Mother Bear

Can 4 and 5 year old children be bullies? My answer is a resounding yes.

Monkey boy has been taking gymnastics since January. Despite his physical awkwardness and lack of strength, he tries everything. He listens to his coach (who unfortunately seems to lack the natural ability to guide or instruct, an apparent flaw that is seen by other parents). He has fun and his abilities are improving. In his attempts to execute a move, he usually succeeds or fumbles through but occasionally a mishap arises. To date he has hurt himself on the apparatus four times. As a sensitive, pleasing and slightly overwhelmed kid, he has reacted with tears and loud cries. In all cases, we have dealt with the hurt and re-joined the class. I've been proud of him and glad for the opportunity to teach him not to give up.

Today, my parenting philosophy towards monkey boy was challenged by two four year old boys. As we entered the gymnasium, one boy loudly called out "there is the baby boy" and another boy takes up the taunt and teasing attitude by also saying "he's the baby boy." My son was walking ahead of me and stopped. I was unable see his reaction or determine if he realized these words were being directed towards him. Yet I knew exactly what these little boys were saying. I was livid. Their parents did not speak out or correct these boys but rather just looked in our direction. The mother bear in me was incensed. I quickly and loudly blurted out to my son that those boys were being rude. This stopped the two boys and I think caught the attention of one parent, a dad. I directed my kid towards the boot removal area and clearly said to him not to listen to those boys but to go have fun and sit with some of the girls.

My son did not seem to question me or to display any hurt feelings. I decided not to pursue the issue. This was our second last class and I did not have the energy or resources to confront the parents and question their parenting style. I'm guessing they tell their boys not to be cry babies as where else would these young children develop a negative attitude towards tears resulting from pain. If this situation presents itself again, I will delve further into the issue especially if my son has to co-exist with mean children for any length of time. It is not acceptable to name call. Parents and children need to know this fact and check the tendency if we want to reduce bullying. I want to teach my children to not bully. I also want them to learn that it is just as harmful to join in the action by either copying the bullies or letting the bullies get away with their hurtful actions.

I know this is just the start of our many years in dealing with difficult situations. I hope that J and I have the ability to recognize problems quickly. I hope we find ways to teach our children to cope with the harshness of a tough, competitive and materialistic society and still be compassionate and caring individuals.