It seems like every day we wake up to hear of yet another bullying story in the news. I’m not sure if we’re hearing about more cases because the schools and media have taken a stance or if there’s just more cases, period. Just this morning there was another news story about a teen who was picked for Homecoming court, only to learn that it was a prank by many of her peers to embarrass her. While this particular story had a positive outcome because the teens community got wind of the story and many local businesses began offering to pay for her dress, homecoming dinner, etc, encouraging the teen to still attend her Homecoming dance, not all bullying stories end this way.
As parents, I feel that these news stories are reminders (or lessons) that give us an opportunity to teach our children about bullying and what is acceptable behavior. Since my son is four and started preschool this year I’ve briefly touched on the topic of bullying so he can be aware of what it is and what to do if a situation were to arise. I have instilled in him that if you are kind to others they will be kind to you.
This leads me to my current dilemma: Can a friendship survive if your children don’t get along? While I would not classify my son as being bullied by this child, there are harsh words said to him whenever we get together. The kids start out playing friendly, but end up fighting and it makes the whole situation uncomfortable. Those “mean” words hurt his feelings because all he wants is a friend to play with. He winds up getting defensive, repeating those harsh words back, and that I don’t like. Sometimes I think it’s okay to let kids handle it themselves, but other times it’s appropriate for parents to step in.
My parenting approach is on the stricter side. My son receives a warning and the second offense earns him a spot in time-out, which is followed up by an eye level recap on why he was placed there and what’s expected of him going forward. My friends approach is, well……very different. Although we have a long friendship, I’m not sure it’s ever appropriate to tell someone how to parent their child. So I’m sort of “stuck”. My friend allows the child to dictate whether they are coming over. It’s pretty clear the child doesn’t want to be friends with my son, yet we are good friends. And I realize not every child is going to be “friends”, but what’s a girl to do?
In other aspects of my son’s life, like pre-k he seems to be thriving. I get rave reviews about his behavior and how well he does on his class work. I feel he’s doing wonderful for his first real experience in a daily social setting. Just the other day a child in his class approached me to tell me that my son was his best friend. That was so good to hear! Practically his entire class yells bye to him each day I pick him up too. He gets along well with his t-ball teammates, other playdates tend to go seamlessly and there are little to no issues. Of course he’s no angel and he has his moments too…..he doesn’t listen as much as I’d like. But overall he’s a sweet boy and just wants to be friends with everyone. So this appears to be a singular case.
Like I mentioned before, this friendship is something I value and it’s long-standing, but if your kids can’t get along-how do you make it work? There will continue to be playdates, birthday parties, holiday events, and more so the solution to keep them apart doesn’t fit into our lifestyle.