Tag Archives: bullying

A Bully to be Respected

Every minute of every day we spend with our children is a teaching moment. Some days provide ‘better’ lessons than others. Some days I wish I could erase the lessons learned and teach better ones. Other days I’m not sure what I taught or how I could have taught better.

Ella takes gymnastics one morning a week. Agatha HATES dropping Ella off. In fact (she says) she hates the entire building. But this past week, we dropped Ella off, Agatha wanted to stay and watch. So we did, but then I realized I forgot Cordelia’s coat (and we needed it when it was time to walk to the library) so we ran out to grab it. When we returned there was a woman sitting on one of the chairs we’d been sitting in before running outside. She had her back turned to a baby in a baby in a bumbo seat (roughly 4.5 ft off the ground). In front of the chairs was a narrow counter and a large viewing window. There were two other people sitting at the window with three seats available. On the far side of the woman and baby, behind a door, stood one chair with just enough space for one small person. The baby in the bumbo was in front of this chair, and a coat hung over the back. The other two were right in the middle, purses adorned the counter in front of them. Someone even sat in the least desirable spot in the entire room. The bench beside the purple Christmas tree. Even if the bench had been free, and she’d stood on it, Agatha wouldn’t have been able to see Ella. Oh and at this point Cordelia was crying because she was hungry and tired.

So we entered the room, and Agatha climbed up on one chair (bar stool), and I sat on the one beside her and started to feed Cordelia. The woman with the baby in the bumbo looked down at Agatha – did not look at me – and told Agatha “I think someone’s sitting there. There’s a purse on the counter. She probably just went to the bathroom. You can find somewhere else to sit.”

Agatha said, “I was here before, I just got Cordy’s coat. I want to see Ella in class.”

Woman: “I’m sure the woman wants to watch too, you can go sit somewhere else.”

Still the woman didn’t look at me, or say anything to me. But at that moment the women whose seats we ‘stole’ returned from the bathroom (or wherever they were). The three women all conferred, then the one woman leaned over me, bumping me, to get at her purse. I will point out that there was plenty of space between the chairs so she could have stepped up without touching anyone, and her purse was not on the other side of me. In other words, as far as I can see, this woman purposefully ‘bumped’ me. She did this three more times over the span of the three minutes we were actually sitting in the chairs.

Each time she bumped me, the other one bumped Agatha. Then one of the three loudly said, “Can you believe that? They won’t move.” And glare at us.

First, the women at any given time should have actually said something to ME, not the three-year old. Second, they’re full-grown 30+ year-old women they could have been mature enough to stand for the three minutes it took Agatha to locate her sister and be happy, and for me to latch Cordelia on. Third, they should never have touched either one of us.

I felt horrible. Not because we sat in someone else’s seat, but because of how they behaved toward us. It felt like middle school all over again. If we don’t overtly do anything really mean, we won’t get in trouble, but we’re gonna do everything we can to make her miserable.

After Cordelia settled enough for  me to stand up, I did. I leaned down to Agatha and told her, “It seems it’s very important to these ladies that they sit down on these chairs. We’ve finished what we needed to do, how about we go play with the toys?” She agreed, we moved. All total, from sitting down to getting up, we might have been in the chairs for five minutes, probably less.

I didn’t want to allow those women to bully us out of the seats, but at the same time I no longer needed a seat, and Agatha had yet to realize anything was amiss. I didn’t want her to. Also by letting her know someone else wanted the seats, she had the opportunity to choose to share. She happily did so. Our children watch us at all times. They see how we treat others. They hear when and how we talk to others.

What do you want to teach your children?

At what point is it bullying, at what point is it just a misunderstanding or a difference of opinion, a meeting of opposite views? When I realized the other women wanted those chairs, viewed them as theirs, I could have asked their permission to use them briefly. I could have told Agatha not to sit there. I could have balanced Cordelia, and nursed her standing up. Those actions would have been ‘respectful’ to the other women. It would have been polite. We want our children to be respectful and polite. Don’t we?

Respect: Noun: A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or    achievements.

Verb: To admire deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Polite:  1.Having or showing respectful behaviour.                                                                                                                                              2.Of or relating to people who regard themselves as more refined than others.

Should I have been respectful and polite? Did any of the women have a greater ‘right’ to the chairs than we did? Possibly. Their purses were close to the chairs. What would Agatha had learned if I hadn’t sat down? Possibly that others are more deserving than we are. We should stand, be uncomfortable, while others have the opportunity to sit. And empty chairs are not ours to use, no matter how brief. She might have learned that even though the chairs were empty, we didn’t take them because someone else was planning to use them. She would have learned a polite way to behave in society.

What would those other women teach watching children? If you don’t get your way, push others around. If someone has something you want, take it away. If you don’t like someone’s behaviour, don’t bother talking to them, instead whisper hurtful words behind their backs.

I’m not saying I was ‘right’ to sit down when I knew the other women believed the chairs were theirs, however I’m not really sure how else to have approached the situation. There were two paths. Either sit down, or stay standing. Was there a better path? Which one? Why?

There were seven seats at the window and three benches along the wall. Two benches had bins on them, one bench was taken.  Was it wrong for Agatha and I to use the seats, considering there were purses on the counter near them, and there were no other seats? When there’s limited seating, should you save a seat if you’re not actually there?

What would you have done, if this was you? Would you have moved, or remained seated?


Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting

A Stand Against Bullies

In elementary school, I sat on the small, white pebbles next to the school doors waiting to go back inside. I never played with the other kids. I wasn’t welcome. In middle school, I cried almost every day, some days I feared I’d be hurt. One memorable day, at the start of school a teacher, the cool male teacher everyone liked, singled me out, made fun of my clothes and the way I talked. That was the best day of the year. The next two years in the school improved only marginally. One day 5 girls encircled me, taunted me, tormented me until the bell rang. I told my teachers. Nothing. I told my parents. They contacted the school. The girls upped the ante.

In high school, I was an outsider. If anyone liked me, I had no clue. I received daily messages in my locker telling me how much no one liked me. A few times I received messages from multiple individuals. My second high school was better. Being much larger it was possible to find a group willing to allow me through the door. But even there a person or two were more than willing to inform me I wasn’t welcome at their lunch table. For quite some time I ate on my own because I didn’t even know anyone else at the school.

I was bullied.

I’m not sure why I was such an easy target. At least not in the beginning. By the end I’d wager those vultures could smell my low self-esteem from a  mile away.

I never want my children to experience anything even remotely similar to what I went through. I want to protect them. Of course there’s really only so much a parent can do to prevent it from happening to their child. Part of me wonders if it’s possible, in an effort to protect their children, they somehow create a child willing to bully others?

I’m not really sure. What I do know is that one woman has taken a stand. A stand against bullies. Not just a cheap show that falls apart the second someone actually gets bullied, but a real stand.

I applaud this woman.


Filed under community

Apology Vs Abuse

For about a week now the girls have been getting roughly an hour less sleep per night than they should. Plus a cold’s been lingering around. Everyone’s a bit irritable. Today I took the girls out  all day. Shopping. It wasn’t a fun day, but things went remarkably well, until…

We were at Micheal’s getting some cake decorating supplies  when we passed a display with overpriced books. Ella wanted one. I pointed out that she already had the books on the shelf she was looking at, but offered her a different book instead. She got angry. I explained that she could either get the book I offered or she could leave without any books. She got angrier and demanded both books. I said no.

She screamed louder.

People checked to make sure she was okay.

I hugged her as she screamed, she gratefully accepted. However, the screams didn’t stop and neither did her demands. As we left the store (with her under my arm), she tried to hold onto shelves, carts, anything she could reach. When we got outside I tried talking to her again, but she tried to run back into the store. So I picked her up and carried her to the van. Up until this point I was calm, I was reassuring her as we went. Though I didn’t bring her tiredness to my attention, which I should have.

As I put her in the van she screamed that she didn’t want to be in the van, she didn’t want to come with me. I opened the door and told her she could leave if she wanted. She stayed in the van, but screamed as I buckled her up.

When we got home she screamed that she wouldn’t come into the house. I brought everyone else in first, then came back out for her. I was a horrible parent and told her that if I left her in the van it would get as hot as an oven and she’d get roasted like a goose. I also told her that the police don’t let mommies leave children in vehicles, and if I did the police wouldn’t think I was a good mommy and they’d find her a new one.

Oh boy. Angry or not, frustrated or not, it doesn’t matter. There are so many better ways I could have handled the situation.

As it was she took it well. Said she wanted to stay in the van so she could get a different mommy. She just wanted to be alone. I heaved a sigh of relief and told her she could have alone time in the house. She crumpled and let me pick her up to carry her to the house. Once inside she took off to her room where she ranted and raved about me and the situation for about fifteen minutes. I then knocked on the door and said I’d like to give her a hug.

At first she didn’t want me there, but I told her I loved her and explained to her how I was feeling and what I thought about what happened in the store. We realized we’d had a misunderstanding and she asked if we could try going back to the store again a different day. I said “sure.” She then told me she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. So I helped get her tucked in and settled her toys just the way she wanted them. She was asleep by quarter after five.

I feel drained after that episode. And very much like a failure. Over all things could have been worse, but I crossed the line. Our relationship broke a little bit. I tried to scare her, to manipulate her into doing what I wanted her to do. I could have remained calm and found a better solution to MY problem. Instead I hurt her emotionally.

Yes, I apologized. We kissed and made up. But what about next time, or the time after that? How many times can a parent apologize to repair damage done? When is it no longer an apology, but part of the cycle of abuse?


Filed under Parenting

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

One of the biggest problems in our home is determining whose fault something is. We all do it. Ella and Agatha say, “I didn’t do it.” Ryan tells Agatha, “Don’t worry. It’s not your fault.” I trip over something in the middle of the floor and demand, “Who left this here?”

Sound familiar?

In day to day life people assign blame for so many things, and most of the time it doesn’t matter who did it. Will it change anything by knowing who to blame? Maybe your relationship with the other person. But most of the time nothing else will change. And that’s the problem. In our family we’ve fallen into the blame game and the only things coming from it are hurt feelings. As parents if we demonstrate truthfulness and own our mistakes as well as failing to notice the mistakes of others, our children won’t fall into the blame game as well.

I want to change how our family handles mistakes. However, for myself, I know it won’t be easy. It’s a habit I’ve fallen into, unfortunately I don’t really know how to stop it. There has always been a punishment for every mistake or wrongdoing. From the time I was young, to moving out, and starting work. That’s the way the world works.

But it shouldn’t.

People should be free to make mistakes. And more importantly, free to learn from their mistakes. Fear prevents learning, growing. The fear of punishment makes a person’s primary objective hiding the mistake, rather than learning anything from it.

How can we step away from blame and become free to make mistakes and let our children make their own mistakes?


Filed under Relationships

Close Encounters of the Restrictive Kind

Yesterday I had a doctor appointment. We arrived about forty minutes early. Much better than the twenty minutes late we normally arrive.

We sat in the full waiting room. There were five other pregnant moms, a couple dads and two little kids about the same age as our girls. Ella and Agatha promptly went over to say “Hi.” Ella introduced herself, I suggested she ask the girl’s name, but Ella declared, “But, Mommy I’m too shy to ask her name.” Ryan and I couldn’t help but laugh. Without taking a breath Ella turned to the girl and invited her to play. They stacked (mini, plastic) stools, but the other children’s parents seemed concerned about the space. So we suggested Ella show them her explorer. She did. The other parents seemed concerned. They told their children to play with their own games. Ella climbed into a chair and the other children climbed up to join her, the parents told them to find their own chairs and play with their own toys. I smiled and told the parents, “If our girls need space they’ll tell your children, right now they want to share and they want to play. We’re happy with that.” The parents still fretted every few minutes or so, but seemed slightly appeased.

Soon it was their turn. The girls waved goodbye and began stacking the stools and climbing again. Another little girl, a bit bigger, a bit older, soon arrived and they began playing. Her mother smiled and sat back happy to let them play. Ella climbed on the stools and the other girl followed suit. Her mother told her to climb down, she might get hurt. The stools were less than a foot tall. They didn’t even reach the girl’s knees.

The girls jumped around. The mother told her daughter to stop. We pointed out to Ella that there were a lot of pregnant women in the room and bumping one of them could hurt a baby. We suggested she find something else to do that kept her out of the walkway. The girls began creating with the stools again. The other mom sat back and smiled – until Ella and the other girl had a bit of a disagreement about how and where to position the stools.

They didn’t raise their voices, they didn’t push, each stated her piece. To me it looked as though they were trying to work something out. We were sitting beside them, helping the girls talk through the problem. We weren’t dictating, just helping prevent confusion.

The other mom snapped. She told her daughter to stop, she told her daughter to let Ella have her way with the stools. She grabbed her daughter by the arm and hauled her out of the office. The girl tried to pull away, tried to sit down, and sobbed, “I just want to play with her.” The mother responded by threatening to call the girl’s father. I had no idea what to do, what to say. Ella came over and said she could hear the girl crying in the hall way. So could I.

The girls, Ella in particular, seemed upset, but continued playing. After a while the girl and her mother returned. The girl had to sit still and be quiet. We started singing “Sleeping bunnies”

See the sleeping Bunnies, sleeping till past noon
Come help me wake them with a merry tune
oh so still, could the bunnies be ill?
I don’t think so
Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop little bunnies
hop, hop, hop, hop, hop little bunnies
hopping ’till you stop
And Drop

The other girl asked her mother if she could join in. The mother snapped at her and said, “You have to show me you can listen. You aren’t listening. When you can prove you can listen, then you can play.” At that point she was called for her turn to get her weight and blood pressure checked.

We could hear the nurse talking to her. The nurse said, “You’re doing a great job keeping your daughter in line.”

I stopped listening. I fumed. So far the only one we’d seen misbehaving was the mother, not the daughter. The mother certainly didn’t need someone praising her treatment of her daughter.

However as they came back to the waiting area, the mom smiled again and graciously allowed her daughter to join our girls laughing, singing, and dancing. The mother refused to sing, she didn’t know the words. Ryan and I took turns singing and laughing with the three girls. When we got to the part where they stop and drop, Ella would laugh and keep hopping. We’d then pretend to get upset and insist she drop and go to sleep ‘This instant’ Ella laughed and laughed. The other girl stopped and stared at first, unsure whether to follow Agatha’s lead and lie back down, or to follow Ella’s lead and keep bouncing. She eventually followed Ella’s lead.

After we’d sang the song a few times the other mother told her daughter she’d had enough and had to stop doing the song. I’m not sure why. The mother wasn’t the one singing, and the girls were all happy, out of everyone’s way. But we stopped. Ella promptly pulled the stools out. The other mother told her daughter she was only allowed to play with them if there were no disagreements.

I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know many people who can start using an item and instantly agree on how to use it, yet a four and five year old were expected to do just that.

The girls put the stools in a line and pretended to be caterpillars on a branch. Ella crawled a couple times, but soon stood up to walk across. The other girl stood as well. Her mother told her to climb down. It was too dangerous, she might fall.

At first Ryan started to tell Ella she had to stop as well. But by then I was furious. Why should Ella be punished because another mother can’t let her child be a child? Why should Ella be told she can’t do something she’s been capable of doing since she was 18 months old? The stools were wider than other items she balances across, and much lower to the ground.

I felt bad that Ella was allowed to do something the other girl couldn’t, but I know my children and I know sitting still, doing nothing, results in miserable little girls and therefore miserable parents. They weren’t hurting anyone, they were out of the way. They were safe.

Ella did fall off the stools, but she jumped up again and said, “I’m okay. I lost my balance, but I can get it this time.” She did become a bit rambunctious and almost fell into a pregnant woman. We talked to her about the dangers and gave her a couple choices. All of which allowed her to continue playing, and keep everyone else safe as well.

I left the appointment upset. The first set of parents didn’t seem to want any interaction between children at all. They discouraged their children from using the toys the girls freely offered to share. I didn’t understand it.

The second mom restricted. There didn’t even seem to be a ‘real’ reason for most of the restrictions. The other mother wouldn’t allow her daughter to have a disagreement, wouldn’t allow her to try to find a solution. She tried to force a solution, that neither girl wanted to accept, and when her suggestion wasn’t taken, she hauled her daughter away.

I know we parent differently than most. However, I don’t see how a parent can react so strongly. I can’t understand how a parent, in my mind, can actually prevent their children from growing and learning new things, from interacting with new people in a positive manner. I really can’t understand one parent using the other parent as a threat. I’d hate to be either parent in that relationship.

Can you put a positive spin on the other parents’ approaches?

Is there something you’d have said or done in a similar situation?

Would you make your child stop doing something when the other parent told her child to stop? Or would you allow your children to continue?


Filed under Parenting

Rubber Balls Come Bouncing Back…

Michael from Sharing A love of Teaching commented on my post about teasing yesterday. I wanted to expand on his thought that it is not a critical part of the teachers job to teach resilience, to which I agree. However his opening paragraph states that he thinks teaching resilience is overrated. From a teacher’s perspective, maybe. However from a societal perspective I think it is one of the most important things we can do for our children, for our future.

What is resilience?And why is it important?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”

A resilient child can be faced with many day to day stressor such as sibling rivalry, bullying, being pressured to perform at school or extracurricular activities. However, despite increased stress will manage to not only survive, but thrive.

Resiliency allows a child to overcome adversity, to be the winner in the battle against stress. Without resilience adversity wins and the child is left feeling sad and dejected.

I Have a Daddy that loves me. I Am getting better. I Can tell Mommy when I'm Scared.


How do we help children develop resilience? And who should ‘teach’ it?

I believe it is the role of all adults in a child’s life to help them develop and maintain resiliency. However, a firm foundation should have been set at home, starting at birth.

In order to help children develop resilience it’s important to look after our own mental health, but that is a topic for a future post. For now I will assume all parents are capable of helping their child(ren).

According to the Bernard Van Leer Foundation children need to be able to draw from three sources in order to be resilient. Those sources are “I Have, I Am, I Can”. The ‘I Have’s’ are people in the child’s life who love and support the child, who can help them in difficult situations. ‘I Am’s’ are traits the child possesses that increase a child’s feelings of self worth. ‘I Can’s’ are things the child can do to help lessen stress.

In order for a child to believe they ‘Have’ people in their lives who can help them, the foundation needs to be laid early in life. Actively playing with a small baby by giving massages, singing songs, reading stories lets the baby know he is worthwhile. Allowing a child to make mistakes without ridicule or punishment lets the child know she is worthwhile and provides opportunity to learn skills that foster resilience.

For specific suggestions on ways to help your child develop resilience from birth through the early school years take a look at the ‘Bounce Back Books’.

Here are some examples taken from “A guide to Promoting Resilience in Children” By the Bernard Van Leer Foundation


The baby is in the crib and is lying on his back screaming and kicking. You do not know what is wrong. He just keeps screaming and kicking.

You promote resilience if you pick him up and begin to soothe him while finding out if he is wet, too cold or too hot, needs patting on his back to remove air, or mainly needs comforting (I HAVE). You help him calm down if he feels loved and cared for (I AM), and if he can begin to calm himself down (I CAN).

You do not promote resilience if you look at him, decide to change his diaper, and then tell him to stop crying. If he does not stop crying, you walk away and let him `cry it out’. This interaction does not promote resilience as the baby needs more than a change of diapers. He needs to be held and comforted so that he knows he is loved and cared for. Then he can begin to calm down.


The two year old toddler is at the store with you. She sees some candy, grabs it and starts to eat it. When you try to take it away from her, she shouts, `No! Mine, mine!’

You promote resilience if you remove her from the situation so you do not disturb others, explain calmly to her that she cannot take things without your permission, and give her something else or show her something else to distract her. You help her understand limits of behavior (I HAVE), help her feel responsible for her own behavior (I AM), and communicate with her as she listens (I CAN).

You do not promote resilience if you just let her eat the candy or if you hit her and scold her or if you force her hand open to take it. This kind of interaction makes her afraid of the one who provides love and trust, makes her rigid in her behavior and makes her feel unloved and not understood.

Once a child leaves the home and enters school, I believe it is important for teachers to continue fostering resilience. However, my understanding is that teachers are not given the resources needed to know how to foster true resilience, but rather try to talk children into ignoring other children or stressful situations. Ignoring, or burying, their emotions doesn’t make those emotions go away, and it doesn’t help them develop skills to work through them.

If a strong support system is in place at home, and a child already has strong resilience I don’t believe it will make a huge difference if a teacher isn’t able to promote effective coping techniques. But if a child either has lower resilience or doesn’t have a support system outside of school, then it is more important that a teacher, or other adult, is able to help the child develop skills that will aid him in day to day life.

Growing Resilient Children states:

Damaging stress is like an alarm bell going off constantly in a child’s ears, telling him that there is danger, but never telling him what to do about it, nor giving him a chance to turn off the alarm.

Whether it’s parents, teachers, or another caring adult I believe one of the most important tasks is to help children learn how to turn off that alarm. Let them know they are loved and safe. Resilience is not overrated. Maybe misunderstood would be the better term.


Filed under Parenting, Uncategorized

You Don’t Need The Extra Whip

For the first year of your child’s life you try to get him to walk and talk. For the next seventeen you try to get him to sit down and shut up.

I’ve heard a few different versions and a few different responses to this recently. The first and most common response is “it’s just teasing”.

The free dictionary defines teasing as:

tease  (tz)

v. teased, teas·ing, teas·es


1. To annoy or pester; vex.
2. To make fun of; mock playfully.

3. To arouse hope, desire, or curiosity in without affording satisfaction.

If it’s just teasing, then it could be all in good fun. I wonder if children find this as funny as some adults do. I also wonder where a person draws the line. What is no longer considered ‘just teasing’? Is it only ‘just teasing’ when it’s directed toward children? What about adults? Is it still teasing when one adult ‘teases’ another adult, and the other adult is left feeling hurt or angry while the first laughs?

One adult might think it’s hilarious, even a group might think it’s funny, but from the target’s point-of-view, this kind of teasing is often hurtful, irrespective of the intention of the teaser. When teasing is unwelcome, it may be regarded as harassment, a form of bullying or even emotional abuse.

Both my DH and I grew up in families that teased. The biggest difference was that I didn’t like the teasing, it hurt me. Every time I ran away crying I was told I was ‘too sensitive’, basically it was my fault. I’m sure my parents didn’t mean to hurt me, I’m also sure they didn’t intend to send the message I received: that I wasn’t good enough, and no wonder I was picked on everywhere, even my family didn’t like me as I was. It hurt.

Was I really ‘too sensitive’? Or might my parents/sisters stepped over the line? I say that because it was something that caused so much hurt, they should have stopped. At the very least they should have talked about it. What they really wanted to say, what they wanted me to hear, and found out what I was actually hearing.

Ryan saw his teasing as a sign of love. He teased as much as he was teased.

Before becoming parents ourselves, his parents would often tease us – both together and separately. I have to say I laughed along. I thought it was all in good fun. However, things changed once we became parents. When we told his parents they weren’t allowed to give our baby certain foods, they teased us. But the way they teased made me think they were trying to cover up their real thoughts by laughing about it and calling it teasing. I was angry.

On a couple different occasions Ryan has said something to Ella – teasing – and she’s gotten upset. At first he tried to shrug it off. He wasn’t trying to make her upset, so she shouldn’t be upset. That logic doesn’t work. Instead he looked at the way his comment made his sweet daughter cry. Teasing is only ‘just teasing’ when both parties are laughing. And that’s the way we (try to) keep it in our home.

Sometimes one of us will say something and someone will feel hurt or upset. We might say, “I’m sorry, I was just teasing.” But we also clarify the message we were trying to send.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all teasing is bad. About a month ago I stopped at Starbucks and ordered my drink. I asked for whipped cream, and the girl behind the counter looked me up and down and, with a smile, said “I don’t think you need the extra whip.” I could have been upset, but I honestly think she was just trying to tease me. She was new and the other person working knew me.I can’t say the comment made me want to stop and chat, but it did make me laugh as I walked out with two very … lively little girls.

What I am saying is that we need to be aware of the effect our words have on others. Something I find funny might hurt someone else. If I continuously teased Ryan in a way that hurt him, would his love for me grow? Or would he likely tell me to take a hike? What if we teased our children in a way that hurt them, would their love for us grow? Or would they take a hike? There is a fine line between teasing and being hurtful. And I believe it’s our job to teach our children where that line is so that they can navigate it on their own. Teach them that you never comment on a pregnant woman’s weight : p


Filed under Parenting