As you may remember, Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School. Her parents began a program in her memory based on her writings and pictures. The challenge has grown into a very powerful anti-bullying campaign across the country. My children’s school participates in this challenge. One of the ways they participate is that they have the kids do good deeds and document them on a continuing piece of poster paper. The idea is to have so many good deeds that they are able to have all of the students in the school hold up the paper and have the paper actually go around the entire outside of the building. A wonderful idea, indeed. But, what happens when something is going on with your child? Now, granted the story I am about to tell is in no way severe. BUT, left alone, it predicts future behavior and indicators to bullying as the grade levels increase.
My son is a little on the small side. He is eight years old and in second grade. He is 48 and a half inches tall. I worry about that in general because sometimes bullies pick on kids who are smaller than they are. But, he holds his own. He is also a man of VERY few words which troubles me. He holds a lot in because he doesn’t like conflict. Again, this could make him a prime target for bullying later on. I try to encourage him to tell me anything–even if I won’t like it. He has gotten in trouble a couple of times at school and I have found out through other parents. He said he didn’t tell me because he thought I would yell and he would get punished. I re-inforced that he could come to me with anything and I would reserve my emotions and listen to his side.
Well, it must have sunk in because he came to me the other day. He told me that there is a girl in his class who always trips him. Not only does she trip him, she kicks him and pushes him. Oh, yeah, and she constantly calls him a “midget.” Now, the problem is complicated for several reasons. First, she is a girl. He knows he can never put his hands on someone—especially a girl. He also doesn’t want to be labeled a sissy because he is being bothered by a girl. I don’t want to get involved….yet. I want to teach my kids to stand up for themselves. The first thing is to tell the person to stop. He said he has told her several times to stop tripping him and that he doesn’t like when she calls him a “midget.” Ok, I am glad he started there. It did not work. The next thing is that he speak to his teacher directly and tell her what is going on in class. We teachers don’t have eyes everywhere and sometimes we miss things. There are strict rules about keeping hands and feet to yourselves at the school, so the girl is in violation of that rule. There are also rules about name calling and bullying at the school. So, this morning, Grayson will meet with his teacher and try to handle the matter on his own. If he tells his teacher, I am sure the matter will be handled appropriately. My fear is that he will not tell her. Then, he will come home and tell me he spoke with her and that everything is settled. So, I am in a bit of a situation. I want to teach him a skill set of handling his own issues, but I know the type of kid he is. I also do not want to be the parent who runs to the school every time someone says “boo” to their child. As they get older, it becomes harder for parents to really get involved. If kids can learn to go through the proper channels in the elementary grades then there is a good chance they will co-exist peacefully with their classmates throughout their school career.
I can only hope my son listens to what I have tried to teach him and handles the situation with his teacher today. When we were little we used to say this type of behavior meant “she likes you.” Unfortunately, in today’s society we can’t adopt that philosophy anymore. Like I said, it isn’t of huge magnitude, but it bothered him enough to tell me. Plus, tripping people can be dangerous. I bet her parents don’t even know this is happening. Parenting is so hard now, it seems like I need a nap an hour after I’ve woken up for the day! I’ll keep you posted on this saga. Any advice others have regarding situations like this would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to comment.