Mean Kids—whether bullies or not—carry a lot of power.
(Cruel irony: I signed Elijah up for this team to help him gain self-confidence and make friends.)
I don’t normally confront other children. In fact, I can’t recall a time when I ever have. But this incident made me angry, and before I knew it, I was marching up to Mean Kid to give him a talking-to.
I calmly (kinda) approached Mean Kid and said, “Hey. I want you to be careful how you talk to my son and your teammates or I’ll be talking to Coach and your parents about it.”
(Oooooh … SCARY! Clearly, I hadn’t planned out my threat. It all happened in less than three minutes. I mean, as an adult, what exactly do you say to frighten the crap out of a Mean Kid—that is legal and moral? I’m gonna flick you in the head and lock you in a room???)
Mean Kid immediately straightened up and said, “Sorry, Ma’am.” And then, after what looked like a talking to from his father, he approached me a few minutes later and said, “I’m sorry again, Ma’am.”
Oh, you BETTER call me Ma’am, Mean Kid.
I guess I did scare him, after all.
Then I searched the gym for my deflated and defeated son to put my arm around his shoulder and tell him I got in Mean Kid’s face and Mean Kid apologized.
Then Elijah leaned into me and said, “Thanks. I’m so glad I have a Mom who sticks up for me.”
Oh, yes, you do, Elijah. Yes. You. Do.
(Once a kid down the street picked a physical fight with Elijah—even pushing him and grabbing him around the neck. And Elijah threatened him with, “Oh, you just wait, I’m gonna tell my mom. And she does P90X!”)
(I don’t know if he thought I might actually go pummel this kid, or maybe challenge his mom to a push-up contest, or what.)
I know I won’t always be there to save my children from Mean Kids. In fact, the older they get, the less I’m there. The older they get, the more subtle the meanness gets. The older they get, the less likely they are to come to me. The older they get, the more likely the constant taunting will shape how my kids see themselves.
Since I can’t lock all the Mean Kids in a room, the best thing I can do is equip my children to handle the Mean Kids themselves.
The next morning at breakfast, I seized the teachable moment and gave Elijah a Life Talk.
I said, “Here are a few things I want you to know today.
Tips for What to Do When Someone Is Mean to Your Child
Acknowledge there will always be mean people.
There will always be people who don’t like you. Some people don’t like me. Some people don’t like Dad. It’s just the way it is. Jesus lived a perfect life—like, He made NO MISTAKES and said NOTHING STUPID, EVER. But people hated Him, still. You can’t change that. All you can do is equip yourself to deal with hate in a healthy, productive way.
Don’t listen to Satan.
You know that voice in your head that says, “Sometimes I feel like the whole world hates me”? That’s Satan. And that’s a lie. Not everyone hates you. There are way more people who love you than people who don’t.
Know that kids are mean for a reason.
Sometimes it’s because it makes them feel strong. Sometimes they are going along with the crowd to be accepted. Sometimes it’s because no one ever told them it was wrong to treat people that way. Sometimes it’s because someone has been mean to them. But almost NEVER is it because of you. Don’t ever define yourself based on the opinion of the Mean Kid.
You should always tell an adult when someone is mean to you.
Tell your coach, tell your teacher, tell me. Whether it’s mild, like at basketball practice, or major, like constant taunting and bullying, tell someone. A trusted adult will be able to tell the difference between the two and help put an end to it before it goes too far. And just FYI, I will ALWAYS be on your side.
Don’t be afraid to call the bully out.
Kids who privately mock you behind a coach’s back are cowards. It’s OK to say, “Hey, stop it. We’re teammates and that’s not cool.” Say it loud enough for Coach to hear you. “Shining light on darkness makes darkness go away.”
Then I leaned across the kitchen counter, looked him in the eyes and said, If you hear anything I say today, hear this, Elijah. It’s the most important thing I’m telling you: