Woman Attacks 5 Year Old On School Bus
Filed Under (bullying, self-esteem)

When I heard this headline I was shocked, but not really.  The story is a familiar one.  Child bullied.  Parent angry.  Blame.  Retribution sought.  Tempers flared.  Inflamed reactions.  It happens in schools, hockey rinks, playgrounds – anywhere children interact.

We might agree that the parent who exerts her force against another child on behalf of her own wounded child is in the wrong.  We might even agree that the child himself would be better to abandon the eye for an eye mentality.  ‘Turn the other cheek’ is a popular, if not politically correct, option.  But the truth is, it’s not in our nature.

While training my first puppy to behave with small children, I learned the method of pulling the dog’s tail or poking it in the eye (as a child would do to a dog) and rewarding the dog with praise and treats for not retaliating.  This, the trainer assured me, was essential.  After all, any animal that is attacked will defend itself.  It’s just instinct.  You must condition against instinct.

Humans have instincts too.  Of course humans also have reason and intelligence and hopefully, a measure of self-control beyond that of simpler species.  But we still have anger and the natural desire to defend ourselves.   This desire extends to our children.  We are their protectors.  They wear our hearts on their sleeves.  We hurt when they hurt – maybe even more than they do.

When my first-born encountered a bully at the tender age of 5, I was unprepared for the intense emotion that reared up in me.  I remember feeling confused about my level of anger.  I was more bothered by a bully offending my beautiful, perfect, faultless princess than I was when I’d had the same done to me as a child! 

I won’t pretend that I was able to conjure up any hint of the composure and perspective that I now possess as a seasoned mother of three.   Although I didn’t give in to the desire to attack the offending child as did the mother in the headlines, I did think about it.  I wanted to make that bully cry.  I wanted her to be scared and remorseful and promise never to hurt anyone ever again.  Because this is what I want for the world. 

 I also want to learn why we feel how we feel and do what we do.  So I sat with my anger a while.  Alone.  We had it out – anger and I.  We screamed, we cried, we cursed the hurt until the hurt surrendered.  When all was said and done, the wounded child inside spoke up.  Here’s what she said:

I’m scared.  Scared that I’m not enough.  Scared that you don’t like me.  Scared because I don’t like myself.  It doesn’t take much to knock me over.  When you’re mean to me, I crumble.  Because I don’t know yet that your opinion doesn’t matter.  I don’t see how great I am or how great you are.  I don’t know how to defend myself against you because I don’t know how to defend myself against me. 

A piece of that wounded little girl still lives inside me.  She always will.  But she’s growing up.  With each new challenge to her self-esteem she gets stronger.   Sometimes she’s challenged by little friends like those that salt her wounds by hurting her children.  Other times it’s the grown-up friends that get to her, knocking her off balance for a little while.  Then a little while less.  Until finally, someday, maybe, she won’t even feel it when that bully punches her really hard on the inside – where it used to hurt so much.

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