Friday, May 3, 2013

Bullying and the Sweetie Peace Conference

On a busy Thursday afternoon, my husband got a phone call from our 14 year old who called to say he had been in a fight. After making sure he was all right, we listened as he told his side of the story.

He had been hit from behind and quickly turned around with his fists up to defend himself. Luckily, nothing else happened. A teacher saw the whole thing and took them both to the office to meet with the principal. My son was allowed to go back to class and the other child was given a three-day suspension.  

When I figured out the other boy was my friend’s son, I immediately wanted to call and talk about it but we were on our way out of town. I decided to go with my "10 rule" (see that post here) before making the call.  I wasn't really mad because it turns out my son had been teasing this kid for quite a while. A few years to be exact...and I had no idea.

How is it that a good parent, like me, doesn't know her son is being a "bully" at school? He knows better. We talk about making good choices, we preach the Golden Rule, we pray for kindness and yet it still happened. I hate the label of "bully" because it makes him sound like he is one of "those" kids. My boy is good-hearted. If he had teased this boy only one time, I would have shrugged it off. But he had been doing it for a few years. That is bullying.

I realize at the middle school, hormones are out of control and fighting happens. The fear of being unpopular is a serious threat and putting others down by teasing and making rude comments has been happening since preteens were created. And I don’t condone it.

But today I want to give props to the kid who finally did something about it. I'm sorry it took you so long to let it be known you were sick of his teasing. I'm sorry you let someone treat you badly for so long without saying something. I'm especially embarrassed it was a fellow Aaronic Priesthood holder from a church that preaches how we should be more like Christ. Neither kid’s actions were Christlike but kudos for your courage in standing up to your bully and letting him know you are done.

I called my friend when we got home from our trip and together we schemed to get the two boys to talk to each other at the local frozen yogurt place called Sweetie Peaz. I told my son that morning I was taking him there to meet with the boy and his mom. He was less than happy. He dubbed it the Sweetie Peace Conference.  (See, he is a cute kid!!)

We arrived, got our yogurt and found chairs to sit on outside to keep the conversation a little more private. We gave each boy a chance to tell their side of the story before chiming in with our own take on the event. The phrases,"you shouldn't have hit him" and "you shouldn't have been bullying him" were repeated and a conversation about bullying ensued. They said they were sorry and we each went our separate ways.

My family made fun of me for going to the effort of meeting with the other kid but I'm glad I did it. Will it end his bullying? Maybe...maybe not, but I hope so. Will I know if he is bullying other kids?  Probably not. Will I continue being vigilant in reminding my children of the importance in being respectful towards others? Absolutely. But I can only do so much.

We live in a society of victims. This is where we all can do our part to end bullying. Teach your children to stand up for themselves. I'm not talking about fighting. I'm talking about defending themselves and knowing you have their back. When they tell you so-and-so is calling them names, ask them if they really think that’s who they are. For example, my four year old often comes to me telling me her 3 year old brother said she was a poo-poo head. I say to her, "Well, are you a poo-poo head?"  Her response is always “no” and I confirm to her that she is right. She is a smart and beautiful girl who shouldn't let her little brother say naughty things about her. I tell her to go back and let him know she is not a poo-poo head and to stop calling names. Usually that is the end of the discussion.  

With my older kids, I have always let them know I stand behind them if they have to defend themselves. I tell them, “If someone is calling you names, tell them to stop and tell them they are wrong.  Have courage and confidence.”  Okay, maybe not in those words exactly but you get the gist. I want to relate a story to you that illustrates my point.  

When my brother was in junior high school, he was having problems at the bus stop with a kid who wanted to fight him.  My dad told him he wasn’t allowed to throw the first punch but he was allowed to defend himself.  If the boy punched him, he was to tell him to stop. If he punched him again, he could fight back. Sure enough, the boy punched my brother and my brother told him to knock it off. The boy punched him again and my brother hit him hard enough to end the fight. The bus arrived, they were driven to school and both taken directly to the principal's office by the bus driver. (I believe school bus stops are technically school property). Each parent was called and when the truth came out that my brother had in fact hit him back after being hit first, my dad told the principal that those were the instructions he had given his son.  

The issue of bullying is out of control because kids know if someone looks at them wrong, they can run to mommy or daddy and be rescued. We want our kids to run to us so we can soothe them and teach them skills to deal with their problems, not to fix it for them. What will your child do if he is bullied in the workplace as an adult? I have had two adult children bullied at work and I’m so glad they had the confidence and skills to take care of themselves. They could have easily quit and given up.

We need to love and nurture our children without making them incapable of solving their own problems. We can’t put all the focus on how to fix the bully issue without addressing a larger issue of a growing generation of kids who lack the confidence and skills to stand up for themselves when things get hard.  Encourage your kids to talk to you, acknowledge their struggle, teach them coping skills and give them the confidence to stand up for themselves. It might take time and it will certainly take patience on your part.  Your heart may even break at times but that is what will end the bully problem.  

Post Edit:  I want to make it clear that I do realize there may be circumstances beyond your child's control due to severe and excessive bullying, disabilities, etc.  I do not want anyone to think that I am against going to the teacher/administration/parent of someone who is a bully. I do think there are appropriate steps to take before that happens and that is what I'm talking about here. At that point, I totally support you going "Mama or Papa Bear" in defense of your child. That's your job.

3 comments:

  1. Nicely put! "How is it that a good parent, like me,...." That's funny:)

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  2. Are you arguing about my parenting abilities? (5)

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  3. So comforting to read this!!! My kids have a cousin (the oldest of the cousins) who is a HUGE bully. She is constantly telling my girls that she is so much smarter and better at everything, and that they will never be as good as her. She is about three years older, so it is so easy for my girls to believe what she tells them and come crying to me brokenhearted. I have always approached their tears with questions like "What is the truth about you?". I always finish with "she isn't the queen bee, and she doesn't get to decide what you are capable of". The bullying with this one cousin has gotten so bad though, that I have considered not allowing them to play without an adult who is willing to stop it present (the bully's mother, my sister, doesn't do anything to stop it). After reading this, I think I will just keep reinforcing that they are smart wonderful children, and to tell their cousin when she hurts their feelings. Thank you for validating the way I deal with their being bullied. My other sister thinks I should go ballistic on my niece every time she makes my kids cry, but I think that makes me no better than a bully myself...

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