I’m trying to keep my kids from getting picked on, but it’s making me a bully.
I was bullied as a teenager, to the point of trying to slit my wrists, of skipping school, of being afraid to leave my house. It was hell. Twenty-plus years, later I still have occasional nightmares. Recently, I was bullied again. This time by my in-laws. I didn’t think of it as bullying while it was happening — but the next day I realized I’d felt much the same as I had in school.
Bullying is a major topic in blog posts, in the media, in schools. My heart hurts whenever I read about a child experiencing so much pain. Anger rises in me when I hear someone say that kids need to just toughen up, that it’s just school and it won’t matter when the child is older. It will matter. Because 20 years later, they could still feel the impact on their self esteem, and still have nightmares that they awake from feeling all that fear again.
If you’ve read other posts I’ve written, you know I’m not a particularly strict parent in a lot of ways. I got a lot of digs about my child not having a bedtime all summer. But one thing that I absolutely don’t tolerate is bullying or being mean to another child. I want to be made aware of it immediately if my children are being mean to others, hurting their feelings, making them feel scared or bad in anyway. No matter what the other child may have said or done, I don’t condone that kind of behavior. I won’t make excuses for Hellion if she’s mean to someone. I’ll make her apologize and help her to understand why it wasn’t okay to react in such a way. I’ll take away privileges.
But I’ve also realized as much as I don’t want them to be bullies, I also don’t want them to be bullied. And in trying to make them stronger, I’ve bullied them myself! I was teased often as a child for being a crybaby. I cried over EVERYTHING! And now I find myself snapping at Hellion to stop crying over stupid things. I’ve heard myself call her a crybaby. And I cringe. How is it OK to bully my child while trying to teach her not to be a bully? I did the same with my older daughter. I didn’t want her to do things that would give other kids something to tease her about, especially cry over “stupid” things.
The answer is it isn’t OK. It’s not making Hellion tougher, it didn’t make Urchin tougher, it just made them run to their rooms to cry rather than do it in front of me. When they’re upset and I want to talk to them about it, they shy away from me because what if I think what they’re upset about is stupid? Just typing that makes me want to cry myself. Who am I to say what they feel or what has upset them is stupid? I’m always saying people feel what they feel and we have to accept that even if we don’t agree with it. Yet I’m not doing that with my own children.
And it isn’t helping them to not be bullies. I need to remember that the behaviors I wouldn’t let others get away with are the same ones that aren’t OK for me to display. To teach them how not to bully, I must not be a bully. To help them be strong if someone does bully them or if they see someone else being bullied, I need to teach them how to respond rather than try to toughen them up.
Inelegant Life Awkwardly and randomly attempting to raise four children in a blended family, work full-time, & have fun with burlesque. More unpremeditated inelegance can be found at http://inelegantunpremeditatedlife.blogspot.com/