It has to be said. With good reason, bullying is a hot topic in schools. We, as parents, are called to be hyper-vigilant for behavior that could indicate that our kids are being bullied while away from us.
Kids won’t share? It’s Bullying.
Kids not letting you play? It’s Bullying.
Kids not letting you sit near them? It’s Bullying.
Basically it boils down to that every negative behavior is bullying and in my opinion, this is wrong. This takes away from the true psychological nature of bullying. So let’s just be clear:
Some kids are bullies. And some kids are just a**holes.
After all, a**hole adults have to come from somewhere.
Bully or A**hole?
There is something in your gut that distinguishes between the a**hole and the bully, but here are some (non-scientific) observations:
- cause their victims to change their behavior
- deliberately try to control their victims’ behavior
- seek out, torment, and stick with their victims
- destroy their victims’ self-worth
- in a weird way, seem obsessed with their victims.
- cause their victims to stop loving something they care deeply about
These are not my observations. These are statements from former victims of bullies. The kids hiding the yellow hexagons or giving your child the “unclean” watercolors or not caring if you group loses points because they keep talking?
Not bullies. A**holes.
In using the term “bullying” in such a broad manner, are we doing the victims of bullying a disservice?
Dignity and Respect
Either way, it comes down to dignity and respect. Whether you cite John 13:34 or the “Golden Rule” it comes down to treating people you like, treating people you do not like, treating people who mean nothing to you with dignity and respect. I may not like you, but I respect you. I see you as a person, a person of value, because you are in existence.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Bullies are for sure a**holes. But not all a**holes are bullies.
What to do?
1. Really listen to your kids. It’s hard to decipher kid-speak at times, but try to get at the root of what she is saying when she says kids are being “mean.”
2. Ask follow-up questions. What was going on? Who else was there? What happened next? You are trying get a full picture of what’s happening.
3. Check-in when you can. One of my favorite check-in questions are: “Who did you sit with at lunch?” and “Who sat alone at lunch?” Keep a mental note of the answers.
4. Equip your child. This is one of the harder ones because both bullies and a**holes can be taxing on our children. We have to teach our kids who they are. Sit down and jot down what defines your child? Who is your child?
5. Observe. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, it may be time to dig a little deeper. Kids surrounded by a**holes won’t try to avoid school or drop something that they love out of the blue. If you believe bullying is the cause, by all means get involved.
My oldest has been dealing with two a**hole kids at school. In fact the hexagon and watercolors example from above are hers. She’ s been good about sharing her frustration with these two and also brainstorming responses to their actions. This is for sure still in a**hole territory so I’m feeling pretty comfortable about letting her navigate this situation without my intervention. Because in life, there are plenty of assholes.
Until next time!