Girls and Bullying
My daughter had her first introduction to bullying at age 4. Over a month-long period, Maddison would come home from school reporting that a girl’s activities at school that seemed to have a bullying nature to them. I was completely taken aback that this was happening at the age of 4. Maddison could not understand why a girl was intimidating, insulting and generally picking on her. At age 4 she could not put the girl’s behavior in such categories, but I could, even though I was not ready to call it bullying yet.
At first, I took everything with a grain of salt because my daughter was only 4. It did not occur to me that at her age I needed to prepare her for bullying. It felt like the cart before the horse. Each day though Maddison’s feelings were becoming more and more hurt. One day she came home from school sobbing because the girl called her a liar. I decided it was time to take action.
My first step in changing this behavior was to reach out to her teacher. Thankfully, her teacher was amazing and completely on top of it. It turned out that several other girls in the class had reported their classmate’s behavior. This incredible teacher worked with the girl and gave us the opportunity to talk about forgiveness at home. We reminded her that if she were to make a mistake or not realize her mistake that she would hope others would forgive her. By the time Maddison moved onto kindergarten she was actually able to form a solid friendship with this girl and learned so much about managing relationships, albeit sooner than I had hoped.
Then came kindergarten. Quickly Maddison formed close bonds with fellow girls, and just as quickly they began to manipulate each other. I am the first to admit my daughter is not perfect and makes mistakes just like I do. Weathering through this as a parent was tough. It was my first lesson in teaching my daughter how to problem solve on her own and stand on her own two tiny feet.
Figuring Out What to Do
I do have to admit that to encourage positive relationships between the girls I began inviting them over for play dates. This allowed me to monitor interactions and allow for the girls to connect outside of a school space. Some of the relationships failed and some grew stronger. Maddison learned when to respect others wishes and when to be there for encouragement. I was there to just listen and always remind her that she could remove herself from a situation. That who she spends time with is her choice.
Recently, a friend with a new kindergartener came into a very similar situation to ours. I briefly mentioned it to Maddison and her response was “you should have let me talk to her because I know what to do”. Her advice was this: If someone bully’s you make a joke out of it or change the subject or both. High five for in-school training.
It is hard to believe that bullying can begin so early. I definitely experienced bullying in elementary school, but not when I was 4. The tools that are being created for these kiddos are amazing, some I could frankly use on a rough day. I recently heard that girls are their most confident during 3rd grade until they reach adulthood. So, I am going to enjoy this phase of my daughter’s empowerment with all of my might because goodness knows what is just around the corner.