Sunday, September 26, 2010
The "B" word....
I didn't "poo poo" his statement about everyone hating him, I questioned it. I questioned why he felt the way he did. I questioned what happened to bring about the supposed hate he was feeling. I question everything until I got to the heart of the matter, which usually always turns out to be an insecurity that my son is nurturing in the moment.
I also let my children know from the beginning that I am interested in only the truth of the situation. That I am not interested in embellishments or twists in wording. Just the simple truth and the facts so that I can guide them to a solution that will be most effective. When you are engaged in this kind of conversation with your child you can usually pick up on the subtle queues they are giving to indicate they are not being completely honest either in what their role was in the situation or the role of others.
My boys also know that I am not the kind of parent that will run to the first school official or parent to unleash a wrath of anger and assumptions (however tempting that sometimes is). I work to give them the tools they need to deal with the situation themselves (we have yet to have a circumstance where parental intervention is required, they have been quite capable of handling it themselves with support from myself and my husband. If it were to escalate I would certainly step in, of course with documentation of what has transpired in the past).
By taking these steps I am providing my children with the necessary skills to dig deeper into a situation to find a solution without over reacting to it. I am allowing them to become more aware and to learn from their peer group. I am also allowing them to take responsibility for their relationships, something they will definitely need to know how to do in the future.
Not every situation that your child encounters that makes him uncomfortable is a bullying situation.
Bullies have an agenda. It is always in their best interest to manipulate another person, beit another child or a even their own parent.
I don't agree that bullying build character and that children should just "suck it up" and I never inform my boys to do this.
What I have learned over the years is that despite well intentioned educators, the children who are being bullied are largely ignored when they submit a complaint about another child. A reason for this is that the bully is often a repeat offender and the parents are unresponsive to phone calls home and disciplinary action that needs to be taken and so the bully is given more power and is able to continue with his destructive behaviour. This is when I decided to coach my children and to give them a safe place to talk about their feelings and dig deeper into what can be done to alleviate the problem.
For example, my own children have made a decision to no longer associate with a boy in the neighbourhood because this boy decided that one day he would carry a utility knife "for protection from people who are mean to him". They decided to tell this boy that they would no longer be riding their bikes to school with him or spending time with him after school because they felt uncomfortable around him.
This was not the first time my boys had been in an uncomfortable position with this boy, and had on countless occasions witnessed him manipulating, criticizing and demeaning another neighbourhood boy.
This boy went home to his mother and told his mother that my sons were being mean to him and that they were bullying him. We've known this family for years and have known about this boys tendencies for a while now. The mother confronted my sons without my knowledge or permission while they were playing with friends.
This mother is not doing her son any favours. She is actually enabling her son in his sociopathic behaviour.
It's important as parents to recognize our children's tendencies. It is important to learn more about how they interact with other children, pay attention to conversations they have, how they respond to others and how they deal with conflict.