Bullying in perspective

When my eldest started kindergarten, he was bullied by a trio of 3rd graders playing a game where they encouraged him to chase them, cried when he tagged them and got him punished by the teacher’s aide. Only after observing the behavior directly did my husband catch on and confront the girls while I let the school know what the game was. We also talked with Benjamin about saying no when the girls ask him to play tag. The next day, the game was over and my son went from miserable to elated.

Helicopter parenting or effective intervention? Since he was only 5 and the issue was with 8 year olds, I think we did the right thing. But the specter of bullying shadows every school and camp. In California, we have a zero tolerance policy designed to ensure that every child feels safe at school. But here’s the thing – bullying happens in the world. There are people who are nasty sometimes and our kids need to learn how to deal with both being the recipient of that nastiness and with dealing with their own impulses to be nasty. Is zero tolerance helping them learn how?

I’m not suggesting that we let our kids get pummeled on the playground or that teasing a child to the point where they are depressed, suicidal or generally miserable is at all acceptable. We need to learn how to teach our kids to deal and to recognize and intervene when they are in serious trouble.

I saw an article today in The Costco Connection (long wait to return contact lens solution) about bullying and there were five tips for kids who are bullied that I think are good. Thanks to Izzy Kalman of Bullies2Buddies.

  • Be nice to kids when they are mean to you and before long they will stop being mean.
  • Don’t tell on kids who upset you. They will hate you and want to beat you up. Talk to them directly and they will respect you much more. Tell an adult only if there is an emergency situation or because you want the adult to teach you how to handle the problem.
  • Don’t get angry when kids insult you. They love to see you getting angry. Make it clear that they can insult you all they want and it doesn’t bother you. After a few days, they will stop. (This is very hard for adults to do…great to learn as a child).
  • If kids bring you nasty rumors, don’t defend yourself. Just ask the kids “Do you believe it?” If they say they do, answer, “You can believe it if you want”. (Of course, often no one asks you about the rumor, they just snicker and snipe in the background – it can be very lonely to be the subject of the rumor mill).
  • If kids hit you and you’re not hurt, act like nothing happened. This way you look tough and cool because you don’t get upset over nonsense. (I agree with this part). If they keep hitting or pushing you, ask them calmly, “Are you mad at me?” If they aren’t, they’ll stop hitting you. If they are angry, they’ll tell you why. You can discuss the matter, apologize if appropriate and they will also stop hitting you. (Personally, if they keep hitting you, it’s time to get help – they’re out of control).

What tips do you have for your children to deal with bullying?