I think I want this to be my new advice to Iris on people who are mean to her: "just kick 'em in the shins!". Is that cool? Everybody down with that? Because I am seriously SICK of Iris getting picked on and excluded at school. Maybe if we teach her how to throw a few good punches? Then maybe the kids will be scared of her? Just tossing out a few ideas here!
It's becoming very clear that there is a precise pattern of what is happening with Iris at school. A child, or more than one child, says something rude to her. Most often this is done on the sly, as per my and the teacher's observation. Meaning, they aren't always shouting insults at her, but rather just kind of sneaking them in there. Iris responds by blatantly smashing on that kid. Sometimes the kid responds with a loud "Iris HIT ME!" or else the smash is witnessed by another adult who may not have witnessed the instigation. Now please let me go on the record as saying I actually don't think it's okay, in reality, for my daughter to hit people. Even if I wish it was okay, turns out it isn't, especially in the preschool crowd. Even though inside I'm secretly cheering her on for not taking other people's shit, hitting isn't cool. NOT COOL. There, I'm on record. BUT, I have to say that absolutely 100% saying mean things to someone else, to hurt their feelings, is easily as bad as, if not worse, than hitting someone.
Today two things happened at school. One was while we were in the yard with all of the parents and kids, another kid, let's call him Steve, loudly announced "Iris hit me!" I went over by her and asked if she hit Steve. She said "yes". That was it. I said, "why did you hit him?" and she said "because he called me blah blah blah (I forget exactly what, but I think it had to do with being a poopy baby)." I looked at Steve and said "do you call her that?" He says "yes, BUT YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO HIT!" Clearly this child is getting the message that maybe saying mean things isn't cool, but hitting is way, way worse. He is also getting the message that it's pretty easy to try and get Iris in trouble just by quietly hurling a few insults her way. Luckily, her parents are on to this pattern, as well as her teacher. Iris doesn't get in trouble with me for what appears to be retaliation. I mean, I remind her not to hit people, but that's it.
So here's the million dollar question: so what we do to give Iris the tools she needs to stand up for herself and feel powerful in that situation yet not respond in a harmful way (ie hitting, pushing or saying an insult back)? My sweet friend suggested we talk to Iris about when a person feels the need to be mean to someone else, that's all about THEM and not HER. I really resonated with that, but how do you explain that to a 4 year old?
It sucks because I spent my whole adolescence being a punching bag for other people's insecurities, so I am no good at any of this. More likely than not, the process we go through helping Iris will help me, too.