My first encounter with my child being bullied was as early as kindergarten, Aspen was only 4 years old and fairly sheltered up unto that point in her life. Suddenly she had her first ‘best friend’ and she felt really special. Aspen was the sort of child that didn’t make friends easily back then, she was painfully shy, to the point where she would sometimes cry if people just looked at her.
Unfortunately it was probably not a great first experience of what a ‘good’ friend is with this little girl. It wasn’t as if Aspen was bullied in the way you may be thinking. She wasn’t physically bullied or even called names. It was the back and forth of this girls friendship. One minute she was Aspen’s best friend and the next she didn’t want to know her. She controlled when and if Aspen could play, and who she could play with. Aspen would come home in tears saying her ‘friend’ ignored her one day and then come home all happy the next day because she was ‘best friends’ again.
Now I could hardly get mad at 4 and 5 year olds, this girl was too young to realise the impact she was having on Aspen, but as a mum, seeing my child come home crying was hard.
And to be honest I didn’t really know how to handle the situation, this was new to me too. Thankfully within a couple of months Aspen connected with another girl who was also being hurt by this other girls behaviour and they bonded over their experience. They became like two peas in a pod and had a beautiful friendship that they still cherish to this day.
The whole experience shocked me though, I knew girls and women can be ‘bitchy’, I just wasn’t expecting kinder kids to behave this way. Now though I have to think that I was being naive. If older siblings and even parents are acting this way, then why wouldn’t kinder aged children act this way too. They are just following their role models, aren’t they?
What are we teaching our children when we stand around bitching, or gossiping? What are we teaching our children by letting them watch shows that are not appropriate for ‘their ages’? Our children watch us closely, they model our behaviour, how can we blame a 4 year old when we are teaching them the wrong things?
When I watch shows like the bachelor, or next top model the young girls and woman on these shows can make some really nasty comments. They act in ways that I would hate for my child to look up to as an example of what is acceptable or even ‘cool’.
I am not suggesting we can wrap our daughters up in cotton wool, but if they are exposed to shows, or examples of this behaviour we need to see it as an opportunity to point out why this behaviour is not OK! We need to teach them that it is never acceptable to bully, just as it is never acceptable to be bullied.
Young girls are extremely vulnerable (as are young boys). As parents, aunts, sisters, grandparents, we are their number one role model, and we need to stop and think about the examples we are setting. If we stand around gossiping about what someone wore to the trivia night, or how what ‘so and so’ said about ‘this or that’, we need to remember our children, or someone else’s children may be listening (yes, even when we think they’re not, they usually are).
When we laugh at someone’s new hair do, gossip about someone’s divorce, or bitch about our child’s teacher we are setting a precedent for how to behave. We need to watch the way we say things, and sometimes what we say.
I have been lucky with Aspen as she has grown up she has continued to gravitate towards really nice friends, and has an awesome bunch of both girl and boy friends. I am aware though that there is a lot of bullying behaviour that goes on amongst 10 year old girls, and it is really sad. I hope that Aspen doesn’t engage in it in the future just to try and fit in, or feel cool. Peer pressure can be hard to resist. I hope I am raising her to be strong enough, but I know I am not perfect. I am learning everyday how to be a mum to a newly 11 year old, it can be really tough at times.
I cannot control what goes on in the playground and although I might wish to protect her 24/7 I can’t do that either, (as a control freak this is hard). I can only try to be the best role model I can be. I can answer questions she has, and be a shoulder to cry on. I can offer advice that she may or may not choose to follow. This is her life and she will make mistakes as I have. But I will continue to try my best to be a positive role model, that demonstrates kindness to other women, and support women’s empowerment.
I would love to hear your thoughts on bullying, please leave me a comment below.
Thanks for joining me, love Mackenzie xx
PS: Thanks for all the well wishes for Aspen’s birthday, her surprise party was amazing, she felt so special and we all had a great evening.
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