When I noticed my daughter was acting a bit off after school one day, I asked her what was wrong. She reluctantly told me about an incident that happened at school. She said that when she was in the hallway coming in from recess, one of the "mean girls" forcefully ran into her from behind, making her drop her sketchbook. Then she snobbily told my daughter, "You dropped your stuff," and went off with her friends while laughing about it.
As I envisioned what my daughter tearfully explained to me, my heart filled with sadness and my blood boiled with anger. I asked my daughter if she told her teacher, and she said she didn't because she didn't want to make a big deal out of the incident and feared the mean girl would deny it when confronted about it. She also feared that tattling would make the mean girl retaliate with worse bullying.
I want her to confide in me, but it's also my job to protect her and do as much as I possibly can to make sure she feels safe at school.
Although these were legitimate reasons for a 9-year-old, I told my daughter that she still needed to tell her teacher. Cue the waterworks. My daughter does not like confrontation at all, and I know she feels intimidated by this particular mean girl, because she's one of the "popular pretty girls." (Think Regina George from Mean Girls, but a fourth grader.) I told her that if she wasn't going to tell her teacher, then I was, and that's when my daughter tearfully begged me to not get involved and made me promise to not tell her teacher.
At this point, many thoughts were running through my mind. On one hand, if I still went ahead and told her teacher behind my daughter's back, I would be breaking the trust she had in me. She's going to be a teenager before I know it and if I want her to continue to confide in me and trust me with her secrets, I need to be respectful of her wishes and back off. On the other hand, I'm her parent and I make the rules. It's my job to protect her and do as much as I possibly can to make sure she feels safe at school.
The next morning, I made the decision to break the promise I had just made to my daughter the night before. I also made the decision to tell my daughter what my plan was first, because I wanted to be open and honest with her. Although she didn't like hearing it, I explained to her why I was going to break my promise and talk to her teacher about the incident. I told her to also imagine if this was happening to her own daughter. She said she'd do the same as me.
I'm happy to say that her teacher was very responsive and took action immediately after I told her what happened. She also promised to keep a closer eye on this particular mean girl, and ever since that day, no bullies have messed with my daughter.
Even though my daughter may feel like she's tattling on her classmates, she now knows that telling a teacher about bullying is doing her school justice. By calling out the bullies, she's preventing incidents like this from happening again, not just to her, but to the entire student body. She's confident, strong, and knows her self-worth, and that's something no bully can ever take away.