No one argues that bullying is a major issue in classrooms today. Some people argue that it builds character or resiliency. If I homeschool my child, then they will not be exposed to anyone they don't like and they won't learn to handle tough situations. Or so people say.
Let's be clear: bullying is abuse. It might be verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. If bullying behaviors were carried out by an adult, whether or not it was to a child or another adult, we would condemn the behavior. And certainly, many people condemn bullying. But do we ever argue that we should leave a child in an abusive environment because it will build character? No. We don't.
So if my kids aren't bullied, how will they learn to be resilient or handle tough social situations? Here are some examples of my kids being resilient.
AW takes a combination ballet-tap class. It's challenging for her, and she has a love-hate relationship with dance. She loves being in class. Watching her on the monitor in the waiting room is a joy. She is absolutely engaged and she always comes out with a big grin on her face, absolutely energized. But she's impatient. She wants to dance on point (sorry kid, you have years of work and growth ahead of you) and she doesn't like stretching. She doesn't like to change for dance class and every week she tells me she doesn't want to go. We push past the discomfort of getting ready for dance because the reward is worth it. Her growth in dance this year has been wonderful to watch. This girl has dance inside of her and she dances all day long, whether or not she takes a class. But now that she has had some formal instruction, her movements have taken on new grace and purpose. She has an interest in ballets and their music. It's been a growth experience for her, but with a gentle and caring teacher.
Recently, AW was faced with a challenging social situation. We were at a friend's house, and the friend asked her to keep a secret. The friend was breaking a house rule (nothing earth-shattering but a very reasonable rule) and told AW. AW replied that we don't keep secrets at our house. The friend got upset and said she would be mad if AW told. My little girl came out of the bedroom, looking very worried. She told us the "secret" and the friend's mom thanked her. I was so proud that she stuck to our family values even under pressure from a friend. AW also has to balance when some of her friends don't get along with each other. She feels the conflict very deeply and struggles to be friends to both kids and help them play with each other. It's something for her to work out on her own, although we talk through the situation frequently. She's learning all kinds of social skills, but in a safe and supportive environment with other kids who are really good kids.
What about getting along with kids they don't like? Well, AW has hardly ever met a kid she didn't like so it's hard to say. But my kids fight with each other like cats and dogs, so they are certainly learning to manage frustrations with other people. DC is a little more selective with friends, so I imagine we will have to spend more time learning these lessons as he gets older and more interactive with other kids.
And resiliency? Well, my kids are handling the upheaval of a tree falling on our house. It's very difficult to convey just how terrifying it was. One of my kids has really struggled with the fear of it happening again, and we are working through that fear. That kid will come out of this event with tools for managing anxiety. That's resiliency right there.