It happened several days ago… I turned around the corner of the giant indoor play structure, just in time to see a pair of hands push into my son’s chest, shoving him on to the floor. My son looked at the boy, tears in his eyes and an expression of confusion on his face. My son is two and a half years old, lacks fluent speech, has developmental delays, and is a kind, sweet, gentle, soft-spoken boy. This brute was between 6 and 7 years old. He was able-bodied, bouncing around the structure like an agile monkey. He was a bully and I loathed him.
I realize that bullying is a fact of life that we all come across from time to time. My dictionary tells me a “Bully” is a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. No kidding! But, what do you do when you witness it first hand? Personally, I was at a loss. I yelled, “HEY! You do NOT hit him!” but this monster of a child (at least in my protective eyes) just bounced off, climbing out of reach, out of sight. I saw him a few moments later, but then I was uncertain if it was really him that I had seen. How could I approach his mother if I wasn’t 100% sure that this was the hellraiser who made my child cry? That 0.1% bit of doubt was enough to stop me. Besides, what would this mother think of me telling her that her son did this? It’s her son’s word against mine. Will I just turn away afterwards only to have her judge me as a troublemaker who blamed her son? Would she believe me?
This experience proved to me that we’re not doing enough to prevent bullying or antagonizing. It needs to start right at the very beginning. It needs to be a core value. There are bullying campaigns, and bullying awareness, but surely we can do more. We need to teach our children acceptance and inclusion of those who might be a bit different than ourselves. We need to make it viral. The issue has certainly come a long way in recent years, but we need to be louder.
As a parent of a preemie, I know that there are bound to be things my child is teased about. He doesn’t walk like other children, for starters. He has asthma. He gets sick often. He has low tone. He is significantly smaller than his peers. To you and I, we likely empathize. We want to support him. We want to make him feel included and important. But to someone who has not been taught how to approach children who are different and how to play with them, they will see him as an easy target. We need to focus on how to approach parents of children who are picking on our children, how to approach teachers, and even how to approach the child who is the aggressor. In schools, they are teaching kids all about using their WITS (Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek Help)
What are some of the things you do as a parent to teach your children how to self-advocate as they get older, and how to express their emotions or seek help? What advice do you give them on how to walk away from a bad situation? Do you have a child with limitations, perhaps language, that they need specific tool? to help them express to adults that someone is bullying them? Or do you have a tactic that allows your child to stand up to someone and say they can’t treat them that way?
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