Bullying or playing?
This morning while waiting for the school bus I saw a boy hit Riley in the chest with his backpack. My “listen to me NOW” voice came out and all activity ceased for a few moments. I proceeded to call the school and then informed the boy’s family that he hit a younger, disabled girl and that I thought that behavior was unacceptable.
The vice principal called me back to say that he talked to Riley, the boy who hit her, and our neighbor and that both boys claimed they were playing a game where you stop the mummy by hitting them with your backpack. He said that he told the children that it’s not a good game and they should behave while waiting for the bus. I guess that’s the best they can do considering it was off school property and they didn’t witness anything.
After school today Riley told me that she was trying to protect her friend because she thought the other boy was trying to hurt him and that’s when he swung at her. She said she didn’t know it was a game. We discussed how hitting is wrong and never a game and if saying “stop!” doesn’t work to go get an adult. But several things concern me here.
Would she try to intervene if she thought someone was hurting another child? I tried to tell her not to do that, scream and get an adult. She responded that she’s brave enough. She doesn’t understand that it’s not about being brave, it’s about being smart. That’s kind of scary!
What scares me the most is what can people do and tell her it’s all a game? She could get seriously hurt or in trouble and never even realize that it’s NOT a game! I have to convince her that name-calling, hitting, other forms of bullying, and “bad touching” are not games and are never okay under any circumstances!
But how can I teach her the difference between “play” and “bullying”? It’s much easier to say “hitting is bad” or “if your swimsuit covers it, NOBODY touches it!” than it is to recognize and respond appropriately while in the moment. Especially when you already process things a little slower anyway.
I’m going to bring this up with her teachers on Monday but I’m soliciting advice here. How can I protect my daughter when I can’t be there with her? How can I prepare her to recognize bad situations and get out of them and get help? What if an adult betrays her rather than a child? How can I know she’ll come to me if something bad happens? I’m so not ready for this…