I was doing my daily internet research and came across this blog post by Cat Koehler, a mother who deconstructs the newfound attention towards bullying. Ms. Koehler astutely notes that never before have we put so much attention towards bullying. She goes on to suggest that due to this attention, we have become hyper-vigilant, labeling normative interpersonal conflict between children as bullying.
Ms. Koehler shares an incident involving her 9-year-old daughter and a boy picking on her. Candidly, she says, “At first I wanted to hug her and tell her it would all be okay, but then I got a little angry. Why was she sitting here acting like a victim? Had we not taught her how to stand up for herself?”
Perhaps not, but Ms. Koehler responded appropriately and I applaud her for taking her daughter’s concerns seriously and giving her suggestions on how to manage the situation. She helps her daughter develop the vital interpersonal skills to cope with peer aggression. So is it relevant if it’s labeled as bullying?
One of the greatest struggles children have are adults minimizing their experience, especially in the case of children who have been bullied. The attention bullying has gotten has only been helpful in my opinion. It’s raised awareness to an issue that has often been minimized. I disagree that “we have taken this so far that it has become a detriment to our children. We no longer teach them how to handle a situation, we urge them to talk to an adult they trust.”
I don’t think going to an adult for help and teaching children how to handle conflict are mutually exclusive. In fact, children have to go to us in order to learn how to handle conflict! How else are they supposed to learn? We do have to be attuned to what they need, however – some instances may call for parental involvement while others may involve giving your child some coping skills.
We have to use our wisdom and life experience as adults to determine if a problem between two children has crossed the line into bullying behavior. Had it not been for Ms. Koehler’s attunement to her daughter’s needs I (i.e. how to deal with a boy picking on her), the teasing could potentially escalate to a pattern that can be defined as bullying.
Regardless of where your teasing vs. bullying line is, we have to give our children the tools to deal with conflict; conflict is a part of life.
Mother and daughter photo available from Shutterstock