We just moved from New York City to a small town in Georgia for work. Just a couple of days into his new class, our son Joshua came home crying. One of his classmates had made fun of him for being Jewish. We have always gone to great pains to raise our children to be accepting of others, and it was never an issue in the big city anyway. Do you think this just typical teasing of The New Kid by the classmate, or should we be more deeply concerned? We don’t have a close-knit community to turn to like we had before, and I am not sure who to turn to.
Concerned in Conyers
It seems that every person who plays ball with me will at some time fake-throw it and then laugh at how they tricked me into running after nothing. I think they believe they are having as much fun as I am with the joke. While the fake tossers are laughing at my being gullible, this says much more about them than me. Typically, I will figure out their trick after the second or third fake-out. Then I just sit and wait patiently for them to get bored of their gag and we can carry on with a real game of fetch. Overall, it is quickly forgotten and we can carry on being friends and focusing on the good things.
While I do not get much out of it, I do not see this type of teasing as bullying. It does not frighten or hurt me, though it is sometimes tedious and it does get in the way of a good game. Once my new friend realizes that we are both not having fun, they usually stop. We have an understanding and we can still play and have fun beyond the teasing.
But if they don’t stop, and I am not having fun, then mom intercedes. Typically all she has to say is, “Stop teasing her,” and they realize what they were doing and we move past it. If they do not want to play with me at that point, we both move on to other things and I know that person will not be a play-ball-with-me friend. I will still be nice to them, though.
Teasing is a normal part of being a human, and, even though it is not always fun, mostly it is a way to get to know someone, find out what makes them laugh, and include them in the group. Sometimes they will tease each other about silly little things, and it is not really personal, so there are no worries. If more people could laugh at themselves, more people would be happy.
One time, we went to the dog park and mom was playing ball with me. A big spotted dog swooped in and stole my ball! He would not give it back, and my mom had to ask his mom to give it up. This big dog did not want to play with me. He was what mom calls a bully. He took the ball every time mom threw it, so we chose to go to a different part of the park and play with the other dogs there.
Bullies do not have to be bigger than you. They do not have to be boys or girls. They don’t have to have long hair or spots. They only have to be mean. They want to control the whole game while excluding others. Sometimes the bullies are even more afraid than the ones they are bullying. Even I have been known to grab a ball or two that weren’t mine. Mom looks me right in the eyes and says, “NO!” Then I know what I did was not right, and I know it immediately so it does not get worse. This spotted dog needed a NO from his mom.
I am glad that mom lets me try and work it out for myself first and does not embarrass me by constantly telling other people and dogs how they can and should play with me. They would not like me very much if mom were bothering them all the time. I am also glad that I can depend on her to protect me should need it, and that she will tell me when I am being the bully.
Bully people are different from bully dogs. They can use words and other things that dogs would not care too much about. Most dogs don’t care if you are a Golden Retriever or a Saint Bernard as long as you play nice together.
If Joshua is very sensitive and cries a lot, it may be hard to tell if he is being included or excluded. The other kids may tease him to try to get him to get past the crying and into the playing. If it happens just once and everyone gets over it and can play, then be happy that it was just teasing.
If these bullies actually have a problem with him being a Jewish puppy instead of any other type, then they have serious issues and may need to be told that it is silly to think one breed of person is better or worse than another. They may not know, so they need a NO.
Before you get angry and yell at other parents, though, talk to Joshua. I remember one time I got really mad at another dog that I thought had taken my ball, when really my ball had rolled into the bushes. Mom saw what happened and she showed me the ball. The other dog and I were friends after that. Whew! Sometimes things get confusing when we are in a new place and nervous about meeting new dogs. It is better to get all the facts first.
Still, and mom says this is very important, this is not something you can ignore. If mom always waited to see what would happen, I would have lost a lot of tennis balls by now and I would probably be afraid of other dogs, especially spotted ones. If Joshua needs you to step in, do it. Talk to the other moms nicely. They may not know what their kids are up to. Be friends with the moms and they will want their kids to be friends with yours. If that does not help, then talk to the people in charge of the dog park, or in this case, the school. All puppies should feel safe and free to play.