Sunday night, I decided to break out Just a Bully by Gina and Mercer Mayer for bedtime. I wanted to gauge the response from Boy. I hoped to mine his still developing brain for more specific information about his experiences in preschool. I’ve had better ideas.
When the bigger kid (crocodile) picks on Little Critter’s little sister, I stopped reading and asked, “Does anybody at school pick on other kids?”
“That crocodile bein’ mean.”
“Yeah, that crocodile’s not very nice, but let’s see what happens.”
When we got to the sequence where Little Critter is bothered on four distinct occasions by the crocodile, I stopped again and asked, “That crocodile isn’t very nice, what should Little Critter do?”
“That crocodile bein’ mean.”
“Is anybody mean to you at school?”
“O – - – .”
“What does he do?”
Pointing to his forearm, Boy says, “He bite me on the armpit — like this.”
On the very next page, Little Critter tells the teacher about his bully. I said, “That’s good to tell the teacher when somebody’s bothering you. Do you know who else you can tell?”
Big sister chimed in: “You can tell Mommy and Daddy.”
Unfortunately, Little Critter doesn’t tell his Mom. In fact, Little Critter suspects Mom knows he’s pretending to be sick, “but she let me stay home anyway.”
Little Critter’s little sister advises her brother to give the bully a punch. Having had his project destroyed by the bully, the bully warns Little Critter he’ll get him later. And at the end of the day, Little Critter and his bully fight in front of the school as the buses are loading.
In 1999, at the advent of zero tolerance policies toward violence in schools, Just a Bully has a faculty member break up the fight, scold both fighters, and the fighters are free to get on the same bus.
After Little Critter’s little sister humiliates the bully on the bus, Little Critter and his sister ride home together on the bus, and as I close the book, I see Boy make a fist with his right hand and start hitting his open left palm.
“What are you doing?”
“I punchin’ the crocodiles.”
“Why are you punchin’ the crocodiles?”
“Them pickin’ on him.”
“What are you going to do if someone picks on you at school?”
“I going to punch them.”
“Son, I don’t want you punching anybody. What else can you do?”
“I going to point at him and say ‘I don’t like that.’”
Well, that’s something.
Yesterday, my wife had a parent-teacher conference at Boy’s school. She met with his last teacher, as Boy’s only been in his new classroom for a month. The teacher asked how things are going for him now, and my wife said, “We ask him every day how school was, and he says, ‘Good O – - – wasn’t there.’”
The teacher said, “Yes, for some reason they just seemed to butt heads.”
They just seemed to butt heads.
What a fanciful world we try to live in sometimes. Maybe by imagining these children are merely butting heads, one can imagine there are no problems at home. If children are butting heads, they just have a personality conflict and there aren’t deeper issues that need to be resolved. Regardless, I’m happy we got Boy out of that classroom.
Yesterday, my wife sent me a link, and I’ve seen it in my research, but I don’t know why I’ve not referenced it before. Boys Town sponsors http://www.parenting.org. A search for bully provides a number of articles — updated since the new year: “How to help the victim.” “The Bully, The ‘Bullied’ and The Bystander.” And “How To Deal With a Bully.” Much of the advice is directed to teens as they have the communication skills necessary to be able to make clear the problem. So when bullying is happening in preschool, I think the onus is on the parents and the school. The specific article my wife sent was “Biting, Bullies and Other Bad Behavior at Preschool.” The most important advice is directed at the teachers: “Children who are bullying others should be closely monitored.” I’m glad we moved Boy from that classroom, but are there other kids still suffering?