Sticks and Stones
As we were hanging out at the birthday party, I walked by my daughter playing with a friend when another friend wanted to join them. My daughter held out her arm and said, “No, we are playing together, not with you.” I immediately addressed my daughter, informing her that what she said was not nice and that we do not talk to other friends that way. I worried about that situation because I had never seen that behavior before, and typically she plays very well with others. (She has lots of friends inside and outside of school.) But that is when it all began.
Now I must admit I feel the word “bully” is such an overused word. Just because someone does not get along with a particular person or someone does not agree with the things you believe in does not make her a bully. We are all human. We are going to have disagreements. We are going to have different likes and dislikes. That is what makes the world beautiful: Each and every one of our uniquenesses. But it becomes a whole different situation when a particular person is excluded purposefully — when a person is put down by another person, making her feel less than.
That is what my daughter had begun to do.
A Pattern of Bullying
After that first incident, it began to happen more frequently. She did not want to play with other children. She would find one child to play with and then exclude others. I would ask her why she was doing that, and she would respond that the other kids did not want to play what she wanted to play. If she found just one child who did what she wanted, then she was happy. If she was in a group setting and one particular child was not following directions, she would become very bossy.
She was becoming not only mean, but also controlling of situations. If things were not going her way, she wanted nothing to do with it and would go play by herself. Personally, I would rather her play alone than play with others and be mean to them. But at school, the teachers want all the kids to interact together, so they would not let her play by herself. The more this went on, the more other parents saw this behavior. Then my daughter became that kid, the one who gets excluded because she does not play well with others. The one that other parents talk about.
A few mothers discussed some of the things my daughter said or did to make their children upset. Of course, I discussed these with my daughter right away, and I tried my best to apologize to the parents. My child can also apologize, but that does not change what happened. The damage is done, and slowly she continued to lose friends.
The Breaking Point
As we were driving home one evening, I was very upset by her behavior during her after-school activity. I was very quiet as she talked about her day. Then she said it — a comment about a school friend getting on her nerves — and I lost it. I began to cry and asked her why she would say something like that. Did she not understand how hurtful that could be? I asked her if Mommy and Daddy talked that way to others. She began to cry as well and said we do not and she didn’t know why she’d said that. Then it hit me, how my reaction to her had been. I apologized and explained to her how it can hurt everyone when she talks unfriendly to others.
I then beat myself up for the way I reacted and handled that situation. I knew that was not the adult way to handle it, but I had reached my breaking point. I knew that, for whatever reason, she was becoming a bully to others. I knew that somehow it had to stop — and stop now. I knew if I did not address this now, it would get worse the older she became. I knew I could not deny this problem. I knew I could not protect her because she was the one in the wrong. And I knew I needed to do this in the most loving and caring way.
Our children have their faults. They are human. Making mistakes and learning from those mistakes is how they grow. As a parent, I will make mistakes myself. But as my child continues to grow, I will be right at her side, guiding her to be the best person she can be.