When my youngest daughter began kindergarten a year early, she was a petite figure among giants in her class. After several weeks, she told me that one of the girls in her class was teasing her about her size. I figured it was a one-time occurrence and that would be the end. It wasn’t.
The next day she complained again and asked if I could do something about it and make it stop. It was obviously bothering her and it bothered me that another child was making her feel bad about herself. I thought about my options: go to the teacher, go to the parent of the child, empower my child to handle the situation. I thought the empowerment option was the best and that if it didn’t work, I would try the other options as a back up.
First thing I did was to talk with her about her feelings. I explained that it was not fair for someone to tease her about her size just like it was not fair to tease someone about the color of their skin. (Her class had students of several nationalities in it.)
I acknowledged that the bully was right about her size but told her it was okay. Now I needed something to counter that. I said, “Yes, you are small in a class that has extra tall kids but I know for sure that you have a big heart.” Now she could associate the word “big” with herself.
Then I gave her a response for the next time the girl teased her. “Yes, you’re right. I’m small but I have a big heart.” This was a win-win situation. The bully was told she was right but the victim responded with the word “big” in a way that couldn’t be argued.
For the next half hour, we practiced the response. I had my daughter go to the end of the hall and practice speaking in a “big” assertive voice. My daughter was empowered with a way to deal with an unpleasant situation.
I was prepared to bring in the adults to solve the problem but, as it turned out, the other options were unnecessary.