Parenting Corner: Bullying, Teasing, and Helping Our Kids Grow A Thick Skin

parenting corner copyAt a North Carolina elementary school, a young boy is bullied for bringing a My Little Pony backpack. The solution? School officials ban the backpack. And the internet goes nuts!

The boy and his mother were on the news. The mother decided to home school. The latest news is that the school is re-thinking their decision and the backpack is, once again, allowed in school. [source]

When I first heard about this story, I thought, “the school took the easy way out.” It’s so much easier to send the offensive backpack home to be hidden away than to deal with the actual bullies. I’ve seen this happen first hand with my own son at his elementary school. I’ve experienced it myself as a fat kid growing up.

When you put the blame on the victim, there’s less work that has to be done. But this family proved to be a little less quiet than most, I think.

I also wonder how uncomfortable the school personnel were themselves with this little boy carrying around “girl” toys. Which just shows the prejudices that adults carry that they communicate to the children around them. Obviously this child has no issues with My Little Pony. He likes the show. He likes the toys. He’s a fan.

However, there was verbal and physical abuse going on over this. So giving the bullies a free ride was not the answer. Once a child lays a hand on another child, there has to be serious repercussions.

Dealing with verbal abuse is more difficult. Because where is the line between teasing and bullying? Is there one? Or are they the same thing? Is teasing done in fun while bullying is done with meanness? Is it the repetition? I don’t have the answers.

Some think that teasing is a natural part of growing up. Some think teasing is bullying and needn’t be tolerated. I’m somewhere in between. I think teasing has a way of going the way of the Mean Girls way too quickly.

If there hadn’t been physical abuse involved, I would encourage the boy to stand up for himself. If he wanted to take his My Little Pony backpack to school and other kids were making comments, I would help him come up with witty remarks for his tormentors. I would talk to him about what it means to be different and standing out. I would encourage him to be different.

Unfortunately he never got that chance here. First, because the bullies got physical–like they often do. Second, because the school didn’t handle things appropriately. I’m not sure what lesson was learned here, but it wasn’t the right one.

What do you think? What would you have done with your child in this situation?

 

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