Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Conversations, part 2: Bullying

Margaret has already been bullied. Right in front of me. And it was strange, but for a moment it took me back and I felt helpless and didn't know how to respond. Then I realized that as the adult, I'm supposed to give her tools for those types of situations and I talked to her about it.

It happened at the grocery store. There were a couple of other little girls with their dad and when we went past with our cart, the girls started taunting Margaret and calling her a "little" girl, "Look at her, she's little."

Oh what do you do?

So we went down the next aisle and I asked Margaret if she liked that and she said no and that she wasn't little, she was big. So I told her that the next time that happened to say, "Stop. I don't like that."

And as such is the nature of grocery stores, she got the chance in the next aisle.

And the girls said it again and Margaret tried to tell them that she didn't like it. She was a bit timid, though, and they couldn't hear her. I really couldn't let it go. Maybe that makes my maturity level at the level of these 5 year olds, but a part of me felt that as Margaret's parent, I needed to stand up for her. And I tried giving her tools and that didn't work so I had to say something.

"Girls. Why do you keep saying that? She said she didn't like it, so you stop."

Of course, now the father, who hadn't seen the rest of it, saw me ganging up on his daughters and asked what was going on. So I told him they were saying that my daughter was little and she didn't like it.

"That bothers her?"

Well, yeah. She's 3. And they were doing it in the taunting voice! That hurts a 3 year old. But arguing that with the father seemed pointless and we just went on. And I cowardly readjusted our route through the grocery store to avoid them the rest of the trip.

And oh, what do you do?

I don't know if I handled that well. I remember getting teased as a kid and my parents telling me to just ignore it, but we all know that doesn't really work. And in the moment it feels awful.

Since this incident, I've talked to Margaret about when people are mean to her. She's to say she doesn't like it and to tell them to stop. Because bullying is something you can't foresee, we discuss it about once a month.

How do you deal with bullying? When do you step in? Ignore it or confront it? I hope I'm dealing with this correctly.


  1. We have similar issues here. I think what you are doing is absolutely spot on. Role playing the situation at home might help too, to give her a little more confidence om the spot. Seeing and hearing you backing her up and pointing out that this is not right is SO so important to her experience of this (im pretty sure you realise that!) so many people would sweep this under the carpet and thats where it all begins. Word DO hurt.

  2. This is such a difficult thing to deal with! My 4 year old son just told me today about something that had happened over a week ago, where an older neighbor boy called him "weird". Immediately my blood started boiling...I stayed calm and asked him how that made him feel. He told me it made him sad. I asked him if he said anything back to the older boy, and he said no. I said, "Next time someone says something like that to you, tell them that they aren't being nice and walk away." I also reminded him that we don't want to play with friends who are mean to us. My son chimed in and said, "Yeah, and I think I will tell him Jesus says love everyone!" It was a great conversation! I told him that he can always come and tell me when someone isn't treating him right.

    I think it's important to realize that bullying IS going to happen to our kids. We can't prevent it or stop it to a certain extent. (Even in adulthood!) But we can give our kids the tools they need to communicate and handle it in a healthy way.

    Thanks for your thoughts, they were helpful to me!

  3. I haven't noticed a lot of bullying going on with my kids, yet. One time I remember was when we were at the park. A little boy was throwing wood chips at the slide while Benji was trying to go down it. There were several parents around, but nobody was stopping him. So I went over, gently grabbed his throwing arm, and told him that he needed to stop throwing the wood, because there were kids trying to go down the slide. After I was done telling him to stop, his father (I assume) stepped up and told the boy it was time to leave, and they left. I agree that we can mostly just give our kids the tools to handle bullying. Especially because we won't always be there, or we might not always catch it, or we might not know that something has hurt our child's feelings.

  4. I think you did the right thing. When you spoke up to the girls and their father you modeled how to speak up for herself. I don't think there ever comes a time when this is easy or that it is effective in stopping the bullying all the time. But, it's important from a self esteem perspective to at least speak up and tell the bully they are wrong.

    Sadly, I witnessed a mother bully a 3 yr old (not hers) at the playground the other day. I was so shocked I was speechless.

  5. For some reason this post sort of stuck in my mind. I work with fifth graders and watching them I think the most important skill you can teach is how to choose your battles. In my opinion, it's impossible to stand up and say "that's wrong" every single time a kid makes a rude comment and the kids I think handle things best instinctively know when they should roll their eyes and keep walking and when they should say "Cut it out, that isn't okay." It's hard when your kid is that little to know the difference, but the alternative is the kids at my school who fill out a bully report every time someone sticks out their tongue at them. There is a third path somewhere between ignoring it and confronting it.

  6. My son is bullied by his uncle who is 9. I get very angry when he calls my son a "cry baby". yeah my son is a crybaby sometimes but he shouldn't be tortured about it,


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