This article is geared towards the parents/caretakers of YOUNG children.
Is my child being bullied… or am I over-reacting?
Does your child ever come home from school or preschool telling you about something “mean” that someone else has done to them? How does that make you feel? Angry? Sad? Hurt? Ready to take action? Of course it does!
Today my Mom and I were talking about the topic of bullying after reading an article. It talked about how the mother of a 21-month-old boy was angry and going to take action after another toddler “bullied” her son. A one-year-old girl pushed her son and took his toy. (Both one year old)
I think there is a fine line, (but definitely a LINE) between bullying and just not being respectful. This example, of the 21-month-old, is just a learning-boundary issue, in my opinion. This child is just learning. Most toddlers must go through a learning stage of “our hands are not for hitting.” We certainly had to deal with this will all of our kids at that age, and I”m sure our baby will enter it in a few months, as well.
A good friend of mine, Kristy (she did a great guest post for me on Should I red-shirt my kindergartener or are they ready to go? ) reminds her children, to use their words if someone is bothering them. A simple “Please don’t do that. It hurts my feelings” can go a long way to a young child. I think this is great advice! Teach your child to use their voice and to be heard.
This brings me back to the 21-month-old story. According to the Stop Bullying Now campaign, ‘bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional, repeated over time, and involves an imbalance of power or strength. A child who is being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself,’ (Note the “REPEATED OVER TIME” part) There are times when we must remember that just as “boys will be boys”, “kids will be kids”, even if it is not always acting the way that we want them to act. Do I feel heart-broken when my kids tell me that someone wasn’t nice at school or on the bus? Absolutely! Do I feel angry when they tell me that someone laughed when they fell down. Of course! Do I tell them this? No. I just say that sometimes, although we may not like it, people can be mean. Some other boys and girls need to remember to try to “act the way that God wants them to act” all of the time, and not just some of the time. I tell them that I love them and that I am proud of them for telling me and that now they need to be strong. They need to handle it. (Then I provide the tools: Talking, telling a grown-up if they need to, praying about it, and sometimes, just ignoring it if it is a minor thing (example: someone laughed when they had ketchup on their face. This is a good example to give your child when teaching them to “laugh with them”, as our 4-year-old would do. Laugh at yourself sometimes!)
If you have multiple kids, I’m sure that you see one child being “mean” to another child at times (taking a toy, not playing the game the right way…” (the average siblings fight 3.5 times per hour!). That does not mean that you would necessarily consider one child a bully and the other a victim.
Our oldest son, six years old, told me that a little boy “squeezed his hand hard” on the bus. He was really angry and sad about it. I had to help him put this into perspective because he, like so many young kids, has a hard time distinguishing between playing/goofing-around and intentionally hurting. He has come to understand, during his Kindergarten year, that sometimes kids just do things for no reason at all. On the other hand, if he were to tell me that this child squeezed his hand daily, to be mean, I would tell him to do something about this, like telling the bus driver or his teacher. I would consider that bullying. According to Wikipedia, bullying is “Repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person physically or mentally.” It is not the occasional tease, such as giggling when a child spills their chocolate milk on themselves (that happened to me when I was in elementary school), although I am not condoning that because even small teasing is hurtful.
When your child comes to you with something small (a one-time thing) and you know that they are not being bullied (repeatedly being hurt), share a story of your own. I can remember times when I was in first grade and wore adorable jeans with cute heart-pockets on the rear of the pants, how the girls laughed at them that day. Did I “take action?” No. Did I consider it bullying? No. Will I put my own daughter in little blue-jeans with cute heart pockets because they will make her look as sweet as she is? Absolutely!
I bring all of this up because in the long run, your reaction plays a huge part in the way that your child will handle this. * “Overreaction, repeated over time, is likely to cause your child to become overly sensitive to any perceived slight. He/she could develop a victim mentality and do himself more mental harm that a bully would ever be capable of doing.”
You want to protect them forever. You want them to always be happy. You want them to be liked by others and to have friends. Is this the “real-world” way of life? No. It is better to teach them at a young age that sometimes others don’t act the way that we expect them to act, but that is the way of life and instead of trying to defend your child, teach them how to handle themselves in situations like this. They will run into this as adults, too, and isn’t it better to have a confident adult vs the adult with the victim mentality? I teach my kids to say “So what?” (Literally). “Someone didn’t like your shirt? So what?”
I ALSO REMIND OUR KIDS THAT THE PEOPLE THAT LOVE THEM THE MOST ARE HIS FAMILY AND GOD AND WE ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE ON THEIR SIDE.
When our son told me that his good friends at school stopped playing with him for ONE day… do you want to know what I did? I had them over for a play date. Guess what? The next day they were best friends. When dealing with young children, take the easy approach to this and give your child the tool of confidence.
If it turns into a bullying situation, of course it needs to be handled correctly, but until then, lets give them the tools to do what they are capable of doing on their own.
For more information on bullying, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/