Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More on Bullying

I can't help myself.  I've got to talk about bullying again.  I was minding my own business, reading the "Living" section (of all things) in today's Trenton Times, and there it was:  an article in a column labeled Parenting entitled, "Does coach need to know of child's bullied past?"  The article was lifted from the Chicago Tribune and posed the following hypothetical dilemma:
Your daughter earned a spot on a high school team with two girls who bullied her in the past. Should you warn the coach, or hope this is a new beginning?
It then posted a variety of answers from a "panel of staff contributors" before posting Expert Advice from a clinical psychologist.  Before looking at the Expert Advice, though, I decided to play the game.  As a parent of three grown children, all of whom had been bullied at one time or another in high school, how would I have handled this particular problem?

First off, since this scenario is only concerned about talking to the coach (and not the bullies' parents, the school principal, or the police), I'll assume that this "bullying" is not something physically dangerous and is more on the order of derogatory comments and mind games at which high school cliques excel.  

My answer was almost instantaneous: I'd talk with my daughter about it.  If she wasn't worried about it, the conversation would be brief.  But if I sensed that she was getting stressed out about it, I'd give her the following advice:
  • I'll back you up (if needed) but this is something that you have to handle yourself.  
  • At this point, say nothing to the coach.  There's no indication that a problem even exists. 
  • The fact that the three of you are participating in a team sport like soccer is one of the best ways of eliminating the bullying.  You'll be hearing the word "Teamwork" every day in practice.  If the girls' attitude towards you affects their ability to play with you, the coach will notice. 
  • If the coach doesn't notice, though, it means that you have a very bad coach.  Meet with your coach privately and explain the situation.  It probably won't do any good (since the coach is pathetic) but it's a last-ditch effort. 
  • If the stress outweighs the enjoyment, quit the team, tell the coach why you are quitting, and play travel soccer or club soccer or intramural soccer.
Having formulated my answer, I then looked at the Expert Advice.  It basically said that you, as the parent, should immediately talk to the coach!!   I couldn't believe it!  To her credit, though, the Expert did say that you should let your daughter know that you're going to do this.  Oh, really? How thoughtful!  So here's why I think the Expert got it dead wrong:
  • Parents should be trying to instill self-reliance in their children.  Let them at least try to fight their own battles before Mom or Dad swoop in to save the day.
  • We're talking about a trivial issue here.  It's not about your kid seeing another kid with a gun at school, it's about two kids who may or may not pass the ball to your kid when she's open.
  • The coach's job is to ensure that his kids play like a team and support each other 100% while they're on the field, not to make them like each other off the field.  If two kids aren't playing team ball, the coach should see this without Mom or Dad pointing it out.
So, per the Expert Advice, you should weaken your daughter's self-reliance, give more ammunition to her bullies, and insult her coach.  Who would have thought?  Glad my teenage parenting days are over!

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