Monday, December 01, 2008

Kick 'em in the shins

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.


  1. That really sucks. Are the teachers and parents addressing the issue of name-calling? Because, IMO, if they aren't fully on board it won't get resolved.
    I don't have any great suggestions, unfortunately. My parents taught us to fight back with words, but honestly, I don't think the 'eye for an eye' mentality works either. Can you ask Iris to just walk away from these kids and let her know she's the bigger, better person for doing it?
    Childhood sure is tough on parents, hey?
    Hang in there. You're doing a great job.

  2. I'm a friend of Kidlet's Mum and I hope you don't mind my speaking up. I've taught both preschool and kindergarten as well as am parenting my own three little darlings. My son had/has lots of difficulty with children when they are not being kind and I know exactly what you mean about just wanting to give permission to inflict bodily damage on a peer. I don't know that there's a magic formula to give Iris the tools she needs to deal with the bullying. I think it's important to continue to give her the words she needs to express her hurt and anger when soneone is mean and also teach her to enlist the aid of understanding adults. I would tell my kids to say (as loud as they could) "Don't say that to me! It makes me feel sad/mad/like I want to bash your face in (okay, so not that last one)" At first it can be hard to do that on their own so I would tell the kids to get an adult to help them but eventually they are able to stand up to the meanness and respond to it in an appropriate way. Unfortunately it does take some time. Bullies hate to be called out on their bullying so her speaking up LOUDLY can help squash some of the random meanness. It cuts to the core to watch your child go through something like this. Even though this teasing and meanness is sometimes part of life, there is no reason she should become a scapegoat and target. Good luck

  3. Thank you Marie and kidletsmum :)

    I tried out the suggestion of telling her to loudly let the child know it is not okay with her that the other child is teasing her. It was the only time today she used something other than whacking a child to get her point across. Sigh. Baby steps!


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