A Bully Among Us… | Softball is For Girls
One of this generations newest platforms, is to protect our children from bullies.
The truth is that bullies, have always existed. When you and I were young, there were bullies who usually traumatized their peers privately all the while smiling and wooing the adults in their presence. Speaking up, was not really an option then. Enter the online social media of today, and we have a full blown epidemic and awareness campaign being heralded as something new.
But, Bullies are not new. And they are not going away anytime soon.
And one thing that we have learned, is that sports and competition and athletic teams often host more than their fair share of bullies who snake behind the scenes causing ill will and hurt feelings among their teammates. Almost always, this trickles down from the parents.
Listen, your kids know who they are. You may even know who they are. The problem is that when a bully is your teammate, it is frowned upon to speak up, say anything, fight back or otherwise cause any drama within the team. If this kid is a ‘favorite’, or has an established place within the organization, before or ahead of your daughter – or is often times the perceived ‘team leader’ it can be even more difficult for the girls to find their voice, and put an end to the underhanded emotional manipulations of these bullies.
Suck it up they will say! And most will look at a kid who complains about a teammate, and just accuse them of being ‘jealous.’ After all, when our kids deal with the metaphorical mean girls, our most common solution is to tell our kids to feel sorry for them, to just realize that they are in fact the jealous ones.
Unfortunately, kids who bully are extremely aware and very adept at hiding their behavior from the adults in the situation. And when a team has a bully stirring the pot, or causing emotional harm to another child on the team – they often do so with such fine tuned manipulation tactics that it can easily go unnoticed.
So we tell our girls to carry on. We tell them not to worry about it. We tell them to ignore the problem, to not give the bully power. We know that if they complain THEY will be looked at as the one causing drama. They will be the ones targeted, accused of jealousy, or insecurity of somehow ruining the sanctity of the team. They will be the ones told to just ‘suck it up,’ or to ‘stop being so emotional or melodramatic.’
So what should our daughters do?
First, we need to help our kids understand that a bully is only looking for a way to manifest fear!
Most often a team bully can be deflected when a team mate calls them out on their behavior and doesn’t try to shrug off or ignore the situation.
In other words, teach your daughter to stand up for herself! Teach her to to speak up, and speak back to a team bully. She doesn’t have to reveal her feelings, or even accuse the bully of being ‘mean’ because trust us, the mean kid is well aware of what they are doing. But she does have to face her. When something is said, or done that is belittling to our daughter or another team mate – our daughters must STAND UP!
On our team we had an issue with a team bully, who would socially ostracize team mates. Petty little things (that are still big to our kids) like not tagging a teammate in a photo online, or boasting about sleepovers with other teammates while excluding another on purpose, or talking about a team mate behind her back in effort to get others to not like her.
Eventually, the girls realized the behavior pattern and joined together to stymie the bullies voice instead. And it, worked.
And we strongly recommend that along with teaching our daughters to stand up for themselves – we teach them to stand up for others…especially their teammates! When other team mates hear a team mate talking poorly of another – we teach our daughters to interject with things like ‘that’s not very nice,’ or ‘that’s not true.’ Typically, the bully afraid of being revealed, will stop their behavior when they see that others aren’t going along with it, or agreeing with it.
We need to speak to our daughters about treating their team mates with respect, and we also need coaches that will demand and expect this of their players. Coaches need to set the tone and provide players with a guideline of acceptable behavior. And most importantly, coaches need to make sure that there are consequences in place for kids that do not follow the rules.
Additionally, PARENTS need to censor and choose what they say about their daughters team mates in their daughters presence. If mom and dad get in the car after a tournament and immediately start belittling a team mate, then the daughter is going to think it’s okay to do the same.
Look, these are girls we are talking about. They don’t all have to best friends – but they are responsible for their behavior within the team! And one bad apple can certainly spoil the bunch.