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Hax: Man who stood up to bullies changed kid's life

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

W hile I'm away, readers give the advice.

On witnessing an act of cruelty:

I was bullied viciously through most of my childhood.

My parents assumed it was my fault and punished me rather than helping. The neighbors and most teachers saw it as just the way kids are.

That was just how life was until eighth grade, when the assistant principal, a big man who inspired both respect and fear in the students, happened to see me attacked, and reacted with rage toward my attackers, and at the same time, great gentleness and kindness toward me.

He was, of course, in a position to put an end to my troubles, at least while I was at school, and he did make it his business to see that I was safe and treated with compassion and understanding while I worked to heal deep wounds and learn to fit in, and that was wonderful.

More importantly to me, however, was that he was the first person in my life who showed me that I had value, that I did not deserve this, that I was not somehow innately bad.

I am sure he forgot all about me by the end of summer break, and never realized the gift he gave me, but in standing up for me that day, he changed my life forever, and I will always be so grateful.

I would like to ask everyone, please, to recognize they have the power to make that kind of difference in another person's life by choosing to stand up for what is right and by showing a little kindness.

— C.

On deciding whether to date someone with a young child:

For the next 18 years, possibly up to a third of this person's income will be going to pay for that child. So, can he adequately live on 70 percent of what he now earns? Can you afford to go places together and do the things you want to do?

A parent's time possibly every other weekend, and sometimes midweek, will be rightfully spent with his child.

When the child gets into later school grades, a good parent and stepparent actively participate in school functions to support the child.

A parent who isn't willing to spend that time with a child should be a warning sign, and if the person he's dating isn't willing to graciously encourage the parent to be a part of that, then that should be a warning sign to both of them.

The attraction during the early stages of a relationship can mask the realities of the cost, stresses and inconveniences of being involved in a blended family. That role requires a generous person who expects little in return.

— D.

On taking criticism (or weathering rudeness):

Some effective responses to almost any confrontation (because they disarm) are:

“Oh?”; “I see”; “Glad you told me that”; “Really?”; “Never knew that”; “I'll have to think about that”; “That could be”; “Good luck”; “I can live with that”; “Sure.”

And, in reply to an especially hostile remark, “Would you mind repeating that?”

— J.B.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com.

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