Bullying is at the forefront of constant news stories today. We have become a culture of whistleblowers who proudly tout ourselves, along with the school system, as zero tolerance. And yet bullying continues to happen every day. We hear about it from you and your kiddos all the time. But when we look deeper into each of these situations a trend starts to become apparent. The term bullying is being used to liberally. Every little mean thing that happens in today’s school system has become bullying. But this watering down of bullying is not in fact addressing the underlying problem.
So what is bullying truly? Well it definitely is not meanness. And this is an important distinction. Because we want our children to grow up and be strong. We want them to be able to recognize the meanness that people put out into the world and to be able to cope with it. And we want them to be able to recognize a true bully for what they are and stand up against them. This has to be our goal. Or else the real victims of bullying can never be helped. If the system is so backed up with every school yard meanie then the true bullies get to continue unchecked. We have to be the change. Stopping bullying begins in our homes. We are the first line of defense. And every character trait we impart to our Little Warriors starts that change and strengthens their ability to handle conflict and navigate relationships.
Enter the classic meanie. Meanies are awful to deal with, but they are truly an opportunity for you child to grow. Overcoming meanies allows a child to learn how not to treat other people, to learn empathy, honesty, bravery, and to recognize true friendship. We don't want our kids to hurt, but life is tough and toxic relationships exist. We parents have responsibility to prepare our kids for the real world. And meanness is a normal part of the real world. If we shield our child from every kid who calls them stupid, ostracizes them, hurts their feelings, spreads rumors, or is only a conditional friend; we are setting them up for failure.
So how do we help our child vanquish the meanies in their life? How do we help them recognize and navigate conditional or fake friends, frenemies, and the other forms of relational meanness that commonly occurs during early school years. Kids as young as 5 are constantly coming to us upset because 'little Billy is bullying them because they played during recess, but were ignored in favor of another friend at lunch.' These inconsistencies are perplexing, but not actually harmful in a lasting or physical sense. Because it isn't bullying. Friends come and go. It's a fact of life. It hurts when a friend isn't genuine or true, but these struggles continue even into adulthood. So if your child is feeling 'bullied' by the classic
mean friend here are some tips on how to work through this and be there for your Little Warrior.
Meanies make others feel inferior. They reinforce the negative things we see and feel about ourselves. They're great at this because there was a time when they were nice and got to know us. This cycle of put down friendship continues far longer than it should because it reinforces the negative dialogue and insecurities we all struggle with, no matter the age. So reinforce all the positive traits your child has to offer a true friend. Combat this put-down meanie with an unbreakable armor of confidence. Your Warrior needs to know that no one deserves to be treated poorly. And as their confidence grows they will start to see this 'friend' for what they truly are... fake, mean, controlling, and not worth their time.
Find True Friends:
Meanies are able to continue their behavior because they have a passive audience. As long as none of the friends in the group speak out and as long as your Warrior continues to endure and seek out friendship with the meanie this behavior will continue indefinitely. A Warrior has to show the meanie that their behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated. Once they've stood up for themselves and checked that behavior, they've done all they can. We have no say over what others say or do. All we have control over is our response. If a meanie chooses to continue that behavior they have that choice. But your Warrior also gets to choose if they are willing to settle for that kind of hurtful friendship. This lesson is hard, but so important to learn. It saves so much heartache in the long run. Childhood friendships are a relatively safe environment to learn when people around you are toxic. And mastery now, no matter how difficult it is, will help protect your child against toxic relationships and settling for inferior things in the future.
Bottom line is that overcoming life's meanies is a normal part of growing up. Your Little Warrior will need your guidance during this painful transition. And although meanness is not the same as bullying, it can quickly get out of hand and escalate to such behavior. So keep an eye on it, have those difficult heart to hearts, and help remove the negativity from your child's life. You'll both be so much happier for it. And if you need, we'll be here... to back y'all up.