We never do play dates. I have a full-time job and my son is with his sitter Alison during the week. Even if I didn't work, I don't think I'd be the play date type of Mom--not that there's anything wrong with that (I miss Seinfeld).
Since I work from a home-office I am asked to go to play dates a lot. My son wanted to go and I was just too tired to think of an excuse at the moment, so I agreed to go. My son was excited about it but I remember driving there and thinking, "how much time do I have to put in before I can leave?" There were three Moms and four boys. We were there about five minutes when my son enters the kitchen completely red faced and desperately trying to hold back the ensuing tears and sobs. I grabbed him and asked him what happened but he wouldn't answer. I figured someone took a toy from him that he had wanted. I talked to him, calmed him down, and brought him back into the room where there were oodles of Spiderman, Superman, and Buzz Lightyear action figures. As I went to leave the room Luc said, "will you stay here Mommy?" I sat on the floor in the corner and watched the 4 boys play nicely together. I left when it seemed like my presence was no longer needed. Five minutes after I leave the the exact same scene happens but this time I saw welts and a small cut on my son's face. Luc was being abused whenever I left the room.
When I was about fourteen years old we moved and I was the new girl in school. I was shy, 5' 7" and 90lbs. I was the perfect target for a bully. A girl named Janet decided that I was going to be her project. She harassed me, taunted me, and stalked me while I was at school. It was no secret (in a school population of about 200 kids) that Janet planned to do me in. One day she whispered to me in class, "I'll be waiting for you in the hall." I pretended not to notice. That's what you're supposed to do, right? The plan is to ignore the bully and then they get bored and leave you alone? Well, Janet wasn't following the plan.
The bell rang and I slowly packed up my stuff. The chairs were squeaking against the wood floor and the room was buzzing because the new girl was gonna get her butt kicked. When I was the last one in the room, I finally left to meet my fate. I'm not sure why I did it; maybe it was seeing all those faces grinning, waiting to see my fear, maybe it was the look of arrogance on Janet's face that reminded me of my older brother's face right before my Mother would storm into the room saying, "you did what?!" But before I knew it, I dropped my books and swung my bony fist as hard as possible socking Janet in the belly and then again in her side while she fell to the ground. I hurriedly picked up my books and began to quickly walk away leaving Janet crying and completely ashamed. Janet, nor anyone else, ever bothered me again.
How do you handle a bully?
Don't tell your child to ignore a bully. Bullies know that if they pester long enough they will get a reaction and then once they do, they keep on going. Don't you remember George McFly in the movie Back to the Future? Bullies need to be stopped and here are a couple of things that might help:
Call the parents of the bully and explain what is happening. Some parents will give you the "kids will be kids" routine, but most are more than happy to have a chat with their child. I always found it was particularly helpful to go to the bully's house, meet the parents, and bring your child along. Once when I approached a Mom about her son bullying my little brother she was shocked at how much older and larger her child was compared to my brother.
Call the principal of the school. If this is going on in school the principal, teacher, and bus driver need to know about it so they can be aware and watch for any other possible threats on your child. Your child should not have to tread with caution while roaming the halls or getting on the bus to go home. It's an awful feeling to live in fear.
How do you handle your child?
Teaching your child to fight, and teaching your child self-confidence to defend themselves are two different things. It is important to give your child the skills necessary to handle themselves when you are not around. Also, imagine these same skills being used by a 30 year old in business... would it be appropriate then? Bullies are forever--even when we're grown and working a corporate environment there will be difficult people that we have to deal with and unfortunately you can't just pound them in the hallway and hope for the best.
There are a number of ways to give your child the skills they need to feel confident in themselves. Sports such as gymnastics and karate teach body awareness and are very individual type sports. Karate focuses on avoiding problems and protecting yourself. Team sports are a great way to give your child a circle of friends and work with others as a group.
Sports aren't always the answer, it depends on the child and their age. Luc is only four years old. We have had Luc in sporting activities since he was 18 months old. He goes to preschool, he's friendly, happy, funny, and has lots of good friends. He just doesn't know how to react when someone is nasty to him.
He called me to his room the other night and asked me to lay on his bed with him. He finally started to talk about the bully situation and asked me why his "friend" had hurt him. We talked about it a while and finally I said, "Luc, always tell me if someone tries to hurt you. I'm always here. You know it's my JOB to protect you, right?" He grabbed my arm and put it around his little body to give him a hug--I did. I will do whatever I can to give Luc the tools he needs to take care of himself, but I don't' think he really needs to do that just yet--I'm not done with that job.
2002 Copyright, Claudine M. Jalajas