If you think office politics are hard to navigate you haven’t seen anything yet. The playground politics on today’s schoolyard playgrounds are far more intricate and powerful than anything your office mate’s can throw at you. Imagine being a kid in a world where one misstep could decide your fate for the rest of your time in school. It isn’t easy and it isn’t kind. Parents, listen up, as a teacher let me be the first to say, your kids need your help to fit in without giving in and to stand out without giving up.
In all my years wandering the school yards, on duty, I have noticed one thing that never fails to make me shake my head. Kids can be cruel. I don’t mean other people’s kids, either. Your kids, the kids you work hard to raise to be good and kind people, can be mean. I’m not saying they are mean. I am saying, when push comes to shove, they can be mean. At the risk of sounding dramatic it can be dog eat dog on the playground and unless you prepare your children with strategies to survive, they may resort to the only defenses they can–targeting others to avoid being targets themselves. I know you remember–it wasn’t that long ago that you spent much of your day on the playground. Were you ever the target? The leader of the pack? Or did you stay safely among the other followers to avoid being bullied yourself? If you were like the majority, you likely kept yourself out of trouble by standing with the crowd and that’s okay because you didn’t have any other strategies to get by, but things are different now. We’ve learned a lot and the schools are ready to make changes to playground politics.
It is Safe to Tell a Grownup
Educators, today, understand that ‘telling’ can sometimes make whatever punishment the child was facing from peers, far worse. There are ways around this and it’s time children knew that the adults understand and will protect them from retaliation. Make sure your children know this is the best and safest option when they are faced with bullying of any kind. Most schools have a zero tolerance policy but they cannot help if they aren’t aware of the situation.
Being Passive is Not an Option
Make your kids understand that just because they didn’t throw the punch or sling the words, they are still guilty of being a participant in bullying a classmate if they stand by and do nothing. While a child should never confront a bully, they should always run and find an adult to help. Simply doing nothing allows bullies free reign.
Being Different is Your Right
Not only is it okay to be different. It is your right to be yourself and to express yourself as you see fit. Just as it would be in the adult world, it is against the law for someone to harass you for being who you are. Impress upon your kids that they should feel safe at school to be themselves and if they do not there is something wrong. See tip number one.
Ask your child if they, or anyone they know, are being bullied at school. The answer might surprise you.