It's tough teaching kids that there are rules for society, school, and home. It is not easy to explain that the rules are "guidelines" and that sometimes it's just OK to break the rules. I know that sounds like I'm probably going down a bad path here. Maybe we are. I don't know. Anyway, trying to find a way to explain these types of things to a child is really tough... especially when the child is a very rules-oriented person with a "black is black and white is white" type of outlook on everything.
Here is what I'm talking about.
Bailey was picked on by a little girl in her preschool class when she was four. It wasn't that big of a deal, but she did decide that she didn't want to go to school a few times because she didn't want to have any run-ins with little Ms. A. If I remember correctly, she would pinch Bailey and squeeze her arm if Bailey didn't do what she wanted to all the time. She and Bailey really butted heads, but Bailey would not defend herself. Her teacher, at a Christian preschool, even told me that she was upset with Bailey because Bailey would not tell Ms. A to stop hurting her. Instead, she would let it escalate to the point where she would be crying and the teacher would have to intervene.
So, at that point in time, we sat Bailey down and explained to her that if Ms. A was hurting her, she needed to ask her to stop. If she didn't and there wasn't a teacher there to help immediately, she should pinch or hit or shove Ms. A off of her. This little girl was seriously maybe 6 inches shorter than Bailey. She was about the same size as Jake, who Bailey routinely beats up (and takes a beating from). I was really frustrated with Bailey because I did NOT want her to let this kid pick on her. Bailey was too worried that she would get in trouble with the teacher. She refused to defend herself. Again, we told her that no matter what, even if she got in trouble, if little Ms. A decided to hit her or hurt her and Bailey couldn't get her to stop by using her words, then she had our permission to shove her off of her. I told her that if the teacher got upset and if she got sent to the office, she should just tell them that she wanted me called and that I would take care of it. I even made a point to tell her teacher what instructions I had given to Bailey.
I don't think she was happy with it (the teacher), but I think she understood what I was saying when I told her that if no one was defending Bailey, she was entitled to defend herself and if that was a problem, I'd be happy to come in and discuss it.
Nothing ever happened with it. Bailey avoided Ms. A as much as possible, and I'm pretty sure that the teacher kept them away from each other as much as she could. Ms. A left the preschool program early. I worried it was because of us, but decided that they surely would not have pulled her out or kicked her out based on just one experience. Guilt... it is so terrible.
Here would be a good time to tell you all... I do not condone fighting. I don't encourage my kids to fight with their fists. My kids would be punished in more ways than one if I found out they were bullying a kid. It might happen once. But I can promise, if I found out my kid was involved with some type of bullying, it would not happen a second time. I can also say that we have talked to our kids about defending themselves and defending people that are not as strong as they are. Bailey knows that if a little kid is getting picked on by a bigger kid, she should defend that child or find an adult to help. There is no doubt in my mind that she would step in and help one of her friends. But defending herself is something entirely different.
So, what brought this post on? Well, Bailey got punched in the face at school the other day by a little boy in her class. Now, before you get worried, I don't think it was a really hard punch. She says she didn't cry or anything (and trust me, if it was hard, she would have cried).
When I asked her if she hit him back, she said, "No. The teacher stopped me." The entire story was told over a few hours, with different pieces being added in at various points. Bailey didn't tell me the entire story in chronological order at all. But I think it went something like this:
F hits Bailey in the face. She curls up her fist to hit him back, pulls her arm back to swing, and Mrs. O says, "Bailey, do not hit him."
Bailey responds with something to the effect of, "He hit me first."
Mrs. O says, "I don't care. We do not hit in this class. F, go to timeout."
While Mrs. O punishes F, Bailey continues the argument, "My mom said it's OK for me to hit him if he hits me first."
Mrs. O says, "I don't care what your mom says, the rules are that we do not hit."
Bailey says, "You can call my mom and ask her. She says I should hit him back if he hits me first."
Mrs. O says, "I am not going to listen to your mom about this, Bailey. You do not hit."
That's how I translate all of Bailey's jumbled up story. :)
I thought it was actually pretty funny.
But, it did bring up some interesting conversation in our house and among some of my friends and family.
How DO you teach your child to defend herself while also teaching her not to hit or become a bully?
In all honesty, I think it is incredibly important for Bailey to understand that she needs to defend herself. She needs to see that it only takes one time of her standing up for herself to get the point across to others. I bet little Ms. A or F would think twice before they decided to hit or pinch her if she did it back to them just once.
BUT... it is also important for her to understand that rules exist for a reason. She needs to obey and respect the teachers. It's a tough, very thin line to balance. Trying to figure out how to keep your child from being one of those students that you hear about that get bullied everyday or that bullies someone else everyday is not easy. I want Bailey to be tough and rough and strong. But, I also want her to be sensitive and compassionate and understanding.
I'm not asking too much, right?! :)
I'm not asking too much, right?! :)