Friday, September 17, 2010

Don't Let Her Sweet Smile Fool You

Last year in school, #2 had a problem with a bully who used manipulation to try to be #2's friend. The bullying included hair pulling, kicking in the stomach, damaging #2's property, and calling her really awful names. Most of this came to a head toward the end of the year, so when I spoke with teachers about it, they said they had not noticed it but would watch for it...and then school got out. The bully made the mistake of continuing her abuse of #2 in emails, which I read. Over the course of the summer, Kent and I coached #2 on how to deal with friends who really aren't, and she decided to cut off contact with this friend. After screening this girl's phone calls for a month, I answered one day and told this girl I had read the emails she'd sent and didn't think #2 would ever call her back after the really mean things she had said. She stopped calling. When class assignments were announced, she called again and #2 decided to take the call. This girl apologized and #2 forgave her. At least thrice a week I ask #2 how things are going with this girl, and the answer usually is that she is much nicer. When she does slip up and say something not so nice, she now catches herself and apologizes immediately to the offended party (who often is some other kid besides mine). I'm happy that the bullying has stopped and that said bully seems to be changing her ways.

What I'm even happier about is the empowerment #2 has gained.

Every year since Kindergarten she has had some boy in deep crush over her, and it always makes her uncomfortable. When they were five, it was A. who would call her name and lift up his shirt when she looked his way. J. in first and second grades was really sweet. He would write her notes and give her a special Valentine present. (I was sad to hear that he left the school.) In third grade, S. showered her with presents and smiles. This year, her admirer is more bold. T. is new to the school. He started with smiles and quickly progressed to telling everyone he had a crush on her; then to calling out, "Hey Baby! How's it going?" in the halls; and a quick hug-type grab on her arms at lunch last week. When I picked up #1 from an after-school activity on Wednesday, she asked me if #2 had already told me that T. had kissed her that day. !!! (That means "What?!" and "No!") When we got home, I asked #2 about it and she said he hadn't kissed her but was telling everyone he had. She was not happy about it, and I could sense he was working up the nerve to plant one on her.

We had a talk about whether she had told him to stop, and though she thought she had repeatedly been firm with T. on that point, it obviously wasn't working. Kent and I talked about her predicament that night.

Thursday morning after our family devotional time, Kent asked #2 about T. and told her she should "kick him in the balls" if T. ever touched her at all. She had given him fair warning to lay off, and defending herself would give a clear message. #2 smiled uncertainly and said she could never do that. Kent reassured her that sometimes that's what it takes to get a message through to a boy. She just shook her head and left to get ready for school.

Kent explained to me that he didn't really think #2 would kick the boy, but he wanted her to know it's okay to be REALLY strong and clear in her communications.

Thursday afternoon she came home with a triumphant story.

After arriving at school, she walked up to T., who was with a group of his friends, and said, "My parents gave me permission to hurt you if you ever touch me or talk to me inappropriately again." ("You used the word 'inappropriately'?" I asked. "Yep.") T. left her alone for the whole day. When classmates asked if T. had really kissed her (Wednesday's rumor), another classmate would interrupt in the negative and brag about what #2 had said to T. that morning.

She was very proud of herself. I am proud of her too. She handled the situation in a clear manner with witnesses, without hurting anyone, and now has a reputation of taking care of herself. You go girl!


Pam Williams said...

Lots of drama going on in little people's lives and learning how to cope with it prepares them for adulthood. I remember in grade school there was a girl new to our school who was one of the most obnoxious creatures I have ever met. Even the teachers didn't like her. I avoided her for a while but one day she was so off-the-charts annoying I slapped her. It was the only thing anybody had tried that got her to stop talking and pay attention. Of course the teachers had to make me apologize, but it was half hearted and everyone knew it. After that Miss Obnoxious wanted to be my friend. I would have none of it. She moved at the end of the school year. No one missed her. Poor kid.

VickieG said...

I am very pleased with Madelyn. She is so sweet that I didn't know she had it in her. But I think a little assertiveness is a good thing. No reason to be other people's rugs.
As your Mom said, "You go, girl".

Charlotte said...

Good for her. We are totally into the appropriate use of force when defending oneself. I'm glad she was able to explain and help fix a friend's bad habits, too.