One of the hardest things for me to tackle in parenting, as a self-admitted over protective mother, is bullying. I raise my children to be kind and open people. I teach them their letters and how to tie their shoes. Then, I send them off to this wonderful place called school where they will be nurtured, taught amazing things, and blossom into a great person with a bright future. But of course we know that it isn’t all sunshine and roses. No matter how inclusive and proactive at tackling bullying your school is, I’m sorry to say that your child will encounter it in some form along the way. Even that good-natured teasing among friends can carry a sting. Some of the stories my children have come home with have been enough to break my heart (and get me marching straight to the principal’s office). But children are children (I know even mine are not always innocent in these encounters) and learning to navigate rough social waters is equally as important as learning to read.
As I collect my children off the school bus and wrap them in my love and support – hoping it fills their tanks enough to face it all again tomorrow – there are a few things I want them to know about bullying.
1. It gets better. Social approval and the opinion of your peers seems to matter so much right now. I know, I remember. But please know that this will pass. Regardless of the teasing or nicknames or “harmless” jests endured now, you will grow to be a beautiful, successful person. You will find your tribe – there is a place for everyone in this wide world – and the opinions of those kids won’t matter one bit on your college application, job interview, or wedding day.
2. Different is good. Soon. Very, very, soon, your peers (even those jerky little mean kids) will come to realize that cool is being different, unique, and embracing what makes you special. One day it is the different kids that will be getting all the attention. Trust me. If the most beautiful woman on the planet says so, it must be true.
3. There is more to a bully’s story. This goes back to one of my most basic parenting tenants: Kids who feel good, do good. Kids who feel bad, do bad. I know it is hard, but try to hold out some compassion for the kid who is always picking on others at recess or the queen bee who puts other people down for not being as popular as she is. These children are hurting, needing, or yearning for something they aren’t getting elsewhere and you happen to make a convenient outlet. It doesn’t make it right, but it helps to remember that it isn’t always about you.
4. If all else fails, know that in the end, the assholes always get theirs. We get back what we put out into this world. Maybe not today, or even this year, but one day, everyone gets what’s coming to them.
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Gwen starts kindergarten in the fall, moving for the first time from her small daycare/preschool (where she’s been since she was 12 weeks old!) to a big, full elementary school with brand new faces. I’ll tell you the truth… I’m terrified! My daughter is beautifully, wonderfully herself. I think she is amazing. But I know there are people out there who might not, and I’m so scared to think that she will ever hear their voices and start to doubt herself. So I am just going to do my best to pour all my love and confidence into her, and hope that it is enough!