Protecting a child from a bully

Growing up in a colonial territory with a wide mixture of people from all over South and South-East Asia posed no risk of paedophilia or other acts of criminality; only of being bullied. A bully, by nature, respects no boundaries. Twice I fought back, puny as I was, and was then left alone.

When I was a teenager, I noticed (most unhappily) that my 4-year sister would occasionally be pushed onto the ground by the 4-year old boy next door, even after playing together amicably. As the third boy in the family, a little rough play might have been part of his lifestyle. So, I decided to teach her how to counter-attack. When he moves forward with both arms stretched to push you (I told my sister), move right foot back, clench fist at right shoulder and, when he comes closer, step forward with right foot, straighten right arm fiercely to hit him on his nose with fist. We practised that for days, because she was (and is) a gentle person.

Then, one day, it happened. The boy was knocked down. When he complained, crying, to his mother, she slapped him for lying! (Our parents were free with slapping and hitting. I was hit with a stick by my father when I was 17 because I was seen to be tardy in returning home after delivering a message to my uncle up the street.) That nice little girl would not hit anyone, said the mother. (Our homes were so close, that there was little privacy outside the walls.)

Years later, my daughter, at 3 to 4 years of age, had an identical problem. After playing in the sandbox I had built on our open front verandah, the little boy next door (of the same age), the youngest of 3 sons, would hit my daughter (a very quiet child) for reasons unknown. His lifestyle might have also included a little rough play. So, I trained her to counter-attack, in the way I had trained my little sister. This boy too was chastised by his mother for lying. My daughter was never attacked again.

Strangely, this was one of the mothers who had withdrawn from the morning coffee invitation by my wife after the priest in the VW had visited his mini-flock in our street. I admit that I did have a never-to-be-fulfilled thought of punching him on his nose!

Shortly, I built a large sandpit in my backyard. Up to 7 children (only one was mine) could be seen playing together amicably, protected by the side gate being shut, with my wife keeping an eye on the children. The children were obviously not aware of priestly injunctions!