To Hit Back or to Tell?...That is the Question
Even with all of the anti-bullying campaigns out there, some parents don't believe that it is a problem. It doesn't have to be physical. It can be something as slick as a look, as distasteful as a disrespectful comment or as bold as taking the one-sided fight to social media. Bullying in any form isn't o.k. and it never will be. It's not right for those I don't know and certainly not right for my children entering school.
My little girl is seven and has been going to school since she was four. A huge concern for me has always been bullying in schools and how to approach it if the time ever came. Growing up in New York City, the approach was always, you don't ever let anyone disrespect you and if you have to lay hands (second. It was never o.k. to hit first) to get your point across, then do it. So my daughter had these instructions to go by. If anyone ever hits you, you hit him back, harder. Ideally, the best solution would be to find a way to verbalize what the issues are and resolve them before they get to a point of bullying.
The time came way sooner than I anticipated, in kindergarten. There was a little girl who was a neighbor and was in my daughter's class. The little girl picked on her by calling her names and hitting her, which the teacher seemed to take care of while in class, but it was still almost a regular occurrence. My daughter is spicy, but not the type to hit back unless she's pushed to the brink and I'm not one to wait for the brink. With complaints almost every day for a week, something had to be done on my end. The teacher had already separated them in class and the girl had disciplinary action taken against her.
I spoke with the little girl's guardian, her grandmother, who looked at me like I had three heads when I said our children were having a problem and it needed to be resolved. A little background on the family. The grandmother was raising the girl because her father was in and out of jail and at the time, in rehab. The girl's mother was also doing time in prison. The grandmother's son lived with them, but was no better than the little girl's parents. Needless to say, while I was angry this little girl was a terror, I felt sad for her and the life she is destined to lead with these people as her guidance. The little girl had no respect for those raising her, but they didn't command any. She would openly disobey them, curse and tell them they had to wait when they would call her inside from an afternoon of playing. And they would. And she had the upper hand, always.
After the polite conversation I had with the girl's grandmother, things didn't change. The grandmother said she didn't know how to handle her and was afraid to punish her because she didn't know what the girl would say about her to social workers and to the courts when they went back and forth. I told the grandmother that it is up to me to protect my daughter from her granddaughter then.
That afternoon, when both girls were off the school bus, I said to my daughter in front of the little girl and her grandmother, "If she hits you one more time, you better hit her back. I don't send you to school for you to be picked on. You go to school to learn. You don't ever hit first, but you defend yourself and myself and daddy will deal with the school." I also let her know right there that she is under no obligation to ever talk to this little girl. It is ok that not everyone like you and everyone doesn't have to be your friend (this is such a hard concept for kids to grasp, especially for my daughter). The grandmother said nothing.
In thelast two years, there have been no main events between the two girls, but I have found out that just about every other child in my development had a run in with this girl in the last couple of years and all of the parents have spoken to the girl's grandmother to no avail. No one is allowed to play with her and she doesn't get invited to birthday parties anymore.
I don't blame this girl, completely. She has gone through a lot and has apparently experienced a lot in her short life. It was her family's duty to restore balance to her life and set boundaries and rules. She is one of those kids I wish I could move into my house for a month to give the attention she deserves and the discipline she needs.
I hope that my daughter doesn't have another run in with bullying, but with the way things are nowadays in schools, I don't know if that wish is realistic. Since parents no longer raise nor guide their own children, I have to make sure my children are an exception to this new ridiculous rule. Bullying is NEVER ok and my children have to understand that and be ready to handle it if the time comes. That includes being comfortable enough with myself and their dad that they will tell us, even when they aren't really sure it's happening. They have to be ok with approaching a teacher or faculty member, because if that's where it's occurring, that's where the stop has to be made. As in my example, reaching out to the parents is not always a viable option and often those parents won't even believe you.
My advice to my daughter is to be confident. Feel great about yourself and carry that with you at all times. You are too great a person for anyone to think it's o.k. to make you feel less than that.