This year Jane started going to school. Something which she has been excited to do for a long time. We expected her to excel and make tons of new friends, we never expected what really happened.
We were only two weeks into school and one day, when picking Jane up from school, she asked me if I could teach her to snap her fingers. I agreed and showed her how, not giving any more thought to her question. Throughout the rest of the day I noticed her continually trying to perfect this new skill. She was being very hard on herself for not being able to make a loud enough snap sound. After observing her distress and seeing her self worth dimish, I sat her down to find out what was going on. Why was she being so hard on herself for such a silly thing?
Jane began to tell me how a little girl in her class had started a “club” and only those who were talented enough to snap their fingers could join. She wanted so badly to be accepted by these other kids and felt that she wasnt good enough because she couldnt make a loud snap with her fingers like they could. My heart broke. . how can these other kids be so mean and leave my baby out of their group for something that she cant do?
As the school days continued I noticed a change in Jane. She was no longer excited to go to school, instead she whined about feeling sick and not wanting to go. When she arrived home from school, she was a different kid. The bullying that she was recieving at school was being mirrored onto her little brother Dick at home. It was like a cycle had been formed and it needed to be broken.
I was never bullied as a kid and I guess I just didnt think it would happen to Jane either, especially not in kindergarten! Like many other parents, I didnt know what to do. My first instinct was to march into her school and tell those kids to be nice, but I realized that I cant do that (unless I want to be banned from the school premises forever). I decided that I would use this opporunity to teach my kids how to treat others and how to be a friend to those who are feeling left out since she now knows how bad it feels.
To get a better understanding of this issue and learn how to help Jane I turned to Matt Langdon from the Hero Construction Company. His company offers kids, parents and teachers the tools needed to build heros against bullying in all of us. Here is what Matt has to say about the problem.
Any time a parent hears their kid is being bullied, they want to know what they can do. It makes perfect sense. There is a common assumption that kids that are being bullied need to be toughened up or taught how to resist bullying. That’s misguided at best. The other common reaction is to storm into school and deal with the bullies or the school staff. As Mary notes, that’s also not a great idea once logic creeps into the thought process.
Bullying is a problem found in a community, not in an individual. Bullying can only happen when a community allows it. In this case, we’re talking about a school. Now, many will be nodding their head, thinking about how the teachers and principals aren’t doing enough to stamp out this behavior. Unfortunately, these easy scapegoats are not the problem. The group enabling these behaviors are the students themselves. When bullying happens at school, dozens of observers simply do nothing. It’s easy to do nothing. In fact, it’s the easiest option. Simply put, if the students that see bullying did something to stop it, bullying would disappear from the school. No need to assume the principal owns a magic wand.
For Mary or any other parent of a bullied child, this is not immediately helpful. And that’s frustrating. The brutal truth is that there is no quick fix here. Teaching Jane to snap her fingers loudly may get her into the finger-snapping club today, but the underlying problem of exclusion remains. What happens when the whistling club starts next month?
The challenge is to change the school culture. That can start with your child. Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Now, that’s a heavy load for your kindergartener, so you might need to help. Maybe you could get some parents together to share the idea with their children. A group of five or six kids can quickly change the classroom. The change you’re after in this case is to get students to do something when they see something wrong. That could be telling the bully that what they’re doing is wrong. If that’s too scary (and fair enough) it could be to ask the child being bullied to join them in a game or conversation. Or it could be to tell a teacher. Remember, the easiest thing for your child to do is nothing. You need to explain to them why they should take a slightly more difficult option.
You could, of course, get a program like mine into the school. An outside voice can help be the kick start a school needs. Many programs are focused on targeting bullies and victims, doing nothing to solve the underlying problem, so be careful when looking for one. Ultimately the only way to solve this problem is to get the students at the school to take action. How you do that is up to you and the school.
I’d like to finish with two important notes.Firstly, every time you use the word “bully” to describe a person, you are creating a negative label. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by doing this and plenty to lose. Be careful how you talk to your kids about this topic. For much more on the problems with using the word “bully”, please watch this TEDx talk I did last year: https://vimeo.com/49278023.
Second – I hope you can see that bullying is not limited to school or childhood. The same strategy works in adulthood and the workplace.
Thank you Matt for sharing with us! I hope that I can teach my kids to be the good in the world and allow others to be uplifted by my actions and never hurt. Very insightful thoughts today 😉
Believe there is Good in the world, Be the Good!
Thank you for joining us! <3 Dick and Jane