This blog post might be met with pushback. Readers might feel that this is victim blaming, and while you might be right, the intention is to protect those kids from the constant exclusion and bullying they face on a regular basis. Let’s be clear – I don’t blame kids for being a bit eccentric but I know that when they are they can be more easily targeted by the not so nice kids in their community. Kids who may dress differently, say strange things at strange times and behave in an odd manner are at risk of being targeted. Adults hate to face these facts and look to blame the bully and while we definitely should hold the bully accountable we need to figure out how to better support this socially awkward kid in navigating their peer circles.
This victimized child needs help to figure out when to let their freak flag fly and when to keep it under wraps. I’ve worked with a host of kids who were being bullied and one similarity they all possess is that they are a bit ‘off’, or don’t quite ‘get it’! Their behaviour doesn’t serve them when they find themselves, for instance, deciding to spill the beans about some big personal secret in the company of people they don’t necessarily trust. Or, they do some strange movement, dance, or crazy thing that gets a bunch of attention but not the ‘good’ kind. It pains me to say it but kids should learn when to let their freak flags fly. Not to say they can’t, ever, completely let go and be their crazy self but they can be trained to restrict, determine who is their audience, and then proceed as they deem appropriate. It’s about self-regulation and social dynamics and some kids just need to be taught to notice body language, energy and their own safety in any given social situation.
I work to help the kid who is a bit quirky, excitable, vulnerable and put off by large social gatherings (ie., school). If these kids can learn to just hold back on their ‘freak’ just a bit and wait until they are hanging with their neighborhood friend (whom they trust) or their family or a group that they are a part of, then things will go a lot more smoothly for them at school. We have to start having these conversations with kids who need some support in the social domain. This is one way to remove the proverbial target from their chest.
So, while I love to let my freak flag fly I’ve learned that many people simply can’t handle seeing it in all its glory, so I too hold back (even as an adult!). And, that holding back is what I’d like to help young people do in order to come to a place of self-knowledge and acceptance and ultimately, appreciation for who they are. They need training to become more socially savvy which will help them decide when to safely let their flags fly high!