Monday, October 1, 2012

Motherhood Mondays - I Can't Make the Bullies Be Nice

Last year I was the classroom reader for our school's anti-bullying program, Project Cornerstone, for my two older boys' classrooms. This meant that once a month, I would go and read a picture book to their class and talk about the lessons we learned from the book.

We read books about how we fill each other's invisible buckets by being kind and helping one another. We also sometimes dip in someone's bucket by name calling or being mean. 

We read books about not taking the bait when people try to catch us in their mean comments. We learned to walk away, distract, or make a joke while avoiding chomping down on the hook. 

We read books about spreading gossip and standing up for one another. We talked about sticking together, getting help, and knowing the difference between tattling and telling. 

And yet, each month the kids would look at me and ask the same basic question, "How can we get the bullies to stop?" 

We talked about people sometimes using bully behaviors because they were sad or insecure. The kids understood this. No, what they were really asking was how do we get bullies, those mean spirited, destructive, gloating and controlling, to stop. So I had to tell them the sad truth - bullies exist and I cannot make them be nice. 

Bullying doesn't stop when they grow up either. I have seen adults try to bully other people. I have used this blog to call out the bullies, the bullshit, when needed. But I cannot make people be nice. I wish I could but I can't. 

And so I told the students the same thing I have taught my boys. You cannot control the other person, you can only control your response. You cannot make the other person stop being mean, but you can remove yourself from the situation. 

I came face to face with bullying last year. My oldest, Hockey Boy, had a kid on his team who put him down, made fun of him when he left the locker room, and didn't want to be his partner. I did not like that other kid. I was angry and hurt. But my son, my dear sweet boy, did not even realize he was being bullied. He gave the other kid the benefit of the doubt and when the other kid was having a bad day, my kid skated away, he found a safe place to be and got down practice. He did not let this bully distract him from his game, from his love of hockey.  

I thought my kid was just clueless, not to know what was going on, but maybe he was clueless because he choose not to let someone else's behaviors define him. Maybe he had made a decision to use some of the tools he learned to not take the bait. Maybe he was confident in himself and his friendships to know he is valuable and loved no matter what some kid on his hockey team says. 

I wish this was a story with a happy ending, one where the two boys become best friends. They did not. And at some point the other boy became physical with my son so we had to step in and get more adults involved in keeping my boy safe, including the other child's parents. It was uncomfortable at times and I was always a little anxious during practice that something might happen. But my son amazed me. He got help from the coaches when he needed it but otherwise he stay focused on why he was there - to get better at the game he loves. He never once didn't want to go to practice. This one bully was not going to define his day. 

Oh how I wish I as an adult was better about letting the negativity flow off my back like water off a duck, like my son who didn't let this one boy ruin his fun.


Turns out I am not the only one writing about parenting on Mondays so I thought I would join in on the Parent 'Hood fun.


  1. I need a play date with that boy! He could teach me a few things!

    1. He doesn't even know he is doing it. He doesn't use any of the PC language he has been taught at school, and I know he was taught it because I read in his class last year.

      Truth is I hope it is that he doesn't care and not that he is keeping it all tucked deep inside. Other way, he's not going to let other people stop him from doing what he loves, whether that is hockey or loving to read as a nine almost ten year old boy.