Tot Lot Bullies
My daughter and I are at the park for a play date and picnic. We’re meeting a friend and her daughter, along with two other little girls and their parents. Pretty soon the girls are holding hands and racing around the park – all except my daughter. She tries to catch their hands, but only to have them jerked away.
She wraps an arm around my leg and looks up into my eyes. “They don’t want to play with me,” she says. I try to explain that they go to pre-school together and it will take a little time for them to get to know her. But the heartbreak in her eyes makes me want to throttle those girls.
Seems like only yesterday our babies barely interacted — orbiting each other instead. Now hardly out of diapers they’re already snubbing each other.
Then the lovelies are rolling down a hill. My daughter adores this game and so I encourage her to join them. She runs over shrieking and prepares to roll, but is told in no uncertain terms that she’s not welcome. I know in the world of bullying this is petty larceny, but my daughter isn’t yet three and she’s totally distraught.
I’m furious. The girl’s mom (my friend) is busy talking to the other parents and so I say to her kid (a cheeky child I quite like): “you wouldn’t like it very much if someone said that to you, so knock it off.”
Wrong response. Now it’s me and my daughter the girls are avoiding.
I have no choice but to rat on them. My daughter is stubborn. She’ll keep pursuing them no matter how many times she’s rebuffed and my heart can’t take it.
My friend fixes the problem after a mommy daughter talk, but it’s not long before it starts again. At this point my friend turns to psychological warfare. She scoops up my daughter and starts playing with her. It’s just the thing. Her daughter is jealous and soon all of the girls are playing happily together. Only I hold a grudge.
I remember what it’s like to be bullied. It’s not the pain and embarrassment I want my daughter to avoid – well, I do, of course. But these things we get past and can make us stronger. It’s her thinking that kids who treat her poorly are justified. Low self-esteem is something most people never shake off.
And there are so many other consequences. A recent study found that students at schools with more reported bullying fared worse on standardized tests.
“Study after study reveals lasting marks on people’s confidence, willingness to take risks, ability to trust or form quality relationships, and ability to contribute and thrive in life,” writes Kelly Valen in the Huffington Post.
CNN Anderson Cooper’s special report on bullying and suicide is devastating. The young kids interviewed said they weren’t at all surprised a bullied child would take his or her own life.
How frightening is that?
And so it all begins at a picnic on a playground. Three little girls shunning a fourth. I know it could just as easily have been my daughter doing the shunning. Happily for us all, parents intervened and our day ended with three moms and a dad stretched out in the sun as four squealing girls took turns rolling down a hill.
If only all bullying incidents ended this way.
Image by PinkStock photos.
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