Yesterday was one of those days that simply makes a parent's soul weary. My fourth grader is discovering that life isn't always fun and girls can be mean. It's so hard to watch her try to sort out why a girl who is her friend one day decides to be mean to her the next. It's not fun for her and it hurts my heart to watch her struggle.
To make matters worse, it's state testing time. I really don't think there's a person on the planet who hates state testing more than I do. Every year at this time, the focus at school changes from teaching children for the sake of learning to teaching children to take a test. It sucks all the creativity and joy out of going to school for my daughter. She becomes a sullen, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat child focused on whether or not she's going to meet her next goal.
Combine a missed testing goal with a bunch of 9- and 10-year-old mean girls, and you get a day that can almost reduce a 9-year-old to tears and that can make a mother wonder "What on earth do I say to her?" While it all makes my heart hurt, I can't fix either issue that she's dealing with. She has to take the state tests, and these girls are just the first people she's going to encounter who make themselves feel better by putting others down.
So, on the way to soccer last night, I sent up a prayer for wisdom and dove in with some explanation, some encouragement and lots of love. If you're a heart-sick mom who's watching your child struggle with the hurtful comments of other kids, try some of these things to encourage your child.
- Reassure your child of their worth. Remind them that Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." No matter what anyone else says about them or to them, God created them and considers them to be his "masterpiece."
- Help your child to understand that people who don't know Jesus, don't know that they are God's masterpiece. When they feel insecure or bad about themselves, they can't fall back on the knowledge that God made them in His image. So, to make themselves feel better, they use their words to put other people down.
- Help your child pray for those that are causing them pain. This is so hard, even as an adult, but Matthew 5:44 says "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Pray that those other kids would learn that they are valuable to God, so they will no longer need to put others down to feel better about themselves.
- Reassure your child of your love. Make a point to tell your child how much you love him. Spend some extra time with him. Do something that will make him feel special and loved.
- Don't hesitate to step in if the situation warrants. This may mean a phone call to the teacher or the other child's parent. This one is tricky because you don't want to make the situation worse, but don't let your child continue to be bullied if the situation begins to spiral out of control. There's a big difference between a bad day and a continual pattern of bullying.
- Pray diligently for your child. There is nothing your child needs more than your love and your prayer. Let your child know that you are praying for them while they are at school. Knowing that you are jumping into the battle with them will bolster your child's confidence in dealing with the situation.
Remember that nothing provides healing more than God's love. Help your child remember that she is a God's masterpiece and that you consider her a gift. Children who know that they are loved and have love to give to others have the most important weapon in these childhood skirmishes.