Friday, January 25, 2008

"Mental bearing, not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai"

It has started. And by 'IT' I mean the situation I thought I wouldn't have to deal with until junior high.

I'm talking about bullying.

We've had our first honest to goodness straight out of a scene from Mean Girls, bullying incident. And I'm already out of advice.

I'm also sorry, but not shocked that this bullying is happening so young. I expect it in high school and junior high. I'm not quite ready for it in fourth grade.

Fiona came home from school today upset that a girl stole her dessert at lunch. From what I understand, Fiona had her lunch in front of her, and was sitting sideways in her seat facing and chatting with the girl next to her, when The Girl seated across from her grabbed her little pack of Oreos.

When Fiona turned back to the table she began to look around her lunch table for her dessert and said 'Where's my snack?'She saw the already empty package in front of The Girl, and as they made eye contact and Fiona realized that was her snack, The Girl started to laugh.

And my girl, she got up and left.

She walked away. Like I've always preached, time and time again. "Just walk away." But has it been the right advice all this time? Ultimately, she should have walked away, but should she have stuck up for herself first? Maybe just made a small comment, a declaration that she would not be a victim of this girls mean-ness?

At the very least, if she was going to walk away as she did without a word, she should have done so with an attitude of "Whatever" and not have let The Girl's actions eat away at her all day, leaving her frustrated and upset.

My advice to her, as we talked after school, was that had she noticed it sooner, before or during The Girl eating the Oreos, she should have held out her hand and firmly said "Give me back my snack."

And if that didn't work, she should have gone to find the lunch mom. Because although, it is only a pack of oreos, stealing is stealing. And, in case The Girl was raised by immoral hooligans, I would like her to know that it is also wrong.

Fiona told me she couldn't say anything, The Girl would just laugh 'cause she does it to everybody.' She couldn't tell the lunch mom, because supposedly 'they don't do anything.' There were fourteen excuses why she couldn't stick up for herself. And one of them was that I always tell her not to be a tattletale.

I do say that. And she never listens.

I suggested that if Fiona asked for the oreos back, half eaten or not, and The Girl laughed, Fiona could've said something along the lines of 'I'm sorry your parents don't make enough money to buy you your own oreos.' But apparently, Fiona doesn't see the beauty that is a good comeback. I offered a few more, all of which were shot down.

I'm not proud to resort to playground trash talking. And I certainly don't want her to learn a finger snap and some 'yo, Mama' lingo. (Although I do have a few good ones she could use.) But, if the supervisor in charge is not approachable or helpful, and my child is left to handle this on her own,I want her to be able to stick up for herself.

It's not even about the cookies.

It's about tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

If today it's a package of cookies, who knows what it could be after that. I do know, that if Fiona goes on saying nothing, The Girl will go on taking.

I know I don't know a thing about The Girl, or her situation and her baggage. Because we all have it and who knows what is happening with her at home right now. But I do know a thing of two about My Girl, and she needs to find some confidence, real quick.

I hear her at home yelling, barking orders, being bossy to her siblings. I see her this way with neighborhood kids and cousins. She is a typical,take charge, likes to be the boss, first born. I hear her disrespect her father and I, when she can't have something she wants, with a door slam or a 'You're so mean.'

There is a voice there, this I know for sure.

Where was this voice when she needed it today?

As I type this, with this situation weighing heavily on my mind, I am sitting at Fiona's Tae Kwon Do class watching in awe as she breaks board after board with the strike of her hand or the snap of her foot. I see her form; stiff and controlled and strong. I hear her voice yell loudly as she makes contact time after time, sounding clear and firm, with a confidence that is so familiar when we are in this place. I watch her spar and back her opponent into a corner, I hear the snap of her kick as it hits their chest protector, her kick strong and landing dead center on her opponents chest protector. I see her stand right back up, quickly, ready to be challenged again, when it is her turn to be knocked down by a square kick to the heart.

This is why we are here. To find focus, confidence, and inner strength. To respect ourselves enough to know that even though we can fight, we won't. Because there is always a better way.

So why didn't she have the same courage she has tonight in this Dojang, today in the lunch room? Why didn't she use it to speak firmly and clearly and let The Girl know she would not be picked on?

Even if she doesn't want to carry on the tradition that is my snarky remark in situations such as this, why didn't she handle it the way she is being taught?

With confidence, with self-respect, and with courage.

Fiona disrespected herself today. She allowed herself to be taken advantage of and she let the person that did it make her feel badly about herself. She needs to remember that she is worth more than that.

I'm trying to teach her this. This non-tangible thing called 'the right thing.' And it is so hard. Especially, when I don't always know what is 'the right thing.'

Ultimately, the day is done, it's over. She's over it, and so I guess I am too. I just want it to be different next time.

Because there will definitely be a next time.

post signature


chickadee said...

oh my heart is breaking for your girl. but i'm finding it hard to muster up as much sympathy as you did for the other girl. and you're right, it's not about the oreos today, it's about what might happen tomorrow. i have no idea what i would do but it's just horrible.

and i don't miss the irony of your girl being so strong and taking karate and yet being bullied at school.

what do you do about that?

chrissy said...

This is the first time this has happened, correct?
It probably took her by surprise and she will need your permission to handle it accordingly next time. For this time, I say, she did do the right thing for the first time, walk away, don't get snotty or mean, just move on. I don't think she really disrespected herself, I think she stepped back to find herself. Now, given permission, by mom and dad, will release her to get the "help" of someone who can really help (lunch aid). The difference, I think, between tattling and getting help is that when we tattle we are trying to get someone else in trouble, when we go for help, it is not tattling, because the interest is to make things better for all, not just worse for one (does that make sense).
Now, I don't know if they do it at your schools, but the "bullying" needs to be documented. You do need to call the school and inform them of what happened and keep this as a journal as to what happened! This day and age bullying is unacceptable, but without documentation and calling the school it goes unnoticed!! I found this out the hard way! If one child bully's another child more than three times it is really considered bullying and serious consequences take place. The only problem is that they have to bully the same child more than just once or twice and it has to be documented! Sorry for the long comment, but I dealt with this seriously in 5th grade and my son was bit, bit by another student that had been bullying so many others, but because it went without reporting, only the innocent suffered!

chrissy said...

the word should be bitten not bit. Sorry

Family Adventure said...

This is the beginning of my worst nightmare, Lisa. To have any of my kids bullied.

Now, truthfully, I think Fiona handled it pretty well, especially for a first time reaction. She was undoubtedly shocked and caught unawares. The girl was clearly hoping to get a rise out of her. She did not achieve this, and maybe that'll discourage her from doing it again.

If it persists, then Fiona will have to speak up. Your peptalk today hopefully gave her the confidence to do so.

Also, if it persists, you need to find out how this can happen in an area supposedly supervised by adults (who are clearly not in charge, according to Fiona).

Good luck, Lisa. My heart sank when I started reading this post, but I know Fiona is a strong girl, and I hope she can kick this bullying in the butt. Hard.


ValleyGirl said...

I'm with Chrissy. My guess is that Fiona was shocked and that's why she didn't really react. She'll be more prepared next time. It's good that at least she told you. I think a lot of kids don't bother telling anyone, simply because the bullying is so 'normal.'

I worry about this issue, too. Even in kindergarten, it's appearing. It's mild now, but I know it'll get worse. I was surprised at my daughter's seemingly wise response to it though. (I say 'seemingly' because you never really know exactly how it all went down when it comes from a 6-yr old!!)

Cindy said...

Oh, I'd like to show Girl a thing or two. :)

My thoughts... sounds like Fiona can be strong; sometimes our kids are going to have to make choices about how to handle things and then handle whatever the results are. I bet she'll do fine. You wrote so beautifully about her karate lesson.

One thing she could do even though it isn't natural is "turn the other cheek"...take two packages of Oreos to school tomorrow and give one to Girl... might surprise the meanness right out of her.

And you can use this as a great life lesson for Fiona. That her reaction is going to be important... that bitterness or slander or taking vengeance is not what God wants for us, but that it is ok to stand up for herself. Times like these I try to remind my girls that we often don't know the back story; that typically people act ugly because they are hurting and someone at home (mom? dad?) is ugly to them.

I know you've shared some about your walk/struggle with God. Maybe this could be a chance to look at scripture like Matthew 5 and talk about it with Fiona... what do you think it means to "love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you?"

I so dread a day like that for my girls. I konw you hurt for Fiona. I'm so sorry!

Sister Honey Bunch said...

She is so lucky to have you help her with this. Frankly, it makes my blood boil.

When I was about 10, I had something similar happen. I didn't speak up and the entire time the voice in my head was screaming at me to stand up for myself. It affected me until adulthood. Teach her to take care of herself with grace, dignity and courage.

Pedaling said...

I agree with chrissy, she was caught by surprise this time - but next time, after talking with you, thinking about it....will be different.
oohh, i don't like mean girl bullying.

MOTY said...

I totally feel for you Lisa. Caden was seriously bullied in KINDERGARTEN. A snotty little boy decided that Caden would be his target and just didn't let up. We kept track of everything and when I felt enough was enough, we brought it to his teacher. She knew the boy was not nice, but she had no idea he was targeting Caden. She promised to have a talk with the boy and his parents as well as keep a closer eye on him. Within 2 weeks, the bullying was gone. He was still monitored closely around Caden. They did not sit near each other, were not in the same groups during class etc.

I don't think there is much that they would do at this point, but definitely write it down and if it keps happening, start with the teacher and move on up the ladder until you get results. Every school now has an anti-bullying policy in effect. It won't be ignored.

That being said, I agree with others that she probably did the right thing this time. She was shocked and didn't know what to do. You have gone over some scenarios with her about what she could have done differently and she will be better prepared if there is a next time.

Becky @ Boys Rule My Life said...

Reading this makes me want to home school... well, not really... I don't have the patience for that.

I fear those days. We're not there yet, but I know they are coming. I have no advice. I only have a supportive ear and an "I feel your pain."

I was never bullied and if someone tried I always gave them "what-for" right there on the spot and it never happened again. I even stood up to those bullying others. I don't know how to teach this to my children though. I am appreciative of this post and all the comments. I need to start addressing this possibility now I suppose.

Keep us informed!

Amy said...

Bullying on any level is wrong, but girl bullying has always made me even more mad. I would say that Fiona was probably caught off guard with this situation and in the spur of 1 moment, didn't know how to react. Instead, walking away seemed the most logical. Talking to her and teaching her life and coping skills will most surely prepare her for future sitations. She won't necessarily get it right everytime, but each time I'm sure whe will develope more confidence in who she is as a person. I just pray it stops for her!

Jul said...

And so it begins....You did the right thing in helping her to understand she needs to assert herself next time, that it is OK to do it. Now that IT has happened and she knows it is really wrong she will handle it differently next armed with some good comebacks from Mom!

Queen B said...

I am so sorry that this happened to Fiona. That is so ridiculous.

I agree with the majority that she was just taken by surprise. I would rather my daughter (who is the same age) walk away the first time instead of doing something silly and making the situation worse--which is so possible.

That being said, I think you have given her options on what to do next time. Another commenter mentioned that you've given her permission to handle it--I think that is huge. We teach our girls to be "good" and they think good girls would not get into it with someone. By letting her know it is ok to stand up for herself and that you support her I think she might handle it differently next time. Or it may take a little bit for her to find her footing.

The reason she's comfortable having a voice at home is because she is confident at home. She knows that no matter what she says/does she will be loved and accepted.

I would absolutely let the school know.

I just asked my fourth grade girl what she would do in that situation and she said, "if it is a bully I wouldn't push her because I don't know how she would react or she might hit me".

So I'll be working on this, too.

Sorry for the long comment :)

Fannie Mae said...

I agree with a lot of what has been said already. My advice, and keep in mind my daughters are 16 and 19 so I'm fresh from the trenches, read these books ASAP:
Queen Bees and Wannabes, Rosalind Wiseman and Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher. When you're done, keep them on your bedside table for reference.

It's a differnt world ladies. Keeping our girls safe and whole is a priviledge and a burden. Take your help where you can and PRAY.

The Princess said...

My mom reads your blog and was telling me about Fiona's issue. I am the same age as Fiona and totally see where she is coming from.

When being bullied, you... don't know what to do. You could go and tell the teacher, or just don't do anything. I probably would have been with Fiona on that one.

If you 'tattle' on a bully you usally get,"Your gonna get it now" or,"You better watch out."

Sorry for a weirdest comment in the world.:)

Anonymous said...

I was actually going to suggest the same thing Cindy did...take a 2nd package in and offer them to the girl. Or even offer to share her cookies with a comment "You seemed to want them so much I thought you might like to share..."

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

I'm with Chrissy and Heidi. It sounds like Fiona was taken aback and didn't know how to react. Now she does, in case there is a next time.

And I LOVE your snappy comeback. If this ever happens to one of my girls, I am SO teaching them that one.

Suzy said...

I think this is the first time I'm leaving a comment on your blog. This entry reminded me of when my son was first bullied. He had slugs, dead slugs, thrown at him at the playground by the well-known bully and when he told me he defended him saying, "well the slugs were dead, so it was okay." Which broke my heart in half and I tried so hard not to burst into tears. This bullying thing is SOOOO HARD!!!!!!!!!!

Stacie said...

ugh it is heartbreaking.

Maybe she is letting the girl slide the first time, but NEXT time she is going to take her down.

Just teasing...kinda.

It is so hard being a mom and hearing of someone doing anything to our child.

I hope that if there is a next time Fiona can and will stand up for herself and what is right.

What about her saying, "hey, please don't steal my food, if you would like me to share all you have to do is ask!" and if the girl asks I hope Fiona says "no" and laughs at her.

Just kidding again...kinda.

momof2 said...

This is such a tricky situation. And as a parent, resisting the urge to step in and try to force your child to handle these types of things a certain way (not to mention resisting the urge to not go and wring the other child's neck) can be very difficult. However, it sounds like Fiona is strong and has the capability to stand up for herself. And when tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day happens and she gets her feel of it all, she WILL handle it. In a respectful and mature and honorable way that you will be proud of I'm sure. In the meantime, just keep guiding her in the right thing to do, and encourage her to stand up for herself when necessary. She will listen, even if she doesn't respond right away.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Oh lisa, these are situations I dread. How do you find the right thing to do? Wow - I think she handled it well!!!

I am all over Cindy's advice. That advice is awesome. What a great way to teach the love of Christ. It is un-natural to love our enemies, but what a sign that would be to Girl!

Angie said...

I was always small as a kid and easily bullied. I had little self-confidence and was too agreeable. An easy target. I turned to things later in life to give me confidence that did just the opposite. I think a stronger parental support system is key. (not that I AT ALL fault my parents, dont get me wrong) and I think knowing that she has options is key. No one wants to be the kid known as the tattle tale. You just have to let her know that there are inconspicuous ways of getting the information across to those that can help her.

Holly said...

Excellent thoughts Mom on a very difficult topic! I'm surprised too that she's facing this in fourth grade. These poor kidlets!

I'm sorry this happened and I'm sure she will find her voice if(when?)it happens again.

SnapHappyInkyMomma said...

AWWWW. I'm so sad for her and for you. I'm just waiting for this to start with Becca's group . . .

PLO said...

I hate this. Why is this kind of behavior so prevalant? My girl told me that a girl on the bus said she was going to kill her yesterday, and had a fit when I said I would call the school to tell them , worrying about the backlash that would cause.

Angie said...

I think you have a very mature 4th grader. She's probably not a tattle tale either.

As a lunch mom, myself, I would not tolerate this kind of behavior in my cafeteria. I've never had to deal with the stealing of another child’s food, however, I have had to deal with the occasional milk theft.

In this case I make the child completely understand how that is stealing and then I’ll make that child explain what he/she did to the principal (the principal is in the lunch room 90 percent of the lunch time). The principal will give his lecture and then usually make the kid call home and explain to their parent. Obviously they will need to pay the cashier the next day.

I’m not sure what I would have done in your daughters case. I’m almost positive I would have made the bully cry though. Not because she feared me but because I can always find a way to make the bullies feel bad about their actions.

Lisa said...

I know that all this advise is probably overwhelming, I will give you mine- because I am sure you REALLY want it..

Your saying she definately has her voice, at home. This is good.
I bet she was just kind of caught offguard by said bully and was maybe taken aback by it. Maybe now she will be prepared, if there is a next time, in her own mind going over what she will say, or something like that.
In the meantime, I would definately talk to lunch mom, or whoever is in charge in the lunch room, not to tattle, just to make your point that there is problems and they NEED to, HAVE to nip these kinds of things in the bud. For everyones sake.
I know, I know, Im no Dr phil, and I just am looking at chrissys post and I think we are all on the same page.
Reagan just had her 3rd bday yesterday and is starting preschool at a little church school on Tuesday, she cannot wait, but I am so not looking forward to all this drama with other kids..
Your girls a smart well rounded and I am sure likeable, if shes anything like her mom. Keep up the good work and the constant conversation, you know what your doing, and your doing a great job!
coastal nest

gordostyle said...

I totally feel for you and your daughter. My first instinct, as a mom, is that I'm going to go show that girly a thing or two. It's soooo hard! I wouldn't trade being a kid again for nothing!

Hope it gets better and that this was a one-time thing!

Smiles & HUGS!

new diva on the blog said...

Don't be too hard on yourself or your daughter. She is strong and confident she just needs to find her bearings in an unfamiliar situation. Trust me, I have been dealing with a bully for years and sometimes even when you stick up for yourself it still hurts and frustrates. There is no "right" answer all the time. Just help her know her own worth (as I know you already do) and she is going to be just fine.

FernandoDownUnder said...

I was a lunch room aide and I am positive that there were plenty of things going on that I had no idea about. I was one person patrolling a cafeteria of about 200 students. Kids were all the time saying

He/she took my.... (fill in the blank)

and I was all the time telling em to give it back. I do not doubt that bullying happened and kids didn't say anything bc they thought I wouldn't do anything, and in that case they were probably right. Only because of logistical issues. I might start dealing with one problem and then have to go and see about another and another and then it's time for them to go and the bully has never been dealt with.

I did always try to let their teachers know if I noticed or suspected the bullying dynamic, but to be honest with that many kids, who knows how many situations that I missed.

Org Junkie said...

My daughter is in grade 5 so I am right there with you. It does start so young, it's terrible.

The one thing I wanted to suggest is talking to the principle yourself. Most schools these days have an anti bullying policy (if they don't, they should!) and he/she should be made aware of this situation as soon as possible especially considering the lunch moms won't do anything.

Keep us posted.

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