My daughter came to me last night with a problem.
A girl was being mean to her at school. As I sat on the side of her bed and listened intently to her explanation of what was happening, my body flooded with empathy; I watched her eyes flood with tears.
It made me think, how have girls not changed, improved, evolved their catty ways in the 30 years since I’d experienced it? How can girls be so cruel? Who taught them to be this way?
Now, if this sounds sexist, it isn’t my intent. I do, however, see that it’s not the same for my son on the schoolyard. He, stereotypically, will get into a physical fight when he’s upset, and then it’s over minutes later and they are playing Fortnite online together by 5 p.m.
This isn’t true for girls. And it needs to change.
Fortunately, I am one of the lucky parents who have children who are kind and passionate. I don’t know how I’d react if they were doing the bullying, because I’ve been the victim, and I can’t begin to tell you how traumatizing it was. Actually, I’m sure you have dealt with it in your life. As a child, it is devastating.
How is it possible to give helpful advice to an 11-year-old girl? Our years of life experience have taught us that those who hurt us will lose their significance, however, that is a hard lesson to teach a child. For them, the schoolyard is everything—it is their world.
I wanted to say that bullies will grow up old and alone, completely miserable. However, I know this isn’t true after seeing my childhood bullies grow up to live happy, successful lives.
So I dove deep into my 11-year-old psyche and thought about what I wish someone had said to me at her age when I went to school with stomach aches:
>> They won’t change.
>> We have no power to change them.
>> The only thing we have control of is how we react to them, and how we feel about them.
I explained to my sweet girl that the children who bully aren’t happy. They don’t necessarily have the secure, loving home she does. They were not taught about compassion and kindness. They are sad.
When we turn the dialogue, when we teach our children that people act a certain way due to circumstance, we can change how they react to the negative energy.
I told my daughter that the next time a harsh comment was made, to stop and think how sad that bully must be inside to treat someone this way.
I reminded her that a bully’s comments have nothing to do with us and everything to do with how insecure they must feel. In life, we can’t avoid all bullies—even at 39. We can, however, avoid letting their actions and words bother us. We can kill them with kindness and hope that it changes their behavior.
We have the power to change others with our kindness.
I recommend we flip the script with our children; life can be cruel, and until we learn that it has nothing to do with us, we should, perhaps, sympathize and look beyond the surface—instead of fearing our bullies.
Otherwise, we let them win.