To be honest, I’ve about had it with the statement kids will be kids. Let me explain. Michael was a student of mine who came from a very poor family. His father was an alcoholic and his mother had abandoned the family. Each day when Michael came to class, he was dressed in filthy clothes. He smelled because obviously he had not bathed in several days. He was sleep deprived and daily the circles under his big brown eyes grew darker. My other 31 students were gregarious, fun, smart, and go-getters. They had the personalities that seem to shout, “Look out world. Here I come!”
But there was still Michael, who I think might have wanted to shout, “Look out world. Just let me alone!”
By the end of the first week of school, some of my other 31 students started to pick on Michael. He was called names such as Grease Head (because his hair needed shampooing) and Pizza Face (because he had pimples all over his face). Pea Brain was another term used frequently. And of course, there was the name Lazy Boy as he constantly laid his head on his desk and tried to sleep.
The students who were making fun stopped their bullying once I laid down the law, but when Mrs. Reeves wasn’t around, it continued. I finally had to ask their parents to come for a conference, each at a separate time. I talked to them about the name-calling and bullying. Out of eight different parents, six told me, “Well, kids will be kids!”
Honestly, I was shocked at what these six parents were saying, and most of them smirked at me as they said it. To give credit to those other two parents, their children stopped the bullying. In fact their children befriended Michael and made a sincere effort to help him.
WMU® recognizes that each day the social issue of human exploitation gets worse and worse. Even preschoolers understand what bullying is and bullying is exploitation. Being made fun of and laughed at leads to low self-esteem in preschoolers and children. We hear many times about childhood or teenage suicides. Parents of these children will often admit that even as a preschooler their child never seem to fit in or was made fun of or bullied.
So how can parents and teachers help our preschoolers begin to understand that bullying is unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated? Yes, kids will be kids, but our kids should not be bullies. My kids, your kids, all of our kids need to practice the golden rule (Luke 6:31), “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s one of the earliest concepts that we can teach children. I think it’s imperative that preschoolers understand this concept. I too think it’s essential that this is a lifelong concept that we teach and build upon to lead our children to be kinder, more considerate, compassionate, and loving.
I wonder, do we as teachers whether at school or church take a stand to do something? Or do we turn our heads and hope for things to get better? Do we think this is not our problem and that someone else will eventually deal with it?
Let me boldly say, yes, this is our problem. If a child in your room at church or school is bullying another child, it is imperative that teachers take action to stop it. This requires serious action. It means maintaining discipline and respect in your classroom. It means having a policy that no longer allows any child to be intimidated, laughed at, or bullied. It means teachers and parents taking back control and standing up for all “our’ children and certainly for preschoolers who cannot stand up for themselves.
Oh about Michael? His home life became worse. However, after much time teaching the children how to show kindness and how they could validate one another, the bullies stopped. The other students no longer laughed when the bullies started to pick on Michael. The attention the bullies were seeking ceased. By the end of the year, Michael had started to sit up and pay attention in class. He occasionally even participated. I even caught several smiles and sometimes laughter coming from him.
Michael needed someone to stand up for him, to help him, to care for him, to love him. He needed to know that he was a child of God and that God cared for him. He needed to feel the love of Jesus. I hope in some small way I was able to give him a taste of that kind of love.
I have to ask, how will our children know that kind of love if we refuse to stand up for them and allow them to be hurt, bullied, or picked on? How will they know that love if we turn our heads and hope things will get better? How will our children know that love if we don’t show it? How will our children know that love if we keep insisting that “kids will be kids” when in reality often they are rude, overbearing, obnoxious, and hurting another child?
Are you willing to stand up for preschoolers and children? Learn more about how what you can do through Project Help: Human Exploitation. Read the articles written by Joye Smith at www.wmu.com/preschoolers in the Project Help page in the ministries tab.