Children learn to be aggressive at a very early age; hence the “terrible twos,” when parents struggle to keep their toddlers from hitting and biting their peers. Naturally, there are children who mature out of this phase and learn to control their emotions (within reason relative to their age) and kids who do not. More often than not, those children (who have not learned to channel their emotions correctly) project their internal struggles onto others in the form of bullying.
As parents, we train our children to be respectful and kind and it is very difficult to watch a child that exhibits such qualities come into contact with a peer that is quite the opposite—mean and insulting.
My youngest son is that child—two years old, very well-mannered and generally sweet. He rarely hits other children (with the exception of his 3-year-old brother) and understands the concept of sharing. Very developmentally mature for his age, in many ways, he’s my golden child when it comes to God-given character. So, when a girl who appeared to be around five years old pushed him off of two toys at the playground the other day, I couldn’t help but get a little angry.
The first time, he came running over to me confused: “Mommy, she push and say no,” he told me. He didn’t understand why this girl he had done nothing to wanted to hurt him. I told him to tell the young girl not to do that to him anymore and he happily ran back over to the same area. She then proceeded to come hopping along and push him out of her way again. He fell to the ground and looked over at me as he dusted his shorts. “Don’t touch me!” he yelled at the little girl. She looked back at him. “Don’t. Touch. Me!” he repeated. This time with a finger pointed at her.
He kept moving closer as he repeated himself and after five times, she went away.
In that moment, I learned two things: It’s never too early to begin prepping for bullies. The earlier we teach our children how to deal with aggressors in a manner that does not compromise their integrity, the less likely it is that a peer will later have the power to strip them of their dignity. Here’s how: