When I collected Ava from school on Monday, I noticed that she seemed a little dejected and not quite herself. After some prompting, she told me she didn’t have a very nice day and then she told me that one of the boys in her class, I’ll refrain from calling him a little cocktonsil and we’ll refer to him as J, had spent some time yesterday telling her how and why she was the ugliest girl in the world and the ugliest girl he’s ever seen.
Of course, my Mama bear instinct went into overdrive and I immediately wanted to go back to the school to find this little
cocktonsil J so that I could smack him upside the head a few times and perhaps beat his ass for good measure too. But I managed to restrain myself.
What I did manage to do was give Ava some advice on how to deal with him, but I’m afraid it may not have been the best advice. I told her to ask him if he’s blind? Does he need glasses? Is he stupid? Has he looked in the mirror lately because that’s the best way to see UGLY. I told her to tell him he’s ugly and he’s mama dresses him funny. I gave her the worst advice and realized I’m really not well equipped to help my child deal with this kind of nastiness. Fighting cruel with cruel isn’t the best solution. Intellectually I know that.
Although Ava and I are not biologically related, she reminds me so much of how I was as a small child. Shy, a little timid around strangers and large groups and not very good at standing up for herself. Her teacher has commented that she doesn’t handle conflict well, if someone is mean to her or hurts her, she will go somewhere and cry and they’ll find her sitting in the toilets, or in a corner just crying instead of confronting the little
cocktonsils J’s of the world. Ava has a very gentle soul. I’m under no false illusions, I know she’s no angel but I don’t want her gentle soul damaged by the cruelness that are kids or her gentle soul blackened by my “kick ‘em where it hurts” advice.
It’s not the first time she’s been through something like this. We had an experience with this last year too, girls this time. Who told her she was ugly or she looked funny. Who would throw her hat in the sand and push her around. Mean girls. It went on for quite a while and I’m afraid I failed miserably then too at dealing with it.
But I know, first hand, the impact these types of cruel statements can have on her self-esteem, on her internal dialogue, on how she sees herself and how this can affect her interaction with the world around her. Even as a 42 year old mother of two, I recall something that happened to me as a little girl, that still has an impact on how I see myself today. I was sitting in church with my parents and brother when someone they knew came over and commented on what good looking SON’S my parents had! They thought I was a boy! And even though I know it’s ridiculous, still to this day, I have an issue with my femininity. Walter can vouch for the number of times I’ll ask him before leaving the house, whether I look butch or masculine in what I’ve chosen to wear. Put me in a room full of women and I’ll always feel like the least feminine one of the lot! And that comment was made more than 30 years ago but still it has power over me today! So imagine the impact of being told she’s the ugliest girl in the world could have on Ava!
I’ve tried looking online for some parenting advice on how to deal with bullying and cruelness but keep coming up empty handed. Most of the articles I’ve read seem to be aimed at parents with older kids, so I’d love to hear from you, how do you deal with bullies, cruelness and the
cocktonsils J’s of the world?