Saturday, January 7, 2012

From Bullies to Friends

I was arguing with the members of my secret group on Facebook. The topic, bullying. As usual, my comments garnered responses to the effect of "you don't live in the real world." I had merely said bullying is not a natural part of childhood. It is a symptom of our societal ills. I'm not raising my child to bully people. I'm raising her to stick up for the kids being picked on. It takes more strength to not fight than it does to fight sometimes.

I was accused of raising my child in a padded cell. Wrong. Teaching our children to care about others is not the same as raising them in a padded cell. If anything, it takes a stronger-willed individual to stand up against injustice when it goes against social norms, especially when that means using non-violent resistance and not engaging in physical or verbal fighting.

One recent "real world" example I'm quite proud of is when Katie was having problems with a kid at her school. Every day he'd tease her about something, her hair, her clothes, whatever. Each day when she'd tell me about it, we'd discuss it. I'd ask her why she thinks he does that, what she can do to convince him to stop it, etc. One day he made fun of her shirt, saying she was wearing a pajama top. She might have actually been wearing a pajama top for all I know: most of Katie's clothes are hand-me-downs from my husband's cousin's kids, and when they send them to us they don't label each one with its proper use. So, she very well could have been wearing a pj top. Who cares?

But Katie wanted him to quit teasing her about it. After we talked about various incidents like this, we decided that Katie should simply say something like, "I like my shirt. You don't have to like my shirt, but I do" and then ignore him. It worked. Soon N stopped teasing Katie because he saw that it didn't bug her anymore.

A few weeks went by and it was time for their school's anti-drug awareness week, which for some reason meant the kids got to wear their pajamas one day. Katie came home and said, "Guess what, Mama?! I went up to N today and said, 'I realy am wearing my pajamas today!' and he laughed. We're friends now."

I don't know about you, but I think learning how to laugh about our disagreements and making friends with our bullies is one of the best lessons a person can learn to get along well in the real world.

It's not always me teaching Katie lessons in caring, though. Sometimes she teaches me.

Yesterday when we were leaving the park playground Katie saw a girl lying down on the ground. She stopped and asked, "Is she ok?"

Will and I both shrugged it off. Surely she was just playing and we were trying to leave, hungry and ready for dinner. Katie let go of our hands and started walking toward the girl. The girl got up and was laughing and playing before Katie got to her, so Katie turned back toward us. Will said, "See, Punkin, she was ok. She was just playing dead with her friend."

Katie looked at us with utter disappointment, as if she couldn't believe she had to remind us once again, yelling, "BUT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT PEOPLE!!!"

Schooled again by the kindergartner.