He went from "school is awesome" to going to the nurse's office after recess requesting to go home.
I picked him up immediately because last year in Kindergarten he only came home when he had a fever or puked. So I knew it was legit. Suspiciously, he didn't seem the least bit sick when he came home.
When I got a call the next day from the nurse I knew something was up.
And I was right, unfortunately.
For a few days following more tough encounters arose: different kids, different situations.
This is all new to our family.
My heart was broken up for my sensitive, Southern sweetie not quite fitting in at his NY school. We chose our house based on this highly regarded school district. What do we do now?
Enter: how to tell your 1st grader to handle a meany?
a. walk away & play with someone else
b. tell the teacher
c. get up & push them down in the mulch
I guess each reaction has it's place, depending on the kid & the whole story. Well, C. may be a stretch but, stand up to the meany can be the best reaction, given the right circumstance.
This is when believing in an omnipresent, all-powerful God and trusting that He loves your kids even more than you do comes in handy (Ps 139).
As parents, we can look to what the Bible would say about handling every day situations and teach our kids to see things the Biblical way. We're instilling Biblical values in our young children to help them to practice the same values as adults.
Now, let me just say the bullying I'm talking about here was quite minor, run-of-the-mill meany on the playground type of situation. Bullying is never acceptable, but it does have a range. We happen to take it seriously. We are living in an age where bullying, if ignored, can have tragic effects.
It turns out the Bible is pretty clear about how to treat meanies.
I like the Message version of Matt 5: 43-48
"I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
If I believe my job is to prepare my child to be a successful adult, making choices independently, I'll teach him that doing the right thing isn't always the easiest thing.
Furthermore, doing the Godly thing is often the harder thing. The last half particularly speaks to me as a grown up. It is hypocritical to ask this of my child if I don't model it myself. Tough? Yes.
I think God asks these things of us because it compels us to rely regularly on His sufficient grace.
We prayed together for the meany at school. We prayed for Carter to enjoy school & for God to lead Carter to friends that make good choices. Imagine my thrill when his report the next day was: the "meany" was nice & he had the best time playing kickball at recess with kids he thought were too tough to play with before.
My son isn't aggressive.
My son has no trouble telling a teacher when someone is breaking the rules.
He was concerned about getting in trouble for tattling. In addition to praying, we encouraged him to decide when he really needed a grown-up's help or when he could find another safe place to play. We also discussed when standing up to the bully. "I don't want you to take my backpack. Don't touch it anymore. Leave me alone." is perfectly appropriate.
Good news! "The Lord your God is with you. He is a hero who saves you..." Zephaniah 3:17 (GWT). This I believe, baby!
Now for handling the grown up meanies I encounter...
*photo by sj bridgeman photography, Nov 2011