My kids are good kids. They’re kind. They say please and thank you and help without prompting.
Every morning at school drop off I watch my 11-year-old hold the door open for however many kids are coming in behind him.
My kids are the kind of kids that no one minds babysitting, and other parents want their kids to learn from their example.
I have really, really good kids, and I don’t say that to brag. I say it so you know what kind of kids I’m talking about.
What my kids are not, are pushovers. If you’ve been living on this planet for more than a few minutes, you’ve heard the adage “don’t mistake kindness for weakness.”
If you’ve ever met a bully, you know that they make this assumption a lot. This child is kind, and therefore weak, which then gives the bully license to relentlessly pick on the kind child.
I have given my children permission to bully the bully.
Kindness does not equate to weakness, and when my children come home informing me of a situation where they felt they were being bullied, my typical response is “and how did you handle that?”
Not anger, not sadness for them being picked on, but how did they problem solve that situation.
The typical answer of “I told an adult” doesn’t fly.
Now, of course, I want them to tell an adult, but in that moment of being face to face with their bully, I want to know how they problem solved without an adult.
How did they compose themselves?
How did they address the situation in the moment?
A parent, teacher or an adult may not always be present, and they need to understand how to use their voices in the present moment, while their adrenaline is running.
After an instance of bullying, we talk about what they could say or do in response.
And, yes, if your child is being hurtful to my child, I give them absolute permission to stand up for themselves with the same type of words your child is throwing at them.
If your child feels inclined to shove or hit my child, my child has explicit permission to strike your child, and we will probably go for a treat afterward.
I don’t condone starting drama or picking on others for the sake of picking on others; no, but I do believe that being kind does not mean you have to be a doormat.
It is my responsibility as a parent to make sure my children can survive without me, and swooping in to problem solve their problems isn’t the answer.
They need to be able to work through things without the assistance of an adult, while still having the adult in their corner if needed.
Helping my children gain the confidence in their decision making is a big part of my parenting. Teaching them how to handle bullies is just one aspect.
Bullies don’t go away because you’ve graduated high school.
Ask any adult. You’ve got cliques at work, mean girls in mom groups, and people that try to one up you to make you feel worse about yourself.
In the age of social media, we run into bullies in the comment sections who seem like they thrive off of being mean to strangers on the internet.
Our kids are having to deal with that at school and online, and unless we give them permission to give it right back and walk them through how to cope, they won’t be prepared to handle it when bullying surpasses snide remarks in the hallway.
When I was younger, my mother used to tell me, “Don’t tell me what someone did to you, unless you can tell me what you did back.”
I thought it was particularly weird and kind of cruel, but what she was equipping me with was invaluable knowledge on how to handle bullies, and bullied I was.
By the time I had reached middle school, I had learned what she meant and how to apply it. The thing about bullies is that they are hurting, but it’s not our children’s jobs to fix another child’s hurt.
That’s the job of that bully’s parents, the school counselor, or a family therapist. It is not the job of the bullied child to continue to take abuse because the bully may be hurting.
So if you ask if my children are bullies, I’ll tell you no, but I will always give them permission to use their voice and sometimes hands to defend themselves or someone else.