My daughter is a bully.
I have to stop being so scared and embarassed about that sentence.
My daughter is a bully.
Yesterday, I wanted to run and hide from life. Which is impossible. To those who reached out to me, those who sent me loving messages, those who left understanding comments... thank you.
Unfortunately, the school principal doesn't read my blog and didn't get that message. Unfortunately, my daughter didn't get that message, either.
My pity party came to a head Wednesday afternoon when I got the call that every parent dreads. Actually, maybe "every parent" never even imagines they will get that call. Teagan and a friend were in trouble. They'd lost out on both recesses because they had hit each other- slapped in the face, in fact. Then lied about it to the principal so lost out on 2nd recess as well. And I found out later in the day that Teagan had gone back to the principal's office because she had pulled another girl's hair and clothes.
My first reaction was that something must be wrong in the relationship between Teagan and this one little girl. The relationship is hot and cold. And I thought this incident indicated that there is something wrong between them. I even thought that the anxiety Teagan has been expressing might be connected to the stress of this relationship. I was ready to hang everything on this solution I'd worked out in my head. I was going to question my daughter and force her to tell me what had happened between them.
We did question her. And made a discovery. Teagan is unhappy in the friendship because this little girl stands up to her. When Teagan is being mean to this girl, this girl will loudly tell Teagan to stop being mean. This girl does exactly what she should do to a bully.
When we finally got to the bottom of it- Teagan was embarassed and scared of getting into trouble. She is totally choosing this behavior of trying to control and manipulate other kids and she knows it isn't right.
Last night, my pity party went full on into the night. We'd had our parent teacher conference, met with the school guidance counselor, and even met the principal (we stuck our head in and introduced ourselves since he'd spent so much time with our daughter). Then we had the talk with Teagan and found out that the problem between her and her friend was because of her own choices. My feelings of wanting to crawl into a hole and disappear were pretty strong.
Here is the self pity part I want you to know...
Bullying is a big and serious issue. We take it seriously in our family. There are lots of resources out there for teaching your kids how to deal with a bully, how to stand up to a bully. There are a lot fewer resources on how to parent a child who is a bully.
I am the face of a parent of a child who is a bully.
When I hear people talk about their child being bullied, when I watch videos on YouTube about messages to bullies, when I see TV shows that deal with bullies, there is something that almost always comes up, something almost always in common. The parents get blamed. The parents are portrayed as lazy, uncaring, abusive, and so on. The parents deny that their child could be a bully, the parent is proud of the kid for being mean and tough, the parent just doesn't care what the child does or doesn't do.
I am not that parent. And I have to admit that the words people use in these situations when they blame the parent... well, it hurts.
I'm not a lazy parent, I'm not going to answer the door wearing a housecoat with frizzy hair and a cigarette dangling from my mouth and a bottle of tequila in one hand and tell you to F off or I'll just do to you what my kid does to your kid. When you talk to me, you aren't going to walk away suddenly figuring out where my kid gets it. I don't have some false idea that my kid is a perfect angel who never messes up. I'm not an abusive parent- yes, I have a temper and I am prone to yelling but we do our best to use discipline in a way that isn't bullying or all about power. I am a strict parent and I work hard to be the best parent I can be for the sake of my kids.
My child is a bully. She uses her smarts and her words to try and put others down so she feels powerful. Once she has gotten into trouble or gets caught, it's all or nothing for my girl. If she's going to be mean, she's going to be mean full on. If she's already gotten into trouble, she's going to go full bore for the rest of the day once she feels like there is no turning back.
Today is a new day. Today, the pity party is over. Today, I have a game plan.
We are heading to the library later to look for these books:
Growing Up With A Bucket Full of Happiness by Carol McCloud
Have You Filled A Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
Your Six Year Old: Loving and Defiant by Louis Bates Ames and Frances Ilg
My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig
What All Children Want Their Parents to Know by Carol Diane Loomans
We let chores slide and it's time to get back to requiring that chores be done. She hasn't been invested in getting her allowance so we let chores slide while we dealt with the transition to first grade. It's time to get back to that daily chore work.
There will be consequences for any trouble at school. This is a hard one for me. I believe in discussing what happened at school but that the consequences have already been given for the little things like talking or not following directions. Obviously we hand out consequences for bullying and being sent to the principal's office. But we've never had an official consequence for everyday infractions. At the suggestion of the guidance counselor and principal, we will implement a consequence for rule breaking at school. The guidance counselor suggested 15 minutes earlier to bed or that sort of thing. I know TV is something important to her so that's something we can take away.
The guidance counselor also suggested having her do something physical when she first gets home. I'm not totally sold on this one for a couple of reasons but I'm willing to try it out. My hesitations are that she seems to need decompression / down time when she gets home and not something that wears her out even further, we have very limted time for dinner and homework until bedtime so spending 15-20 minutes on walking or running or dancing feels like time we don't have to spare, and she is worn out when she gets home after a long day of playing hard and working hard. I'm going to play this one by ear.
The other suggestion is one that I know we already do. For every time she gets in trouble, we have to compliment her 4 times. I'm not going to start keeping track of trouble vs compliment. Our home is a loving, supportive and positive place most of the time. My kids are complimented and supported and hear positive things from us all day long. So this is something I know we already do with both kids. However, Jeff and I both know that we've let our frustration with her mood swings and her meltdowns and her bad choices get to us and that we canboth get into a sarcastic mode or wear our frustration too visibly on our proverbial sleeves. We're working to help each other reign in our negativity when it comes to the kids and when it comes to the everyday example we live for them.
Yesterday, I wanted to escape. Today, I'm feeling renewed and ready to tackle the issue head on. Again. And this time with a modified plan, an expanded plan.
But if your child encounters a bully, please remember that it might be a perfectly normal kid with perfectly normal parents who are trying their best to instill values of kindness and compassion. That it might be a kid who is also smart and funny and, believe it or not, has the ability to be remarkably compassionate and thoughtful.
Because this is the face of a bully.