This is a subject that has come up a lot, lately. When is it bullying? I wrote this post last year when my son broke my heart with a lesson on this.
He told me, “Something made me feel really bad today, Mom.” I could tell by the tone of his voice that it was something that really bothered him. He went on to say that they moved seating arrangements in class and people chose who they were going to sit with. He said, there were finally only 4 people left. He was one of them. Aedan’s classes are inclusion classes, and the others were the kids who are different and are sometimes difficult to sit next to. “I don’t know WHY people didn’t choose me to sit with them, Mom. I try to be nice and a good friend. But no one chose to sit by me.” I was silent for a moment, gathering thoughts on what to say, when he said,” Well, I could have just joined in at another table. But I didn’t, because I know how bad I felt, then Johnny would feel the same way- that no one wanted to sit with him. So I stayed. Plus, I don’t want to be at a table where I am not wanted, they’d be mean to me”. I don’t remember what I said to Aedan, other than that I was sorry that he felt bad, and that I was really proud of his empathy and kindness in thinking about others. I felt so sad for my boy. I was that girl, in 6th grade. (and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th).
This was NOT Bullying.
This is one of those instances when life just happens and a kid feels bad. No one said “Eww- I don’t want to sit with Aedan” or said something unkind or mean. They just didn’t choose him. That’s not bullying. It’s life. I will take no action other than tell him I’m sorry he feels badly, that I understand how it hurts, and how proud I am of him for thinking of others.
When the kids on the school bus call him Fat Ass or Pus**, or call him and his best friend “Gay”, or throw bags of chips or crackers at him, or slap him, or gang up on him and call him names, THAT is bullying, When the whole group of kids are playing basketball at recess and he’s with that group, and they kick him out and tell him they don’t want him, he sucks, and he can’t play, THAT is bullying. That is when we took action and spoke to the other kids parents and school administrators. . Those are the actions that are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
There is a simple truth in life. Not every kid is going to be the popular kid. Not every kids is going to have tons of friends. Not every kid is going to be included. Not every kid is a winner. That is not bullying, that is life. That is the way that life happens when we all grow up.
It’s important to recognize this, and teach our kids to recognize it as well. Sometimes, we need to understand that life is life, and it’s not fair. That is a lesson that we all had to learn at some point.
I think that we, as parents spend too much time telling our kids they are the best, they HAVE to be the best, no matter what. So our kids feel that when they are not “number 1” they will do whatever it takes to get to the top –including disregarding others. If we spent just as much time teaching our kids how important it is to be kind, compassionate, and a good friend where ever they are, that they will still get to where ever they are supposed to be, but they will do it learning how to be good adults.