Friday August 22nd 2014

Bullies are Everywhere- Kids Can be Cruel even on the Playground

I know as my boys get older, I will smell more sweat, dirty tennis shoes, deodorant and air freshener than I am ready for, but I know it is coming. I know our house will begin to be taken over by sports equipment. It has already begun with the handful of soccer balls, cleats, soccer goals, and a few basketballs, tennis rackets and balls and other outdoor games.

I am expecting this. I am prepared for my family to move into this phase. I have been preparing for all this boyhood since the day I found out I would have all boys in my house.

I am used to sibling rivalry and fighting. I have 5 siblings and we had those occasional fights.

I have seen this rivalry between my 3 boys. But there is usually an adult nearby to referee the confrontation. Either me or my husband or, during family gatherings, an aunt, uncle or grandparent is nearby to give advice, stop the fighting and move things along.

What I did not expect was to come face to face with my boys being bullied in preschool, Kindergarten and now First Grade.

I was unprepared and I think most parents are. Bullies are not a new phenomenon, but it seems today more children are being harassed to the point of disaster.

Do you remember the high school student who killed herself after being teased online by a mom pretending to be a high school kid? Well recently two 5th graders have taken their own lives because of the torment they felt from other students bullying them.

It makes me sick to my stomach to think these deaths and all of the torment of so many other children continues.

My oldest son is in 1st Grade and the bullying began last year. In Kindergarten he had a boy in his class that is wild, physical and does not listen to directions well. There was never any major problems with this boy last year, but I knew he was some what of a bully.

This year my son was involved in an after school 6 week Karate class. He had been asking to do Karate for over a year so I expected him to be excited about the class. Yet, after the second class, he said he did not want to go back to the karate class again. He would not give a reason and just said it was because he did not want to. After an hour or two of trying to understand the reason, my questions and his answers finally revealed what was going on. The boy from his Kindergarten class was in his Karate class and sat right next to him. This boy was kicking him in the behind many times each week and teasing him. He was embarrassed and it actually hurt. The thing is, my son is tough. He plays sports and when he gets hurt he acts like it did not hurt, so for him to admit he was begin hurt by this boy was a big thing.

We discussed how to handle this boy in the future, to use his words and strongly tell the boy to STOP and to leave him alone. If that did not work, he should let the instructor know.

I contacted the coordinators to let them know and they moved my son away from the boy and the instructor was made aware of the problem, so he could keep an eye out for future problems. My son enjoyed the rest of the karate class, free from embarrassment or pain. But if I had not pushed the issue, and found out the reason why he did not want to go, if I had not worked with my son or told the adults, the problem may have continued.

Recently, a boy in my son’s class called my son “Gay and Cursed”. They are 6 years old. The boy who used these words is the type of boy who believes he is better than everyone else. He is cocky, too confident, runs his mouth and is obnoxious.

My son is around this boy in school and on his sports teams. And no matter what hurtful things he says to my son – he still wants to be his friend. He wants his approval.

When my son told me what he was called, he then asked what it meant. My poor son did not know these words and it took an hour to discuss the meaning and discuss what had happened.

I, once again, discussed how to handle this sort of situation with my son, and I made him practice telling me statements he might say to this boy. Words that let the boy know he does not want him to call him names, and needs to stop (different words, but basic idea).

My heart was broken. Our conversation went from explaining the meanings and discussing the other boy’s behavior, to my son saying maybe I am Gay and then a moment later saying, ‘what does gay mean again?’. A 1st grader wants to fit in, he wants to have friends, usually of the same sex. So the term gay is probably very confusing to a little boy.

The boy who said this continues to be a bully. He has never said those words again, but he continues to demean kids in school and in the sports arena.

As a parent, we have to be aware of the bullies – no matter what they look like. We need to find out what is bothering our children and we need to be sympathetic to their problems and concerns. We need to empower them with words and right actions. And we need to tell them what steps to take if further steps are needed.

We need them to know we will protect them if that is what is needed. As a parent, I am asking you not to dismiss your child’s concerns about how someone is treating them. Or if your child is disgruntled, you need to get to the bottom of it. Do not wait until it causes lasting problems.

Find ways to build your child’s confidence, find things they are good at and make sure they know how strong they are. Make sure they know that no one should treat them with anything less than respect.

I know we live in an often cruel world, but I hope as parents we reach for the good in life and we help our kids navigate the challenges of childhood so that they can enjoy life and feel good about themselves. I know there will always be unkind words, but we need to know when something goes beyond one mean comment to harassing our kids.

I would also say to parents that have children that seem a bit too confident, cocky and bold – be aware of your child’s behavior with other kids. If it seems inappropriate and you think they will grow out of it – think again.

Do not ignore the signs of a bully – do something to stop your child from being the bully.
Any child can be a bully, not just the taller, bigger boy.

Read this article about Childhood Bullying and Parent Involvement-click here.

Cyber Bullying – read this article by Dr. Peter Raffalli

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