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Gift of Self Confidence

Posted: 10/30/2015

Haven’t we all been bullied or been a bully at some point in time? I am often asked what inspired me to write Monday at Jelly Roll Dog Park and am quick to respond with the standard answer- “bullying is all around us” or “my mission is to introduce the concepts and terminology at a younger age in a way that small children can understand.” But bullying hit me hard in the first grade.

To provide a little background, I attended a small Catholic school in San Francisco’s East Bay. I was a child struggling with the effects of neglect and abuse from a “trusted” babysitter. It was a fragile time in my development. At daycare, I learned that conforming was critical to my survival and at school, I became a focused student and high achiever as a form of control. Often dubbed “the teacher’s pet” because of my adherence to the strict rules enforced in the former nun’s classroom, I became a target for bullying.

At lunch, the “Three M’s,” who consisted of two boys and one girl whose names began with the same letter, would taunt me by stealing components of my lunch, playing keep-away with my chips or sandwich and later destroying them. For those of you who have ever experienced neglect, you understand that there is something very personal about stealing someone’s food. I was called names, tripped and even teased that I may have had AIDS because I was so thin. Keep in mind that this was the same year that AIDS was discovered and became a common topic of conversation among adults in my region. It got to the point where I dreaded to go out to play, withdrew from class activities and feared going to school. Left without many options, I finally received help from my mom. She went to the school and addressed the issue with the administration and the parents of the other kids. Miraculously, the kids stopped harassing me.

Because of my own experience, my 13 year-old son has grown up with a focus on his strengths and talents in order to encourage self-worth. It is something I have to work on constantly and consistently, as he has a tendency to veer toward focusing on his weaknesses and his own self-doubts. SELF CONFIDENCE IS THE GREATEST GIFT WE CAN GIVE OUR CHILDREN. Encouraging activities that are supported by his talents has created a new level of self-awareness and self-esteem in recent years. In addition, hearing the words “I’ve got your back,” followed by accompanying actions, has kept dialogue about bullying and problem solving such conflicts at the forefront of many of our family discussions.

Muttley, the main character in Monday at Jelly Roll Dog Park, is in many ways a part of the young girl I was in first grade – teased, ostracized, different. I realize now that my courage ultimately came from believing in myself, nurturing my talents, and knowing that I had someone on my side. But, I would have loved to have had those skills earlier!

By: Jennifer Schreiber, author of Monday at Jelly Roll Dog Park

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