Kids and Friends–Bullying

I never really grew up with friends thanks to the all-too-common moves in the military. It was either me or my friends moving seemingly every year, and I learned pretty quickly that it was easier not to have them. Right choice? No. But it was a choice. And it’s still something I struggle with in a lot of ways… friends moving away.

So that has always been an issue that I’m pretty sensitive to, and it’s also why those people who are my friends know it. Jeff and Sarah, perhaps my favorite friends in the whole world outside of Courtney know that if they called me at 2:00 in the morning begging for help of any kind, including driving the 300 miles to their house, I would be in the car within 15 minutes and on my way. Same holds true for many other people who I won’t even attempt to name because… well, I can’t (though I always have to throw out a special super long-distance hug to the Nashes–we miss you guys!).

Sigh…

So friends… They matter. Perhaps more so to kids though, which makes our current situation so hard.

Katherine has a friend that I’ll call S for the sake of privacy issues. S has been her best friend since last year when they were in Kindergarten together. S has come over for numerous play dates, a sleep over, and other activities. This year, Katherine and S are in different classes. Unfortunately, S’s class has decided that their class is cooler than the other first grade classes, and the attitude is spreading to the playground and impacting the kids.

Recently, S has started to tell Katherine that she won’t play with her. At first Courtney and I were confused by this and wondering if it were something that Katherine was doing wrong. She can be a dominant personality, and that is certainly something that would impact a friendship.

We’ve spent the last few days helping Katherine think of ideas and other things to do. For example, we taught her to not pout and be sad when S says she doesn’t want to play with her. We’ve taught her to cheerful say, “Okay, I’ll go play with someone else.” We’ve identified at least five or six friends who she could play with and who won’t treat her like this. We’ve taught her to think of group activities to play with everyone instead of just the two of them. In short, we’ve done a really good job helping her.

I’ll admit that I spent almost an hour the other night praying and pondering on this situation. It is such an emotionally real one for me, so much so that I took Katherine aside the other day and just held her. I just… it makes me sad to see this, and it consumes me with anguish for her.

Katherine, for her part, has responded so well to all our advice. The last few days, she’s played with other friends, but then we heard from another little girl (one of the “unpopular” ones). She asked Katherine why she plays with S when she talks so badly about her. That was a shock to us, and we wondered if the little girl had misheard.

Until this morning….

When S came by our house to walk with Katherine, Katherine did as we instructed and told S how much she was looking forward to playing with her at recess and that she had a game that she, S, and the ring leader of the “cool” kids (J) could all play together. S promptly replied, “I don’t want to play with you at recess. I just want to play with J alone.”

Katherine handled it perfectly, but I’ll admit I was seething inside.

When they got to school, Katherine and S were standing together when J came over. Katherine again mentioned that she had an idea for a game they could all play together. S, in front of Katherine, looked at J and said, “Katherine always plays such baby games,” along with other disparaging remarks. Courtney overheard the whole thing, as did Katherine.

Courtney–God bless her–immediately changed from sweet charming mother into BANTHAR, GODDESS OF PAIN, JUSTICE, AND PUNISHMENT!!!!! She launched into S and told her off for being, in a word, a jerk. S immediately ran after Katherine, who had started walking away, saying that she didn’t mean it, that she’d play with her, and what not. GRRRR!!!!

Courtney took the rest of the morning talking to other mothers at the school. Here’s what she’s discovered:

  • This is a more or less chronic problem caused by the “cool” class thinking they are better than everyone else.
  • Katherine is not the only victim.
  • Courtney talked to the mom of the girl we didn’t quite believe (T) and found out that that little girl is a chronic victim of bullying from the “cool” class and has suffered considerably at their hands.

Courtney is going to approach the first grade teachers today to make sure they aware what is going on. She’s also going to talk to S’s grandmother. S, as far as I’m concerned, is banished from my house. I seethe every time I think about it, especially considering everything that Katherine has done for her.

As recently as last week, Courtney and I had prayed fervently that we could be strong supports for this girl. She is the daughter of a single mother, and I’ve felt strongly that we have the opportunity to be a good influence on the daughter. And now this?

As I told Courtney, if it comes down to a choice between Katherine and S, there isn’t a choice. I made that choice Day 1, and I stand by it.

So what would you have done? What would you do?

At this point, I am not planning on encouraging any further relationship with S. In fact, Katherine has a play date with a new friend tomorrow, and I plan on pushing that. She also has many other friends that we are encouraging her to associate with. Katherine doesn’t need S and the drama, especially at an age where she doesn’t quite know how to deal with it and where it makes such a life-long impact.

Sigh… I’m glad that Courtney was there when she heard S say that instead of me. BANTHAR, GODDESS OF PAIN, JUSTICE, AND PUNISHMENT is certainly a terrifying and awesome sight to behold, but BANTHAR, GODDESS OF PAIN, JUSTICE, AND PUNISHMENT handled it a lot better than my alter ego would have. 🙂 I would have been terribly tempted to bend her over my knee and give her a good old fashioned spanking, just like I would do for Katherine if I ever caught her doing the same.

Life is too short to waste on false friends. Katherine will understand that some day, but right now she doesn’t. And as long as it matters to her, it will matter to me. That’s the other choice I made that day long ago when I first looked into her eyes. Fatherhood does that to you. Fatherhood should do that to you.

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7 Responses to Kids and Friends–Bullying

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Playground politics can be difficult and complex, especially, I think, for girls. I’m glad I’m not at school anymore and don’t have to worry about it all. Hope Katherine can make some kinder new friends.

  2. daveloveless says:

    Thanks Emily. It’s so hard to sit back and watch. She has TONS of friends, but no friend is more important than the one you can’t have, right? The sad thing is that S is really just using Katherine at this point when it is convenient for her. And Katherine is more than happy to have those moments because it makes her feel like she’s gaining a portion of the old friendship back again. Know what I mean?

    Sigh… We’re encouraging her, and Courtney is going to go play momma bear with the school. And oh am I with you… Thank heavens I’m not in school anymore. How did we ever survive?

  3. Sarah L. says:

    I tell my kids that if a child acts that way, there’s no point being friends with them. Find a nice kid who will appreciate you because why would you want to be admired by someone who treats others badly? There are plenty of kids waiting to be befriended. I dealt with some really catty girls as a kid, not that they did anything to me personally, but I was sick of them and didn’t hang out with anyone for a couple years. I made some good friends in junior high and then wonderful friends in high school. I decided if being “popular” meant being a jerk, I wanted nothing to do with it. I just played with my sister, hung out with the rest of my family, and practiced my heart out on the piano.

  4. I’m back from being Banthar and momma bear. The school is taking a VERY proactive approach. (The principle wants names and plans on hunting out the ringleaders)

    The teachers are now aware that something is going on. One didn’t have a clue Katherine was suffering and the other had a clue, but nothing specific had ever been mentioned. Both are on the lookout now that names have been named.

    S’s grandma is primary caregiver during the day while mom works and judging from what grandma was telling me, she is going to get to the bottom of this on her end.

    Hopefully, this will get resolved sooner rather than later.

  5. I love how you guys have handled this. I think I worry too much over what’ll happen when my kids hit high school and stuff. Sounds like the school is taking thungs seriously, that is so important. And we would also drive to your house at the wee hours of the morning, given the opportunity…oh wait, we already have 🙂

  6. Emmerin says:

    Oh my gosh! I am geeking out over your good parenting. What an incredible way to use this unfortunate situation into life skills for Katherine. Of course I wish that this had never happened to Katherine, but with the help you have given her, she will be able to get past this situation smoothly and be better prepared for the next one. Also, you are helping her become a positive leader who can help other kids and improve the situation overall.

    As a teacher, while I totally appreciate it when parents tell me about bullying issues, I appreciate it even more when parents also take steps on their own to help their children deal with the situation. As a society, we often forget that the bullies aren’t the only ones who need to be taught. Unfortunately, bullies don’t go away as people grow up and ARE grown ups, and in the adult world, there’s not a principal who can make the bully miss recess… or discussion at the water cooler. Kids who learn how to handle bullies proactively at the age of seven will be much better off later on. As a teacher, I have precious little time to teach these skills and NO time to practice those skills with them one-on-one. That is a parent’s job, but many parents aren’t doing it.

    You guys are great parents, and the inspired ways you are dealing with this will bless Katherine and make a positive impact on dozens of other kids. Good luck with the play date tomorrow.

  7. aleisha says:

    ummmm–yes to all the other advice and good job so far….we always had a big party at the zolman’s and invited all the naughtiest kids AND their parents….had good food, played good games and talked about nothing except that by the end of the evening it was cooler to be our friend than to not be our friend…..a little persuasion and good will go a long way for positive peer pressure….

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