Monday, February 13, 2012

YOU Are Your Child's Advocate

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It's time for Wag Vs. Angie! This week we're covering an issue that many parents and kids are faced with on a daily basis... Bullying. 

You have made friends with parents of children from your child's school. You really want to get to know them better, but it turns out their child is a bully, and you're not sure how to break it to them without severing the friendship. To make matters more complicated, these people are the core of your new found parent support network. At the same time, you worry that your child will suffer if you don't break the news to them. What do you do? 

Click here to see what Shane has to say. This week we're not forcing each other to pick a side, so it will be interesting for me to see how far apart (if at all) we are in our responses. 

Parenting is a tough gig. You don't get a handbook and just when you think you know what you're doing, your kid goes and proves you wrong. Having a good support network is key to surviving the whole ordeal. For some people that means turning to family for comfort and advice, but for many the support needs to come from friends. Unfortunately, as we all know, every one's kids except your own SUCK. You need to advocate for your child. 

Bob and Susan are awesome! They are the coolest of all the new friends you've met while doing your parental and civic duties and you can't wait to have barbecue parties and maybe a drink or two while the kids have a play date. In your head you've already decided they will be your new BFF's. When they point out their darling angel, your heart sinks. As it turns out, their lovely child is the bane of your child's existence. You think back to all of the heart breaking tales from the school day where this kid has pushed your baby down on the play ground, taken lunch money, instigated a teasing session that left your little one in tears and dreading ever returning to school again.

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You have a couple of options here. Do you tell them about their child's behavior and risk them shunning you and turning the other parents against you? Do you pretend everything is fine and let their child continue to make your kid's life a living hell?

There isn't any reason to really "break the news" to them. They probably know that their child has had issues at school. I don't know any parents who, when presented with a bullying situation with their child, haven't gone to the school with their concerns and the names of the kid(s) that are tormenting them. When these situations arise the other child's parents are typically notified. The other kid's parents probably know. Either way, approach it with tact, civility, and know the weight of what you're about to say. Perhaps the best response is to approach it as such:

"I know that Jack and Tommy have had their issues in the past, but I look forward to getting to know you both better. We've had a great time with you! We should get the kids together for ____ ."

If they don't reign their child in for the sake of anything else, they will likely do so for the sake of their social standing. If they don't... or seem offended that you would accuse their child of such ghastly behavior, then all you can do is tell them what you know. If they are the "center" of the social group, oh well.  

We've all been to high school, right? If those are the kinds of people you worry about making friends with, it might be time to find a new group of friends. Also...chances are that your child isn't the only one that has been the target of the class bully, so you might find that if it goes awry when you subtlety mention the past incidents that the other parents lean to your side out of understanding.

Either way... be prepared for your child to face some sort of backlash. Keep on point. If Bob's and Susan's little angel gets called on his sh*t at home, he's likely to act out elsewhere until he's restrained at school too. Your first responsibility is to your child. We've all seen the ways that bullying (especially today) impacts our children.  It is your job to advocate for your child... all friendship and peer groups aside.

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