I belong to an online parenting group, and the other day one of the mothers posted a question: what does it take to make bullies go away? Evidently, after initially discounting her son’s complaints, she investigated them, and she now believes her son is being bullied. He’s in kindergarten. Then, another not-so-helpful commenter came along and wrote, “between the ages of K thru 2nd grade, what use to be considered kids just maturing is now being labeled as Bullying.”
I suppose the first thing we should do is take a look-see and compare the definition of bullying to the definition of immaturity. From Reference.com:
bul·ly noun a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
im·ma·ture adjective not mature, ripe, developed, perfected, etc.; 2.emotionally undeveloped; juvenile; childish.
“Bullying” means the same thing today as it did twenty years ago, so I think that pretty well clears up any gray area. And I don’t think I need to find a source to argue that bullying is a major issue in this country (but I will if you insist). And really, considering the magnitude of the crisis, wouldn’t it be prudent to err on the side of caution if you sense something is amiss with your child? Because here’s the thing. What could possibly be more painful to a child than for him to summon the courage to approach his parent or other trusted adult and admit to being bullied, only to be dismisssed – because it’s “just kids being kids”? That child is up the proverbial creek.
I was bullied in junior high by a group of pretty, peppy popular girls. One girl insulted my outfit (which was admittedly rather unsightly), and I stood up to her. The rest of them flocked to her aid and mocked me until I backed down. I was a strong kid, and I knew I could defend myself if it came to it, but it never did. Instead, I endured a month’s worth of taunts in decreasing levels of intensity until they finally lost interest and it ended. Except that it doesn’t end, and what remains can carve out a piece of you. That’s how the bullies win. They have power over us – real or imagined – and unless we break the cycle we believe we have nowhere to run. It doesn’t matter if the bully is five or seventeen or fifty.
There was a bona-fide bully in my own son’s kindergarten class. Hair pulling, punching, name calling, lunch stealing, humiliating (it’s a rudimentary understanding, but it appears kindergarteners do have a handle on humiliation). He zeroed in on a handful of kids and made their lives very difficult until the teacher got a clue.
Kindergarten bullies. It shocked and saddened me to learn it, but they exist. I’ve seen it. There may be less of them in kinder than in high school, but they can still wreak havoc.
Now, will there be times when we, as parents, overreact (like I may or may not have done in this post)? Yes. But I’d much rather investigate a complaint and learn there’s truly no concern, than disregard a brave and desperate plea for help and have my child suffer the fallout.
All that said, this discussion got me thinking about bullies. Specifically, how they came to be bullies. But that’s for next week’s post.
Thanks for reading.