Friday, August 21, 2009


My son has been going through some mild bullying in pre-school. For the most part, he seems to shrug it off, but every now and again he complains about being hit on the head with a toy shovel or being pushed. He still likes the kid who is aggressive with him, but I can tell that it sometimes bothers him.

I wasn't bullied a whole lot growing up. I was only in one true fist fight. I was threatened by a thug with a knife one other time. I mostly had run ins with boys who saw me as a meek and easy target and attacked my psychologically. But I don't think my experience was anything more than typical. Nonetheless, there were a lot of times where I felt like an outcast. I was lonely and felt ignored. There were times when I was supremely unhappy. Enough so that my teachers called my parents in for a conference or two.

I've been thinking a lot about this time in my life while WonderWife™ and I have tried to figure out how to best handle my son's situation. As much as I want to protect him from being hurt, is that the best course of action? The world is not always easy and people are not always nice. There is nothing that is ever going to change that. So it is better to be bullied than not at all? Running afoul of somebody can teach an important lesson in survival. It can teach you how to adapt.

To be clear, I'm not talking about severe bullying--the cases you read about. I'm am not talking about those kids who have been bullied to the point of suicide. Or beaten within an inch of their lives. I'm talking about the inevitable brushes with people that I'm sure most of us have experienced.

Learning to rise above adversity is a good lesson, but it's a hard one to learn. And it's a hard one to watch your kid go through. But when I stop to think about my life, I would not change those turbulent times for anything. They made me stronger.

So is it better to be bullied than not bullied at all?


Sandi said...

I had a lot of things in my life that have made me become a stronger person. Having kids pick on me when I was little was just traumatic. I was only ever physically hurt one time. In kindergarten a girl elbowed me in the gut to the point of not being able to breathe. Yes kindergarten. In 2nd grade I was so shy that a popular girl claimed MY homework was hers, the teacher believed her as I hung my head afraid to say anything and I got a big fat 0 and then went home to face the wrath of my parents even though I was telling the truth. I did change though. I toughened up and realized I had to be strong and not a shy person to get what I want in life. I definitely learned a lesson...but I look back on those times and remember how I used to pray at night no one would pick on me the next day. This was just girls being mean girls....nothing more but it made me not like school. So I think for some it may just be too much....for others it may not be too big of a deal. You are probably right though. I don't know that I would trade the things I learned from it and how I grew into the person I am now.

DGB said...

Sandi...It's such a complicated idea and your story best illustrates that. Thanks for sharing.

Homer and Queen said...

I was never bullied at school, but I did have an older brother who tortured me. I was always protecting the underdog growing up.

Bullying was not the problem in the "olden days" like it is today. I was a tomboy and I would have whooped butt if anyone picked on someone else!

OneZenMom said...

Oh, this subject scares me.

Because, you're right. There is no easy answer.

My Mama Bear instinct is to shelter and protect my kids from all harm. But, intellectually, I know that we all have to learn hard life lessons along the way, too.

I dread having to face these particular types of challenges more than any other in parenting (so far).

Wishing you all the best!

lynn said...

Bullying at a young age does not seem like much of a problem, but it is a situation that is frequently addressed in the tolerance is becoming a program that hopefully will make it into every state/districts education cirriculum.

In very young kids (boys) bullying generally begets bullying. Perhaps you can address this with the person/teacher that is around your child. Instead of her singling the 'bully' out, she can talk about it as a group. There are many books just for kids that address this issue and help them make decisions in confronting their bully. I think it's important for them to try and handle the situation but to have a sounding board if it becomes more than they can handle.

I beleive every person experiences this type of aggression at some point. Getting a child to talk about it is very important in helping them to learn how to deal with the situation and to uncover if it is becoming a more frequent and bigger problem.

With teenagers, the situation can escalate quickly and needs to be addressed immediately to prevent long term damage.

TentCamper said...

OK my geeky are going to have to come back to the fire pit to discus this one. I know it all too well.
My son has had very similrar problems and I lived through some of the nastiest crap you can think of. Check out my post here

They are learning experiences, but one needs to deal with them the right way.

Momma Sunshine said...

I would much rather just let my kids be kids and not have to worry about bullying...I think that they will have plenty of other opportunities to learn how to overcome adversity - both as children and as adults.

I was bullied for a while, in junior high. It was nothing short of traumatic and horrible and deeply affected me for a very long time afterwards. It is my hope that my children never have to endure such a terrible thing.

Susan said...

Pre-school age is totally different than later on. I think teaching your little guy the "right words" to use, then following up with his teacher to let her know what you're trying to help him handle on his own. Then again, he's too little to handle things on his own, so enlisting help from teacher with suggestions isn't wrong at all.

Your the voice of your little guy who might not know how to use his voice the best way right now.

And then just talking up examples when together that might help him figure things out could help.

Bullying ok? Hell no I say. Unless I'm the one doing the bullying. Good luck!

DGB said...

Tent Camper...I was thinking about you when I wrote this. I think yours and your kids situation goes above and beyond what I was talking about.

It's a slippery slope, because bullying can be so hard core. And believe me, I don't want anyone to have to go through what you told me you went through.

OneZenMom said...

You know, I've been thinking about this ever since I read it.

There is a line between teaching your kids the tools and skills they need to deal with difficult people and situations ... and bullying.

The first one is a sometimes hard life lesson that our kids do need to learn little by little along the way.

The second one is something that should be unacceptable in all forms and venues.

We need to send that message to our kids - and to everybody else - through (and I hate this term but I can't think of a better one) zero tolerance.

I don't know the specifics on the Bean's situation. But, I think, if it was me, I'd have to decide if this situation is "bullying".

And, if it is, I think you are justified - no, I think you are mandated - to demonstrate to your son that is *always* unacceptable for *anyone* to physically or mentally intimidate or coerce anyone else.

If every parent did that, maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation.

And there's my two cents. Again. For what it's worth.

DGB said...

Zen...It's bullying as much as pre-schoolers bully each other, which is to say that it's not bad. And I agree that bullying is never a good thing. But let's be honest for a minute...bullys are always going to exist. On the playground, in the workplace, in the world. The point of my post was not to condone bullying, but to acknowledge the hard truth that the people in this world aren't always going to treat us fairly. And that while our impulses as parents are always to protect our children--which are the correct ones to have--that sometimes facing those bumps in the road can make us stronger.

OneZenMom said...

Oh, I hope I didn't make it sound like I thought you were condoning bullying. Because I know you wouldn't.

I do see your point about strength through adversity.

But I guess my questions is: WHAT are we teaching them about how to handle the inevitable times when life does not treat you fairly?

Do I want my kid to learn that sometimes you have to suck it up? That sometimes you have to fight to protect yourself? That sometimes you have people you can turn to for help, but sometimes you don't? That sometimes people suck?

Honestly, at 4, my Mama Bear instinct is to protect my kid from those lessons for just a little bit longer.

I'm not saying that's the *right* thing to do. I'm just saying it's *my* gut instinct.

We had to deal with just a hint of this in preschool. And, to be honest, it was heartbreaking for me. And I can tell you that *I* don't feel stronger for facing that adversity.

I dread having to face it again. But, I know we will. And, yeah, that sucks.

DGB said...

Zen...that is a whole 'nother post!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I haven't been able to take the time to read all of the comments... but knowing and having two kids that have gone through pre school... it's all about learning the social aspect... learning how to interact with other kids.

My kid got hit and pushed and laughed at, but he also did some of those things to other kids... it's part of life as a child at that age... especially if they are interacting with kids.

Some kids are more forceful, but mostly they are just trying to find their boundaries and trying to learn what is appropriate and not appropriate in class.

The teachers in my kids' preschool told us that the kids are going to fight and that they try to let the children work out the problem for themselves, of course they will step in if it gets out of control, but mostly they said it is just as important for kids to learn how to socially interact as much as it is important for them to learn their abc's!

From what you wrote... it just sounds like normal pre school age interaction. You can ask the teacher to just watch out for it and if it happens more than it should then to help find a way to work through it... but other than that, it is what it is.

Okay... my two cents.

Love your writing DGB!

tammy said...

My husband was bullied in preschool by a little boy. One day he was so sick of it that he bit the kid on the butt and that little boy never came back.

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