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One doesn’t need to consult a dictionary to understand what it means to rough-house. Or to know what it means to be bullied. Isn’t rough-housing just fooling around, playfully pushing/shoving/wrestling with your pals? And isn’t bullying hatefully pushing/shoving… hey. Wait a minute.

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I only see an adjective marking the difference, here. Maybe I do need a dictionary to tell me the difference. Or a google search. Something. A government entity, maybe? Oooh. Scary. Since when did the line become so thinly drawn? Or is it just me, now that I am a mother of a 2 1/2 year old who is being, shall we say, ‘played with’ in a way in which I am uncomfortable and find unacceptable?

Herein follow 3 examples:

  • My child climbs the steps to playground equpiment; another child deems the equipment hers and stands in front of him and hits him (turns out she only hits the bill of his ball cap). The other child is about a year older. Other Mother says to child ‘oh stop’ but child does not. My child ignores and I tell him continue to go up steps. He does.
  • My child follows 2 others under the tables, crawling on his hands and knees as they are. They proceed to step on his back when he comes through. Children same age. Other Mothers don’t see/ignore. I tell them to stop. They do. My child ignores them and comes back to me.
  • My child goes up to playground equipment. A child body slams him, knocking him down. My child runs to me, crying. Other Mother says, ‘say sorry,’ child does not. Two minutes later, Other Child head butts my child in stomach, knocking him to ground.

Merriam’s Learner’s Dictionary Online states that roughhousing is to play in a rough and noisy way, while to bully is to frighten, hurt or threaten. Whew. Okay, then, good. Looks like my scenarios – or at least the one for which I was most offended – counts as bullying, which is exactly what I thought it was. “Whew” because that means I am not an over-reactive parent.

While some are proponents of rough-housing, such as educational consultant and therapist Ingun Schneider of education.com, she does says that “Some children these days seem to have very little sense of how strong or hurtful they can be.” One rule Schneider suggests parents teaching their children is learning that when the other party says “stop” they know this means to stop. This is helpful advice for me, personally, when teaching my son how to get other children to stop misbehaving. That is, if their parents have taught them this all-important rule.

I have to admit, I was ready to teach my tiny tot how to fight back after that last episode! But I can’t help thinking of how silly it is to try to teach someone how hitting is wrong and then teach him to hit back! At least, not until s/he is older. 😉 Still, I didin’t want to remove him from the situation, either, because one day Momma won’t there, and he WILL have to defend himself or walk away or, as I am attempting to teach him (and have been before that third episode, but not so aggressively) in three different statements if need be:

  1. look the person in the eye and say “Please, stop. I don’t like that”
  2. look the person in the eye and say, “I said, I don’t like that, stop it”
  3. look the person in the eye and say, “I’m not playing with you anymore. Leave me alone.”

I am hoping by the third time misbehaving child hears my son’s last statement, s/he will get the point and stop pushing/shoving/wrestling/etc. Because otherwise this Momma’s going to turn into a Lioness. It’s just in us, ya know.

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