Bullying is a huge topic right now. Deservedly so. When kids are dying, it is so far past time for action. But at least now there is action.
As a mom, I have been paying close attention to all these reports on bullying. Working out all the scenarios in my head about what I will do if I have a bully, have a kid being bullied, or have kids who watch the bullies and do nothing. Most of us have encountered one of these scenarios if not more. I want my kids to have better tools in dealing with these situations than I had.
So I’ve been watching, reading, observing from afar. Taking notes for a future time when these will be issues in our lives.
Never in a million years expecting that the time is now. Four years old and the time is now. Wow.
Kaya and I are walking home from daycare yesterday when she blurts out “I don’t like to be a bully.”
Crinkled brow on my part. A large intake of breath. Mind whirling with where that came from and what to say now.
“No, me neither. It’s not nice to be mean to other people.”
“No. People don’t like bullies.”
“Well, we can like everyone sweetie, but we don’t like their actions. We need to teach bullies other ways to act. Ways to not be mean.”
“Yah… So did you learn about bullies today?”
“Did you read a book about it?”
“No, there were boys hitting us and one girl said stop but they still did that.”
“I made a picture of you today! With silly hair!”
Oh crap, I lost her. I need to hear more!
“So did the boys say sorry?”
“So what happened?”
Shrug of the shoulders and she runs off chasing Riley. She is done.
Later over dinner I think I learn that the class sits down and has a talk about not being mean and about bullies and what that means. But I piece this together with sporadic bits and parts so I’m not really sure what happened. Will chat with the teachers next daycare day.
At first I am upset. But then it occurs to me that the teachers are brilliant. They are taking a perfectly normal situation in a preschool of 4 year olds, some rough play gone too far, and turning it into a teachable moment for the future. As two and three-year-olds they are taught ‘hands to your own body’, but now they are four and five. Now they are beginning to understand the world outside of themselves. They are learning that if they say something mean or hit somebody, it affects the other person in a negative way. Creating the awareness in their heads, early on, that bullying is hurtful and wrong plants a seed about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.
Sometimes as parents we are not ready to accept that our kids are old enough to understand these things. But the thing is, teaching them now makes it a standard part of our lives. Of course we wear seatbelts and helmets. Of course we do not throw garbage on the ground. Of course we do not purposefully harm another human being. That is just the way it is. And if that is the way it has always been, that is the way it will always be. Of course.
Now, I say all this without really knowing the extent of the conversation or incident at daycare. Regardless, Kaya did come across the word ‘bully’ which means it is my responsibility to carry on the conversation. I do so gladly and with gratitude of the reminder that it is never too early to start these conversations. The thing is, since we do not accept hitting at home, I sometimes forget that she is not always at home. She is seeing things out in the world, on the TV, in the bedroom with her body-slamming little sister, that do not meld with our ‘no hit’ policy. So while having the policy is great, and following the policy even better, we as parents need to remember to talk about this stuff to. Start a conversation.
Oh man, I’m veering off course here but I just remembered something. Kaya loves Pinkalicious. So do I. It’s a super cute book. So I bought her Purpilicious, expecting the same. Only this book seemed designed for teenagers. Mean girls all dressed in black who tease Pinkalicious for loving pink. Not loving the message, I donated the book hoping Kaya would not notice. Of course, she noticed. For months I have been shrugging it off “I don’t know where it is. Oh well!” but Kaya will not let up. Every few weeks or so she brings it up again.
Finally the other day, I sat her down and we had a talk. “Sweetie, I gave that book away. I didn’t really like it and I don’t think it was a book you should read.”
“But I like it.” Big pout.
“Well, it was a book about girls being mean to Pinkalicious and I don’t think that is nice.”
“We should be nice to our friends and I don’t want us reading books that supports being mean.”
“Mom, did you see this Franklin book going to school?!”
Conversations. So, so important.
I just really had no idea they would start so early. But now it is dawning on me, the earlier the better.
Death, existentialism, the birds & the bees. Man oh man, we’ve got some talking to do…