Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Mommyguard

I hate bullies.

Okay, no one likes bullies. Obviously. But I loathe them to the point where I will step in and take action, even if I'm not supposed to. Even if I don't know the victim, or the perpetrator.

I just won't put up with any such bullshit.

Especially when it comes to kids.

Since I became a parent, my hatred of bullies has deepened. I think about the future, and what if my kids had to deal with bullying. And, worse, what if I wasn't there to protect them?

Growing up, I was pretty lucky - I wasn't bullied, and I wasn't a bully. In fact, I'm not sure I even witnessed bullying (I attended a very small girls' school in rural England), until I was older - when I saw glimpses of it: through other people's stories, in the workplace, in relationships.

Of course, with adults, bullying is much more subtle - sometimes barely perceptible. Adult bullies have had ample time to hone their skills, after all.

After I had my first son, I noticed a new side of my personality developing: I was fiercely over-protective. Even during our first trips to the park, if another kid so much as shot a vaguely menacing look toward my toddler, I was at the ready. The Mommyguard.

And, now that my son is a pre-schooler, though I try to give him space to play independently and interact with other kids, I still feel an overwhelming urge to step in and protect him from everyone and everything.

As is evident from our trip to the playground last weekend. As I watched Matthew running across platforms and darting up and down the steps of the climbing frame, I noticed an older kid (he looked 5, maybe 6) trying to block his path by standing in front of him. Whichever way Matthew tried to go, the kid blocked him.

So, I marched walked up and plainly, but firmly told the kid to let my son pass, please. At my request, the kid stepped aside, watched Matthew run through, and then went off to play elsewhere.

It was a very small incident, of which Matthew had no understanding, yet it caused the over-protective guardian in me to rise up to the surface, ready to defend.

A few minutes later I caught the kid scowling staring at me. And I scowled stared right back at him. It probably wasn't the most mature thing to do (ya think!), but I was in full protector mode. I swear, if I'd had a jaw like a lion, I'd have snarled and bared my teeth.

I know, at some point, I will have to take a step back and learn to let my kids fend for themselves. Learning to stand up for oneself is an important part of growing up. I know this. But right now they're still babies to me. But maybe they always will be...

So when do I take a step back? And how?

How did you learn to loosen the reigns and let your kids learn to stand up for themselves?

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Mwa said...

That's a hard one. I always want to interfere as well. I try to stay back and see how they handle it, but then eventually I go in and destroy the bully. (With a single glare or a well-placed word. Not violence or anything.) I think I do the same as you like that. You're right they have to deal with it themselves, though. I was bullied and wish I could have dealt with it better.

Adam Segal said...

Although I'm not a parent, I would definitely appreciate my mother looking out for me like this when I was that age. There's definitely a fine line between being protective and over-protective but I don't think you've crossed that line.

Good on ya.

Adam Segal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret said...

I am not a parent but I have to wonder if my life would have been easier if my parents had stood up for me and helped me out when I was in high school.

Ms. LaPointe said...

I think the most important thing you can do is instill a sense of confidence and understanding in your children so they can understand that a bully's actions have nothing to do with his or her target but everything to do with the bully's lack of esteem, feelings of unworthiness, anger, etc.

I tell my students that there are two ways to have the tallest building in town: you can be a bully and knock down everyone else's buildings or you can strive to build your own building stronger and taller than all the rest.

Canadian Bald Guy said...

I haven't gotten to the point where I've had to deal with bullying yet with my kids, but I was a victim as a child and know just how horrible it can make one feel.

It's weird...I just talked about this very issue today:


Missy said...

As soon as I figure out the answer, I'll let you know! Seriously, I think it's a gradual thing, a process. You can't just turn them loose one day and the timing depends on the personality of the child. I have one very sensitive child who still needs help navigating situations and I have one bruiser who is practically ready to go it on her own already (she's 2). I think kids are kids, they're going to do extremely annoying things. What gets me is when the parent does nothing to address their child - like if the mom was around her son who was blocking yours - why wouldn't she say, "Johnny - you're being rude. Step aside." THAT'S what I don't get.

Heather said...

it's a toughie, huh? I think you need to let them figure stuff out for themselves but be there to help as well...i mean...oh jeez, i have no idea.

Mummy Matters said...

I totally empathise with this post as I too hate bullies. At school I had a few people who "tried" to pick on me but thankfully my Mum had brought me up with enough confidence in myself to stand up to them. In grammar school a boy hit me with a tennis racket to see if I would break because I was very skinny. The next day I hit him where it hurts with a hockey stick. He left me alone after that.

Since becoming a stepmum when Curly was aged 2 I found a new protective side to me. He has always been a sensitive soul and just wants people to like him so when people have been mean he would just stand aside - unless I saw it happening in which case I was exactly the same as you, straight over there sternly telling them to back off and giving them a few extra glares for good measure. I always tried to do it out of Curly's earshot but at the age of 8 he is still coming home weekly saying he is being bullied. He comes home covered in bruises from punches and kicks, his Mother does nothing so I go to the school any they tell me its just boys being boys! Yeah right!

We always tell him, if someone hurts him then its ok to punch back or tell the teacher but never to throw the first punch. I'm still not sure that's the answer but this is a very hard part of parenting. He now goes to kickboxing to try to give him confidence so fingers crossed this might help????

Good luck x

Anonymous said...

Felt this one in my gut. I was bullied as a pre-teen, I didn't speak up about and just fended on my own. It wasn't easy, I was faced with choices I wish I didn't have to make at the time. Point being, I think as moms it's our job to help. How can we not? But I think the balance comes in giving them the tools they need to stand up for themselves. For example, inspiring confidence, teaching them what is fair and not etc.

sarah said...

My son just turned two, but he's already been pushed around by 2 of his friends and his cousin. It is hard to strike that balance of letting them work it out - sharing, etc. He needs to develop coping strategies and what battles are worth picking.

With older kids he doesn't know? Different story. I'm all over that and don't let them get away with it. I don't know the kids and what they are capable of, and my son needs to know I have his back.

Good job, mama.

If I Could Escape . . . said...

That's a tough one, but for me, it usually depends on the individual situation. As they get older, they do tend to stick up for themselves more. Right now, I have my wee one I'm watching very closely because sometimes he is the instigator and sometimes he is the one getting bullied.

lz said...

I would have done the same thing, or just walked up to them and said, "M, say excuse me to this boy so you can get by." Though the boy's mom should have been close enough to see what he was doing and stopped him.

Lady Mama said...

Mwa - I'm the worst interferer ever. It's hard not to be...

Adam - Absolutely. It's a tricky thing.

Margaret - It's hard to say... Maybe, maybe not.

Ms. LaPointe - Thanks for your thoughts - this is very helpful. I agree, confidence and understanding are key.

CBG - I'm not there yet either, just preparing myself, in case.

Missy - Agreed! It is a gradual thing. And yes, I don't understand either why some parents see their child's bully-ish behaviour and do nothing. It would probably solve a lot of problems up front.

Heather - I feel the same. It's not an exact science, you just have to kind of go with it.

Mummy Matters - Great that you were able to stand up for yourself! Sorry to hear about your stepson. How frustrating that the school is doing nothing to help. I think your advice is good, and the kickboxing is a great idea.

Christine - I agree 100% - the best we can do is give them the tools to succeed.

Sarah - Sounds like you're doing the right thing. Giving him space, but stepping in when it's needed. Good on you too!

Karen - It's a fine balance isn't it?

LZ - I like your suggestion.

Kim - In Search of Me in Mommy said...

Wow, ...that's a hard one. And, there are times when a kid says something in a mean bullying way, and I am just so surprised. Like when a little boy said to my son (in front of me and his mother) "Today is a perfect day to punch you in the face." I was waiting for his mother's reaction... and then speechless, when she did next to nothing. Then I kicked myself for not saying anything to the boy right then... Later my son and I talked about it - but I have no clue how to best deal with such situations...
So, if you figure something out that works, let me know. (Oh, I should mention, no punching happened...just mean, mean words).


Tough question! My girl is still wee and I haven't had to deal with that yet, but I know I will!
I have already felt the power of the mama bear withing. Will our babies EVER not seem like our babies when they're grown??
Glad I found you on SITS :)

Lady Mama said...

Kim - it's infuriating that the mother didn't say anything to the boy. How are these kids to learn boundaries if their parent's don't teach them?

Momsicle Vibe - I think I'll always be an over protective mother!

Hot Cross Mum said...

It's a tough call. I'm probably too quick to step in but as my oldest starts school in Sept I'm simply not going to be there to do that as much. Scary thought.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Just set a good example for him for standing up for yourself and hopefully he will learn to do it for himself too.

Tough call, but there are times when you have to step in.