My boys and I had driven to visit my parents, music turned up, singing along merrily – or so I thought. When I parked the car and got out to undo my boys’ seatbelts, I saw that Jake had been crying.
“I miss you when I’m at school”, he sobbed.
I knew something was up.
I carefully probed around with a few questions and it came out that Jake has been having a few troubles with his friends recently. His description of what’s been going on was sketchy and, not being at school to see for myself, it’s hard to know what exactly has been happening.
For any parent, the thought of our child being disrespected in some way and feeling alone during a long day at school is crushing. We can probably all remember a time in our own childhood when we were the one in that position. I certainly can – for a period of time when I was five, my poor parents had to prise me off their bodies when they took me to school each morning. I’d cling on to them for dear life, not able to face the classmate who was bullying me. While Jake is still going to school largely happily, I’m anxious that his situation may deteriorate to the point that he starts clinging to me.
On top of not knowing what’s really going on, all this emotion (his and mine) makes it incredibly hard to handle. I’m a pretty reasonable and diplomatic person but my fear has its sleeves rolled up and is ready to get in there and fight for my son.
Fortunately, I wrote a blog post last week about parenting from Love instead of fear – must’ve been divine preparation for now because I can see that there is actually no fight to be had. I have realised that the way I handle this situation with Jake and his friends will be an example to him and I have to ask myself, Do I want to model Love or Fear?
As painful as it is to see my son in tears, I also see the potential for him to learn so much through this experience, if I choose.
“In every situation you have two choices: Will you learn through fear or will you learn through love?” ― Gabrielle Bernstein, The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith
CHOOSING LOVE: 5 LESSONS
- We are all worthy. This is an opportunity to remind Jake of his inherent worth. He is worthy of being treated with respect, as we all are.
- How to set boundaries. When sure of his worth, it will be easier for Jake to set boundaries. My husband and I have always encouraged him to respectfully tell children to stop when they’re doing something he doesn’t like. At the moment, his friends are testing his boundaries and it is my hope that Jake will learn to be insistent enough that others respect them.
- The nature of truly unconditional love. I will not speak unkindly about his friends, label them as bad or encourage Jake to be unkind to them in return. I want him to see that my respect for others does not change because of their behaviour – I think that this is what unconditional love does.
- How to go inward for his answers. In a situation such as this, it’s all too easy for worried parents to take over and try to manage the situation entirely ourselves – I am tempted to bombard Jake with my ideas about what he should do. I will discuss possible solutions with him but I told him that he needs to do what feels right for him and that I will support him. I asked if there was anything he wanted me to do and he asked me to talk with his teacher, which I have done.
- How to take responsibility for himself. If Jake chooses to keep spending time with children who don’t treat him well, he’s exposing himself to the risk of being hurt. I can see, though, that he is conflicted. The children he has great fun with are the same ones who often end up being disrespectful and unkind. I know it’s not easy. Jake can also take responsibility by making sure he’s not participating in the same kind of behaviour that upsets him.
It would be easy to be too heavy-handed, letting my fearful fight-or-flight instinct kick in. Naturally, I want to protect Jake and a part of me wants to give the other children a talking-to and demand that the school keep them away from Jake. But that would not be a good example to Jake and all the bluster & controlling would be avoiding the real issues as well as the chance for Jake to learn.
Focussing on how “bad” the “mean kids” are is a waste of time – I can’t change them and the school staff are not at liberty to talk to me about other students for privacy reasons. What I can do is help Jake to choose his response to what is going on.
I want him to see that he can handle whatever comes his way.
IN SUMMARY – WORKING TOGETHER
I am hoping that, through working together with Jake and his teacher, the difficult dynamic within his group of friends can be amended. Jake is popular and his school is a friendly place – when I walk into his classroom in the mornings, lots of kids say “hi” to him and want him to join in with their play. Whatever’s going on may turn out to be a small blip in his friendships, it won’t necessarily decline into ongoing bullying. As a parent, my role is to be proactive while also showing my son both his own worth & capability and what it really means to Love. All situations we find ourselves in really are opportunities to fear or to love.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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