'Strikes a chord': Father’s Twitter post about son being bullied at school goes viral
A father of five in Panama is encouraging other parents to talk to their kids about bullying after a Twitter post about his own 8-year-old son’s experience went viral this week.
On March 19, Berel Solomon, an executive recruiter and coach who lives in Panama City, shared his son Menachem’s story of enduring bullying.
“My son was bullied in school last year,” the post began. “The ‘cool’ kids harassed him in the classroom. And wouldn’t let him play sports at recess.”
Solomon explained that he took it seriously because he too was bullied as a child, and had observed a change in his son’s behavior.
“We noticed how much he hated going to school every day. After months of being bullied he finally broke down and told me what was going on,” Solomon wrote.
The father said he consoled his son late into the night, “giving him perspective and tools” for how to handle the bullies.
My son was bullied in school last year.
The ‘cool’ kids harassed him in the classroom. And wouldn’t let him play sports at recess.
We noticed how much he hated going to school every day. After months of being bullied he finally broke down and told me what was going on.
I was… pic.twitter.com/AkrZKUUGTf
— Berel Solomon (@BerelSolomon) March 19, 2023
“He went to school the next day armed for battle, but our plan backfired,” Solomon wrote. “He was crushed again. He wanted to give in. Maybe change classes. I told him not to give up.”
After a couple more late night father-son pep talks, Solomon described how Menachem was finally able to confront his bullies and get invited to play soccer with the other kids at recess.
“He ended up becoming one of the best players in the school,” he wrote. But that’s not where the story ends.
Solomon went on to say that Menachem also confessed to him that he had joined his friends during soccer in calling another boy a mean name.
“He saw how much it hurt the boy,” he wrote. “He felt terrible.”
Solomon said he urged his son to call the boy and apologize, but Menachem felt too shy and embarrassed. Solomon then called the boy’s father, who relayed that his son had been having a difficult year because of bullying. Ultimately, the two men put their sons on the phone and Menachem was able to apologize and ask the other boy to be friends.
“Lesson learned, bullying is serious,” Solomon wrote. “We as parents have to be just as concerned about other kids [sic] feelings as we are about our own kids. We have to turn our children into leaders and defenders instead of bystanders.”
The post quickly attracted positive attention on Twitter and Solomon was soon fielding messages from strangers telling him that it had made them cry. As of Friday afternoon, his tweet had garnered 4.8 million views, 5,600 retweets and over 66,000 likes.
“I think that bullying just strikes a chord for everybody,” Solomon told Yahoo News in an interview this week. “I think that everybody’s had some experience, whether they were bullied, their child was bullied or they were, or they themselves were a bully.”
“It's something that affects people so deeply,” he added.
The Centers for Disease Control defines bullying as “a form of violence and an adverse childhood experience.”
According to the CDC, bullying can take on a variety of forms, from the kind of name-calling and teasing that Menachem engaged in, to physical bullying “such as hitting, kicking, and tripping.” Another common form of bullying is relational or social, which can include spreading rumors or leaving someone out of a group. Children are also increasingly victims of cyberbullying, which is perpetrated through social media, gaming platforms and other online forums.
About 22% of students in the U.S. aged 12-18 reported being bullied in 2019, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The data from that year suggests that middle school students are more likely to report bullying than those in high school.
In Panama, where Menachem goes to school, fear of bullying has caused about 160,000 students to stay at home instead of going to school, according to Panama Education Guide.
Internationally, roughly one in three students experience bullying and physical violence, according to the United Nations. But while bullying is pervasive across cultures, experts believe that it can be prevented.
According to Stopbullying.gov, a website managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, research shows that adults can discourage bullying by responding to it quickly and consistently, which lets kids know that it’s not OK.
“Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy,” the site says.
Among those who were drawn to Solomon’s Twitter post was Elizabeth Englander, a psychologist and nationally recognized expert on bullying who runs the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Englander praised Solomon’s response to Menachem being bullied, and later, Menachem’s admission that he had bullied another child.
“First, he took the whole thing seriously and he worked with his son to strategize, and to think about how to respond,” Englander said of Solomon. “Second, he checked back in with his son on an ongoing basis to see how things were going, and to help him further think about this. Third, he really encouraged his son to be kind to another boy, and to think about how it felt to be bullied. By doing this, he really showed his son how much better it feels to treat other people well rather than to bully them.”
While there’s no easy solution to bullying, Englander said, “we want adults to know what to look for so they can help stop cruel behaviors, and we want children to understand how powerful they can be, and how supporting each other can make a big difference.”
She also emphasized that for many children, simply having friends who will stick by them “is one of the most powerful antidotes to bullying.”
“It’s difficult for adults to promise children a world where no one will ever be mean, but if you have friends who really like you, and who want to be friends with you, then it doesn’t matter as much if someone else tries to be cruel,” said Englander. “We call that resiliency.”
Solomon said he believes it’s his responsibility as a father to teach his children to be kind to others, and he encourages other parents to do the same. He views the popularity of his Twitter post as a sign that many people agree with his approach.
“I think the global theme is that the world, in its essence, is actually a good place,” he said.