Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Recently, my cousin was telling me about her sixth grade son, Tom, who was being excluded. It seemed to start all of a sudden. A big group of "friends" started to go to Wendy's after school but would make a big point that he wasn't included. I don't have to tell you what that does to not only the child, but the parent. It's so confusing and hurtful. Not only were the kids friends up until now, the parents had always been friends, too.
This is a tough one. Anger is the first reaction. It's incredibly hard to not want to dismember 12 year-olds but my cousin held it together (for the most part -- of course, she couldn't help but give the smug kids the "hairy eyeball" when she dropped him off to school.)
She kept it to herself except to tell a few trusted family members until one day when another mother noticed her change in attitude. She was not as friendly as she usually is to the other moms and a bit sad and frustrated. When the other mom asked my cousin if there was anything wrong, she calmly explained that she was disappointed in the class and explained the facts. (This is an important detail -- stick to the facts.) Of course, she cried a little bit but that's to be expected.
Guess what? It's one of the few times that the other parent did EXACTLY the right thing. It dawned on her that her own son, Conor, was one of the "bullies" and had to be corrected. She corrected her son without making a big deal out of it and made sure he included everyone the next time they got together as a group. It didn't end there, though. The other kids then excluded the TWO of them. Shocked, Conor confronted the group as they sat in a Subway restaurant. Their excuse -- there's not enough seats. Totally untrue.
Next step? One of the popular eighth graders saw this whole thing unfold and invited Tom and Conor to join him and his friends at a pizza parlor.
The eighth grader went home and told his mom what had happened. She encouraged the other moms to talk to their kids and it hasn't happened since. They all gather after school and go to a local fast food restaurant. They may not all be best friends, but they all feel included.
The moral of this story: When parents ban together to do the right thing and in the right way, kids do the right thing... and cool eighth graders should be cloned.
After the White House Summit on Bullying last week, the PTA announced new materials that parents can use to help their schools diminish the incidences of all types of bullying.
Parents are absolutely key. Hopefully, these materials will be a helpful FREE Resource for parent groups who want to step in.