Remember the old rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? I remember hearing that growing up from school teachers, family members, … I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now.
This morning Jim and I had a sit down with the school counselor and vice principal. There’s been a group of girls bullying Jessie at school and we wanted to take some steps to address the matter and (hopefully) nip it while it’s still early in the school year. It seems that a handful of girls who were in Jessie’s class last year have formed a clique with a problem child, “Buffy”*, who has bullied Jessie in the past. One of the girls, “Kelly”*, was her best friend last year and I thought she was a very sweet girl!
None of the girls are in Jessie’s class this year, but they share the same P.E. time and stand together in the “car line” waiting to be picked up by parents in the afternoons. From what we’ve been told, the girls have taken to calling Jessie names and making derogatory comments about her appearance the past few weeks. Jessie said that “Buffy”*, “Kelly”*, and several other girls would come up to her on the playground and in the halls and say really mean things to her.
We’ve dealt with “Buffy”* for the last couple years, saying mean things to Jessie, and Jim and I have talked to her about how to handle that. I advised her to just ignore the little shit — but that was one on one. For the most part, Jessie did OK with that, but now it seems “Buffy”*’s got a group of followers, which makes her a little harder to ignore (and the comments a little more hurtful coming from those she trusted).
And, to make matters worse, things have escalated.
Last week, “Kelly”* shoved Jessie hard enough for her to lose her balance — unprovoked. Jessie didn’t tell us about it until the weekend, and also told us that it’s not the first time this has happened this year. While I’m disappointed that Jessie didn’t tell us sooner, I can understand why. Most of these girls were her friends last year and in previous years. She didn’t want to tattle on her friends. “Buffy”* is really the only kid she’s had a problem with, and we found out (a little too late) that by the end of last year, she had taken to retaliating against Jessie if she went to a teacher to report the bullying. This kid started tattling on Jessie for things that (according to Jessie) she simply had not done.
Now, I know Jessie. I know when she’s fibbing. But I believe everything she’s told me about this kid, and I have seen some of the behavior first hand. I swear to God, if “Buffy”* knows what’s good for her, she’d be thanking her lucky stars that *I* am not her mother, because I would wash out her mouth with soap and give her an ass-beating she’d NEVER forget!
But I’m not … and from what I understand, her parents don’t believe she’s a problem and as such, don’t discipline her. So where does that leave Jessie?
A friend at work sent me this from the parenting section of About.com:
What Parents Can Do
If your child complains about being bullied at school, or if you suspect that might be happening, here are some suggestions.
- Make it clear that you accept your child’s reports of what is happening and that you take them seriously. She needs to know she has someone on her side who is willing to help her. Today, you are her hero.
- Reassure her that this situation can be resolved.
- At the same time, let her know that you do not think this is her fault. Her confidence has already taken a big hit, and she already feels like a victim.
- While it is natural to want to protect your child by solving the problem for him, it will serve your child better if you teach him how to solve the problem himself. By learning the skills to stand up for himself, he can use them in other situations.
- Ask your child how she has been dealing with the bullying, talk about what else can be done and discuss what actions you can both take to solve the problem. Reassure her you will consult her before taking any action.
- Teach your child how to respond to a bully in a bold, assertive way.
- Practice with him at home by role playing. Participation in other activities builds confidence and develops social skills, making it easier to find ways of saying, “Leave me alone.”
- Suggest that your child stick with two or more other children when at the playground, the bus stop or wherever she comes face-to-face with the bully.
- Make sure your child knows it is okay to ask for help from a teacher or other adult. Practice what he’ll say so he doesn’t sound like he’s whining or tattling.
- Determine if your child has healthy friendships with other children. If not, perhaps she can benefit by developing better social skills.
- Encourage her to invite friends over to your home and participate in school activities.
- If necessary, meet with school representatives to discuss the problem.
- Remember, bullying is not a normal part of growing up. Help your child develop the necessary tools to stick up for himself and others.
Most of that we’ve done already … so now I’m asking myself what options do we have left? Personally, I’d love to have a sit down with all of these girls and their parents. While “Buffy”* may continue to be a problem child, it is highly possible that the parents of the other girls may have no idea this has been going on.
So I guess we’ll see …
All I know is that I can definitely attest to the change in Jessie that I’ve noticed since the bullying originally started a few years ago. She’s doing better this year than last year, but I’m afraid that she’ll never be the fearless bubbly outgoing little happy girl that she used to be. She’s now more self-conscious, and has extremely low self-esteem.
I was bullied in grade school and some in high school. I understand all too well how she feels, and it kills me that I can’t just snap my fingers and make it go away for her! At one point during the meeting this morning, Jessie was called into the office with us to tell the vice principal what happened last week and to explain a little more about what’s been happening. She shared a lot more than what she had told us at home. It hurt me to see her so upset by all this mess. She cried while she was recalling the names these girls called her, the things they’ve said to her and about her, and the horrible things that “Buffy”* has said to her just this year alone.
What gets me is that these girls have no idea of the damage they are doing — and they are doing it to MY baby!
While I’m hopeful that our meeting today will prove fruitful, part of me wonders if it will really be resolved.
* Obviously, these are not their real names, nor promotional products