> I will never forget the day my daughter told me that Bethany, a girl in her 4th grade class, was annoying her. [...] “She’s following me around on the playground and sitting by me at lunch!” she quipped, as if that would sum things right up and get me squarely on her side of the matter.

> “You mean she’s trying to be friends with you?” I asked incredulously. [...]

> I’m sure there are parents out there who will say I overreacted. But, I firmly believe we’ve got to start to address our country’s bullying epidemic right at the heart; by re-defining bullying at its very core. To me, the rejection and complete lack of interest my daughter and her “clique” displayed toward Bethany was the beginning of a subtle type of bullying. It is true (confirmed to me by Bethany’s mom and teachers), that there was no overt unkindness or name-calling, etc., just rejection; a complete lack of interest in someone they wrongly concluded had nothing to offer them. After experiencing childhood myself and raising five of my own, I’ve been on every side of the bullying social dynamic, and I am convinced this is where it begins. A casual assessment and quick dismissal of an outsider. [...]

> As for my girl, I instructed her that she was going to invest some time and energy getting to know Bethany. I assigned her to come home from school the next day and report three cool things she found out about Bethany, that she didn’t previously know. My strong-willed child dug in. She did not want to do that. I dug in deeper. I refused to drive her to school the next morning, until she agreed. It seemed that, at least until now, I had the car keys and the power. Her resistance gave us time to have the long overdue conversation. I walked her through my “ATM Machine Analogy.” I explained to her that she had social bank to spare. She could easily make a withdrawal on behalf of this little girl, risking very little.

> She got dressed reluctantly and I drove her to school. She had a good day—what was left of it. But, she was still buggy with me when I picked her up, telling me that her friends’ mothers “stay out of such matters” and let their daughters “choose their own friends!” (Such wise women.) And then she told me three cool things about Bethany that she didn’t previously know. [...]

> Bethany’s family moved to another state a few years later. My daughter cried when they parted ways. They still keep in touch through all their social media channels. She was and is a really cool girl, with a lot to offer her peers. But the real value was to my daughter, obviously. She gained so much through that experience. She is now a 20-year-old college sophomore, with a widely diverse group of friends. She is kind, inclusive and open to all types of people.
Shared publiclyView activity