Any parent who has raised a bullied child understands that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop—anticipating another moment when our child might walk through the door unhappy, or in tears. We send them off to school, telling them it will be OK—to have a good attitude—but we may be just as concerned as they are that it will happen again. Although I encourage my children to think positively, I still secretly worry about them.
Once bitten, twice shy.
But I’ve spent a good deal of time and energy creating ways to handle the challenges of bullying behavior and encouraging others to do the same. I’ve watched children make an effort to change, and the truth is, I’ve felt a shift in the way people are dealing with bullying behavior.
Denying it exists is no longer acceptable. We’re making progress.
But as my children started this school year, I must admit, I had my uneasy moments. I went out of my way to make sure to set an example and hopped into my own , in hopes of leading the way, so they could learn to .
Most importantly, I had to trust that I’d given them the tools they’d need to handle any situation if and when it arose. Just like when they learned to ride a bike, it was time to stand back and let them pedal off on their own—and maybe even take a fall or two.
The first few weeks of school passed and I was both pleasantly surprised by the lack of problems, and hesitant to celebrate—for fear I’d jinx it. Then one day my son came home and casually mentioned something about “one kid” who wasn’t very nice.
There it was—the other shoe.
We talked about it for a bit and he assured me he had it all under control. He felt fine, and it was “no big deal.” I didn’t want to underestimate the issue, but I also didn’t want to turn it into more than it was. I took a long breath, and made a mental note to keep listening.
Less than a week later, in one of our “how’re things going” conversations, he filled me in on the end of the story. Without much stress, he’d gone to an authority figure he trusted, to get some assistance—just as I’d taught him to do—and the problem was resolved. The student apologized, and they’d moved on.
The other shoe had dropped and my son had stepped right over it.
All the efforts my husband and I had made to empower our son had given him the confidence to handle his problem on his own, without letting it impact his sense of self. And that had been our true goal.
We can’t assure him that he’ll never be treated badly in life, but we can —even if it's raining shoes.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is a screenwriter, performer and the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.