Bullies are nothing new. Because some high profile (and tragic) examples of bullying have been in the news recently, most schools have anti-bullying policies now. (Which is nice and all, as long as they don’t take it too far. We’ve seen that happen, and that is a story for another day.)
In my experience, the “bullying” that most children are likely to see is not going to be aimed at them… it’s going to be their own friends, teasing or snubbing other students who are a little bit different. It seems like there is a ton of information on how to help your child if they are the victim of bullying, but there really isn’t anything about how to help your child if they see it happening.I think kids who bully feel like they “belong” if they can make someone else seem like they don’t.
How do you empower your kids to stand up for a weaker kid in front of their friends/peers? How do they do that and not become a target themselves? Recently I’ve had conversations with both Grant and Conner about this.
Grant came to me one day and announced that there was a girl on the school playground who “didn’t have all of her fingers.”
Me: “Oh dear. Was she born that way or was it an injury of some kind?”
Grant: “I don’t know. (His eyes welled up with tears.) It scares me!”
Well, that provided a perfect opportunity to discuss the concepts of empathy, compassion and good character.
- How does he think she feels about the fact that she doesn’t have all of her fingers?
- Does he think she might feel sad that she isn’t like the other kids?
- Is she brave that she is doing her best to play and write and learn like the kids who have all of their fingers?
- Besides that she doesn’t have as many fingers, does he think she’s any different from him?
“Uh, Mom? She’s a girl. I’m a boy.” (Yes, yes, besides that.)
- Did he know her name? No? Why not? Say hello some time.
- Did kids tease her? Say weird things to her?
What could he do if he hears or sees his friends (or any kid) being mean to her?
He doesn’t have to throw himself between the girl and her tormentors. He doesn’t have to make a big deal about it or give a lecture on the golden rule.
He just needs to say one simple statement:
“Dude… not cool.”
We practiced saying it, with emphasis on “not”. Duuude… not cool. It’s simple, it’s easy to remember, and the risk of him getting caught up in the teasing is minimal.
Conner and Mitch are running cross-country. There is a kid who has high functioning autism on the team, and some of his slight social quirks are getting him a bit of blow-back from some of the other kids. Conner didn’t need the empathy/compassion lecture. He already knows that stuff, but wanted ideas on how to handle it when he saw it.
“Dude… not cool.”
Conner is a sophomore and most of the kids who are doing the teasing are freshmen. He is in a position where he can set the tone for the new runners. No need to get on a high horse… just lead by example.
I think practicing what to say and how to say it will make it easier for them when the situation comes up. Of course there are going to be times where this isn’t enough. We’ll discuss Plan B when it becomes necessary.
Have you had this come up with your kids? What did you do?