Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are really obvious – the loud obnoxious kids that have no problem running right over the nice kid in the next seat on the bus. We have all told our kids to just stay away from these types of mean kids, and usually they want to on their own. But have we taught our kids how to handle the bullying that is happening right within their child’s tight circle of friends? Is your child prepared to handle being pushed around by what we think is “the sweet kid”? This is the not -so-obvious bully that often falls just under the radar at school that we need to prepare our children for. Especially with girls.
Girls – they can be so darned mean. Our daughters want so badly to fit into what can often be a very cut-throat environment, at an alarmingly young age. On a daily basis they are hearing from their “best friends” things like:
“Don’t talk to Sally today, she is stupid and I want everyone to be mad at her. If you do talk to her I won’t sit with you at lunch.”
“You can’t pick who plays Sally, I pick the group remember?”
“Remember to save me a seat at lunch.” (saving seats is not allowed at school)
“Lets make a secret club – since clubs aren’t allowed at recess. Just don’t tell anyone OK? You can be in our club, but you have to ignore Julie like us OK?”
“Hurry up and get to the tire swing, and if Sue shows up, tell her it’s taken and she can’t play.”
These comments are true statements told by a third grade girl that dealt with her “best friend” telling her who she could, and could not be friends with. Every day in school for over a year! Her mother found a note one day from her daughter to her friend. She was begging her to be her friend again. When her mom asked why the “best friend” was mad at her, the little girl said “because I sat with Sue at lunch yesterday, so she won’t talk to me – and she got the rest of the girls to ignore me too.”
This example of real bullying is running ramped in our young elementary school-aged classrooms. The children need to learn how to handle the common situations listed above, and the way to prepare them is to teach them about “Me Power”. Guidance programs in schools across the country are starting to teach students more about Me Power.
A person’s Me Power is their personal power over themselves in situations, and how they handle their reaction to others. When used, a person’s Me Power helps them to naturally stand up for themselves, and what they believe in. An important thing to remember is to never give someone your Me Power. When you give it away, you allow others to tell you what you can and cannot do. You allow others to direct your friendships, and worst of all, you participate in situations that do not feel right or good to you.
Here are those same situations from above with “Alyssa” responding using her
Bully: “Don’t talk to Sally today, she is stupid and I want everyone to be mad at her. If you do talk to her I won’t sit with you at lunch.”
Alyssa: “I really like to sit with you at lunch, but I don’t feel comfortable with how you are treating Sally. If you are mad at Sally, you should talk to her about it. I think we better not sit together today.”
Bully: “You can’t pick who plays Alyssa, I pick the group remember?”
Alyssa: “I really like playing this game, but you are excluding others. I want Sally to play and if you are excluding her, I’ll go play with her over at the swings.”
Bully: “Remember to save me a seat at lunch.” (Saving seats is not allowed at school.)
Alyssa: “Sorry, I’m not saving seats today. If there is room at the table when you come in you’re welcome to sit with us.”
Bully: “Lets make a secret club – ’cause clubs aren’t allowed at recess. Just don’t tell anyone OK? You can be in our club, but you have to ignore Julie like us OK?”
Alyssa: “It sounds like fun to be in a club, but that’s exclusion. I’ll pass.”
Bully: “Hurry up and get to the tire swing, and if Sue shows up, tell her it’s taken and she can’t play.”
Alyssa: “I’m not going to pass on that message to Sue. Everyone can use the tire swing, we just have to take turns.”
It is such a relief for kids to learn that they have permission to stick up for themselves. We have spent so much time teaching our kids to “be nice”, that sometimes we forget to teach them that being nice to ME is just as important!
Remember these important tips:
1. Talk to your child regularly about their friendships. Keep it casual – ask them who they played with at recess. Who did they sit with at lunch? How is it going with their friends? Asking these types of questions once or twice a week is appropriate.
2. Play spy! When your child has a play date, don’t be afraid to listen to their conversations. You are just trying to stay in touch.
3. Talk to your child about Me Power. Give them examples like the ones in this article. Ask them for their opinion. Ask them how they might handle these situations – what would they say?
4. Trust your gut. If you feel your child is being bullied, get help! Call the school’s guidance counselor to discuss it. Ask the teacher to check in your child. Make sure they have someone to talk to at school if they need to.