Is your child being bullied or bullying?

I wanted to end August edition of articles by dealing with this topic that many parents face whether they want to face it or not. Last Thursday, while dining at Stockdale’s Fine Dining, one of the owners Lynn, my girlfriend Ellen Nash and I had occasion to discuss challenges children in our charge either were experiencing or had experienced in the past on this issue of being bullied or having a child who actually did the bullying. One of the most common consensus that came about our conversation was the fact that each of us intervened on behalf of our children or those in our charge so that each child could enjoy school without the fear of being bullied or other children being bullied by our charge.

There are so many stories that come to mind for me as I’ve dealt with the life of my niece. Starting in the 4th grade my niece was blessed to have an aunt and a set of grandparents who went out of their way to ensure that her lunches were always inviting and interesting, especially since school lunches are not as tasty as they were when we were young. There was this one really big girl who would daily sit next to my niece and make her feel uncomfortable as she ate her lunch, forcing my niece to offer her some of her lunch in order to get the girl to leave her alone. Upon my niece sharing that story with me I approached the young girl and the conversation went something like this:

“Hey Alicia, Briana tells me you seem to like what she brings to school for lunch.” The child was hesitate, even a little worried. It was amazing to see her disposition change after I continued. “Well Alicia I’ll make a deal with you. If you leave Briana alone in peace during lunch time I promise to send you a surprise every Friday, deal?” The young girl grinned from ear to ear and stated, “agreed.” Every Friday that little girl waited with baited breath to see what her surprise was. Like clockwork we sent special things for her every Friday. Briana and Alicia became better acquaintances.  I’d even take a stab and say they became friendly. Someone right now is having a problem with this and is saying something like: “I would have just told that child to leave my child alone and would have told the principal and even the parent to make the child stop.” Sure that’s one way to handle it.
 Question, how does that create peace in the atmosphere? Right, it doesn’t. Here is the lesson I’ve learned in dealing with individuals who’ve tried to make my nieces life difficult, simply downright unhappy at school.
1.       When I address the child without accusation and without condemnation the child is extremely receptive.

2.       By addressing the child in a kind compromising way there wasn’t any further tension between my niece, her, or her posse.
3.       I let the child know that I wasn’t angry with her and that I wanted to find a way to make her happy too. You see her family didn’t have the means to send special lunches. This child was simply acting out because she wanted to experience the same type of treat my niece did. Don’t get me wrong I am not condoning the behavior I am thankful that I was astute enough to see a hurt within this child that I could actually meet and assist her in feeling just a little bit better about her life.

4.       I showed by example to my niece how to handle adversity without turning the situation into an all-out war.

5.       The young girl learned that she didn’t have to be mean and intimidating. She learned that she could be nice, granted not always would she get her way, but there would be better outcomes if she was nice and simply asked politely. This was true with their relationship the last two years of my niece’s life in elementary school. By the way I helped with homework after school and Alicia would be right there thriving and enjoying the help she received.

6.       Other kids witnessed the way it was handled and prayerfully learned from the experience.

Now someone is saying well that was elementary school what about when the children get older? Well I have another experience in high school. This same niece had some girls that she was inseparable with early on. They frequented our home, went places with us, and even one girl when her mother died I attended the funeral. Something, til this day I still don’t know what happened, they couldn’t tolerate the sight of each other. No one was speaking to each other and other friends were being berated for being friends with who was now the enemy. At first I didn’t say anything I just observed. When they saw me they spoke but not to my niece and neither did she speak. I heard harsh conversations on the phone and decided that that was it I didn’t like the tenor. I told my niece, you got it to her
horror that I was going to pull them all together. I did and the conversation went something like this: “Hey ladies I believe everyone has told me that you are Christian’s right?” They all replied right. “Okay so would Jesus be happy with how you all are treating each other?” No one said anything. I continued “Okay let’s agree that He wouldn’t. I am not suggesting that you all will ever be good friends again, but are you all going to stand here and tell me you can’t at least cordially say hi to each other and keep it moving?” They all agreed that they could be civil and would stop the mean mugging. This didn’t resolve their friendship instantaneously, but it stop the obvious hostility and they began dealing with each other cordially. Two years later my niece ran for ASB president. She invited her campaign team over to make posters
and other give a ways. Who do you suppose was a part of this campaign? You got it those very girls. They never became like the beginning but they did return back to liking and caring for each other. By the way they all campaigned vigorously for her and she won!
So you see it’s not the age of the youth it’s how we choose to deal with them. The other women I spoke with had similar stories. The one constant, and neither one of us had shared our stories before, was the fact that all of us handled our children’s situation in the same kind and considerate manner. The other women spoke with the parents. They too, didn’t come to the children who were bullying their children parents with an attitude, accusing, or angry. They shared the issue and their concern and asked their help to make school safe and comfortable for all. One child who bullied one of the ladies children came to school the next day with an apology letter as well as one of her cohorts, as the mother of the bully challenged her friend’s behavior. The other mother’s child was bully and she became close to the children’s parents who was being bullied by her son and teamed to together to create a harmonious environment.
I believe if more parents listened to their children and got more constructively involved with their children school life we would not have so many shootings or suicides. I encourage parents to stop telling or believing that this trauma is just a part of growing up. It’s not natural. Kids can be and usually are cruel. Our children are not equipped to deal with it but we should be. So do your children a favor as they head back to school:
·         Be there for them in every way. Visit the school, the teachers, be a part of their homework and ask them with interest how their day went. If you’re not really interested in their education, neither will they be.

·         Set standards and expectations for your children in the home and away from the home and stick to them.

·         Get to know their friends. Try allowing your home to be a safe place for them to come over. Also get to know your child’s friends parents.

·         Ensure them that whatever the issue you are there for them.

·         Ensure your behavior is representative as to how to handle adversity. If you hit, they will hit. If you cuss they will cuss. If you talk about people behind their back, they will talk about people behind their back. If you’re a hater, then they will be haters.

·         Be observant. Your children will not tell you everything.
So as our children return to school let’s ensure that we are a part of their positive learning experience.

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