The other day, my seven-year-old granddaughter was outside playing on scooters with two neighbor children. (Outside is a big event right now in Wisconsin. We not only got above freezing this week, but we got above 50 degrees!) Anyway, these two girls regularly seem to do things to exclude my granddaughter. Some things are subtle and some aren’t. My granddaughter has been known to come home crying, dealing with these girls by responding in anger. I have been trying to show her alternative responses but, so far, she hasn’t really been open to them. On this particular afternoon, the girls were riding faster than my granddaughter and wouldn’t slow down or wait for her to catch up. She felt frustrated and defeated.
I found a post on Facebook that I decided to share with her.
It had to do with a four-year-old girl who had been called ugly by a boy at school. She responded by saying “I didn’t come here to make a fashion statement. I came here to learn.” I showed it to my granddaughter and she liked it a lot. I brought up the concept of keeping or giving away your power. If I go fishing with a worm on my hook and the fish bites it, I have the power to catch it. But, if I dangle the worm and the fish doesn’t bite, I don’t get any power. Bullies crave power. If their targets find ways not to take the bait, they don’t get any of their power.
My granddaughter and I brainstormed ways she could handle these girls, so that she could keep her power. We came up with the idea of her riding around the block the other way and greeting them as they passed, saying, “See you on the other side.” We also explored the idea of her timing the girls to see how fast they could ride their scooters. Both these options allowed her to keep her power, not give it away to the girls.
Many children revel in this concept. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a plan. It might take the help of a grown up. In my youngest daughter’s first grade class, several children decided they would be willing to help kids find ways to turn mean situations into neutral ones. An example might be calling someone with glasses “4-eyes.” The response might be, “Thanks, four eyes do see better than two.” This whole class took on the concept of not giving away their power. This did not mean, however, that their feelings did not get hurt.
Here is an example of something that happened to my daughter when she was in first grade and how she handled it:
It was recess and three second grade boys, all significantly bigger than my daughter, came up to her in a threatening way and called her an “A-Hole.” She didn’t know what this meant but she knew it wasn’t friendly. She replied, “Thanks, I do get A’s on most of my tests.” The boys looked at her like she was crazy and said, “We just called you an A-Hole.” My daughter replied, “Your right, I’m pretty smart and I get A’s on almost everything.” At this point the boys were getting frustrated. They yelled, “We’re calling you a name, not talking about your grades.” My daughter responded, “Thanks, I do get A’s on almost everything.” With that she walked away.
I only found out about the experience because she wanted to know what the words meant. I sat there feeling very proud. I asked her how she felt. She told me she was upset. She didn’t understand why these boys, who didn’t even know her, would be so mean. I immediately understood. It’s one thing to handle the teasing, but you might still need some support afterwards to help with the hurt feelings.
By the way, these boys never bothered her again.
As I write this, I am hoping that my granddaughter can find a way to turn the tables on these two girls, so that they find it boring to be mean and start to include her. I have seen this work a number of times with other children and am optimistic, especially since I am starting to work on these concepts with her class and we will cover this topic together.
I have two books to recommend that I think are very helpful:
- Simon’s Hook; A Story About Teases and Put Downs by Karen Gedig Burnett
- How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies: A Book that Takes the Nuisance out of Name Calling and Other Nonsense by Kate Cohen-Posey.
Learn more about Violence Prevention through Movement by Rena Kornblum.
Watch Rena Kornblum’s ADTA Talk on Dance/Movement Therapy:Bullying Prevention in Schools