This week my daughter proved that kindness really can defuse hate.
We’ve had a bully problem since my daughter began school this year. She goes to the junior high but rides a bus with high-schoolers as well. One of the junior-aged boys on the bus has quite a vulgar mouth, and as my older son likes to call it, “spouts rainbows constantly.”
We do not speak like this in our home, and my daughter after listening to it for a few weeks had had enough. She stood up in the middle of the bus and yelled at the boy, “Stop swearing right now!”
Unfortunately, the boy turned on her rather than stop the behavior.
“Mom, why can’t he just stop,” my daughter asked me a few days later when the verbal attacks still hadn’t ceased.
“I think it’s because you embarrassed him in front of his peers when you told him to stop,” I said.
“But swearing is against the bus rules,” she said defending her reasoning all over again.
“Yes.” I understood why she exploded—I probably would have too at her age. We are much alike that way. “But maybe if you had approached him in private at the bus stop rather than yell at him in front of his peers, he might have reacted differently.”
The taunting went on for a few weeks more until my sister, through some research, discovered what his words meant. I had no idea calling my daughter things like “grapefruit” meant something so lewd. Horrified, I went to the bus driver and told her what was being said to my daughter. The boy was moved to the front of the bus and warned if it was reported again he would be kicked off.
Still my daughter’s pain didn’t end. The younger brother of this high school boy had picked up on his brother’s teasing and began to say those things to my daughter throughout her day at the junior high. She still had no idea what those words meant (I don’t think I’ll ever tell her) but it didn’t lessen the tears of but being sneered and scoffed at by this younger brother.
“Mom, I want it to stop,” she said curled on her bed one afternoon.
Part of me wanted to storm the junior high doors, demanding blood, but after a couple of breaths, my calm head prevailed. “Have you asked him to stop? Not the yelled-across-the-room kind of stop, but the take-him-aside-and-tell-him-how-much-it-hurts?”
She shook her head.
“Okay, let’s start there. I know you also have several classes together. Why don’t try being nice to him, in a sincere way? Look for ways to be kind and serve. Show him what a wonderful girl you really are. If you’ll really try this, and it still doesn’t stop, I’ll call the school and request a parent meeting.”
There were days went it wasn’t easy, but she kept trying and trying to follow my counsel, then this week bounded into the house with smile. “It worked!”
“The boy, he’s my friend now.”
“Really?” Then my plan worked better than I expected it would. “Why do you say that?”
“His older brother started teasing me in the bus line this morning, but he elbowed him and told him to stop. He even told him I was a nice girl.”
Yes! Can I get a fist pump?
I’ve always touted the power of kindness to my children, but now my daughter has her own personal witness that it really can break down barriers.