November 8, 2013

Standing up

We were getting in the car to drive to gymnastics class. My four year old hadn't had much to say about her day at school until that moment. As I strapped her in her carseat she said:

"All the kids were calling (classmate) a not nice name on the playground today. I didn't like it."

I closed the rear door and got into the driver's seat and began to back out the car. As we drove, the conversation continued...

"What was the name they were calling him, sweetie?"

"I don't remember, but it wasn't nice. I didn't want to call him that name, so I didn't."

"Was he upset when the others were calling him this name?"

"Yes."

"I'm sorry to hear that. But I am very proud of you for not joining in. It takes a big girl to not go along with the crowd. It can be a hard thing to do."

"I told the teacher, and she made them stop calling him that name."

"Telling an adult is a good thing to do. I'm glad you did. There's something else you could do in a situation like that, too. Do you know what it is?"

"No, what?"

"You can stand up to your classmates and tell them to stop. You can say to them, 'Hey, that's not very nice. You shouldn't call him that name.'"

"I could tell them to stop?"

"Yes. You have the power to make a difference all by yourself. Just remind your friends to treat others the way they want to be treated. Sometimes people don't realize they are hurting someone's feelings. Other times, that is exactly what they are trying to do. And one person standing up for what's right can stop it.

Another thing you can do is stand next to the person. Be his friend and show your support. Let him know you are by his side and he is not alone. That helps him and sets a good example for the other kids. I am very happy and proud to hear how you acted today. Thank you for telling me."

Photo credit

Renowned bullying expert Dr. Michele Borba says the key to ending bullying is empowering our kids to do something. And creating a generation of "upstanders." The Cyberbullying Research Center also believes it is critical that we teach our children to stand up, not stand by.

I have talked to my daughter frequently about the importance of being kind. But I had not had a conversation with her specifically about standing up when others are not. I was so proud of her, and thought this was the perfect opportunity to begin that conversation.

She has been the subject of taunting on the playground herself. Perhaps because of that experience, she could have empathy for her classmate. Regardless of the why, I am happy she chose to respond to the situation the way she did. And that she talked to me about it.

It was an important reminder that as she grows older, we need to talk more about this topic. She will be exposed to more situations like today as she goes through school. She needs to know how to handle it. Although it sounds like she already does, reminders and an ongoing conversation are always a good idea...



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