The following is a major edit of my last blog, same title as above. I wrote it late at night after about six hours of on-line classes, bleary eyed and exhausted. The one I published on April 10th is pretty bad, so here’s it replacement:
It is hard to believe, but the seeds of this scourge happen so very young!
I have a line that I’ve used all these years when a child (or children) tell(s) another child they cannot enter into a space they have designated as theirs: “If he can’t come in, you have to come out.” It amazes me still that all involved respond so quickly: “O.K. They can come in……” And the rejected child then gets to choose whether they want to enter that space, or not. I’ve even seen teasing in the playgroup – two and three year olds! Yikes! I stop it as soon as I see it.
I have just taken a course (for the renewal of my daycare license) about bullying. It was really interesting. It talked about “hot spots” – physical places/spaces where some children instinctively figure out that adults are not listening or looking. A “hot spot” could also be a place just out of earshot. When we think about children we think: innocent. Yes, they are new to the planet. But they are so adaptive – it knocks me out. Neither good nor bad, it just is. As parents, we want to think our children are not capable of this kind of behavior. Some are, others are not. I think all children recognize it, whether they are the aggressor or the victim. But I’ve learned not to judge. All of these feelings are human. Very, very human. To believe feelings are “bad” or “good” is a terrible trap. We all have standards, as we should. Recognize that there are feelings that crop up as we raise our children that make us uncomfortable.
I’m remembering a time I was walking my daughter, Sara (then 8 years old), and two of her friends to a gymnastics class in the neighborhood. At one point one of the girls walked a bit ahead and Sara and her other friend walked close to me. I heard them whispering to each other that the friend walking ahead was fat. I was horrified! I had never heard Sara talk about other people that way. Of course, I’m sure she had – I had just never “caught” her doing it. I immediately called them on it and told them how mean-spirited I thought that was. It didn’t matter if she had heard them or not. How would they feel, I said, if someone made fun of them for some reason? They were a little defensive, but seemed to hear me. I think it’s a huge mistake to ignore these incidents. If you don’t say anything, it’s like saying you agree with it. By the way, I also believe that children should get to experiment with being mean (especially girls!). They shouldn’t be required to be “good” all the time.
Maybe because I was such a shy kid and always “picked last for the baseball team,” I am sensitive to this issue. Even so, I believe we should really pay attention to what our kids are talking about with their friends in their “hot spots.”