My granddaughter competed in a dance competition this weekend for the first time in almost two years. She moved back from overseas after 12 years. She is 13 years old. Thirteen is an awkward age, not a kid and certainly not an adult (although many parents treat them as adults). While she lived overseas she was teased about being different, her height, among other things. She was 5’7″ by age 12. She was half American, half German and she lived on a Greek isle. So she was different. Teasing is a worldwide issue.
Words hurt. Giraffe, elephant, beached whale, hairball … name calling. After a while they start to believe what they are hearing. I never allowed my girls to say stupid or idiot. Shaping self esteem shapes character on both sides, the giver and the receiver.
We all grew up with teasing. I know I was called everything from toothpick to “flag at half mast” about my body shape. People are cruel. I survived because I had four older siblings and it was survival of the fittest. Low self esteem is created, not born. It comes from teasing and bullying depending on your viewpoint and the intensity of the interactions. If you are an only child, or eldest, there is no buffer to help you. Only children and eldest are the ones that I notice with the most to overcome. My granddaughter is the eldest. My daughter helped my granddaughter by allowing her to make a MUSIC VIDEO.
The song talks about being beautiful no matter what people say. I have watched it many times and shared it as a tool. Teachers working with kids about bullying and with moms that have a kid suffering from bullying show the video and then discuss how what you say damages others.
When teasing continues unchecked it hurts and it is bullying. Bullying does not just happen, it is taught. I do not think people even realize they are the teachers.
This weekend as my granddaughter came on stage to perform her solo she was announced as a 12 year old. Her 13th birthday was a couple of weeks back and after the paperwork was turned in to compete. The age division was 12-14 so it really did not matter. You compete at the age you are when you file your papers. In the audience dance groups sit together. Right behind my granddaughter’s group were students and moms from another dance school. One mom said loud enough for others to hear, “Yeah right, 12 … maybe 4 yrs ago”. All parents do it and think nothing of it because it is not their kid. Words. One simple, uncalled for remark.
- It called into discussion whether she was in the right age group
- It inferred she was cheating
- It made fun of her height and body
If I were there, and the one sitting in front of that mom, I would have turned around and told her my granddaughter’s birth date, about the 6’6″ dad, and the teasing and name calling she had already endured. I would have let her know she had just taught all the kids around her the first step in bullying. Yes, I am just one of those people that believes in accountability.
Working in schools and in the community, I have dealt with so many teasing and bullying victims. Sadly, I have had three commit suicide. I remember a young second grade student sitting in my lap in the hall crying over being called “tree” because of her height, and other names because she was biracial. She did not want to walk up straight and be tall. It was okay for boys to be tall but, not girls. She overcame, embraced her nicknames. She grew up to play in the women’s professional basketball leagues with much support from teachers, family and friends. Sadly though, many times family members do not recognize the child is suffering until it is too late. The signs of shyness, withdrawal and even exclusion are there but, sadly not seen.
Sticks and stones will break your bones and words can forever hurt you is truly the way the old saying should read. The Bible accurately instructs us on minding our tongues. We teach a children’s song that has it’s fourth verse instruction on what you say:
“O be careful little mouth what you say
O be careful little mouth what you say
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little mouth what you say “
James 1:19 (NASB)
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; “
Proverbs 12:18 (NASB)
“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Ephesians 4:29 (NASB)
“ Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. “
Proverbs 29:11 (ESV)
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
Be careful with your words. They matter. Someone is always listening.