Why I Don't Want My Daughter to Excuse Boys' Bad Behavior
My third grade daughter has a disability. This school year, my little girl has been getting teased and sometimes bullied because of it. She is sensitive, so when she comes home from school weeping, I try to glean all the information that lead to her broken heart. I try to understand the situation, the players, the actions. I attempt to figure out whether this particular event warrants getting other parents involved, or the school, or if it is something minor that does not require intervention.
Usually, I start by reminding her about our coping strategies. We talk about ways to handle the bullying. We discuss which adults she can tell if she is not home and needs help. We take some deep breaths and we give lots of hugs. Little broken hearts are the worst.
My little girl was thrilled because her teacher told her she would be starting a new intervention at school the following week. She could not wait. She couldn’t sleep all weekend, because she was so excited about the new plan to help her focus and stay on task at school. She only gets this excited about Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. It was endearing.
Monday rolled around and my little girl got off the bus in the afternoon, deflated. She said a friend found out about the new intervention and said she should not be excited about this, because this intervention was only for bad kids who had problems. To watch the innocent joy seep out of the corners of my child and puddle around her feet was excruciating. At that moment, I hated the world.
Since that first day, my daughter has been ridiculed every day for this particular intervention she receives at school. The bullies are mostly boys. When my girl came home again, weeping over the meanness of these boys, I had had enough. I had contacted the school once before about this issue, and we thought it had been resolved. But we were wrong. So I got in touch with the school again and was met with a swift response, supporting my daughter and laying out a plan to squelch the bullying. I am grateful we now have backup.
As I put my sweet girl to bed one night, she said that probably she was being bullied because “that’s just what boys do.” She was excusing the teasing because of the fact that the bullies are boys. I have never told my daughter it is OK for boys to act badly, and I wondered where she had gotten this message. It struck me that this is a common theme in our society.
If a boy punches a girl’s arm or pulls her braids, the girl is told, “He probably likes you and that’s why he’s acting that way.” From an early age, boys’ bad behavior is often excused and chuckled over. The message is given to boys that they can get away with bad behavior, and the message is given to girls that there is nothing they can do to make boys stop their bad behavior; they just need to accept that this is how boys act.
Like it’s no big deal.
So when I heard my 8-year-old say the boys were teasing her because they were “being boys,” I used that as a big teaching moment. I explained to her how it is never OK for anyone to hurt someone else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boy, a girl, a grownup or child. Hurting others is never ever OK.
Boys should be held to the same standards as girls. There is no excuse for anyone to hurt others. I told my daughter she is brave for telling me what is going on, and the school is going to help us, and there are so many people on her side. I hope I sent the message loud and clear that bullying of any kind by any person will not be tolerated. I hope my little girl understands that she has a loud, strong, clear voice, and she will be heard when she is 8 years old, or 20, or 102. She matters and she will be heard.
I reinforce this message every chance I get so that decades from now, my little girl will not be one of the many women who choose to finally come forward with a terrible secret of a man’s unacceptable, cruel behavior. Every person matters. Every person deserves to be heard, respected, and treated with kindness.
Hopefully my little girl will hold this truth in her heart and remember it forever. The truth is that every person should be heard and supported. Our society is shifting, and I hope the current is turning in favor of equality, kindness, and zero tolerance for bullying of any sort.
Getty image by LSOphoto