Opinion: Sometimes, It's OK to Let Your Kid Be Bullied
The mean girl's name was on my daughter's lips from the beginning, first with breathless admiration and, soon enough, with a dollop of tears.
My kid is a lot like me, which means she's extremely sensitive and inclined to take any negative remark made about her as the gospel truth. Night after night, as we watched the seasons change outside her bedroom window, she spilled her tales of woe about this slight or that insult during our bedtime cuddle.
"Why isn't she my friend, Mom?" she'd ask, her big brown eyes pleading for an answer she could understand.
The urge to pick up the phone and raise holy hell was almost unbearable. But I didn't -- at least not until the school year was just about over -- because I didn't want to be THAT mom.
You know, the mom who harasses the principal about her child's assigned teacher. The mom who is disinclined to believe anything remotely negative about her own kid. The mom who harangues the bus driver about his or her driving skills.
Being THAT mom is tempting, sure, but it's also dangerous. In our zeal to protect our kids -- and let's be honest, parents are wired to do so -- we sometimes fight battles that would be better solved on the playground or by the people who are paid and trained to educate our children.
Stepping in to micro-manage every aspect of your kid's life is a mistake. It robs children of the ability to deal with conflict and rejection. It saps their independence. It labels them, in the eyes of their peers, teachers and administrators, as weak.
Making a big deal out of the little stuff will give you less credibility and diminish your power to advocate for your kid when it really counts. Don't forget the tale of the little boy who cried wolf.
It's easy to be seduced into helicopter parenting. Heck, if I didn't fight my nature every single day, I'd have a landing pad on my roof. My kids are precious to me and the very idea of someone hurting a single hair on their heads makes me roar like the mama lion of lore, and if I felt either of them was in real danger I would step in with all the force I could muster.
I did just that, when my daughter finally reported that her enemy had pushed and scratched her at recess, out of sight of the teachers, one day close to the end of the school year.
Obviously, I want the best for my kids, and I'll do everything in my power to give them the tools to make that happen. But that toolbox doesn't need to include me stepping in to solve their every problem. What I can do is help them cope with and approach a difficult situation with calm and cool heads -- be it the not-perfect-for-them teacher, the boy who pulls pigtails -- or the mean girl on the playground.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.