Sunday, January 22, 2012

The mean girls and boys

There are always mean kids and they say and do things that no parent can imagine ever being ok with, but what happens when you're kid is the mean kid?

A little over a year ago we were the parents of the mean kid and it was horrifying.  As someone who is trying to raise compassionate, empathetic kids that can stick up for themselves you don't really think you're kid is going to end up the bully.

Like most things bullying seems to travel downhill, and as long as you are not on the bottom of the pile think little about if what you are doing is bullying or not.  Chicken was being bullied by older boys who thought nothing of abusing the little boy who would do anything to be considered part of them and in turn he was bullying other children. As much as I wanted to profusely apologize to the bullied child and ream the behind of the bullies I knew that Chicken was going to have to deal with this and clean it up on his own, because in the end he will still see and deal with those kids day in and day out.  I am not saying I did nothing, we talked with his daycare facility and discussed how to help keep Chicken away from the older boys.  We spent a lot of time talking about what bullying behavior is and how what he was doing and what was happening to him was bullying. I still wonder when another incident will occur and if we will find out about it, but I hope he has more skills to deal with it better this time. I have no illusions that both kids will be mean off and on, it is part of childhood, learning what hurts and what doesn't, learning how to hurt and how to be a good person.  The discussions of these topics are always around in our house and I hope this allows the kids the openness to talk to us when these things come up.

Boys are rough and tumble, but their confidence and hearts can still be hurt.  They can talk smack to each other and it is no big deal, but where is the line between good fun and hurt, and how do you teach them not to go over that line. Part of the process for us has been teaching Chicken to look at how a person is reacting to his words, do they look hurt, what is their face telling you that their mouth isn't.  Slowly the skill of being competitive and having a strong personality and not being a total butt head is sinking in.  The big trick with Chicken is teaching him to tell someone they are being mean, or he is angry and not just saying the first thing on his mind, but isn't that the lesson all of us need to remember on a daily basis.  Learning to use your words positively, reading others to see how they react and slowing down enough to notice and do those things will take time, but my hope is that he will be a better kid and adult for it all.

Girls can be just as mean and catty, and teaching Bean to stand up to someone taking advantage of her or being mean has been another lesson formed over time. Last year someone Bean thought was a friend got hurt and somehow Bean became her personal slave at school.  Along with slave duties this girl gossiped a lot about other girls and encouraged Bean to play along with this. Thankfully, Bean could care less about the gossip and didn't pass anything on that we know of, but it led to some great discussions about what is and isn't bullying.  Eventually Bean told this girl to stop bossing her and what she was saying about the other girls was mean and she shouldn't talk like that, but it took a lot of encouraging to get her to do that. Bean's chief fear in standing up to this girl was that she wouldn't be her friend anymore or that she would gossip about her to the other girls.  We talked a lot about what a friend is and if someone treating you like a slave is really a friend and someone you want to be friends with. The other thing we talked about was that if this girl was talking bad about other girls and those girls knew it, would they believe her if she talked bad about Bean.  Though these things we talked about with Bean are not the overt aspects of bulling that Chicken was involved it, it is still bullying.  Somehow the importance of what a good friend is and how to be a good friend is something that will translate into her having solid supportive friendships all her life and not put up with the bulling of others.

Has your kid had a bully situation? Were they the bully or the bullied? How did you deal with it?

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