Non-related visual content: Summer has definitely arrived at the Winkel-Briggs casita. Oliver dove into the strawberry patch and came up with this handful. Brahm is enjoying the first watermelon of the season. It was soooo tasty...
So, I'm posting an email I sent out to some friends asking for help (I've edited the original for brevity sake) along with snippets of the responses I got. I've been surprised at the variance in advice, all of which has been heart-felt and very much appreciated.
"My kids have taken to playing baseball at the park with the neighborhood boys. It’s come to my attention that some of the boys will curs[e] at them, call them mean names and sham[e] them about their performance (they’re pretty new to baseball). The Mama Bear in me wants to go out and pulverize them, of course, but the wiser part of me sees this as a learning opportunity for my kids. We have talked about it at the dinner table with validating phrases like, “I get upset when people are mean to me and call me names, too,” but in the end I would like to offer them more specific tools to defend themselves (i.e., things they can say back or do in response) so they don’t end up feeling walked on... or retaliate with more of the same. I also don’t want to bar them from participating because, among other reasons, it’s a great chance for them to acquire skills that will help them navigate in [difficult] social situations for the rest of their lives.... If all else fails, I guess I’ve got Brooks’ 4th grade BB gun in the attic."
OK, still Jenny here. I want to add a couple of things for clarification:
1) They played only twice with those kids and experienced the bullying both times.
2) I don't compel my boys to play in the name of "getting back on the horse" - I asked them the second time if they wanted to go out and they went without hesitation.
3) Most of the kids are older than Brahm and all are older than Oliver. Only two of the five boys would I consider to be their friends.
The responses is as follows:
- "I guess the only advice that I have is attitude. Teaching your kids that how they handle something hard with the way they shift their attitude about it. We have experiences in our life when our brain and most likely other people are telling us that we are not good enough and that we can't handle it, but with a positive I can do anything I set out to do attitude anything is possible. You might not be the first or the best but you are the best that you can be and that is the most important thing."
- "That is out of my league. And here I thought magic marker in the carpet was a big deal. Good luck."
- "I was made fun of a lot as a kid, mostly for the way that I looked, and not my lousy sports ability and my parents told me that I ought to defend myself. It took a few tries but eventually I was always able to come up with some quick-witted remark. I really think the best way to go when you're lousy at something, like sports or dancing, is to teach your kids to find some humor in it. Tell them it's great that they keep trying and express that if they really can't stand it, that it's okay to stop."
- "I think kids model other kids' behavior if they hang around it too long. I think the mama bear instinct is there for a reason and shouldn't be ignored. I'm sure it's not wise to step in every time your kid is faced with life's bullies, but it sounds like you're allowing them consistent exposure to kids' whose behavior is detrimental.... Protect your kids, Jenny. Teach them that they can have a good time without bullies and to avoid those kinds of people."
- "You might want to go supervise, and make sure they all behave reasonably. Hard to imagine they’d get away with this stuff with adults present.... I suspect having a parent-referee present could do wonders with behavior that is unacceptable more than throwing your boys to the wolves. And maybe some quiet lessons on the side, so they are better qualified to join in wouldn’t hurt things.
Too, I worry that you are telling your boys that abuse is fine as long as the end result is desirable. Playing sports and fitting in... are all good things, but hard to imagine that knowing when to walk away when someone is not behaving well toward you doesn’t trump all those.... I’m leaning toward...“Why put up with this, exactly?”
So, dear readers, if you have additional wisdom you would like to share (whether you know me or not), I welcome it. I will follow up in a couple of weeks.