Bullies Beware

Let me start by saying that Ryan is the funniest, cutest, sweetest little boy that I know.  He is goofy, athletic, friendly, social and polite (most of the time). 

He is also extremely sensitive. 

He gets it from both parents.  And it is bothering one of his parents right now much more than the other. 

Cory gets really upset when Ryan comes to him crying that someone was mean to him, said “I don’t like you”, “You’re not my best friend” or some other preschool insult.  It breaks my heart, too, but I’ve had more experience with it – at playdates, on the playground.  I also have the knowledge that Ryan has said these things to other boys as well, so I know it goes both ways, even though as time goes on, I see a wonderful maturity and empathy progressing in his dealings with peers. 

It’s difficult not to take it personally, to wonder why another child thinks yours isn’t good enough or cool enough.  But as you, the parent, get lost in your own painful thoughts and memories and do your best not to pick up the kid and shake him or her, that same child then grabs yours and shrieks, “Let’s go play hide and seek!” and all is forgotten in Little Kid World. 

I always thought that raising a little girl would be the worst with the bullying, name-calling and worth-leveling based on unattainable standards of beauty.  I figured if a boy is somewhat athletic and/or social and has interests of some sort, he’s in the clear.  But it is difficult for both.  I have girlfriends whose young boys are taunted because they’re too short, too smart, too weak, too into dinosaurs. 

Even though it hurts the same to a child, this preschool stuff is so benign compared to what kids endure when they’re older, which makes me worry about how Cory (and I) will react to the bigger stuff.  Our boy is sensitive.  That will one day be a wonderful gift.  In friendships, with girls, in dealing with younger kids and people less fortunate.  With certain friends, he’s the tough guy and a leader – the one with all the ideas.  With other friends, he’s the follower – hanging onto the other kid’s every word.  Aren’t we all this way in different social situations? 

I don’t think there’s any “toughening up” that can be done.  It’s in his makeup to be upset and take it personally if someone says something negative towards him.  I’m the same way.  I think it’s just that young children don’t have the tools, the proper language, to defend themselves properly or handle an uncomfortable situation. 

So they turn to parents.  And what do we say?

I’ve heard parents say anything from “Hit him back” to “Walk away” to “Play with someone who’s nicer to you” to “Tell him he sucks at football, too”. 

I’m a big proponent of telling Ryan that whoever hurt his feelings is probably having a bad day, that other people don’t have the right to define him, to work it out fairly with the other kid.  But really, I have no answer.  He’s going to get hurt.  He’s going to want to follow the kid who hurt him.  There was a kid last year who wasn’t very nice yet Ryan idolized him.  He’s going to be confused as to why some kids are mean sometimes and nice other times. 

I was in a clique of three BFF’s in the 3rd grade and one day the “Queen Bee” decided that she and the other girl would sit alone together at lunch and I would not be invited.  I remember I could not concentrate that day or any day that week.  I went home crying that my world was shattered, that I lost my best friend and I was a loser.  To this 8 year old, it was the lowest I had ever felt.

I caught up with Queen Bee on Facebook last year and we were having a lovely time reconnecting.  Turns out we had much in common and she was quite the beautiful soul.  But instead of forgetting the past and acting like a mature adult moving forward, we got to talking about bullying and girls and I couldn’t forget that experience of being odd girl out.  After considering a good way to say it, I somehow blurted, “Yeah, I remember when you were really mean to me in 3rd grade, too” or something equally as dumb and pointless.  She was silent for so long that I knew immediately I said the wrong thing.  Why did I feel the need to bring up something her 8 year old self did?  Did a part of me want her to know that she hurt me?  To feel bad?  To apologize?  What good would that do now?

She explained that she had a hard time connecting with other girls as a kid for different reasons, that she knows she wasn’t nice and she hid behind her insecurities but that it was just as hurtful for me to say this now, after all these years.  And I agree.  She also pointed out that I also did my fair share of hurting, yet I don’t remember that side of it at all.  I haven’t forgotten what she said and never will, just like in the third grade.  I wish I never said it and I’m sorry.  Something in me just had to say something, but I know it was wrong and I can’t take it back. 

I wish I could tell Ryan and Alexa that no matter what their fate is in elementary, junior and high school, that all will be forgotten when they are adults.  And that they should move forward and forget, too.  That although the memories of experiences both good and bad will be a part of them, they will one day be reconnected with all of these kids through Facebook or the grapevine, and they will be celebrated for their differences and none of this will matter.  Being the most popular kid or star of the football team won’t guarantee you anything.  It’s about believing in your own self-worth and not letting anyone else define you. 

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that we can’t shield our kids from ever getting hurt.  The closest I can get is what my parents said to me as I was growing up, which I never forgot.  I think this is why I always had good self-esteem and I pray that I can pass this onto my children…

That to race would be futile because no matter who you are, there will always be someone more popular, more beautiful, wealthier, more athletic.  But you don’t know their lives.  They could be suffering.  They may not be happy.  But if they are, it doesn’t matter because I am an amazing person and I have wonderful and special qualities and talents that make me who I am.  And I should never want to trade that with anyone.  Because nobody else is quite like me. 

I hope I can assist in making my children believe that about themselves.  Because I still believe it about me.  Which makes it easier to celebrate others’ successes because I know it’s not a race, as much as it seems that way sometimes.  And one day, I hope both Ryan and Alexa find their unique match – someone who appreciates their uniqueness and their beauty (from the inside out).  Because nothing feels better than being loved.  And loving yourself.

Bullies Beware.

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Posted by Dani in Boys, Girls, Parenting and tagged with , , | Trackback
  1. Isn’t it the worst? The sad things our children have to go through as they grow. I hope he doesn’t have many issues like this as he grows. I am glad he has parents that care and love him so much. That is a blessing for sure!! I know just what you mean about wishing we could protect them from every hurt. If only it was possible.

    I saw on Jill’s post that you are going to give to a family in need and I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love people that make a difference : )
    Life with Kaishon\’s last post…What did one leaf say to the other? I’m falling for you.

    • Dani says:

      I’m so glad you came to visit :) . I’m lucky in that Ryan is very social and active. I just want to protect them both. Even the smallest thing is so painful for us because we can remember the raw emotion from our past, brought together with this fierce loyalty to protect our children. It’s very powerful.

  2. We’re not there yet, but I dread this. I have awarded you the Leibster Blog Award over at http://www.notwinningmomoftheyear.com Come check it out!
    Not Winning Mom of the Year\’s last post…Dear Dina,

  3. Leslie says:

    Little kid bullying is so hard. They don’t fully understand what they’re saying or how they’re hurting the other one half the time. I can’t believe you heard someone tell a child to hit back. I hope your little one gets through this phase quickly and finds some fantastic friends!
    Leslie\’s last post…{Recipes} Mini Pumpkin Pies

    • Dani says:

      thanks leslie. he has plenty of great friends in his circle (as great as friends can be at this age – ha!), it’s just interesting to see how sensitive he is at this age and makes me worry about the future because i know what’s coming. i feel like this stuff is so easy compared to a few years down the road. everyone in preschool has the same “mean words” like, “you’re not my best friend” or “i don’t like you anymore” and two seconds later all is well. but i can tell something bothers him every so often when he brings something up out of the blue and i realize what may seem so benign to me is his whole world.

  4. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. Happy SITS Day!

    I was going to say that I read a lot these days, and I read a blog recently that talked about forgiveness, and moving forward. They were probably talking about some deeply hurtful things that somebody did probably, but the person finally said, “I forgive you” and it was such welcomed words to the other person.

    Anyway, don’t feel bad about saying that to the girl. I know she was young, and we do forget that we were mean as kids, but I think to say something was a good healing process, and a good way to move forward. If you hadn’t said something then I think how she acted as a child would always be in your mind, and that energy could impact a future relationship. She may say something and you think, “oh, she still hasn’t changed.” I’m glad you said that. You remember. It was important in your childhood. Don’t feel bad.

    • Dani says:

      thank you. it’s interesting – the girl from third grade wrote to me privately after reading this post (which i thought made me look bad and not her, being that i was angry at myself for saying something so many years later) and said she didn’t appreciate what i wrote and went on to call me a social climber who uses ex-friends and family through my blog to gain popularity, that i need to get over it, told me about some horrible things i did to her, and then felt the need to explain the “good person” award she received from classmates and teachers in middle school. it missed the point completely, and actually struck me as bullyish, precisely what she was trying to stick onto me – calling me names and such. there wasn’t much to say – i haven’t seen her in 26 years, we don’t know each other at all and i thought she was a sweet person when we reconnected, but i was left with distaste.

  5. It’s the issues like this that make me feel so inadequate as a parent sometimes! I too believe that it is our job not to shield our children from hurts, but to give them the tools that will help them deal with them in a healthy way and come out on the other side a better person. This bullying topic is especially sensitive for me and my husband, as he had a relentless bully who went far beyond just words. He pushed my husband under the water when he was beginning to learn to swim and my husband has struggled with a fear of water and swimming EVER. SINCE.

    My husband also already struggled with self-esteem because he walks with a slight limp due to oxygen deprivation from being born 2 months premature. The experiences he had with other kids saying ugly things to him growing up were even harder on him, I believe. One of the tools we’ve decided to give our children that we think will help them be more assertive, especially our son who also is very sensitive (our daughter’s personality seems a little “stronger” so far) , is martial arts training. Not only do we feel that it will give them self-defense tools, should they ever need it, as sadly, it appears to be needed more and more in this crazy world, but research shows that it helps build and strengthen self-confidence also.

    Thank you for sharing about your son’s experiences with this. Hope you have a wonderful SITS day!
    The Lucky Wife\’s last post…A Non-Traditional Christmas Family Celebration: Day 34 of The 100-Day Countdown to Christmas

    • Dani says:

      it is really difficult to deal with things that happened to us as children because nobody could ever know how much of a lasting impression it could have. i would feel awful if i caused somebody years of pain. maybe i did – i don’t know. ryan took karate twice and then we switched to gymnastics because we gave him a choice of one or the other. you have me thinking i should look into it again.

  6. This kind of thing makes me sad… and kids can be so mean. Even kids with nice parents! I am not sure what I’m going to say to the Babby. Just give her skills to love herself (dance, classes, etc.) and then maybe tell her that the meanest people are sometimes those who feel like they are worthless themselves. And that some people say mean things when they don’t really mean to be mean. And that some people just haven’t learned empathy yet. I can’t shield her from mean but I can at least teach her that mean sometimes comes from a place of fear or misunderstanding or inexperience or sadness…
    Christa aka the BabbyMama\’s last post…Normal Everyday Toddler Teeth or Normal Everyday Preemie Teeth?

    • Laura Lyle says:

      Hmmm, I’m not thoroughly convinced that there are too many bullies with nice parents. I think there are far too many who have parents that are full of excuses instead. I’ve also been toying with the idea that child bullies grow into adult bullies. I don’t know that I fully believe that, but I’m curious what others think.
      Laura Lyle\’s last post…Shop Talk — Exogamy Revisited

  7. Joanne says:

    Ugh! I have struggled with this too because my daughter is sensitive. But it is true that these moments of hurting each other are fleeting and forgotten when they are really young. So I try not to make too big of a deal out of it and I listen to her and tell her that she is right, it wasn’t nice of the other girl to leave her out and that she is a good person and to be herself. It is hard though.
    Joanne\’s last post…Handling the Cost of Medical Emergencies for Your Pet

  8. Love this post, Dani! So thoughtful and insightful. :) It’s so important to be sensitive to kids’ experiences and feelings regarding bullies. That stuff just has SUCH an impact on their futures. I was affected by some bullying early on in my life that definitely played a part in the development of an eating disorder that I struggled with for several years. I had to learn a lot about myself and other people in order to recover (I’m currently completing a book with insight from nearly 100 other people in recovery).

    For those of us who aren’t children anymore, I have some things on my blog about managing our difficult emotions and developing healthier thought patterns when we are struggling with things. I know for myself that’s been really helpful!
    Justine Duppong\’s last post…Single? This Post is for YOU!

    • Dani says:

      I would love to read your book, as I have had close friends with bulimia and, well, it’s loaded but let’s just say I’d love to read your thoughts and experiences!

  9. Laura Lyle says:

    Thank you for this post. Unfortunately, I deal with bullying quite a bit in my line of work, and I am growing increasingly more frustrated with the “just ignore it, and it will go away” school of thought. I’ve not met a bully yet who was detered by ignoring. I think it’s important to empower our children to address it. There was a time I didn’t know how to do that. So I talked to someone who seemed impervious to bullies and asked her for a few stock responses. Amazingly, they worked. I was surprised at the power of a well placed, “I don’t care!” It’s not about teaching children to be aggressive. It’s about giving our children a sense of empowerment. It also helps them speak up when they see someone else being harassed or bullied.

    • Dani says:

      LOVE THIS! There was a Little Bill episode where the stock answer to a bully was, “SO??” and the bully had NO IDEA what to do. I shared that with Ryan and plan to also give him the “I don’t care!” as well.

  10. Laura says:

    I think my daughter is going through the 4th grade friendship blues, much like yours in third grade. And when she tells me what happens. I don’t know what to say. How does someone stop being friends with a best friend when they think that person has become too mean? Emotions and hormones and insecurity and immaturity make for a tough lesson. I have sometimes thought boys would be easier….good to know otherwise.

    • Dani says:

      I think Laura Lyle’s message of empowerment is great. It’s hard when you’re hurting to rise above, as a child, and seem confident even when you want to run away and cry. I don’t know if I could have just said, “SO?” in a bad situation. But I think if we talk to our kids constantly and let them know that we are here to listen and to give them tools to help, they will feel loved and important and hopefully feel confident enough to say to someone that they don’t like how they’re acting and to come back when they’ve decided to be nice.

  11. Marie Cole says:

    It’s part of life, but the fact you are aware to how your kids react and are there for them is HUGE!
    Marie Cole\’s last post…Drifting into Driftwood

  12. Venus says:

    Gosh, I’m so not looking forward to when this will inevitably happen to G. Should I tell him that it could be worse, that his name, like mine, could rhyme with male genitalia? Probably not. I hope, like you, to build self-confidence and a sense of self-worth (without entitlement or condescension) into G. We’ll see how I do when I get there.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Came from SITS! Great post…bullies are hard to deal with. We all have feelings, so even knowing that a bully is wrong and probably a very sad person, I think it’s normal to be upset. I’m sure your kids will learn, through you, how to persevere.

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