Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mean Kids Suck

Logan and I have a ritual every evening on our drive home from school. I ask him what he did at school that day and he proceeds to crab at me from the back seat. (It's very enjoyable.)

I tell him he has to talk to me about two things he learned in class and what he liked most at recess. I also explain to him that if he doesn't answer me, he can go straight to bed when he gets home, because I don't play that game. He sighs loudly and answers my questions. Then we begin having a real conversation.

I love that. Not so much having to pull his teeth to get him to chat with me, but the actual conversation that follows. I learn a lot about him and his day during these car rides.

For instance, Logan's classmate Kayla is a big girl. Lately she has been getting teased a lot and called "fat". Plus, not many kids want to play with her. This broke my heart and we talked about how bad that must make her feel. How "fat" can be such an ugly word. And how Logan needs to make sure he says something nice to her every day. That's his job as my kid. He asked if he could just say "Hi" to her in the morning and I agreed that it would be good enough.

The next day Logan informed me that he told his buddies I said it wasn't nice to use the "F" word. (I had a minor panic attack until I realized he meant "fat".)

It's so hard being a kid sometimes. I remember getting picked on when I was little. To this day I can remember how bad it felt when Jim Arvidson called me a bucked tooth beaver. I'm sure he doesn't even remember the incident, since it happened in the first grade. But I sure do remember. It stuck with me forever.

And I remember when the kids would make fun of Melanie because her family was poor. And Henry because he was so skinny. And Rich because he was a little different.

My friend Amanda's son is going through some self-image issues himself. He hates his school picture and says he's ugly. No matter how much his mama tells him different, it doesn't change the way he sees himself.

Is this just a rite of passage and something each child must struggle through?

Did everyone go through this? Even the kids who seemed to have it all together with the rich family, nice cars, great clothes, good grades and always got picked first during gym class?

Tell me your experiences when you were a child. Did you get picked on? Did you pick on other kids?

If you have children, how do you help them deal with self-image issues? How do you teach them to ignore the taunts of classmates?

And if your kid is a bully, what the heck do you do with that?


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17 comments:

Martha said...

Oh Man.

I loved this post and hated it.

It inspires me and makes me happy to hear about your conversation with Logan (I need to have one with Noodle), but I get a tummyache thinking about how mean kids are to each other. It breaks my heart.

I've been fortunate to not experience much in the bullying department, but there were times as a younger person that my classmates and I would treat each other poorly - ganging up on each other or ignoring one person in our group of friends. Thankfully, those situations didn't happen much, but I just ache when I think about them.

Good topic.

xoxox,
martha

Leah said...

My mom had a boy who called her Fat Mosquito. She ended up stabbing him with a pencil. I don't have any terrible memories of people making fun of me, but I may have been oblivious since my horrible family life took up most of my thoughts.

We have had to deal recently with my stepson being upset at his shortness. He is three years older than my stepdaughter and has less than two inches on her. She's just so tall, and EVERYONE notices that of course. At this point, he has grown so that he's about average in his class, so that's alleviating.

My stepdaughter put on a pair of tights over the winter and asked if they made her look fat, so then we had to make sure that we weren't saying, "Oh you're getting so big" but rather say "tall." It's so scary how we have to watch what we say to our own kids because of all the connotations they are picking up everywhere else.

Great job on helping Logan to be an everyone's man. My niece has been informed that her job at preschool is to befriend the shy kids, the loners, and the kids who are "different." All the kids really like her, so if she is friends with those kids, they will be part of the whole group and not outsiders.

Sorry for my very random commenting! I read every single day; I'm just not always driven to speak.

saintseester said...

Suffice it to say that I don't really want to go here. I was tormented in school - bullied, picked on, harassed. Bad Memories. Horrible. I have no idea how to deal with it when kids today do it, because it freezes me inside.

I do talk to my kids about how things make people feel. I remind them not to engage in teasing.

Valarie said...

I have been the one that someone called names. I had a girl tell me once that my nose looked like gonzo from the muppets. Now yes I have a bit of a turn down at the end of my nose, but gonzo, I mean really its not that bad. If I had been a little less shy in school, I would have said she had a pointy nose and lots of freckles. Point being though that yes I remember it to this day. I remember where she said it, and when she said it. You want to know what the kicker was though. She was one of my really good friends.

I also have to help Lil Logan with his issues. He is always saying he has freakishly large ears. He is eight, now you can't tell me someone did not tell him that. I think he has cute ears, they are just right for him and thats what God wanted him to have. :)

Ashlee said...

Oh wow...you've opened up the flood gates HB! Here I go!

In 3rd grade there was the Ashlee Haters Club. Yes, a club. They thought I was too fat. I look back at my pictures from then and I wasn't big AT ALL. BUT, the years that followed I slowly started getting bigger. I weighed more in the 7th grade than I do now. They put that image in my head that I was fat, so I gave in to that. It was horrible and affected my self esteem for years.

Now, my son comes home off the bus sometimes in tears. There is a boy on the bus that likes to bully the rest of the kids. He makes fun of Landon because....he's smart. Apparently if you are smart, you're a momma's boy and stupid. Not stupid in the not being smart sense, but you are a wierdo. I want to beat up that kid. I tell Landon the same thing every time. "Do you think you are stupid?" or whatever it was that he had been called that day....and thankfully he doesn't think so. Then I just tell him to remember that. Who cares what some dumb kid on the bus says. If you know you are a good kid, you don't have to worry about it. But, I remember worrying about it. I don't know how to address this one either. How can I make sure that it doesn't affect my kids' self esteem the way it did with me?

Sister Sassy said...

I think I spent a little bit of time being a mean kid, mostly it was in Middle school and the group of girls I hung out with were nasty little B!tches. We'd play mean jokes on people and such. I also had my set of "church friends" and was really close with one girl.

Well, I broke up with my best church friend due to a major betrayal, became depressed because of it and subsequently was tagged as "boring and uncool" by my group of school friends. Then after one of the kind hearted members of the gang was persecuted by my school best friend I said I thought that "she was being a bitch to Ally". Well BFF found out and I was OUT-that was the last day of 7th grade. My gang wasn't allowed to talk to me, they shunned me. I spent my whole 8th grade year hating school and wanting to move. I hardly ever smiled and wrote poems about death. My English teacher was alarmed and told me about Sylvia Plath, lol. But she cared and was concerned.

I made it through 8th grade and entered H.S. Because I had NO friends I would go to Gym class early and in the locker room before class was sitting Danielle. She and I became friends very quickly and she is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I love her desperately. Her friendship has saved me in my dark times and I would never have met her if 8th grade had been cheery. I was able to look back at my old girlfriends and see they were unsuccessful in school and didn't really go on to make anything of themselves. So tell your children that sometimes things work out in a very unexpected way.

Oh, and by the time I got to high school I was a non-conformist and pretty much wanted to be nothing like the people there. I was teased for answering questions in class and it drove me crazy. But they were STUPID and I knew it, I yelled back at them. I loved it when my crush heard a guy make fun of a girl for saying a big word. He said pretty loud "huh huh..it's cool to be stupid". I loved him all the more for that.

Is this too long to leave in the comments??

RR Mama said...

Oh wow what a topic. I remember being teased in middle school. I had really bad bucked teeth. Thank God for braces! I hated them and loved them all at the same time. Kids would call me Bucked Tooth Beverly or Beaverly. Yeah it hurt. funny how things stick with you. My son is 7 and I to MAKE him talk to me on our ride home. I swear some days I want to pull my hair out. I tell him he better start talking or no DS or TV for weeks, weeks I tell him. He told me how kids at school were teasing another boy. I asked him if he joined in, the whole time holding my breath praying he said no. Well he did say no and then he told the other kids to stop teasing him because how did they like it when someone teased them. I asked him when did he get so smart? His reply..Mom remember when I was in Kindergarden and Mrs. D said to be a leader not a follower. Well I am a leader! I LOVE THIS TEACHER! Way to go Mrs. D!

kspin said...

Why do we always remember the bad things that happen? Too bad that we can't have selective memory! lol!

My daughter is starting to be affected in a negative way by comments that sometimes sound pretty innocent. Not only do I need to encourage her to be kind to others, but I have to remind her that sometimes friends aren't really trying to hurt her feelings and that she should try to let things go. SO hard for a 6 year old girl!

Great topic. I need to start having more talks like this with my kids. Thanks.

womaninawindow said...

UGG! Give me a day. I was picked on and later I picked (in moderation - but still my one and only regret, I think.) I think kid's pick for self preservation and to self inflate. I teach my kids by talking, talking, talking through everything and always holding things up as examples. Even silly things like "Arthur" offers metaphors on bullying and when I see it in real life I say, "Doesn't that remind you of that episode of Arthur?" I think that's when they get it the most, with a comparison. But I do also see them bare their teeth in awkward social settings, trying to get an upper hand or at least not be stomped to the bottom. Yes, kids can be so cruel. Gotta keep them talking! Their school has a recognition board for kids noticed doing works of kindness for others. So good.

Gypsy at Heart said...

I always thought that words can slice through worse than any knife. A physical wound is a rare occurrence. Something mean that has been said to someone however is a repetitive wounding because the offended rehashes over and over in their mind after the fact. Hurtful words hit that most vulnerable of parts, our self-esteem. I was deemed a rich kid (though I really wasn't) I was ostracized for being different (a foreigner and a diplomat's daughter). I got made fun of plenty and it hurt like. the. dickens. I felt no different myself, why should I be made to feel like I was I thought...

Children are likewise the most at risk and the most dangerous. As an adult we can somehow handle the punches better. Armor has been built to a degree. A child however, has no protection from another child's thoughtless taunting. Neither do they have an idea what their words can wreck unless they are made to do so. I'll take this opportunity to tell you that you've handled your son beautifully. Not pushing him to do what he might not wish to do but making him aware of other's feelings.

Looking back, I would have given much myself to have the mother's of the kids who sometimes made my life impossible do the same with their own children. Oh! The stories I could tell sister honey... the stories I could tell.

fullheartandhands mama said...

Wow. Talk about giving me some food for thought.

I'm so glad that there are mamas like you who are raising their kids to be kind.

Off to tell my children that they are lovely, green snot and all.

Hairline Fracture said...

I wasn't picked on a lot, but I did get teased a lot by this one boy. We went to a tiny private school our whole lives, so I couldn't get away from him the next year. He mostly cut me down for being smart (I remember when we were 8 or so, he told me I "had no common sense" and for some reason that stuck with me and I still have to remind myself that that's not true).

Miss Pink is 5 and luckily the kids in her preschool have not been mean (or else she is oblivious). We talk a lot about being kind and not using words (like "fat") that would hurt someone's feelings. Feelings are very important in our house!

High Hopes said...

My dd has been bullied in her school and I have stepped in occasionally. We have healthy conversations and I instill in her that she is beautiful and wonderful despite what anyone may say. Luckily at our school it is not tolerated at all and the offenders are dealt with immediately.

I also try to make her realize that she is more than what the words or labels the bully applies.

You may want to read an interesting novel by Jodi Piccoult called Nineteen Minutes, it will give you shivers.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in the South, as a sharecropper's daughter and one of sixteen made life tough. We were teased and called White Trash because there were so many of us. I did have a special friend and now 55 years later we are still friends. She never looked at me as White Trash, just a little girl wanting to be accepted. I tried to teach my children not to tease those less fortunate and that unless you have walked in their shoes you don't know what they are feeling. Just think; there but by the grace of God go I. Daddy instilled in us that we could do anything we wanted to if we wanted it bad enough and worked hard to get it. I think most bullies are kids that want to be accepted themselves so lets pray for them.
Gardengal

Wade Huntsinger said...

We have some boys who are the bully and the some that gets bullied. These kids do what they see done or what has done to them. It makes no sense as they should remember what it felt like but because they were bullied now they bully someone else. Bullying is my pet peeve. That and talking back. Anyways, we had one this week who was caught bullying another kids and calling him a white cracker, while this kid is Hispanic. It makes no sense. He dud seem remorseful and of course he had to take action to make it right. I don't know...

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

From the time I had lazy eye in kindergarten I was the kid to be picked on in school. Luckily, I had friends outside of school, and I just grew to hate cliques. It was a hard few years in school, though.

I wasn't really someone who picked on others, because I learned that lesson early. I'm not as tolerant as I should be as an adult, however, when I see parenting that I don't approve of. I'm a real pain about that and am trying to be less judgmental. It's easy to criticize... and very hard to be in someone else's shoes.

Carol Ramsey said...

I love your idea to ask your son to say one nice thing each day to the girl who gets picked on. That is brilliant, I think I'll use that one.

I don't have a bully experience to share. But I also love the car rides home from school. This was one of my first responsibilities for my step-daughter when she started kindergarten. I learned to not say much, to listen instead. It is one of my favorite parts of the day.