Over the past few weeks, our oldest daughter, who is quite normally a happily yet distracted little girl, suddenly changed.
Distant, prone to outbursts, inexplicably rude, snapping at all of us, quick to tears, frustrated, very hard on herself.
Flags went up.
So I started to reach out to her. I asked if there was anything bothering her. I told her to let me know. Mommy would listen. So would Daddy if she preferred talking with him.
She continued to insist nothing was wrong.
Her outbursts continued. She became even more introverted. Dragged her feet as she got ready for school in the morning.
Then we got an email from her teacher.
Our daughter was doing the same thing at school. Frustrated easily, crying, pouting, only doing work when prodded to do so.
SOMETHING was going on at school.
Finally, after a particularly difficult afternoon, I had to discipline her for intentionally throwing something across the living room. As we talked afterward, she broke down.
Tears streaming down her face, she finally shared with me what had her so frustrated and down.
As I suspected, my daughter was being bullied. Not by one but by two boys on her bus on the way home from school.
She shared with me that they were teasing her about something which happened last year. Calling her names like “baby” and telling anyone who would listen on the bus about her mishaps from the previous year.
I gathered her in my arms and rubbed her back as she wept and poured out her frustrations. My oldest daughter turns seven this year.
We had a long talk about the best way to handle bullies.
It’s helped that for a couple of years already, we have encouraged the girls to develop a strong sense of self. We’ve both worked hard to instill in them that the only opinion of self that matters is their own. That they are amazing girls and can be anything if they put their mind to it. We have already worked to share with them that God will love them no matter what. That WE will love them no matter what.
We strive to impress upon them the right way to go about dealing with negative people in their lives.
I quietly shared with my daughter a story of epic embarrassing proportions from my own elementary school. She looked at me with understanding eyes and said, “I bet that was very embarrassing.” It was epically embarrassing.
Then we talked about what she could do the next time these boys teased her.
I suggested that she just look at them and say, “I forgive you and I know God does too.” Or she could simply turn away and ignore their words as she prayed for God to change their hearts. I suggested that maybe this was happening because God wanted to use her to create a change in the lives of these boys.
We also discussed what to do if it kept on happening. How she needed to approach the bus driver and let her know what these boys were doing. She shared with me that she had and so far, nothing the bus driver had done had been successful in keeping the boys from teasing her. I promised her I would make some phone calls on Monday.
We lay there in her bed, snuggled together as we talked about all of this. Then we got up and went about the rest of the afternoon.
As I put her to bed and we said our prayers, I reminded both girls to pray for at least one other person beside themselves.
My oldest daughter prayed this:
“Dear Jesus, Please change the heart of the boy being mean to me. I know you can.”
My daughter is already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I was her age.
I think she’s gonna be just fine.
On Monday, I called the Director of Transportation to talk with him about the incidents on the bus with my daughter. He went to the school, to her bus, talked with the boys before they even got on, and informed them that if they didn’t stop their negative behavior, they would be riding with their parents because public school transportation would no longer be an option. My daughter had a great bus ride home and felt safe for the first time in weeks.
Nobody deserves to be bullied. Nobody.
Sure, some may argue that bullying builds character. I was bullied in elementary school. All it did for me was deflate my self-esteem. Later in life, it has become a mark I use to measure my progress against. It shouldn’t be that way. Bottom line, it is my responsibility to raise children who won’t bully. It’s our responsibility to protect our children from harm, whether it be psychological or physical. Yes, there are learning experiences that must be had but I do not feel that bullying is one of those experiences.
I am grateful to live in a school district which clearly takes bullying seriously and will not hesitate to protect it’s students from the negative effects of such behavior. My children should not have to be the victim of someone else’s poor parenting. When I send my children to school, I am entrusting their safety and well-being to them. I fully expect them to fulfill that obligation on a daily basis. You should too.
Rest assured that if any of my children were caught bullying, there would be serious consequences. Bullying is not a skill any child should be taught. Children learn by watching, by imitating, etc. It is OUR responsibility to raise them in such a way that they don’t learn how to bully. It is also important we teach them how to positively deal with a bully even if it involves going to an adult and requesting help.
I have no doubt that my daughter has grown from this experience. I am glad it is over (for now) and know we will have many more issues down the road.
She’s already got a very powerful tool on her side though – her faith in God.
For that, I am grateful, amazed, and reassured.