Ugh. This might get ugly.
Yesterday Kid D came off of the school bus on the brink of tears. Again. The same kid who has been picking on him off-and-on all school year was now telling him that he was going to beat him up. This time another kid (who is supposed to be Kid D’s friend) joined in. Kid D was really upset. So am I.
There is no easy fix for this problem.
Most of my kids have always been tiny in stature, right up until about 5th grade. Then they shoot up like magic beanstalks. But until then they are tiny. And tiny attracts bullies and harassers. Kid A (a girl) got punched in the face by a boy in 2nd grade. Kid B had a girl in her third grade class who just would not leave her alone… petting her hair and constantly poking her to get her attention, calling our house nine or ten times in a row and asking if she had gotten home from school yet. Kid C endured two bullies last year – one boy then one girl. The girl was actually much worse.
Fortunately my kids came to me and let me know what was going on from the start. Even though I instinctively want to fix things for them I know it is important that they learn to handle stuff on their own, so I always start by reminding them of a few things.
Bullies are not born. They are created. Usually by other bullies. Have a little compassion, but not too much. People – even kids – are responsible for their actions.
Stand up for yourself. Most bullies will back down if you challenge them. (Except the boy who punched Kid A in the face. He was just a jerk. What kind of boy hits a girl?) Look them in the eye, say their name and tell them exactly what you want them to stop doing. Right now.
If they don’t stop, tell a grown up. Now, this is where I kind of straddle the fence. I don’t think that parents or teachers need to get involved right away, but I do think it is important that they be informed and aware so that they can keep an eye on the situation. And somebody needs to get involved if the bullying continues. I really think that kids need to be empowered and learn to stand up for themselves when they are being wronged. If they don’t assert themselves then they could suffer from confidence issues, anxiety, irrational fears and end up letting people walk all over them later in life. Nobody wants that. But nobody wants their kid to be picked on either, so sometimes it is necessary for an adult to become involved and to guide them through.
In the past I have tried to have the kids handle the situation on their own. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it doesn’t. A few times I have called the teacher and/ or the bullies’ parents. It is uncomfortable for everyone, but I felt it was necessary in each circumstance. One parent was extremely helpful and compassionate, got involved and the bullying stopped right away. Another parent was completely defensive, even though the teacher had observed her child harassing mine on several occasions. Not such a great outcome that time, but the teacher put an end to it quickly.
I don’t know yet how I’m going to proceed with the current situation. Kid D just came off the bus again and said that the bullying continues. The second kid didn’t join in this time, but one is all it takes. I don’t want to watch my confident, vibrant son turn into someone who is scared of his own shadow. I don’t want to watch him be the victim. But I also do not want him getting into a fist fight at six years old. This is not “kids just being kids.” It is wrong and I want to do something about it.
If you see me at the grocery store or the bus stop, don’t bother asking as I will not tell you who this bully is. What I will say is that every one of our school-aged children has now experienced different forms of bullying and it is not pretty. We will continue to discuss ways of coping with our kids. We will also teach them how to defend themselves and do what is necessary in threatening situations. Hopefully they will come out relatively unscathed. But realize that bullying happens and you shouldn’t assume that your kid isn’t involved.
Maybe everyone should talk to their kids about bullying. Let them know that is not something that they should suffer through in silence and it is certainly not something that is acceptable from them or their friends or their siblings. Ask them if they have ever been bullied or if they have ever been bullies themselves. You just might be surprised at their answers.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…