My six year old is being bullied in his second week of school? Aw hell no!
Jack brought home a little sticky note from his teacher in his folder last night notifying us he spit at at a peer, and could we please talk to him. It requested that I sign and return the sticky note.
My first response was to get sick to my stomach. I had a brief urge to get drunk and jump off a bridge– but unless it was a very small bridge into a heated lazy river, I wasn’t really in the mood for that. As for getting drunk, being hung over with children scampering around is like my worst nightmare, so that was not an option either.
That left talking to my kid.
Jack did NOT want to talk about it and when I brought it up screamed at me to shut up. This was the final straw. What had I done to bring this monster into my midst who apparently was engaging in primal behavior at school?! I was devastated and also discouraged at Jack’s lack of respect for me.
I admit it. I catastrophized.
Then the social worker in me remembered the signs and symptoms of bullying- changes in behavior, anger, crying, embarrassment, etc. When we finally got him calmed down (and I got myself calmed too), I laid down in bed with him and talked to him.
Because you have to talk to your kid about these things. You can’t run away or jump off anything. School teaches neither compassion nor self defense, so we are responsible for talking to and helping our children solve their problems. We are their Obi Wan Kenobi, their only hope.
It turns out there is a kid who Jack has been complaining about since the first day of school, on almost a daily basis. The kid pushed him in the library and has also said some mean things to him. This kid spit at him in the cafeteria and there was no teacher nearby for Jack to turn to, so he spit back. The kid then told on Jack before Jack could tell on him.
We explained to Jack that this behavior was totally unacceptable from that kid and from him. We explained that using our words and getting an adult to help is the best course of action. We hugged him and reassured him that we were on his side and that we would figure out how to fix these problems together.
This was his first time encountering a really mean kid. Of course he didn’t know what to do. And have you ever been spit at? It has to be one of the most disgusting and shocking forms of aggression, in my humble opinion.
I’m not excusing Jack’s behavior, but what the crap??!! This is his second week of first grade!! Why the eff are kids so freaking mean? I’m pissed as hell, which is maybe not the “right” response. Maybe if I called it the Mother Bear Instinct it would sound better. . .
I’m also really sad. It wounds me to the core that my son has been hurt and confused by another child’s cruelty, and that he knew no other way than to respond in kind. And I can’t help but wonder why that other child is so mean in the first place. I do not want to believe that the world is a nasty place, but it truly challenges my faith in humanity to see my own baby in this space.
Anger aside, I tried my very best to model tolerance and compassion for James, to not malign the other child involved, and to explain that we always do our best to be kind to others even if they are being mean to us. My husband composed a letter expressing our concerns as well as our desire to work on preventing and addressing such occurances as a team in the future. We Cc’d it to the principal.
If I were to look on the bright side, and be ultra-mindful and strength’s based, I would have to say that this presented a good opportunity for us to discuss and model coping skills, compassion, and communication with Jack. Unfortunately, bullies are going to be a part of any child’s experience at school, so it is also important to discuss how to handle those challenging situations.
It also presented me with yet another opportunity to check myself and be mindful of my own feelings towards institutional education. As a parent it is hard for me when I have really strong feelings about something, but have to put them aside and put on a bright and positive face for my children.
While we hate to make a name for ourselves as the High Maintenance Parents, this is one issue on which we will not stay silent. I am hoping and praying for a positive response from the teacher, and that the bullying will cease. Until then, I will definitely be hugging my kid a little tighter and talking more about the power of love and compassion.
Has your child ever been bullied? If so, how did you respond? Were you sucessful? How did bullying affect your child, and how did you help support them?
The following link will take you to the Mayo Clinic’s site where you can learn more about bullying and steps to handle bullying. There may also be community groups in your state or area who can help you advocate for your child at the school level, if the school is not suitably responsive to your concerns about your child being bullied.