Your child being bullied is any parents worst nightmare. We hear far too often about what happens as a result of a child being bullied. A child hurting themselves as was the case with Gabriel Taye, who was just 8 years old when he took his own life. Bullying is not acceptable.
I thought I had until at least middle school to worry about issues like that. I was horrified when I had to help my seven year old daughter when she was being bullied. It seems that I’m not alone. According to her teacher “mean girl” behavior is starting younger and younger. She didn’t see the same kind of hurtful behavior early in her her career. According to statistics provided by stopbullying.gov, 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying. That’s 21% too much. Here is how I learned to handle the situation when it happened to my little girl.
ASK QUESTIONS – BUT DON’T PRY
When I pick her up from carpool, she usually tells me all about her day. I’ll ask her about her school work and who she played with at recess. Anything that might be on her mind. I started hearing a lot about Amanda and Sarah (not their actual names). My daughter was relatively new to the school as we had only been in town a few months and so was working to make new friends. I was happy that she’d found two little girls to play with.
Over the next couple of weeks, I kept hearing about the two new friends and their recess fun. They did gymnastics together on the playground and played with dolls. Then one day it changed. We went through our normal routine and when I asked who she played with, it was a completely different person. I asked about Amanda and Sarah and my daughter said that Sarah told her she couldn’t play with the group or on the playground swings.
My “mommy sense” kicked into full gear.
We chatted about how other children can’t tell her what to do or where she could play. She clearly didn’t want to talk about it anymore and so I reluctantly let it go. We continued our routine and for a while I didn’t hear anything about Amanda or Sarah other than Sarah telling her she couldn’t play with them. Over time, she started opening up more and more and finally admitted that Sarah had been bullying her. It took nearly two months of persistently asking about her day before it finally all came out. Two months! If you feel like something is going on with your child, keep asking questions. I desperately wanted to fix it “now”, but had to let her be in control of what she wanted to share.
LOOK FOR CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR
My daughter has always been pretty quiet.She’s usually pretty reserved, especially around new people, but she became even more so. My happy-go-luck girl started to be angry all the time. She’d fight with her brother all the time where they were usually two peas in a pod. The slightest criticism would set her off. The worst point was probably when she got to the point where she didn’t want me to leave her. Even if she went to her grandparents. If I left her side for more than five minutes, she’d have a meltdown. It was awful and I was wracking my brain to figure out what was wrong.
Since we stopped the bullying, she’s back to her happy, loving self. I see her self confidence soaring each and every day.
STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER
Besides family, your child’s teacher probably knows them best. She sees a side of your baby that most people don’t see They also know the cast of characters that are involved in your child’s life on a daily basis. Ask if he or she might have noticed any changes or if anything has changed with your child’s friends. I regret that I didn’t ask sooner, when I first thought something might be wrong. Sarah apparently was a problem not only for my daughter, but for the classroom as a whole.
BE PERSISTENT AND PATIENT
As I mentioned earlier, it took me almost two months to learn what was going on. IT. WAS. HARD. I wanted to jump in and solve her problem, but I had to know exactly what the problem was. I also didn’t want to create a problem in her mind if it wasn’t something that was consciously bothering her. Be that listening ear. It might take some time, but it’ll be worth it.
KEEP YOUR CHILDREN INVOLVED AND IN CONTROL
As my daughter finally began sharing with me what was going on, she didn’t want me to do anything. She felt like she could handle things herself. She had other friends and so figured things would be fine. I took a deep breath and let it go. Then one day she got in the car after school and I could tell she was upset. I asked her what was wrong. She said that Sarah had tried to take things from her in carpool line. She said she wrapped her arms around her backpack and held on. That’s the first I’d heard of anything becoming physical. I asked her what she wanted me to do and was it okay if I told her teacher. She finally gave me permission. Then it was like a dam broke. She began telling me everything that had been going on. I was devastated for my child. We emailed her teacher and she’d ask every couple of hours if I’d heard anything.
The next morning, things got kicked into high gear. By 9 AM the next morning, her teacher, guidance counselor, and assistant principal held a meeting with the girls. They told the ladies that bullying was unacceptable and my daughter was able to say her piece. The other young lady was eventually moved to another class because she had caused so many disruptions.
My daughter has been a completely different person since. She’s happier and more talkative. Even her teacher says she’s lighter on her feet. I am forever grateful to the staff and teachers at her school who helped.
DON’T BUY INTO THE HYPE THAT KIDS WILL BE KIDS
It always upsets me when I hear people say that kids will be kids as a response to bullying or fighting. For me, that’s a cop out. An excuse not to have to deal with whatever the real issue is.
As adults, if someone hits us, takes our things, or behaves in ways that make us uncomfortable, we can make a complaint with the police and they’ll do something about it. Why do we have a different standard for our children? Why should they just have to “suck it up” or handle it on their own? The idea that we are teaching our children to handle bullies because it will prepare them for the real world is a joke. Again, if another grown person hits me, or takes my stuff, I can file police charges.
I hope that we’ll teach our children to speak up and speak out rather than “snitches get stitches” or it’s bad to be a tattletale. I’m not saying you should run to the teacher for every little thing, but if someone is hurting them, a child has every right to say something. Let them know that certain behavior is unacceptable and help is there when they need it. Standing up for yourself is not only acceptable, but should be encouraged and applauded. No more allowing our children to battle it alone.
Have you had a similar issue with your child? How did you handle it? Please share your stories and advice in the comments below!