Following my blog How to Raise Bully-Proof Children, one parent, who is familiar with the techniques I use, told of a bullying incident and how she handled it. It’s a wonderful example so I asked if I could share her story. I’ve changed the names to protect identities.
Jane’s five-year-old daughter, Samantha, was being bullied at school. Her “friend,” who is also five, told her she would not play with her unless Samantha gave her the little hard-boiled quails’ eggs that she brought to school for lunch. Samantha was giving her friend the eggs every lunchtime. She told her mother about it and they had a chat.
Jane had an immediate reaction to hearing the story, so she quickly processed her own “inner lioness” (using the Choose Again Six-Step Process) so she could be in a calm, problem-solving mode with Samantha. She was also careful to avoid commiserating with her daughter in a way that would confirm her daughter as a victim.
The solution they arrived at was that Samantha share the eggs with the bully.
Next day, the Samantha shared her quails’ eggs equally with the bully and the bully did play with her as a result. By problem-solving and having compassion for the bully, the situation was resolved in an amicable way—there were plenty of quails’ eggs to go around. Note, however, that this is only a temporary solution—the bullying behavior has not been solved and will eventually repeat in some form because the bully has not healed the cause of her bullying, and Samantha didn’t tackle the cause of her upset, which had nothing to do with the eggs.
Samantha’s feelings about the egg situation need to be addressed. How did it make her feel when her friend said she wouldn’t play unless she was given the eggs? If Samantha is reminded who she is, she will be able to play with her friend, or not play with her friend, and make a nonemotional decision about whether to share her eggs with her “friend.” If there is no emotional reaction one way or the other, then Samantha is operating from her Inherently Worthy self.
Ideally, a teacher or parent would help the little bully to find out where her need to take these eggs came from. In fact, the girl was overweight and her mother rations her lunch. It is quite possible that this little girl mistook food for love and felt she didn’t have enough. What were her feelings when she saw that Samantha had something “better” than she had in her lunch box? How did it make her feel when she threatened Samantha by withdrawing “love” to get what she wanted? How did it feel when Samantha gave her the eggs reluctantly? How did it feel when Samantha offered to share the eggs?
Having a conversation with both girls together, about their feelings around this incident, will help them to behave differently with each other going forward. They will discover that they both have uncomfortable feelings about the incident, and about themselves. Reminding them both that they are innocent, that nothing has gone wrong, and that they are completely lovable, will heal this incident. Trying to fix the problem using the eggs, which were merely a symbol of a deeper issue for both children, can’t work in the long run.
Jane took a look at why she had put quails’ eggs in Samantha’s lunch box in the first place. The other children at her school are from a number of different countries, so there was nothing unusual about Samantha’s lunch. However, her mother did note that she gives Samantha her favorite foods to please her, which was something she had done for her father years ago—to earn his love. She was then able to process her mistaken belief that she needs to earn love (using the Choose Again Six-Step Process).
This scenario shows that bullying and victim thinking gets started very young, but if it is not ignored, chalked up to experience, or dismissed as child’s play, there is an opportunity to heal it for both the bully and the victim. As this example clearly shows, there will usually be a healing opportunity for the parents of victims and bullies as well.
Do you have an example of bullying in young children? How did you handle it?
Let me know!
Wishing you a fun, festive and meaningful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
With gratitude to you,
I’m passionate about prevention of substance abuse, depression, bullying, and suicide in teens, and I’ve chosen to spend my time helping parents to raise resilient, bully-proof, addiction-free kids. I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you.