This post is part of “Bully No More,” an editorial series hosted by the Fort Worth Moms Blog.
The older boy had been bugging him for a few weeks. It started as the usual, trivial (albeit annoying) kid stuff. When my second grader reported that a fourth grader was bothering him during an after school class, my first bit of advice was to ignore it.
“You won’t get along with everyone, babe. Unfortunately, kids can be jerks. Tell him to stop, and then tell the teacher if he doesn’t.”
I’m not much of an alarmist, y’all. I try REALLY hard not to jump into every little thing that goes wrong for my son. Life hurts, and since I’m pretty adamant about him growing up to be a rock star husband, father, and
brain surgeon adult in general, he needs to learn his own strength. When I was in the sixth grade, the nastiest girl in the history of nasty pulled my hot pink wind pants down in front of the ENTIRE SCHOOL as we waited for our rides. Sure, I died a thousand deaths and dreamt about slapping her perfectly freckled face, but I’m still alive. And strong. So, there’s that.
However, I’m a Mama Bear. I don’t allow shenanigans. A couple of weeks later, said fourth grader made a poor decision. He took things from mild annoyance to bullying. My son hefted his backpack into the backseat and slumped down into the leather, tears slipping unchecked onto his cheeks. He told me that the name calling had escalated beyond the after school class, making him feel scared and embarrassed. More important — my final straw — he clamped a hand hard on my boy’s shoulder during the shared class and whispered something especially mean.
What did I want to do? Grab the boy by the front of his shirt, lift him to my eye level, and tell him what I would do if he ever laid a hand on my baby again. Obviously.
Calm down, y’all. I only thought about it. For like a minute. Maybe a day. Or five. Whatever. The point is that my gut instinct was rage. It licked down my spine and crawled into my fingertips and dripped off my eyelashes. Pure, white hot RAGE. So, while I wanted to go tearing back into the school, I didn’t. It’s harder than you’d ever imagine, but keeping a level head and approaching these situations rationally will benefit your kiddo so much more than letting your emotions guide your behavior. You will get a lot more help if you aren’t breathing fire.
Nothing gets you nowhere faster than losing your ever-loving mind. Take some time to sit with your feelings, and really think about what actions you want to take. I came home that afternoon, vented to friends, spoke with my husband, and then sent an email to the principal, asking for a meeting. He was quick to respond and got me in the very next day. I lost no time getting a resolution by waiting until I calmed down. Not to mention that my meeting with the principal was led by Composed Chalna instead of Stark-Raving-Lunatic-Mama-Bear Chalna, which is good. That girl is CRAZY, y’all.
Don’t Rush to Cry Bully
I learned something very valuable during this experience, friends. My children are young — only nine and three, so I’m just learning to navigate the waters of public school with a bigger kid. Labeling an event as “bullying” is not just a word anymore but a formal complaint that sets a lot of wheels in motion; it goes beyond your campus. It’s very serious in school districts now and rightfully so! That boy definitely bullied my son by definition of the word, but I knew in my heart that we weren’t ready to pursue the more drastic measures that accompany the “official” bullying complaint.
Give Your Teachers and Administrators a Chance
Here’s the thing. Filing a formal “bullying” complaint is not the only way to remedy the situation. I have no problem using the “big help,” but it doesn’t have to be the first course of action. I waited until my adrenaline levels were back to normal and I wasn’t operating in rage mode, so I was able to grasp the entire situation.
If I cry bully, I’ll have a whole thing going on — involving not only the school but also the district.”
Given the facts I had, giving the school a chance to solve our problem first was the smart move. It made sense to allow our principal to step in and try to handle things at the campus level. The conflict between these two boys hadn’t escalated past that yet, and filing a formal complaint that went beyond our school just didn’t sound like a reasonable first step. I always avoid taking drastic measures until I’ve exhausted my other options.
Think About the Other Child
Our children learn how to react to the world by watching how we react. Our principal quickly called the accused into his office and contacted his parents. The child was held accountable for his actions. The after school program leader wanted to offer the child one single chance to do better. He could not harass my son again in any way in order to stay in the optional program. The principal asked me how I felt about that option, and after a meaningful conversation with my son, I said we would give it a shot.
- He is somebody’s little boy, and I don’t know what cards he’s been dealt.
- If we give him a chance to do better, maybe he will.
- Getting called into the principal’s office at such a young age might scare him away from the path he’s on.
- Maybe he’s having a really bad year that I can’t even fathom.
The teachers and principal are all over it. All bets are off if the other child doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain. But showing love and kindness and offering a second chance can’t be a bad first attempt at solving the crisis. You never know what is going on behind bad behaviors. If my son learns to practice grace by watching me do it, then I have succeeded.
The accused bully didn’t come to the class that next week. He came back the following week and didn’t say a word to my son. I had swift reports from everyone involved, and they all did an amazing job making my son feel safe. The accused also backed down during school hours and left my kiddo alone. Now, I’m no fool; situations don’t always and will not always work out so smoothly. However, I’ll always be proud to show my son that his mother doesn’t rush to judgement and keeps her head in tough situations. Most of the time, anyway.