I am the first to admit I am not a perfect parent. For one, I’m a single mom by choice — so I already kind of screwed my kid out of a second parental figure right out of the gate. Then there’s the fact that yelling is pretty much the antithesis of my personality, which means discipline isn’t exactly my strong suit. Add in the fact that I seriously can’t cook (unless you count PB&Js) and that I’m totally the mom who drops her kid off at daycare while looking a bit homeless (I LIVE for my yoga pants), and the answer is clear: I am not a perfect mom.
But I am a mom who loves her child dearly. And a mom who has big plans for who that child may one day become.
When it comes to my mental list of things I hope my daughter will embody, one thing trumps all: I want her to be kind. I want to raise a daughter who is considerate and compassionate; the kind of person who strives to always treat others well, and who sets an example of what it is to be a “good” person.
I kind of thought most parents went into this whole parenting gig with a very similar goal. Obviously, our best-laid plans don’t always work out the way we might have hoped, but surely most of us want to raise kind kids … right?
At a birthday party recently, I noticed my little girl (age 3) growing increasingly frustrated with a little guy (who was at least a year younger) as he tried to play with the toys she was currently engaged in. That’s normal — kid stuff. (Sharing is tough!) But when I saw her push him down and snatch one of those toys out of his hands, I immediately leapt into action. Scooping my little girl up, I brought her inside for a timeout and was very clear about what she had done wrong.
She understood, and actually handled her punishment pretty well. When her timeout was over, she even went back outside and apologized to the little boy.
It was kind of a proud mama moment for me — one of those rare times when you walk away patting yourself on the back for a job well done.
So I was a bit surprised when I sat back down with the adults and began a conversation with the little boy’s parents. “I’m sorry about that,” I said, “She knows better than to be mean to other kids, especially younger kids.”
The little boy’s mom smiled at me and shared the story of a time her own daughter had done something similar, lamenting over how normal that type of thing is (which, of course, it is), and agreeing that even when we know it’s normal, it can still be embarrassing. I nodded and said, “You’re right. I don’t think any of us wants our kid to ever be the bully!”
But that’s when the little boy’s father joined the conversation. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think she really did anything wrong. He needs to learn to stand up for himself. And honestly, I would rather my kid be the bully than the one being bullied.”
For a moment, I was speechless. Not because I expected this father to praise me for jumping in and stopping my kid from being mean to his (of course I didn’t) but because … did he really mean it?
Would he really prefer his child be the bully rather than the bullied?
Not knowing this family very well, we didn’t really dig much deeper into that conversation. But I thought about his comment the rest of the night. And I found myself wondering if maybe, just maybe, he had a point.
Because the thing is, I don’t think this dad is a bad guy. Nor do I think he really wants his kid growing up to be a bully (at least, I hope he doesn’t.) But I think the point he was maybe making is that he doesn’t want his kid to grow up to be a doormat, either. He wants his kids to be strong and to stand up for themselves.
Perhaps he values that strength to the same degree I value kindness.
I guess I get that, to an extent. I certainly don’t want my child to ever be bullied either (though I know some bullying may be inevitable). I don’t want her to be picked on or treated unfairly. No one wants to think about their child in that position. And when I think about the other characteristics I am hoping to instill in my little girl (to be strong, and an individual, and a leader), I certainly hope she possesses the ability to stand up for herself when the situation calls for it.
But still, beyond all that … I want her to be kind. I hope she’ll combine all those characteristics and be the kind of child who might one day stand up against bullies in defense of another kid — not the child who is ever the bully herself.
In fact, I’m not sure there is ever anything she could do in adolescence that would make me as ashamed as if I were to find out she was intentionally behaving as a bully.
If given the choice, between her being bullied or being the bully… I think I would rather raise a child with a kind of enough heart that she would never herself be the perpetrator.
I would rather my child be bullied than be the bully.
Of course, it’s not an either/or scenario in real life. I don’t think growing up that I was ever the bully, nor was I ever (with the exception of one year in junior high) a strong target for bullying. For the most part, I had a solid group of close friends, I was active and involved in school, and I’d like to think I was kind to most of the people I interacted with.
I wasn’t the bully or the bullied, and I hope my child will fall into the same category.
So the question itself, it’s not necessarily based in reality. My child doesn’t have to be either/or — hopefully she’ll be neither.
But it did leave me wondering, if most parents were given the choice … would they choose for their child to be bullied, or to be the bully?
And what does the choice you would make say about you, or the type of child you’re hoping to raise.More On