(on the walk home)
Hank: (shifting the weight of his backpack for the third time)
Me: Is your backpack too heavy?
Hank: A little, but that isn’t the problem.
Me: What is the problem?
Hank: My back hurts.
Me: Oh? I can carry your backpack the rest of the way.
Hank: No, I can handle it.
Me: Whats wrong with you back?
Hank: (sigh) Today in ginástica (gym class) we had to lay on the ground with our bellies down and pretend to sleep only a boy in my class started punching me in the back and yelling about how he though I had fainted.
Hank: He was kidding.
Me: He was hurting you.
Me: Buddy, did you say anything?
Hank: The teacher said after a while.
Me: (wincing) And what did the teacher say?
Hank: He said if they don’t quit hitting he would hit them.
Me: That isn’t very helpful.
Me: Hank, this isn’t the first time you have come home with a similar story. I need you to stand up for yourself.
Hank: (looking at his feet)
Me: Truly, I need you to stand on your feet and say in a very loud voice, “STOP! You need to stop hurting me.” I don’t care if it is in the middle of class. You have a very large class and it is hard for teachers to always know what is going on. There is no reason to allow people to hurt you.
Hank: I’m ok.
Me: But I’m not. When someone hurts you they hurt me. When you are hurt I am hurt. If you cannot stand up for yourself then you need to stand up for me. Tell these boys to stop for me until you are strong enough to do it for yourself. You deserve to not have anyone lay their hands on you, ever. You need to understand you’re very valuable and important. Until you can see that, please stand up for me, because I love you. You’re my partner in crime. No one has the right to hurt a member of my team.
Hank: He said he was sorry.
Me: But did he mean it?
Hank: (thinking) I don’t think so. Why do some boys do these things?
Me: Because they don’t know any better… Because no one has ever taught them it was wrong. Because they want to feel powerful. I am sorry you need to be the teacher this time. It shouldn’t be your job to teach them, but you need to show them the way they treat you is wrong and that you will not allow them to mistreat you. If you don’t stand up for yourself they will never respect you. If you stand up for yourself and they do not change then you must involve a teacher or Professor Manuel (principal). If they don’t’ learn to respect you they will think it is ok to treat other kids this way, too. Do you want that?
Hank: No. (deep breath)
Me: Do your best and if you need help ask a teacher. I can call your teacher and have a meeting of the adults if you would like.
Hank: No… no. I will stand up for myself.
Me: Thank you, Hank.