Last night Gregory grabbed one we hadn't read yet. It's called, "Just a Bully." I've loved every Critter book before that, so I didn't hesitate reading it for bedtime. Near the end of the book I wish I hadn't.
The story is about the same Critter who is in all the books. This time he defends his little sister from a bully. The bully then starts harrassing him. For most of the story, Critter acts like I hope my child would act- no retaliation, no fighting... he never stoops to the bully's level. At one point he asks as adult for help, but it just makes the bullying worse. In the end the bully hits him and the Critter starts fighting back (after his sister had encouraged to punch the bully the night before). The principal breaks it up and the bully gets in trouble. When Critter gets on the bus all the other Critters give him hi-5's, applauding him. When the bully gets on the bus, the little sister calls him a "fat head" and pushes him down.
The final "moral of the story" is to "stand up for yourself."
I was appalled. I wish I hadn't read it to my kids. We talked about it and I asked what Gregory thought about Critter's behavior. He didn't agree with it (thank goodness), but I still hated the fact that I'd read him a story about his favorite storybook character acting like that.
I considered later how else it should have ended. I know Fred dealt with bullying and, to my knowledge, never fought back. It didn't get better. But he never stooped to their level. Gregory has had to deal with bullies on the bus already. We've always firmly told him to ignore them and focus on something else.
On Amazon.com I read reviews on the books. Most parents were also dismayed, but a few applauded the book, happy that someone is finally taking a "realistic" approach to bullying and insisting that the parents opposed to the book obviously never dealt with being bullied as children.
I welcome any insight on this topic. Did the book have a point about "standing up for yourself" and just didn't present it well? How do you teach a young child to stand up for themselves without adopting the same negative attributes that the bullies have? Or should they just take it all and suffer?
I would hope my son trusts me and his teachers enough to always tell us if he's being bullied, and I hope we'd know how to address the issue so it's taken care of. That darn free agency! It's such a shame that small children sometimes have to suffer because other children misuse that agency.