My 9 year old son's tired words today about the children at school, "It's like I am a tree and everyday they take to me with potato peelers. Or somedays rip a branch off." We talked more and he sighed, "I think they must be being bullied by others and they feel like they need to pass it on. So they bully me to deal with their own frustrations. It's kinda like a pushing and shoving. I don't want to push back because imagine a planet like that? Always pushing and shoving. If someone bullies them, they bully me and if I bullied others it would eventually infect the whole world."
Our 9 year old is being consistently tormented for being "gay". And his friends for being "black." This bothers him (in his words) 1. because he's not gay ("I'm a kid for goodness sake, what do I know about gay love?") and 2. because for some unknown reason being gay and/or black is considered an insult and this makes no sense.
He's done the "right" thing and talked to his teacher about it. And she is trying her best to crack down on it with a kid sent outside the classroom today because she heard his torments. But she's fighting an uphill battle. Prejudice and hate speech isn't being taught at school it's being taught at home. And in an age appropriate way, my husband explained this to our humanity loving 9 year old.
The best thing you can teach your child is respect. Respect for themselves and respect for others. My husband explained, "Don't see them as bullies. See them as sad kids who have been taught wrong. It's not their fault. They don't have as much information to cope with life as you have. So don't even worry. Be like a duck. Let the words slide off."
We talked more in the afternoon light on our family bed, finishing on an oldie but a goodie: "Mahatma Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world." He paused, cracked a big smile and said, "I'll have those hugs now."