SHE SAID WHAT?!
Posted By Gaby
As a parent, I worry about the possibility that my children may be bullied, probably more than I do about them being the bullies. With technology making it easier for people to bully, I think about how I would approach my child if she were being teased or humiliated. It’s tough to think about the what ifs, especially when you understand that when (if) the time comes, you might do things differently, but still. Here I am. Thinking about the what ifs.
See, I come from this as a bullied child. In the grand scheme of childhood, I will say that the bullying I received wasn’t horrid, but it was tough for me, and it happened for several years in different settings and with different bullies—one of which was an adult. But all those experiences taught me something about being bullied and the desperation you feel as a child when you’re going through something like that. And those experiences have also determined what I believe I’ll do if one of my children is bullied.
One of the most memorable bullying experiences for me was in sixth grade. There was a girl who, I guess you could say, was my friend. Being an easy target—I was about 60 pounds, wore glasses, braces, and constantly set the curve—she told me I was cute, gave me a hug and before I knew it, she had swung me around and dropped me on the floor. The truth is, I don’t think she thought she was bullying me, but the spinning and tossing continued, even after I told her to stop. The worst one yet was when I was walking to Catechism with her and my “best friend.” I can’t remember the specifics, but what I remember was the spinning and dropping, over and over, while my best friend laughed, while an adult watched, and while I cried and cried for it to stop. I remember the feeling of the grass burning my legs as I kept being dropped. I doubt she thinks of it in the same way, but it impacted me. It’s one of those things I remember and hate that I went through.
For many, it might not seem like a big thing, and the truth is, it may have made me stronger in the end. But what if I had said something to my parents? Maybe they would have done something about it. But without the means to have me switch schools, what would have happened? My worry was that it’d be worse and that my friend would now have a reason to hate me. And, it was a weird relationship because she was my friend. She invited me to her birthday parties and came to mine. If I told on her, would I still have friends? Would my other friends, who weren’t that loyal, want to stay friends once I became a snitch? I don’t know, but I know that many times, I prayed for my parents to win the lottery or make more money so they could finally send me to private school an hour away from our town.
I can guarantee you that if my children told me that they were being bullied, I wouldn’t think twice about having them switch schools. Sure, it goes against the idea of letting your child experience difficult situations, but if your child is coming to you, it probably means that they’ve had enough. And something that might seem miniscule to us as adults, with worries about mortgages and work, might be a big issue for our kids. So yes, I would move my child to a different school if it meant that she or he would have a better childhood experience.
Often, I hear that when we do things like this for our children, we’re teaching them that it’s okay to run away from their problems. I definitely don’t want to teach my child that and would consider the situation before acting. How long has this been going on? Did my child try to address it on her/his own? Did he or she go to a teacher? What were the outcomes? Our children are fortunate that most schools now have a zero tolerance for bullying, which could help the situation, but what if my child’s school doesn’t? That’s when I say children need to be moved from schools.
So what if they’re bullied at the next school? Or they don’t want to move? I think as a parent, this is the time to make the decision that’s going to be best for your child. Children can be mean to others and as adults we have the responsibility to look out for them. I wouldn’t be okay knowing I was sending my child to a school where he or she is being picked on every day, whether it be because they’re setting the curve or just different. We tell people who are abused every day to get out of those relationships. Why would we do any different for our kids?
SHE SAID WHAT?!
Posted By Wendy
If my child were ever being bullied, I’ll tell you right now that I’d have a hard time not interfering. When Lucas was having a tough time transitioning to the pre-school from the toddler room, it was all I could do to leave him every morning and head back to work. He stood there, alone in the middle of a large playground filled with rambunctious older kids, and he was completely aimless. He wandered around and cried and my God if I didn’t sit there and sob at my desk for the first 30 minutes of my day for a week. I felt so bad for the kid. I wanted to help.
But then, after a couple weeks and a few tweaks to our schedule and routine, something magical happened. Lucas had gleefully adjusted. He took off like gangbusters in the playground, running after his best friend Liam and barely glancing behind him to say goodbye.
I know this situation is different from being bullied, but the principles are nearly the same. I, too, had been bullied as a child. My cousin (who I love like a sister) will be the first to admit she pushed me around—both physically and mentally. I was teased and ostracized all through middle school for the way that I dressed and the stupid, awkward things that I said. The friends that I thought I had abandoned me and I spent a good majority of my early teenage years in a constant state of anxiety.
But you know what? Those childhood experiences, while shitty, toughened me up for obstacles later down the line. I was able to listen to a dance teacher tell me my ass was fat and not descend into a downward spiral of eating disorders. I could go to auditions and job interviews and handle rejection. And now, if a boss or coworker criticizes (constructively or otherwise) my work, I have no problem taking it all in stride.
If my child is being bullied at school, I know I will want to sweep in and help. I will listen to him. I will encourage him to take action in order to stand up for himself. I will do my best to give him the confidence and knowledge that those very same kids who tease him now will wish they were more like him later in life. But unless his situation became extreme (digital harassment, stalker-bullying, repeated violence, etc.), I wouldn’t intervene. And I definitely wouldn’t have him switch schools. What happens if he’s bullied or teased in the next school? Do we play musical chairs until he’s home schooled? I’m not sure that’s the healthiest approach.
In the long run what might be painful for your child is also a life lesson. You never want your child to be in a situation where he is depressed and hopeless. But if it’s something he can stomach, then in the end, I think it actually helps him to become a better person.