even more. So, Katie’s eight-year-old son made a different choice: “So I punched him, hard.” That “big kid?” A head-and-a-half taller than Katie’s son, and at least 30 pounds heavier than the smaller child being pushed around.
From the look on the teachers’ faces, it seemed to Katie that they were hearing something new. They thought Katie’s son had been the bully, and now it wasn’t as clear as that. The perpetrator of bullying in schools is not always obvious. The bigger kid’s parent arrived while Katie was hearing her son’s narration of the incident. The bigger kid admitted that the version of events recounted by Katie’s son was true.
How Mom Handled It
After hearing about the incident Katie gathered up her children. “I asked my kid to gather his things and collected the toddler and my older son across the hall. We left and went for ice cream.” Then Katie took to Facebook to tell her son’s story. And, on Facebook, Katie had his back. Knowing she’d take some flack for her point of view, here’s part of what she wrote:
“My child has full permission to rock your kid’s world if they are bullying them or someone else. I don’t teach solving problems with fists and I believe in alerting an adult if possible. However, sometimes it’s not possible. In that case if they feel like they or someone is being harmed it’s ok to stand for what’s right. It’s honorable to fight for the underdog. I do not apologize for teaching them to stand up for someone else. This broken world needs more people to stand for the oppressed.”
Katie knows better than most that her son is full of fire. But she’s determined to nurture that fire, not to extinguish it: “It is my job as his parent not to stomp out his fire but to teach him to use it for good.”
Parenting is hard enough without having to confront or respond to school violence or bullying. Especially if it seems like your child is the bad guy. Katie’s story has struck a chord. On Facebook, her original December 2019 post has generated nearly 80 shares and 200 reactions. The story has been a topic of lots of media attention, including on NBC’s Today.com, that has generated a lot of healthy conversation about handling bullying in schools.
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