As a parent, bullying has always been one of my greatest fears and worries, but it wasn’t on the forefront until recently. Like most families, our children bicker or sometimes say hurtful words to each other, but those scenarios are different. Home is where the heart is, and also where children feel safe and comfortable to assert themselves or push the boundaries. With my five-year-old daughter starting Kindergarten this past fall, the topic of bullying or teasing has been up for discussion, both at home and school. So it was at no surprise to me, when one day after school, my daughter shared a story about a few classmates teasing. My heart was saying, “Oh no, it happened, and I’m not there to protect her” but my mind was saying, “This is part of life, how can I empower her to best deal with situations like these”? As we held hands and walked to the car from school, she looked up at me and said, “Mom, some of the kids were teasing my friend at school today. I told them to stop and that they were being mean and bullies”. Turns out, her story was different that what I was prepared to hear. I was so proud of her for having the confidence and courage to protect her friend.
The incident hasn’t left me, and I continue to ask myself questions around the topic of bullying. How can I best raise my daughter to be inclusive and kind? And, I have a strong-willed daughter. Does this put her at a higher risk to become a mean girl or bully? When I began to form my answers to these questions, I broke it down to the qualities and characteristics I already see in her, and the ones I want to teach her. I decided to write her a letter. I guess it’s a vow for myself and to her, promising to actively teach her how to be kind, inclusive, and to become a young girl who uses her strength for good. In time, when she has a greater understanding of bullying, or perhaps encounters a challenging moment during those trivial teenage years, we can read this letter together. If anything, I hope that she sees we started this journey together, years ago, to fight back against bullying before it could ever affect us.
Dear Older Audrey,
If we are reading this, I hope it’s not because you are being bullied or bullying. Instead, I hope it’s that you are of an age, where I can share these thoughts with you. One day (far from now), you will hopefully become a parent and understand that the day your child is born, life has gifted you, your most important responsibility. With that responsibility comes an immense amount of love, planning, and worry. So yes, all these years ago I worried and I still do! I worried about you ever being hurt by a friend, teased by your peers, or feeling any peer pressure from others to be mean to someone. I worried, but guess what.. I planned! Your Dad and I have been and still are committed to teaching you and your brother to be kind, caring, inclusive, and confident young adults.
To 5-year old Audrey, I promise to teach you these values.
This is what it means to be inclusive and kind.
It’s embracing and celebrating your own differences and unique characteristics, and those of your peers. It’s being the kid who befriends someone who feels alone or picked on. It’s making a group of friends that welcomes new friends. It’s understanding that gossip is often derived from jealousy. It’s understanding the value of true friendship. It’s seeing the good in people. It’s having empathy. It’s being empowered to know right from wrong and not being afraid to stand up for it! It’s building your friends up, not breaking them down. It’s understanding that gossiping doesn’t create friendships. It’s loving yourself and others.
This is what I want you to do with your determination and strong will.
Let me be clear that your strong will and determination are two characteristics I love most about you. Challenging at times, yes! But, it’s my role to help you channel that powerful energy to be more than self-seeking. At five-years-old, it’s normal to want everything to go your way. Honestly, at 35 it’s normal to feel that sometimes. But, I hope to teach you to be a positive leader (like the day you stood up for your friend in Kindergarten). A leader who uses her voice and strength to empower others. Be competitive, but don’t compete with others. Have a voice, but listen as well. Leave drama behind, don’t create it. Celebrate others successes and you will have yours. Share in your friendships. Be outward and think of others. Give compliments. See kindness as a strength. Bullying means insecurity. Kindness means confidence.
My darling sweetheart, I understand that you are only five years old, which is why this letter is for the future. You are still developing, learning, and growing. Some of your characteristics may change, but what will never change, is how proud of you I am. I will always be your biggest fan. This is my promise to support and teach you the value of kindness, and to be the best example of that possible.
All my love,
While teasing and bullying happens with boys and girls, I want to point out that my daughter’s teasing experience was with a group of girls. So, this is my message to mamma’s of little girls. It starts at home. Lead by example. Unfortunately, adult women are often bullies or mean girls. I still come across women who only enjoy breaking others down or gossiping. I choose to walk away from these relationships. Mean mom’s raise mean girls. When you see this in a mom, say a little prayer that she will soon recognize the damage of her ways and encourage positive conversation. It’s never too late for change.
Bullying will always be present, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for less of it. Let’s raise a generation of kindness. Be the change!