By Rachel Cutrer, CEO and Founder, Ranch House Designs
“You like cows more than you like girls…”
“The only people who want to hang out with you are your show pigs…”
“Your shoes smell like poop!”
“You gonna wear that belt buckle and boots on the football field?”
Recently, one of our beloved children of the RHD family has been bullied at school by fellow junior high students who make fun of his love of showing. It’s been very hard for all of us ladies here at RHD because we hate bullying in general, but it hits close to home when the bully is being ridiculed because he loves to show.
One evening at home, I mentioned this to my husband (who grew up showing in Mississippi). Brandon immediately replied – “Oh, I heard that every day growing up.”
Sadly, I have to agree. For me, it was the worst in junior high and high school, when certain “mean girls” constantly made fun of me because I went to shows every weekend and missed out on the Homecoming dance to go to the State Fair.
So how do you explain to your children why others single them out for loving an industry that for many of us is just simply our way of life? Of course we love agriculture because it feeds us, clothes us, and has given us so many memories we treasure.
I have pulled in the assistance of several stock show moms to help! In this blog, here are our tips for how to handle when your child is bullied because they love farming, ranching, or love to show.
1. Love ‘em up! Reinforce the positives!
Kristen’s junior high son dreaded going to school. Finally, it came out – there was a super-jerk who was making fun of him every day because he wore boots and a belt buckle.
Kristen’s plan was to give her son a pep talk each morning. The last thing she would say is “If you can’t find the good – be the good!” This helps set his mind right before he faces the school day.
Then, as soon as he gets home – and before he can go to the barn, she asks him to tell him 5 positive things that happened that day.
“At first it was dumb stuff like recess….lunch…,” Kristen says. “But then it became more than that. It was REAL things – like ‘I made a good grade on a math quiz..;’ ‘I helped Peyton carry his books to class because he’s on crutches…”
By focusing on the good things and not dwelling on the bad, it helps him see the good.
2. Find a trusted person.
When you’re in the show business, you can find opinions out there by the thousands. Some are expert opinions, some..not so much.
Kelton Mason, Texas show pig breeder, instills in his customers that when you start raising showpigs, find that one person you trust to give you advice on feeding, showing, etc., and you only listen to that person.
Facing a bully is exactly the same as getting advice on your project. Tell your children to find one person – one teacher, one coach, one administrator – that you TRUST and talk to them. Let them know what’s going on and let them help.
3. Let the school know.
Miranda, a show mom, also found her children being bullied because of their love of cattle. She emailed the teacher and the principal the night her son told her of the situation. The school dealt with it quickly.
When my daughter was being bullied, I felt guilty for notifying the school. I didn’t want to be a tattletail or be seen as a complainer. However when it reached a certain point, I contacted the school counselor. The counselor met with my daughter, told her how to respond to the bully, and gave her the confidence and tools to face the bully.
Schools are specifically trained and qualified in addressing bullies and getting to the root of the problem. Use their expertise.
4. Stay strong.
Those of us in agriculture also usually come with an inherent sense of strength. It takes a lot of strength (both mental and physical) for a young child to confidently grab the halter of a 1200 pound show steer.
Some parents believe that to some degree, “bullying” can be an over-used term, and don’t want the word to be a crutch used for normal adolescent growing up and relationship building.
But, when things reach a certain point of suffering, something needs to be done.
Dene tries to teach her 3 sons about bravery, strength, and openness. She recommends open communication with her kids so they will be comfortable talking to her about anything. If there is a problem, she tries not to overreact, but listen, and get to the root of problems.
She tries to teach her children (and has even had them practice) knowing words or phrases to say to stand up for themselves, and also taught them basic self defense.
Bernette recommends using cute memorable phrases to help stay strong: “Be like the duck, just let it run off your back…” or “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”
5. Embrace the bully.
Okay so not literally – not hugging the bully – but inviting them to learn more about agriculture, or showing, and hope that they too will see why we love it so much. Dene says, “Kids don’t want to be mean – we have to teach them!”
Sherry chose to homeschool her children partially because of bullying. Sherry has made it her primary job to teach her children and try to build her daughter’s character and resilience.
But, she points out that kids need a safe space outside of the 8 hours they spend at school. She considers her home a safe space for any child who needs a place of comfort and welcome.
She also points out that the bullies could likely be jealous because they don’t know about agriculture or farming. She recommends inviting the bullies over! “They’re probably just curious and want to try it out but can’t!”
6. Choose extra-curricular activities that are ag-friendly.
Get your children involved in activities where they can interact with other kids outside of school – like church, 4-H, sports, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, weekend jackpot show series, etc. This gives them a chance to meet other friends. Your state junior associations are great for this!
Brenda shares that her daughter felt quite isolated by her peers in elementary and junior high, because she was constantly teased for living on a farm and her shoes smelling like cow poop. Her daughter thrived in 4-H and gained leadership experience and community service. Now, a senior in high school, her daughter has a few choice, true friends she can depend on that were gained through 4-H.
7. Be proud of who you are – you’ll be useful if an apocalypse comes!
Hey, ag people have life skills and survival skills. It’s that simple.
Jen, mother of pre-teen boys, agrees. She tells her sons every day “Be proud of who you are and hold your head high!”
Wanda ofen reminds her kids, “I’d truly rather be lost with a farmer who knows how to shelter in bad weather, find food, and catch a fish. That jock who can run a mile may not know how to grow food when a hurricane hits or how to fix a vehicle in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal on a cold stormy night.”
Sarah, a mom of two boys, age 10 and 14 agrees. “Yep, my kids get called hillbillies,” she says. “It used to bother them, but they are proud that they can do a bunch of cool stuff that their peers would be afraid to try. Us ‘hillbillies’ can figure things out. We understand earth and nature.”
When other things fail, don’t forget the power of prayer. Pray for peace. Pray for understanding. Pray for your child’s strength. Pray for the bully. Pray for the school administrators.
How do you handle bullying, or how do you teach your children to handle bullying? If you have experience in this subject, we invite you to comment below with your tips to share with other parents.
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