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Kids and Bullies

Posted by Patience on December 11, 2009 at 7:01 AM in Kid problemsRaising Boys
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rock on2

He was nervous about it a few weeks ago but I didn't think too much about it.

"Mom, we are moving seats, and I have to sit by this girl, I'm a little worried. She can be kinda mean."

I went into a kindness opportunity speech, I was hopeful because Josiah is really good at making almost any friendship/ relationship work. I should have known it could be hard if he was concerned. We didn't talk about it much after that until yesterday.

I was waiting in the car pool line when the door flung open and both boys climbed in, Jack was chatty but Josiah seemed a little quiet. We got home and he sat down next to me on the couch. I knew something was wrong.

"Mom, I'm kind of having a hard time." he said.
He went on to explain how the girl was being unkind, making fun of his drawings, telling how everything was wrong with him, part by part, day by day. He looked defeated and was starting to take these lies into his heart.

"I tried to tell her I don't care....but..." he burst into tears.
"But you do care right?" I said. He nodded his head through his tears.
"Everyone cares Josiah, trust me." I replied as he released long sobs in my arms.
"Do you think there is something wrong with you?" I asked, he shook his head but cried a little harder.

There are times when you just can't protect your child and someone else's pain will hurt them. I wanted to cry myself, but I didn't and we just sat for a moment together.
I told him I thought maybe he was dealing with a bully and suggested we find out some more information so we could make a plan to help him. So we spent some time researching and found out why this might be happening to him and what we could do.

Bullying is either about power or passing on some form of mistreatment. We wondered together if that might be the cause for this girl being unkind. We talked about how sometimes when you hear negative messages repeatedly you can start to believe them.
It was time for truth to do her magic I told him, because truth is the only thing that can set you free. If he was starting to question himself, maybe his bully can't remember the truth at all.

We came up with a strategy to deal with all the problems we could come up with.

1. Try to ignore any mean or unkind words, completely. No response at all.
2. We sent an e-mail to the teacher explaining what had been going on.
3. I wrote tiny cards of truths/affirmations about him to keep in his backpack at school so he could read them if things got hard.
4. Made a plan to check-in in 2 days to see if our strategy was working.

"Do you think this will work?" I asked.
"Yeah, I feel better mom." he said.

I gathered my parenting strength and sent him off to school the next day. I realized this is probably just the beginning of various big kid problems but I think we can find our way.

Have your kids ever dealt with a bully? What did you do?


Kristen writes...

I think you handled the situation beautifully. I think sooner or later every child will have to deal with a bully, I just wish that every child had a parent who is so loving.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

thanks Kristen! sometimes parenting feels so fluid and other times I feel like I'm fumbling through. You never stop growing I guess.

Jess writes...

This is an amazing post. I've been slipping into bossing my eldest around when he's feeling small, which is not good for either of us, but nothing else is flowing naturally for me right now. Your words are such a good reminder to ask questions and let the child speak his truth, and to encourage compassion.

We haven't dealt with bullies yet. I hope I'm as level-headed as you when the time comes. I'm sending wishes for strength for Josiah!

Alexandra writes...

Credit to you that Josiah came forward to share this tough experience with you, and credit to Josiah for having the courage to do so.

How wonderful that you worked to empower him immediately and contacted the school.

Your advice is spot on and I offer a couple of lines
that we advise kids in our workshops to use with bullies:
Use "I" language. "I don't like what you're saying to me." "I think that's just your opinion."

Shrugging your shoulders and just walking away is also a good tactic. It lets the bully know that s/he hasn't gotten to you.

Sending love and light.

I love the nurturing side you have with your son. I agree with you and think ignoring her mean words is a good idea, and there's some more things that can be done to help him out that are important and even common sense.

First off, he has fear of the situation. If your son continues to avoid confrontation like this, he will do this for the rest of his life. Calmly confronting negative situations is healthy and necessary for a mature lifestyle.

The next time it happens, have Josiah calmly and sternly tell the girl this:

"Sarah, you should be concerning yourself more with your own work rather than mine. I appreciate your opinion, but if it's not said nicely then I want you to stop it. If not, I'm going to talk to the teacher."

There's some big words in there, translate it into language that fits his age and make sure he understands the words, let him rehearse it with you.

Make sure he's making eye contact with the girl, while keeping calm and assertive body language.

A big thing I want you to consider is making sure he is not feeling like a victim, nor should you give him the idea that he is being "victimized". At an early age, this will mold his identity into a "victim mentality" and he will begin to worry that every time someone talks to him with the slightest bit of non-pleasantness that he will consider it being made fun of.

A better alternative is to let him understand that she is simply not old enough to understand what she is doing, but to take it as how a girl "flirts" at this age -- if he is in grade school... this is HOW girls flirt with boys. This simply means that she likes him.

When the situation is framed this way, she will follow suit.

It's all in Josiah's mindset. I hope this helps.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks Anthony for taking the time to write and offering such rich and helpful advice! We will try this and let you know how it goes. I think the victim feeling you mention is key, we are definitely trying to turn this into an empowering situation. Thanks again!

Mello writes...

I'm doing a presentation on bullying for a group of elementary school children, and I was hoping that you might let me borrow this beautiful and enlightening story as a skit to present to the children to teach them how their parents can help them cope as well. It would mean a lot!

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