Every time there is another shooting someone brings up bullying. And I hear about horrible things friends have gone through in their life, things I wish I would have seen but didn’t – with some friends. Just plain horrible things no human should have to go through with friends I didn’t know during those years they were bullied.
Recently I have also heard about two friends’ children being bullied.
Here’s the thing – people say all the time “kids are just mean” or “what can we do about it?” There ARE things we can do about it.
Every one of these children has a parent or guardian. Every single bully. They all have an adult that is supposed to be in charge of the rearing and raising of the child.
Now. Sometimes the parents don’t know what is happening. Sometimes it’s never been brought to their attention. Sometimes they don’t see ANY signs at home and they haven’t gotten in trouble and they just can’t believe their poor sweet Billy would do such a thing. But the thing is, I don’t really believe that. I believe there are signs that people are missing.
Friends, I want to encourage you to do the hard work. Even when it hurts. Even when you aren’t sure or don’t believe it. Even when it seems like the school/other parent is picking on your child. Do the hard work. Open your eyes.
When my son was in preschool I was told almost 4 months into the year that my son was having behavior problems. I truly was floored. we didn’t see that behavior at home. Truly. He wasn’t hurting children, but he was getting very angry, lashing out, yelling at other children, being mean to other children. I didn’t say “not my child!” I asked what we needed to do to work on it. I asked to have the specialists brought in. I asked how could I help. I went to the school and observed from outside the classroom through the window. I did NOT say “oh, he couldn’t do that” and forget about it. I was actively part of a plan to help him learn that this behavior was not acceptable. I talked to him at home every single day about what happened and how we can do better. Now, when the school calls (only twice this year) to tell me something has happened, I never assume my child is on the “right” end of things. And I do the hard work of digging through what happened with him to get to the bottom of it. I try to figure out what the real story is and how we can stop it from happening again. The time to do it is at this age. Preschool, Kindergarten, First grade. The time to do it is before they are 17 year olds, smashing someone’s face into the bathroom wall.
Let me back up a bit, because I know some of you are thinking “sometimes you really don’t know until then.”
I have a relative. When her child does something wrong the first thing she does is try to figure how some other child made her son do whatever he did wrong. She asks the other children what they did. She asks the other parents why weren’t they in the room with the children. She makes a big deal out of what OTHER people did, all the while not conversing with her son. She doesn’t try to figure out what the son did wrong. And for weeks or months she may continue to defend her son. She will bring up why she doesn’t like someone else’s kid because they “got her son in trouble”. We had a get together and this child hurt several of the other children. Several times. When we asked her to intervene she didn’t. She said “oh no, I am sure he isn’t doing that.” Even though several kids came to us at different times telling us the same story.
This mother refuses to teach her child that you can’t hurt others. That you can’t just lie and get out of it. That’s what the older kids do, you know. “Oh mom, I would never do that. I would never hurt someone else – that person just wants to get me in trouble because they are jealous.” And that mom has never done the hard work. She has never stopped and said to herself “my child is a person. They make mistakes just like anyone else. That doesn’t mean they are a bad person, it means I need to get to the bottom of this behavior and try to help them stop doing this.” So, yes, when the high school calls and says there is a problem, they aren’t prepared. They don’t believe it. This IS the “first they are hearing about this sort of thing.” This is the first they are hearing about it because they haven’t been listening. They haven’t been trying to figure out what their child needs. They haven’t been talking to their child and digging out the real story. They haven’t been doing the hard work.
I believe the thing to do is to pay attention to what the people around you are saying. Is there a house or two your child isn’t welcome in? Maybe it really is your child’s fault. Figure it out. Sit down with the parents. Ask what happened. Put down your defensive thoughts and actions and find out what is really going on. Are the children in class unable to sit by your child? Why? What is he/she doing that makes them undesirable enough that they have to get moved a lot. Maybe it’s just that they talk too much. Maybe it’s that they are mean. Find out. Do the neighborhood children refuse to come over and play? Why? What is going on that they don’t want to. Maybe your child isn’t being mean, but you need to figure out WHY they are being ostracized either way.
When another parent comes to you with an accusation that their child has been bullied by your child, do not assume. Don’t assume that is the whole story, but more importantly don’t assume that your child is innocent. That is one of the most dangerous things we can do these days as parents, in my opinion.
And if your child is the one being bullied, bring it to the attention of the other parent. It’s uncomfortable. We want to stay in our own little homes and not say anything and hope it goes away. But we can’t. We need to talk to someone else about it. The worst that happens is that the parent is a jerk too. They don’t believe you. The behavior is continued. But at least they can’t say “this is the first I am hearing of this.” Hopefully that will help in dealing with the situation with the school or coach or whomever is also involved, if indeed the parent denies it too.
Do the hard work. Don’t let it slide. It really DOES matter.