Can You Bully-Proof Your Kid?

Bullying has gained increased public awareness over the last few years.  If you think back, I am sure you can recall a time when you were bullied, or when you were the bully.   Recently, it hit close to home with my 6 year-old daughter Journey.  She came home about a month after school complaining that she had a scrape on her hand from being pushed down.  We had a conversation and I chalked it up to playground roughhousing.  About a week later, it happened again.  This time I got more of the back-story and found out that she plays football everyday with the boys during recess.   The boys starting teasing her because she is the only girl who plays.  She ignored them and kept playing.  Realizing that the teasing was not having an effect, eventually the boys stopped and she continued to play.  Except for one little boy.  This time he tackled her, even though it is not allowed on the playground.  “Did he apologize”, I asked.  “No”, she replied.  “Did you tell the teacher?”  “Yes, she made him take a break.”  I also told her to ask for an apology the next day at school.  A few weeks later, it happened again.  This time, I contacted the teacher to fill her in on the situation.  It was the beginning of October and there was no way we were going to deal with this behavior for the entire school year.  I was very careful to acknowledge that I only had one side of the story, but we definitely had a problem.  The teacher spoke with both kids and thankfully the issue seems to have been resolved.

There are 2 things that I learned from this experience:

It’s hard to bully a confident kid

I’m sure the boys teased Journey with hopes that she would quit the game.  But she didn’t let it phase her one bit.   She was confident enough to be different and not let others stop her from doing what she wanted to do.  When I asked her why she didn’t stop playing, she said, “I had to fight through it, that’s what brave girls do.”

The fine line between “kids being kids” and when to get involved

It is a parent’s instinct to want to jump in and “handle” every situation that your kids get into.  My husband was ready to roll on the kid at recess like Cam did on the boy who pulled Lily’s hair in a recent episode of Modern Family.  But letting them figure out some things for themselves is part of what will make them strong and independent.  While it was appropriate to step in when it was obvious that this was a pattern of unsuitable behavior, I don’t believe it’s my place to fight all of Journey’s battles.   But it is my job to give her the tools she needs to learn how to fight them herself.   Asking for an apology is one example.  Kids push and hit each other quite often at this age—most times by accident, sometimes on purpose.  A teacher or parent won’t always be there to prompt an apology, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.  When you ask for an apology, what you are really asking is that the person acknowledges the hurt caused by their actions intentionally or otherwise.  Realizing this at such a young age will certainly have a long-term effect on how Journey treats other and allows others to treat her.

Journey has since moved on to play other games on the playground.  I’m sure this won’t be our last encounter with a “bully”, but as long as she has the confidence to fight through it like brave girls do, I know she’ll be fine.