Monday, March 26, 2012

Toddler Bullying - Does It Really Start Already?

The other day I experienced my first moment of wanting to punch another person's child in the face.

Ok, bit of an exaggeration.  I did not want to punch him in the face.  But I definitely wanted to tell him a thing or two, yank a toy out of his hand, give the toy to my little boy, then scoop my boy away from him and into safety.

I also wanted to cry.

We were at a small local consignment shop that has a little blocked-in play area for young kids.  There were no other children in it, and the store was fairly empty, so I asked Krew if he wanted to play.  One glance at the trucks and he replied with a quick "Wes!!" (Yes.)  So I dropped him in.

He was happily playing with this one little green truck that caught his eye.  Vroom, vroom, driving it all around the truck table in the play area.

Then these other two kids approach the play area with their mom, begging to get in also.  I'd guess the girl was about 5, the boy was probably an older 2-year-old or even maybe 3.

I'm looking at some infant boys' clothes about 15 feet away, and all of a sudden I hear the little girl saying in a demanding tone, "You need to SHARE!"  I glance over, and my son is smooshed in the corner of the play area, behind the truck table, clutching his little green truck tightly to his chest.  The little girl and little boy are on the other side of the truck table, staring him down, the girl demanding that my son give her brother his little green truck.

I walked over and said, "I'm pretty sure he had that truck first, honey."

The little girl glanced at me, then back at Krew.  Their mom stood by, looking at store items, deciding to remain silent.  The little girl picked up another truck and handed it to her brother.  "Here, can you play with this instead?"

Satisfied, I walked back over to the infant boys' clothes, keeping one eye on the play area.  The girl and boy never backed up, and Krew remained smashed in the corner.  I couldn't hear if they were saying anything, but all seemed ok.  I knew I needed to let Krew stand on his own a little.

But now was apparently not the time to let him stand on his own.  Because the next thing I saw confirmed that the other two kids did not stop their bullying.  And it nearly broke my heart.  My little boy, with the saddest look on his face, eyes rimmed red and a quivering lip, let go of his little green truck and dropped it on the table for the other boy.

I about went through the roof.

I rushed back over and assessed the situation, with no idea what to do.  The childrens' mother was standing five feet away, ignoring the whole thing.  My little boy looked rejected, hurt, scared, and about to burst into tears.  I asked him if he wanted me to pick him up, and he said "No." I asked the kids to back up because at this point they had pushed the truck table toward Krew so much that it had him trapped against the wall.  They at least listened to me and backed up.

I felt so torn.  I wanted to run to my son's safety.  I wanted to yank the toy out of that other little boys' hands and tell him he should wait his turn and not bully his way into getting what he wants.  I wanted to tell the little girl she needed to learn some manners and shouldn't be picking on kids half her age and size.  I wanted to tell that mom that she should get over there and discipline her kids a bit.  I wanted to scoop Krew up into my arms and promise him he'd never be bullied or hurt like that again.

But I didn't do any of that.  I just stood there.  Tried to help Krew find something else to play with.  He had willingly given the toy to the boy, so I couldn't very much take it back.  Meanwhile my heart felt shattered for my son and I wanted to cry.  I think a history with being bullied mixed with strong parental attachment and raging pregnancy hormones made me far more emotional than the average mother in that moment.

Finally the two children left with their mother and Krew got his truck back.  My rush of mama adrenaline began to slow.  But the anger and hurt for my child never abated.  When I think about the situation now, it still makes me want to cry.  And it's been three days.

And it makes me wonder, WHAT am I going to do when Krew gets older and friends hurt his feelings?  Or when a girl breaks his heart?  Is it going to hurt me this badly every time?  What do I do with these raging protective mama hormones?  And above all, what does GOD want me to do in these situations?  I know He wants me to forgive (which I clearly need to work on since I'm still harboring anger), but what am I supposed to do in the moment?  What is the Christlike reaction??

Are there Christian books on how to deal with toddler bullies??

Goodness I wasn't expecting to have to deal with this so soon.

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