Our first ‘bullying’ incident: what advice do you give your kids when they are being picked on?

This week, my son came out of after-school football club with a look that told me he was absolutely destroyed about something.

When we got in, he confided in me that some boys had been heckling him about his football skills – even though he’d scored a goal. They had wanted one of their mates to take the big penalty kick instead of him. He was ‘rubbish’ and this other kid was practically David Beckham’s love child, or something. This clique had been mean to him a few other times, too.

It wasn’t just the hurtful comments that had wounded him but the feeling of being ganged up on and excluded from Year 3’s self-proclaimed sporting elite.

I suppose this was our first real bullying incident. A few times in the past, my son has complained that so-and-so had been mean to him. But, after a few consoling words from me, he’d always been able to shake it off and forget about it.

But the football incident was different. It really hurt him and he was kept awake thinking about it. He was considering throwing in the towel and quitting football club.

As adults, we know that all kids are little brats sometimes and it’s easy to dismiss these childish incidents. While I’m not trying to whip up this episode into huge event, I was really taken aback by how upset my son was. I felt heartbroken for him.

What I also quickly realised when trying to comfort my son, was that I wasn’t really prepared for this incident. My dealing-with-bullies advice armoury was distinctly lacking and I struggled to find the right words and coping strategies to offer him.

The irate and irresponsible me wanted him to tell those little sh*ts to shut the hell up. But I ended up blurting out some sketchy advice along the lines of: ‘stand up for yourself but don’t stoop to their level… or do anything to get in trouble with the teacher.’ Not really a clear strategy he could easily follow.

Knowing I had spilled parenting failure all over the floor, I decided to call in an expert to help mop my shit up.

‘Just ignore them! Don’t rise to it…’ said Grandma on FaceTime, ‘…then they’ll never get the satisfaction of knowing they’ve upset you’. I was pretty sure that was better advice for this particular situation – so we’re going with that for now.

Of course, I had a quiet word with Coach the next day to ask if he could keep an eye out for any signs of trouble.

I’m hoping this playground unpleasantness will be short-lived and my son will be fine. He seems happier now anyway.

But it’s made me realise I need to have better advice and approaches for dealing with these things in the future.

What advice do you give your kids when they are being picked on or having trouble with friends? What action do you take? What’s your stance on encouraging them to ‘tell’ or to stand up for themselves? Please let me know in the comments below…

 

Stress ‘n’ stuff: is clutter getting on top of you?

I bought a book called Stuffocation recently. I’m pretty sure it’s about how to declutter your house/life and free yourself from the consumerist accumulation of junk and gubbins.  In a nutshell: less clutter = less stress. ‘Pretty sure’ because I haven’t actually read it yet.

It’s sitting beside my bed among a pile of unread/half-read books that make me feel guilty every time I look at them.

I like reading but I always grossly overestimate how much time I’ll devote to it as my past-time of choice. Plus, it can be tricky to squeeze it in – what with the working, the parenting, the blogging and the faffing on social media-ing.

But despite not actually having read Stuffocation, I’ve been thinking a lot  about my relationship with stuff and how much crap I want or need in my life. I have a hunch that my life would be less stressful with fewer belongings. And I’d certainly be quids in if I bought less.

Anyway, I’m moving soon (not into a Teepee just yet) so I’ve been taking this as an opportunity to de-dupe, donate or dump the clutter.

While doing so, I’ve worked out a few rules/life lessons along the way. So here’s what I’ve come up with:

(PS: Any similarity to the advice in Stuffocation is purely coincidental although I WILL read that soon…)

1. Buy for the life you have, not the one you want

Over the years, I’ve been buying for some kind of fantasy life I don’t actually lead. It’s a lovely dream-life: aside from being an avid reader, I permanently rock an apron and almost certainly bake cherry pie daily. In this utopia, I use all the gadgets I buy because I am not fickle and faddy.  I am thrifty and those really were investment buys.

A lie. A pitiful lie.

2. Check the cupboard, first. No. I mean it. Check it. 

Put down the Garam Masala and step away from the spice aisle.  A quick reccie of my kitchen cupboard will no doubt confirm that I have a Garam Masala jar of every vintage since 2007. And I don’t even like curry (see note on fantasy life above).

This ingenious ‘checking-if-you-already-have-it-before-you-buy-it’ rule also applies to egg cups, drinks bottles, shoe polish, echinachea, antibacterial wipes and those teeny-weeny socks for ballet pumps (No. These will NOT be the one brand that actually stay on your feet. Again, quit living a lie).

3. Tupperware

The party’s over. The music’s stopped. I’m left with nothing but memories and two cupboard-loads of bolognese-stained, BPA-free plastic tubs with missing lids. I need therapy.

4. Items that *should* have sentimental value, but don’t…

Thankfully, I never get gifts I don’t like.* But for those of you unlucky enough to receive that giant ‘I kissed the Blarney stone’ paperweight (oh hang on… it’s a thing) follow these simple steps.

1) say ‘thank you’.

2) keep unwanted gift for 2-4 weeks to appease any sense of guilt for not feeling genuinely grateful.

3) Optional: take photos of you ‘enjoying’ gift to WhatsApp to the giftbearer/plaster on Facebook (post privacy settings adjusted accordingly).

4) Bin/charity-shop/re-gift it.

Life’s. Too. Short.

5. Christmas-themed normal stuff 

Christmas-themed bedding, blankets, cushions, tea towels, oven gloves, draft excluders. Great aren’t they? Sure.  At Christmas. Not so great when you’re still tripping over them come June or they’re taking up valuable shoe storage real estate.

6. ‘Novelty’ anything

You know what would be a novelty? You not wasting your money on complete toot.

7. It’s OK to let some dreams die

As a P.E. club drop-out, I’m unlikely to have a ‘eureka/road to Damascas’ moment that involves me quitting my job to become a personal trainer.  Especially not now I have audible joint movements. In light of this, I can probably go easier on the home gym equipment.

If I’m really honest, buying a punchbag and boxing gloves was a bit of a misstep. When my whole life flashes before my eyes, it probably won’t include a Rocky-style training montage.

8. Kids clothing 

I’m bad at maths. So it’s taken me a while to appreciate that my son lives in school uniform five days a week and spends every other weekend with his dad. So he probably doesn’t need 15 lightweight long-sleeved tops to carry him effortlessly through the awkward trans-seasonal period.

I wonder if he’s up for doing an Instagram shoot…

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Right, so I think I’ve learned some hard but valuable lessons there and I feel all the better for it.

So what are your anti-clutter rules to live life by? Or is ‘more’ really more when it comes to how much stuff you own? Whether you’re a reformed shopaholic or a happy-go-lucky-hoarder (or even someone with an uncomplicated relationship with inanimate objects), I’d love to hear from you in the comments…

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*It’s not lying if it’s done out of kindness.

Is clutter causing you stress? How to de-clutter.
Is clutter causing you stress? How to de-clutter.