The other day my daughter had an incident at school that involved a group of her friends. “Friends.” This for me has been one of the hardest parts when raising my daughter. The gossip, the mood swings, the “she’s not my friend”, or “I’m not her friend”. I’m SO tired of the word friend. I never know if the person we’re talking about is the BF, BFF, the Real BFF or the ex BFF.
As we sat and discussed the incident I started the conversation with my repetitive statements of, “You go to school to learn, not to make friends”. “Sometimes you just have to walk away, knowing that this same girl will be your friend in a few hours (if not minutes)”. As she went on to explain I saw my daughter sitting there looking so broken. Visibly upset. Unsure as to what she did to deserve the names she was called and the teasing that went on. She kept talking in circles, trying to make sense of it all. I gave her a tissue to wipe her tears and reached over to calm her as she just replayed the event in her head. We sat there in silence for a bit. I had to remember what it was like being 10. Wanting to be apart of the group. To be a friend and to have friends. I had to remember what it was like to feel left out or nervous that I wouldn’t be chosen to be on a team (that stuff really happens).
A lot of times we say “treat people the way you want to be treated.” Well, I think we are setting our children up for failure. Even though my daughter has been nothing but nice, this same girl is SO mean to her. The “kill them with kindness” isn’t great advice either. When I saw how shut down she felt, I couldn’t help but feel that I lead my daughter into this pit. I realized I needed to give her real advice. As an adult, we don’t let people walk all over us. (I know I don’t). I don’t just walk around quoting “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. (Which is SO far from the truth!) I needed to help her build from these rocks that were constantly being thrown rather than giving her ways to avoid being hurt.
If I want my daughter to build character, these everyday issues like teasing and gossip are building blocks. Its true that hurt people, hurt people. This doesn’t just begin as adults. Children are hurting as well! They too, experience life and can lash out on their peers. This is the beginning of bullying. Children can feel so powerless in their home life that teasing and gossiping at school can make them feel powerful. As we talked about this, I realized I wasn’t preparing my daughter for that. I taught her to ignore it, to ask a teacher for help and to pray for her friend. But I wasn’t addressing the issue at hand. Don’t get me wrong, these things are great tools. I wholeheartedly believe that prayer is important– however, I can pray in circles and until I see stars, but if I don’t speak directly to the issue or teach my daughter right from wrong, well I am contributing to the problem. I want to teach my daughter to build her character, not to accept what people say about her as if it has truth! So instead of focusing on this girl (yes, we will continue to pray for her) I wanted to give her real advice. Adult advice, as if she were my friend seeking help on dealing with a horrible co-worker.
These literally are the four points that my daughter received from our talk:
- You can’t speak or treat me like that!
I told her that there is nothing wrong with telling people that they do not have the permission to speak or treat you disrespectfully. I encouraged her to be fearless when someone yells in her face, pushes her, or ignores her, etc. She has to stop giving people the room to feel they have some authority over her and permission to cross that personal space line! (I believe in having personal space)
2. Save the tears for later!
Stop letting people see that they got under your skin! Don’t give anyone the pleasure of seeing you cry or upset! They aren’t worth it. Go to the bathroom and cry, call me and cry, get in the car and cry, Get a paper and scribble meaningless words, etc. It’s not about being viewed as weak, it’s more about letting them see that they have power over you.
3. Vengeance isn’t ours.
I know that you’d want to get back at your friend, but it’s not worth it. You will recreate the cycle that you are trying to escape. Once you’ve set those boundaries and if they still aren’t respecting you, let an adult deal with it. You want to be a role model and really free from being just another “mean girl”, so don’t be tempted to indulge in that behavior.
4. Make sure you examine yourself.
As your mom, I want to be sure that YOU aren’t the bully. What can you have done to stay out of the gossip, the drama, etc. Be sure that you are aware of others and how you make them feel. Overall, understand that you can be moody too. As parents we don’t believe that our children are the ones making kids cry, feel left out or bullies. We want to believe that they have no mean bone in their body. Well that’s just not ok. Again, we set them up for failure. We allow them to play victim and we need to call them out on it.
On my end. I emailed the teacher and the principal. I made it clear that the point of the email wasn’t to have the girl punished, but to make all parties aware of what has been going on and that it needed to stop. I wanted to be sure this girl was aware that I knew. That people would be watching her. The school will also be working with this young girl. I’m more aware now than ever that we’ve enter into the “pre-teen” stage and how much prepping is being done to help our children become well rounded, functioning adults. I have 8 more years with her. So I better get on it….
Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”