Thursday, October 22, 2009

What is a bully?

Remember the "Chinese eyes" incident at Zoe's school, and my unhappiness with the approach the school took? The parents of the three girls teased this way really wanted the school to take a more educative approach to include all the kids in the class. The school approached it as a problem with the boys doing the teasing, rather than as a systemic problem.

No surprise, punishing just those three boys didn't stop the teasing. And a new twist, kids have been doing the oh-so-charming schoolyard rhyme:
Chinese (do eye-pulling gesture)
Japanese (touch your waist)
Dirty knees (think that's why Zoe is sensitive about her knees?)
Look at these (hands cupped at chest level)
After a parent (thanks, Lisa!) called the new teasing to the counselor's attention, the school has come around to our way of thinking.

Yesterday, Zoe's teacher read the class a story about bullying -- Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully (that probably wouldn't have been my first choice, since the resolution to the bullying was to invite the bully to play, which turned him nice). She then said that there was a problem at the school with bullying. Zoe said students in the class were looking at each other in real surprise, and she just sat there nodding -- she knew. Her teacher also gave the class homework, to answer three questions about bullying. Here are Zoe's answers:
1. What is a bully?

A bully is someone who hurts someone else and themselves by teasing them, making fun of them, by leaving out of playing, and hitting and pushing.

2. Who does a bully hurt?

A bully hurts someone who doesn't look like them and they hurt themselves because no one wants to be friends with a bully.

3. What do you do when you see someone being bullied?

I would go tell a grownup like a teacher or a counselor. I would also tell them to stop!
Seems like a good start. I wonder if the homework sparked as much discussion in other students' homes as it did in ours?!


Dawn said...

Ohmigod, I just remembered that rhyme from my own childhood. I don't remember the knees part but I remember the hand gestures. Gee, it's nice to see our playground bully traditions never die.

I wonder if the school wouldn't benefit from maybe working out some peer mediation program. I can't find the program I learned about while I was in PDX just this website:

Anonymous said...

Social aggression is the WORST kind of bullying.

Most schools are only focused on the bullying that is physical (pushing, hitting, etc.) The educators need to be educated on social bullying.

Wendy said...

I am glad they are seeing the light and as anon said that social bullying is just as, if not more, damaging than physical.

LisaLew said...

I love Zoe's answers. Anxiously awaiting followup from "the talk."

The Gang's Momma said...

Awesome answers - all of them. Your conversations and intentional training of your girls will go a long way toward making them agents of POSITIVE change in their community! Great job.

This is why I love this blog - real life situations, but really great solutions and practical tools for training our girls to navigate their journeys. Thank you!

Lori said...

Wondering - hope Malinda and others here will add thoughts -

what do you say (especially to a very little child, 4 yo in my case) to try to encourage their self-confidence in their looks, following a racist incident?

My daughter understood that there was something about her appearance, but too young I think to be able to be clear that it was race/hair color/skin tone that was the issue. Among other things I disparaged the other child's looks as well as her behavior - something I am not proud of, but after an hour plus in which I was increasingly desperate while my daughter sobbed, seemed to be what my very little child needed to hear.

malinda said...

Lori, I'm sorry your child experienced such a painful incident.

Remember that you don't have any deadline when it comes to self-esteem, so don't feel you have to do the "repair work" immediately after such an incident.

When my kids are really upset about something like this, the best I can do usually is just hold them and let them cry, and say how sorry I am that they hurt. They can't really hear anything else when they're that upset.

I can then go back to the incident when they're calmer (and I am too!) and we can talk more about it.

Building self-esteem and racial identity is a lifelong process!