QUESTION: Our 5-year-old daughter has been coming home from school for the past three weeks claiming a boy in her class is hitting her and saying hurtful things to her. We’ve spoken to the teacher and the principal, and nothing has changed. The boy was asked (several times) by the principal and the teacher about this behavior and denies doing anything wrong. As much as we hear about bullying, it would seem the schools would have a plan that immediately resolves situations like this. What causes our greatest concern is the innuendo that our daughter is making this all up. As far as we know, she has no reason to make up a story like that.
Any suggestions to get to the bottom of this and help our child feel heard and safe are welcome.
~ Frustrated Parents
Dear Frustrated Parents,
Bullying of any kind is of concern in these days and certainly needs to be addressed. When I was teaching at my children’s church, I would tell the kids that when they hear something negative towards them to use their ears to let those negative words go in one ear and out the other because those negative words are not the Truth about them. The Truth is that they are Love and Good and Perfect the way they are. Also, when someone is bullying they are really calling out for attention and love, so responding in a positive way is more productive for everyone involved.
Children at such a young age can be mean and cruel, perhaps as part of their developmental growth, and even the family dynamics. But it is also a time for such behavior to be firmly and lovingly addressed so it does not continue.
I would ask for and insist on a meeting with the school officials and the parents and even the kids, all together for clarification on what was actually said and done. If I were the parent of a bullying child, I would want to know about it and how to prevent it in the future. And by your insistence, your child will know that you are standing by and protecting her as best you can. You would also get insight into the other family’s dynamics. The child may have lots of stuff going on and, thus, is acting out on others. If there is no positive, active resolution, I would advise your daughter to stay away from this child if at all possible and request that the teacher keep a watch on the two kids’ interaction to prevent any future bullying. That is her responsibility as a teacher/guardian of any child in her class, particularly when the children are so young.
On a long shot, your daughter might approach the boy and ask if they could be friends and playmates. It could totally cause a shift in his behavior.
Bottom line, the bullying child is in need of positive love and positive self-worth and his negative
behavior needs to be addressed, corrected and shifted. Most importantly, the bullied child needs to be positively reinforced about her own self-worth and being loved, being safe and protected in her surroundings.
The fact that you have expressed concerns shows that you no doubt will get this handled perfectly for everyone’s well-being.
Laney Clevenger-White, RScP
Center for Spiritual Living –
Dear Frustrated Parents,
The best I can do is to draw from my own memorable childhood. When I was in kindergarten, there was a boy who picked on me. Once he pulled my leg and down from the jungle gym I fell. He broke my arm. The teacher didn’t notice as I sat by a tree and cried. When the students were back in class, I up and walked all the way home. My mother went apoplectic.
In another case, a girl liked me and I her. We pestered each other because we wanted to be noticed, but her pestering always amounted to her kicking me in the shin. Kids act like that. So when I hear something like your case, I wonder if this boy just likes your daughter with his kindergarten immaturity, or if he has some aught toward her that might cause harm.
Teachers have much to look after, and they often don’t catch momentary infractions (anymore than a ref at a school football game). Don’t be discouraged if the school seemingly fails. Are we really surprised? I have a teen and preteen, and I’ve been back and forth to their schools regarding issues of teachers promoting homosexuality to them. Drives me nuts! And my kids can’t even eat lunch there anymore because what’s served is absolute, non-nutritive garbage.
So, be proactive. Here’re some ideas I present as a friend: Get the boy’s parents involved. If they’re responsible parents, they’ll help you resolve this. If they’re overly proud and think their “angel” incapable of mayhem, then threaten the school with a lawsuit. Tell them you’ve reported this several times, neither the parents nor school care, and now it’s time to call 911. I think this’ll stir some action. BTW, you can always sit in a class and follow your daughter’s school day just to see what’s up. Do what you have to, but always be good. God does not expect you to be a doormat, but neither a vengeful boor. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18 NIV).
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
QUESTION: I’ve been married to an incredibly wonderful man for almost 30 years. Before we were married, and during the first years of our marriage, we hiked, exercised, and ate only healthy foods. We both were raised to eat healthy. His responsibility was the yard and gardening. My responsibility is the housekeeping. I have to admit, to be fair, his full-time job is stressful and often he works overtime. I’ve continued with the hiking and exercise and, of course, the housework. He has hired a gardener and no longer does any exercise. I recently became aware that when he is out of town on business and crunched for time, he stops by fast food restaurants. I love this man who has gained several extra pounds and is lethargic when he does have leisure time. I want him to live a long, happy and healthy life. I’m not a nag and have said nothing.
Is there a way I can encourage him to live a more healthy lifestyle?
~ Loving Wife
Dear Loving Wife,
As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink!” You are wise not to nag him; it wouldn’t work. You can’t make him exercise and eat healthy again and nagging would just attach negative emotions to this situation. Your husband, like many Americans now days, sees no connection with how he eats and exercises and his health. We have all been taught by modern medicine that we are victims and get sick from bad germs, bad genes, bad age and bad luck. We have also been taught incorrectly by modern society that it is normal to gain a few pounds as we get older and exercise is an option not necessity. Here are four simple spiritual steps to create positive change in him.
1. Love your neighbor as yourself. Continue to set a healthy lifestyle example and challenge him in kind ways. “Wow, honey! Look, I can do 40 push ups now!”
2. Ask and you shall receive. Make an appointment with him and have a brief heart to heart talk about what you want him to do and the benefits he will get from them. This session together should be positive and upbeat. No criticizing, condemning or complaining.
3. Seek and you shall find. In his mind you are his loving wife, not a health expert. Get articles from health experts on why it is important to eat healthy and exercise. He can’t argue against them. They are the experts! Also look for articles and information on how it will help his job performance, decrease job stress as well as increase focus and job productivity. He may not do it for himself but he may do it for his job!
4. Things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Lastly, do not underestimate the power of prayer and intention. Pray in a positive way daily for change and enlightenment in him. Be thankful and grateful in your prayer as if he already is eating well and exercising well.
Let me know how it all turns out.
Dear Loving Wife:
Weight between couples is always a touchy subject. First, there can be an element of hurt attached to any conversation regarding this issue, no matter how diplomatically or lovingly you put it. Two, we have no control – at all – to make anyone exercise when they are a grown adult (short of the military). So your only option is to dispel the information to your husband and pray he will accept your advice.
First, go to him and tell him how much you love him. Begin by telling him how much physical exercise you used to do together and that you miss that part of your lives together. Then tell him how you are concerned about his lack of exercise, for health reasons, and have noticed his low energy level, and that you both are still relatively young. Ask him if you can start hiking or walking again together, or is there an activity he would like to begin with? Then offer to visit the doctor with him. If he agrees, why don’t you both get a diet and exercise regime? Try to make this about fun, activity, and health. Finally, I wouldn’t even bring up the fast food. I am not sure how often that happens, but don’t take away all of his control at once. He will resent it. That can be brought up at a later date.
Short of all this, you cannot make him change, you can only lead a horse to water, but as a loving wife, make the water sound as appealing and refreshing as possible!
Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT
Thrive Therapy Center
The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Montrose and owner of Thrive Therapy Center, nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to mental illness in the community. She can be reached at Kimberlie@kimberliezakariantherapy.com.