Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Helping to Help Themselves

This weekend I found out how to make Brian really, really riled up.  I told him that a boy who has been bothering William off and on since his first year of preschool beat up on him during Friday morning recess.  Ripped his shirt, pants and scratched his face.

When William got home from school the recess altercation wasn't the first thing on his mind.  It wasn't even the second, third or fourth thing he cared to talk about.  I only knew about it because I had received a phone call from his teacher.  Oh the joys of schoolyard play!

I know the term "bullying" seems to be the buzz word of the moment and it gets thrown around a little too loosely, in my opinion.  This was not a case of bullying.  This little boy who hurt William has some serious social skills deficiencies.  In reality he really likes William.  He wants to be his friend and he wants to play with him.  But his way of getting William's attention is throwing him to the ground or pushing him off the playground equipment.

The real problem is that William is too social for his own good.  He wants to be friends with everyone.  And when there is one person who he doesn't like, he doesn't know how to get away from them.  He doesn't know how to stand up for himself and demand that he deserves better.  Or to be left alone entirely.  He ends up being passive.

Brian's papa bear undies got in a knot.  He's tired of this badly-behaved kid and his constant harassment on William.  He may have called him a few names.  He may have threatened physical punishment.  Thankfully, all of this was in the privacy of our own home and out of William's earshot.

After I pulled Brian out of his testosterone-induced rant, I explained that this was probably just going to be one of many recess incidents to come.  It comes with the territory of having kids in school.  Instead of planning our retaliation, it was probably better to coach William on how he could help himself in these types of situations.  Even in the most minor of situations, I'm all about teaching my kids how they can help themselves because, frankly, I'm not growing another pair of hands any time soon.

Sunday came and I got a call from the mom of one of William's buddies who was involved in the scuffle.  He who got in trouble for helping William by pushing the offender off.  Then Monday morning came and I get yet another call from the Assistant Principal checking in and sorting out facts and making sure everything was OK on our end and letting me know what is being done to prevent this in the future.  But mostly she just called to offer her sympathy.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be getting a call from the Assistant Principal (who has 850 other students to tend to) just one month into the school year.

Am I crazy for thinking this is much ado about nothing?  It seems to have turned into quite the mess.  I do feel bad that William was involved on the receiving end of a physical assault but I also know that this is just another one of life's lessons.  There are mean people out there.  There are people out there who behave badly.  There are parents out there who do next to nothing when their children act out.  I can't do anything about those people.  I can either teach my kid how to be a victim or I can teach him how to pick himself back up and carry on with the self respect and dignity he deserves.

Labeling starts early.  And I really think that if I got myself all in a huff about this and tried to save him, he would come out the other end looking and feeling like Caillou.  Also known as a wuss for those who aren't in the PBS know.  So instead, Brian and I took him aside.  We taught him how to stand up tall.  Put his hands on his hips.  How to use an angry voice.  How to let bad friends know he didn't like the way they played.  He giggled at first but he got it once Brian told him to use the same voice we use when we're upset by something he's done.  He totally understood that analogy!

Most of all we tried to get it through his head that there's no reason he has to take this kind of harassment sitting down.  He's better than this.  He has a lot of friends.  No one is allowed to treat him like that.  No one.

And sometimes, even in real bullying situations, that's all kids need.  Just a grown-up to affirm that what's happening isn't OK and the go-ahead to stand up and help themselves.

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