Years ago when I was a director of a preschool, I took my firstborn son to work with me. Having no family to help me out when I needed (like I have now) was rough. As a director, it was convenient to have him with me where I worked all day. Prior to that, he had been home with his father and, while he certainly paid attention and cared for him greatly, my husband never mentioned anything out of the ordinary in regard to his behavior. It was only during the time he spent as a student in my preschool that I questioned if he was a bully.
This was his first preschool experience and even though I was on the premises, I was like most mothers, frightened for my child’s wellbeing. He didn’t have a sibling yet so I didn’t know how he would he react to other kids. He was also barely two and didn’t say much. This was also when I had my questions about his speech and language development, by the way. I recall that after a few months of school, he began biting his peers if he wanted something. He would also push other children if they did something to him and sometimes even reacted like this when unprovoked. Why? Well, looking back I know it was because he was showing deficiencies in his speech and he couldn’t verbalize what he wanted or needed effectively.
When he was evaluated, it all made sense. He was showing aggression because he couldn’t verbalize what he wanted and therefore he took to pushing or biting or simply reacting in ways that he shouldn’t have, but it was the only way he knew how. I remember being mortified if he pushed a child because I knew that NOT every child was doing this. It wasn’t typical for a child his age. I observed many children who would have benefitted from an evaluation like my son had and the supports that followed but they didn’t want the label that went with it. In my case, I couldn’t care less about a label because I wanted my son to get the services that he needed. I didn’t want him to bully anyone anymore, regardless of the reason for his outbursts.
When he began receiving his services, I began to see the difference in his behavior right away. He received support through CPSE (Committee on Preschool Education) as well as privately. We worked with him at home as well and it made all the difference. As he grew older, his reactions weren’t bully-like necessarily, but were still problematic. They became impulsive response behaviors instead. So, if someone hit him “by accident” he didn’t take it as such and would react with an equal push or bite. He couldn’t understand or decipher those social cues like his peers could so he retaliated sometimes violently. Did that make him a bully?
Had I been a parent that didn’t do her research or seek help, I would have allowed others to label my son as a bully. But I knew for a fact that he wasn’t. Of course, I went through my moments of, “Oh no! How did this happen because this is no way this behavior is modeled in our home!” and other defensive mechanisms like other parents but I also stood by my gut with a level-head, knowing that there had to be more to it. In any event, I am happy that I knew in my heart that my son was a nurturing boy that would never hurt a soul intentionally because his evaluations continue to show that he’s not trying to be a malicious person at all.
This is so much more defined now that he is in fifth grade and is preparing to go to middle school. Everyone in his school knows him and the type of parents we are. They know that Victorio will hand deliver the shirt off of his back to anyone. He’s the most loving and caring boy you could run into. His principal stopped me just the other day and shared how Victorio asks him everyday if he ate lunch. He says that Victorio explains to him how important it is to eat lunch because he runs their school. He went on to say that he has never met a child quite like Victorio. Frankly, I don’t think he ever will again. My boy is special in every sense of the word and those who meet him always walk away saying great things about him. It’s children like Victorio that can get misunderstood and receive that label of “Bully” but if you truly know your child and what he needs, there is no need for you to accept that label. I sure didn’t and neither do you.
Speak to your children daily and remind them of the importance of not hurting others on the inside and out. Also remind them that if someone should happen to cause harm to them that they need to speak to an adult about it. Communication can resolve many problems and it’s best to talk about it as soon as it happens. I truly feel it’s all about communication. If parents would take more time to speak with their children and explain to them what bullying is and what to do about it, the world would be a better place…and there would be more Victorio’s! (yes, I am a little biased! 🙂 ).