kids

How does a mum bully a little child? This is how.

I clearly remember the moment it happened. I was at a four-year-old’s birthday party and was proudly watching my daughter as she danced and twirled around. It was one of those party places with a window that parents could look through if they wanted to watch their kids play while they sipped overpriced lattes.

Most of the other children were from the preschool my friend’s daughter attended, so I didn’t know the other mums, or them me.

That is when I heard it. Two women had come to stand beside me and were watching the disco. “Look at the pixie ears on that kid,” one said to the other. “They match her Tinkerbell dress.” My eyes scanned the dancefloor, searching for another Tinkerbell, but I knew in my heart they were referring to my daughter.

I felt a pang in my stomach as tears began to sting my eyes, and I blinked several times to stop them spilling down my cheeks. Thoughts ran through my head. I could turn and confront them, and cause a scene at a child’s birthday party, or I could smile and wave at my daughter, who was having a wonderful time, oblivious to the unkind words of a stranger.

Maybe I was being over-sensitive? It wasn’t the first time someone had commented about my daughter’s prominent ears. Maybe they didn’t view the term “pixie ears” as being derogatory. Later, when I would disclose to friends what I had overheard in a bid to find out if I had in fact overreacted, they would gasp and assure me I had been right to take offence.

Merryn says we need less bullying in school - including mums. (Image: Supplied)
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Back at the party, I took comfort in the fact that my daughter was none the wiser and it appeared that the other children were yet to have formed the opinion that prominent ears were something to be laughed at and ridiculed.

Fast forward to her first year of school and I was about to get another lesson in the meanness of mums. I was in the school grounds when my daughter’s classmate, who I had known for many years, came up to me to say hello. As she skipped off, a mum who was nearby snorted a laugh and quipped, “Did you see the mono-brow on that kid? Wax much?”.

Her comment was met with giggles from the mums she was with and I felt that all-too-familiar twinge in my stomach. I quickly tossed up my options. Say something and I would ostracise myself from this group of mums. Say nothing and wasn’t I just doing what the school’s anti-bullying program railed against? Wasn’t being a witness to bullying and staying quiet just as bad as being a bully yourself?

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So I looked the bully right in the eyes and said: “She’s just a little girl and you should be ashamed of yourself”. Then I skulked off as quickly as my legs could carry me while my heart seemed to beat louder in my chest.

For days, I was nervous whenever I ventured into the schoolyard in case a lynch mob was waiting for me, but I was heartened by the fact I had stood up to a bully.

There is a saying that children are not born racists, and the same can be said for bullies. Most experts agree that bullies are made in the home, not the schoolyard, and it is what children learn from their parents that shape them into the people they become.

Maybe if parents thought about how they would like their child to be treated by others, and mirrored that behaviour, there would be less bullying in the schoolyard. And maybe even the kids could get along.

Have you ever overheard mean comments about your own or other children? What would you do in that situation?

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