“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.”
I was 5 years old standing in line for recess. My coat was on, scarf and mittens in place. Suddenly my body hurled forward from the momentum of a tremendous shove from behind. As I crashed into a table and chair, I was momentarily stunned with shock What just happened? As I got my wits back and turned around, I noticed a boy standing nearby with his arms crossed, nodding his head in triumph. I knew he was the one who had pushed me. Feeling hurt, and overcome with embarrassment, I blinked back tears and pulled myself together, pretending like nothing had happened. Having been taught to be “ladylike” and non-confrontational, I stayed silent.
Many years later as I reflect on this experience, I have come to realize that staying silent and internalizing my feelings was an incredibly unhealthy and ineffective way of dealing with what I now know was a bully. I decided back then at age five I deserved to be pushed around by others. As the years went by, I continued to negate my own feelings at the expense of keeping the peace. By allowing what I was taught as a young child, pushing down my emotions and not owning my strength, created a lifelong pattern of behavior that shaped my personality, leaving me vulnerable to strong and overpowering people.
Making such a decision can be life-impacting in a powerful way, shaping how a five-year old might view him or herself in the world, either enhancing their self-worth or negating it. Although it took decades to come to the realization that being ladylike and speaking up for myself are not mutually exclusive, I recognized I had a lot of personal growth work to do.
After years of mindfulness training, spiritual retreats, resourceful reading and talking to knowledgeable professionals, I have made tremendous progress. Coming from a place of strength and clarity, I have learned to recover my dignity.
The following articles shed light on how adults can help children learn how to identify and deal appropriately and effectively with bullies.
Bully-Proof Your Child: How to Deal with Bullies
Mean kids aren’t just a middle-school problem. The trouble has trickled to the youngest grades. Learn how to spot it — and how to protect your child.
How to Handle Preschool Bullies
With school bullying consistently in the media spotlight, most parents are aware that it’s a serious problem. That’s encouraging — but we’re forgetting about our youngest and most vulnerable age group, the toddler and preschool crowd.
How to Bully-Proof Young Girls
Girls as young as kindergarten are facing significant social challenges without the resources, without the tools and most importantly, without the support to best manage them.
Helping Girls Cope with Bullying and Frenemies
Fostering discussions and careful consideration of the values involved in making and maintaining healthy friendships is one of the most important things adults can do to help girls choose friendships wisely.
How can parents and teachers support children who feel someone is being mean to them? In this kindergarten class, they have a three-step process to deal with conflicts. It can be adapted for use at home or in a small group.