When my daughter started kindergarten last year, I was fully prepared to drive her to and from school even though the bus stop is conveniently located right across the street from our house. I don’t have fond memories of the school bus the few times I had to ride it when I was in school. I also remember hearing horror stories of bus ride antics when I taught junior high. I never considered the bus an option when she started school.
But when I picked her up after her first day last year, my daughter ran up and gave me a big hug and asked if she could ride the bus to school. We hadn’t even stepped foot in the parking lot yet, and she was asking me to ride the big, scary bus. I had a pit in my stomach as visions from “Lord of the Flies” flew violently through my mind. After I composed myself and was able to think rationally, I agreed she could ride the bus. My reason was that the kindergartners were only allowed to sit in the front few rows and were supervised by the bus driver.
As this school year rolled around, I was again nervous about my daughter riding the bus. First-graders can sit where they want and don’t have a fifth-grader assigned to them to make sure they get on the correct bus. I tried to remain calm and hope for the best.
And then it happened — a bad bus day. Apparently, an older brother of a fellow first-grader pushed her and called her “weird.” Also, the sister of this older boy refused to sit by her while allegedly calling her a liar behind her back.
Seriously? In first grade? I am outraged. How can this be happening in only first grade? How is such cruelty and manipulation learned at such a young age? I so badly wanted to watch the movie “Mean Girls” with her so she could see how the inner workings of a mean girls group, but reconsidered since the sexual overtones and underage drinking may negate the powerful message about bullies.
Instead, I referred to the more age-appropriate book “How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids” written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. I talked to her about bucket dippers and how kids that are not kind to others are dipping into her bucket to fill their own. I had to dig deep past my mama bear anger to help her find compassion for these kids because I know that they must feel very sad if they have to treat her so unkindly.
I also mentioned that even though we may feel badly for people who are hurting, we don’t have to hang out with people who choose not to practice kindness. I told her it was best to give them space until they can learn what it takes to be a good friend. I said this to her even though I was burning with anger because I do believe that those that bully are truly hurting deep down. I believe that it’s better not to be reactive, but to build strong, healthy boundaries instead.
This is very difficult for me. It has been only within the past ten years that I am learning what it means to have healthy boundaries. At this point, instead of getting angry, I am teaching her to ignore these heartless antics and focus on surrounding herself with good people — all while trying to practice what I preach.
How do you handle bullies with your kids?