Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not Tolerating Bullying and Loving Oneself

A few weeks ago while my daughter was at the pool getting ready for a swim lesson she said to me, "Mommy, you want to know who I love the most in our entire family?"  She said, "me" referring to herself.

Listening to my child tell me something that is not an easy lesson to teach that she understood warmed my heart. It made me see that I am doing all that I can to show her the way and to help her love who she is and to help her to find herself through passions, relationships and more.

It's important to remind our kids that in order for them to love others and to be loved they must learn to love themselves.

We try so hard to protect our children from bullies, mean-spirited individuals and obstacles that will come their way. While we cannot be there to defend them and protect them all the time, all we can do is help them to build confidence in themselves to hopefully stand up and be proud and to just walk away with their head held high.

I know that this is all very easy to say. But, having been on the receiving end of what is now being called bullying and not always feeling so good about myself when I was a kid, you can bet I am going to arm my child with the tools to help her be confident and to love herself, when there are haters and others who may want to knock her down.

When I was younger, the word bullying didn't really exist. We used to call it "getting picked on."  But, with the latter it was seen as a single act versus a behavior that happened one too many times.

When my sister and I were kids and went to a sleep away camp for years, we were called names by kids, and by some counselors, for having a chin that was a bit too big for our faces. We were called "chinsters." I also had a scar on my chin, a few inches in size, and was also called scar face. As a kid, you can only imagine how that could hurt ones feelings. My sister, not sure how, was able to take it in stride and just ignore it. I, on the other hand, more insecure, wasn't as brave. My feelings were hurt often. As a result, I think it was hard to love myself when I wasn't feeling love around me.

To add to all of this, it didn't help that kids in my bunk at camp who I thought were my friends, also took my favorite stuffed animal (right insert) and throw him outside on the ground at night for me to find him with yet another tear the next day.  Let's just say that I couldn't wait to get home every summer where safety awaited me and my friends and family that did care welcomed me with open arms.

As you can see I still have this stuffed animal (picture right) with its many, many, many stitches of thread sewn by the camp nurse. He is a constant reminder of my past vulnerabilities and the strength and confidence I have developed.

I couldn't make sense of my summers at camp with the constant name calling and "being picked on" as I didn't at all have that experience at any of my schools or in my circle of friends.

One friend from that camp many years ago, who knows who she is, loved me for me and chose not to listen to others and not make fun of me. She chose to appreciate and like me because I was a good person with a big heart, and we are still friends to this day.

I kept silent for too many years, not saying anything about how I really felt all those summers. When I finally told my mom, in my 20s, she cried and was so sad that I had held it in for so long not saying or doing anything. I was hurt but also embarrassed that I could let it happen and for so long, not having the confidence to stand up for myself. Only now, well over 30 years later in the eyes of my daughter, do I feel confident enough to say that I was bullied and that I chose to stand up for myself and those I love encourage her to do the same and share with me whatever she is feeling and experiencing so I can support her.

Sarah and I have actually done quite a bit of role playing when there have been instances in which a kid hurt her feelings or she wanted to stand up to a kid who was not being nice to her.

Kids can be mean and start out very young impacting our children's feelings. We also have to be very careful about the fine line between those that are mean and acts of bullying.

It's no wonder today that I am more confident than I have ever been and more conscious of the people I surround myself with. I no longer tolerate people who are mean to me or to those who I love, and am more aware of those kids in my daughter's circle with this awareness.

Our goal as parents is to love our children as hard as we can and to teach them to love and be loved and to be kind to others, to work diligently and to strive for what matters most to them. We must encourage them to surround themselves with others who care about them too and that it's not about how many friends we have but the ones that matter who love us for us.

Here's to supporting our children and guiding them to make good choices, even though we know there will be some bad choices along the way and people to bring them down. We need to help them to stand on their own, be confident, be respectful of others, and above all, learn to love and appreciate themselves. 


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