Bullying

I sort of feel like “she’s bullying me” is the clarion call of my childrens’ generation the way “it’s not fair” was for my generation. They do not understand what they are complaining about and it sounds pretty funny to me most of the time. “No, actually your sister doing something you dislike isn’t the same thing as bullying.”

We are starting to run into bullying situations. I have a heavy heart as I think about how much like me my daughter is. Shanna can be a bully. The other day at a park a bigger girl told Shanna to be on “guard duty” so Shanna beat the shit out of the little boys who wanted to come to that part of the playground. Luckily she is very bad at fighting. But she hit the little boy in the face.

I intervened about as fast as I physically could. We talked there and ended up coming home early because the excuse, “The bigger girl told me to do it” isn’t one that buys you a lot of slack with me.

I believe that one of the things I said as I huffily dragged her from the park (she was screaming about how I was bullying her by not letting her play) was, “It is despicable to hit someone half your size as part of a game. I don’t care if you think I’m bullying you. You can go home and play alone if you are going to act like that.”

I haven’t lost any sleep over enforcing the boundary but I do worry about her growing up. She’s going to have to make a lot of the same mistakes I’ve made.

I was a vicious bully.

I worry about my privileged little princess punching down. I was not starting life in a position much like Shanna’s. My behavior and hers… really shouldn’t be comparable. I fought all the time because I was being viciously beaten and raped. My kid has never had a traumatic experience. But she seems to feel almost as much need to hit and be defensive. I’m not sure what to do with this. I keep offering martial arts and she is turning me down.

I believe that “bullying” or punching down behaviors need to be watched forever. One needs to engage in self-monitoring. Everyone punches in some direction–never punch down or you are a bully. That’s just a rule in my little world. You can’t punch down. If you do you are hurting people who are less able to defend themselves than you are and that is poor sportswomanship.

Wow. Spell check let me have that word? Cool.

Shanna is trying to use physical intimidation a lot more in general lately. That is not going as well as she might hope. If you shove your face in my face and growl at me I’m very likely to grab the shirt of your outfit and make sure I win that intimidation game. I tend to win even with people who are bigger than me. Shanna doesn’t have a chance. I’m scary when I feel threatened. I had to learn the skill.

Part of the reason I don’t hit my kids is because I do not want to punch down. They are already so very helpless compared to me–less helpless by the day but still–that hitting them at all would be punching down. Always.

It is going to be quite a journey for Shanna and I to learn how to be bossy together without being bullies. Bossy is good. Bossy is great. Bullying is not acceptable.

People learn things best by doing something wrong and observing the consequences. I need to be patient with my children and with me. We have to mess up or we won’t learn. Sometimes, that messing up involves punching down when you don’t understand that it is a problem.

I’m looking forward to when my kids are old enough for the really mess-with-you-mind teaching. I want to talk about the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment. I want to talk about obeying orders. I want to talk about what it means to hurt someone else on the say-so of your “boss”.

But I’ll wait to mess with their minds for a few more years. Puberty will be so much fun.

There is a difference between having engaged in bullying behavior and being a bully. It is the same dichotomy that exists in racism, sexism, ageism, ableism. There is space for an ignorant person to say something or do something without a larger scope of targeted behavior. When does someone jump the tracks into “being” that kind of person.

I’m not sure. But I’ve met people who are on that side of the line. It’s like pornography–I know it when I see it.

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