Ok. So, this 9 year old boy up in North Carolina brings a My Little Pony backpack to school and his classmates pick on him.
Then, the school tells the kid to stop bringing the bag, as a way to stop the teasing, instead of aggressively going after the “bullies.”
Finally, the kid’s mom, and parents everywhere come down on the school,(and sometimes people with differing opinions!) alleging that the school isn’t doing all they can when it comes to going after these bullies. It’s also said that the school is taking part in the horrible act of victim shaming.
That’s the basic gist of this latest controversy running around the internets.
First off, let me say that bullying sucks. And I truly feel bad for this kid. There is no good reason for any kid to get bullied. I was a lanky, pimply, bespectacled, non-sports enthusiast growing up, and got picked on all the time. My eight year old son just started wearing glasses himself, and is having some issues with getting made fun of now too. I don’t like, support, condone, or find funny, any type of bullying against kids. Period.
Isn’t it our responsibility as parents to do as much as we can to ensure our kids are not put into positions where they may become the victim of a bully? Especially grade school kids and younger? Even if it may be what we adults would consider stifling the kid’s individuality?
Many people with grade school age children know that kids have somewhat of a pack mentality when they get to school. And they also know that these young kids aren’t exactly the most mature, socially conscious, and sensitive to the feelings of others, when they’re away from mommy and daddy. This isn’t necessarily the result of bad parenting either. I know great parents, who teach their kids the difference between right and wrong, and they have awesome, well mannered little kids…that sometimes forget all about those manners when they’re around their little friends at school. Especially if they’re distracted. Now, I’m not saying that all grade school kids are wild animals, but there are quite a few that do tend to jump on the “pick on so and so” bandwagon, like a hungry lion jumps on a slow moving zebra. Especially if that zebra is wearing glasses. Or is too quiet. Or has a funny haircut. Or carries their books in something traditionally marketed for zebras of the opposite sex. Kids will be kids. That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. And sometimes that includes being a jerk. We need to do our best to bring them up right. In homes filled with love, kindness, and compassion. And hope and pray that they turn out to be well adjusted, kind hearted adults.
As a parent, I’d be pissed if my kid’s school didn’t respond accordingly to an issue where I believed my kid was being bullied. But what if I actually contributed to my kid getting picked on by letting him wear something, or take something to school that essentially made him a pint sized target for a verbal thrashing? Or getting pushed around? What if my version of “respond accordingly” varied from the school’s version of “respond accordingly?” What if my definition of “respond accordingly” only took my kid’s feelings into consideration, and ultimately, my decision to allow him to go to school in a manner that got him picked on?
To an extent, I understand where the school is coming from. I wouldn’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that the administration didn’t want to go after “bullies.” By asking the nine year old not to bring the backpack anymore, they very well may have been trying to curb a bunch of kids from acting like little jerks, and/or getting distracted by something (not someone) out of the norm. Something that the kids would consider funny. And no offense to anyone, most grade school age kids would see a nine year old boy carrying a My Little Pony backpack as out of the norm. And quite possibly, funny. I think the school may realize that little kids are sometimes prone to making fun of, or “bullying,” anything that stands out as different. Whether it be a kid showing up to school for the first time wearing glasses, or a boy showing up to school with a My Little Pony backpack. And think of it this way, too…some fairly common little boy insults are things like, “You hit like a girl,” or “You throw like a girl.” Imagine what these kids are gonna say when they see a boy carrying an item that’s heavily marketed towards little girls. Not that that makes it right. Or, that in the grand scheme of things, there’s anything wrong with a boy liking/owning/carrying/playing with an item historically marketed towards girls…but again, ask yourself as a parent: Is this the most appropriate thing for my child to take to school? Regardless of what anyone’s preferences are, there is a time and place for all things. We parents will most always stand up for our children. And even the children of others. And that’s good. But we can also sometimes get tunnel vision in doing so. I’d like to think that the school administration was thinking not so much about censoring one child’s personal preferences, or not going after “bullies,” as much as they were thinking about the totality of the circumstances. Not only is the kid that is getting picked on losing out on valuable education time, but so are the kids distracted by the whole issue. Even the ones that can’t seem to control themselves when faced with seeing a male classmate with a My Little Pony bag.
And when it comes to the bullying issue itself, I think this is a little different than some of the other bullying cases we’ve heard about in the media. The parents allowed this nine year old boy to bring this backpack to school. That’s apparently what caused this bullying. I’m not trying to undermine this situation, or assign rankings to bullying, but this does differ to an extent from the kids that get bullied relentlessly, both verbally and physically, for being gay and bravely stepping out of the closet. Or the teenage girl that has her reputation smeared across the whole high school. The older our kids get and begin making choices for themselves, the harder it gets for us to protect them. But you really mean that the parents of this young boy didn’t have the foresight to see this coming at all?
Should kids that engage in bullying be disciplined? Of course! Can parents somewhat protect their grade school kids from being bullied? Absolutely. No offense to any parent, but if I thought my grade school aged kid had the potential to be bullied based on bringing something to school, he wouldn’t be bringing it. Or, I’d get him a version that was more appropriate for the situation he was going into. And I’d make sure I did my best to explain the situation to him. Most parents are smart people. Most parents have probably been picked on at one time or another. We know what could get our kids picked on. This shouldn’t be construed as discouraging the child from liking certain things. It’s merely the parent being protective. Why would we want to place them in a situation like that? Especially at such a young age? This is not a perfect world. We shouldn’t expect it to be. But we should do everything we can to protect our kids. Even if it means not allowing them to take certain items to grade school. Or even letting them make their own informed decision. They’ll get over a parent lovingly telling them “no,” or explaining why it may not be the best idea, a lot quicker than they will getting picked on. Again, this isn’t making excuses either. We all know that kids can be mean. Even if we do our best to teach them otherwise. I just really think we need to keep that in mind when we let our little kids go to school. We can’t control how other kids are going to treat ours. But we can do everything possible to protect our little ones from being embarrassed or picked on. We’re not taking away their right to express themselves. They’ll get very good at that, the older they get. We’re merely just protecting them a little longer.
I also want to clarify here, that I’m not trying to be controversial by not overtly supporting this kid and his backpack. This is merely my opinion, which we are all entitled to. I find nothing wrong with a boy or girl, of any age, having preferences that are more aligned towards things traditionally associated with the opposite sex. My own three year old son loves wearing pink and playing with his sister’s stuff. He also loves Dora more than Diego. Doesn’t bother me one bit. Nor do I, or will I, discourage it. However, as long as he’s in grade school, I’ll be assessing the appropriateness of things. And discussing it with him.
All I’m saying is, is that we as parents, need to put our children first. And by putting them first, we must ask ourselves if what they are doing, wearing, whatever, is appropriate for the situation. I for one, would rather not let my kid do or wear something that I even think might get him picked on. Think about it, nine years old is still a little kid. You can’t count on a nine year old to necessarily think things through. I’m sure that kid had no clue that he would get picked on for his backpack. He just loves the show. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I bet that if he knew the issues that bringing the backpack to school would cause, he might’ve thought twice about bringing it. Not saying that’s right, but it happens. At minimum, couldn’t the parents at least have had a talk with the kid and prepared him for the possibility that he could be picked on? In my opinion, the parents didn’t really think this one through, and unfortunately, it was the kid that suffered.