Saturday, July 11, 2015

What would you do?

ABC had an interesting and hard-hitting video as part of their series "What Would You Do?"  A girl adopted from China is publicly bullied by her older sister, the biological child of their parents.  The reactions of the onlookers is... interesting.  [EDIT 8-12-15: I am told by Pingping's mother that the girl portraying the older sister is an actress and not actually Pingping's sister, and also that she is a very nice and kind-hearted girl who had a great deal of trouble playing such a nasty, hateful role]

I am glad that ABC did this.  We know that our children may well be the target of some very ugly bullying, and this video is a good spur to thinking about how we can handle it.


I have (I hope!) changed the video link to make it easier to access.  I have also had a few more thoughts.

1.  The reaction of the onlookers, even those who didn't speak up, was clearly one of outrage and repugnance.  This, it seems to me, is a clear refutation of the idea, bruited about by "Angry Adoptees", that society undervalues them because they are adopted

2.  That ANYBODY confronted "Scarlett" in this day when saying anything to another person's child can have highly unpleasant consequences from a very public fight with the parent(s) to a visit from John Law, is encouraging.  Again, contra the rantings of Angry Adoptees, these (almost all white) people were horrified at what Scarlett was saying and clearly on the side of Pingping; they didn't "join in the fun" of bashing the non-white adopted child

3.  I have read some highly critical opinions of this segment by several adoptive parents.  Some felt that it would have been too shocking for their children to see.  Others thought it was too extreme because "that doesn't really happen".  Still others thought it was too hard on the actress who played Pingping, with not-so-veiled accusations that "Scarlett" ("Pingping's" actual sister) really meant all that she said

Personally, I like to have problems stated in bald and even extreme terms: I dislike sugar-coating.  I have read enough from adopted children - including some who commented on this video - to know that this sort of thing DOES happen to some of them.  There ARE adopted kids who are ridiculed and bullied by their non-adopted siblings, other relatives, and even parents.  It does us no good to pretend that this doesn't happen, or that "it isn't THAT bad in real life" or other such excuses.

I understand why people find the video shocking.  I understand why it makes them uncomfortable.  I can understand why they might not want their children, especially very young ones, to see it.  But... Is that the right attitude?

I say no.

We know as adoptive parents that our children are possibly - even likely - going to deal with problems that are outside our personal experience.  They may well be the target of racism, from innocent questions that make them uncomfortable to blatant, malicious bullying.  That this COULD come from non-adopted siblings or other relatives adds a layer of viciousness.  It seems to me that our tasks are:

1.  Understand that this sort of thing happens, and that it may be EVEN WORSE than we think

2.  Prepare ourselves so that we have some idea of what we ought to do.  When a child comes home sobbing because some little b@stard has called her a "chink" or made slant eyes at her or said "ching-chong-ching-chong", this is not the time to be thinking about what to do, or to react with hysteria, or to tell the child to ignore it or "suck it up".  It seems to me that how WE react will guide our children in establishing their own boundaries and ideas.

Honestly, this scares me: if I react the wrong way and send the wrong message, there may not be another chance to get it right.  Downplaying something that bothers my daughter may give her the idea that I don't care about HER, which is the last thing that I want to do.  Conversely, overreacting may give her the idea that she hasn't got to stand up for herself and / or rob her of those skills

3.  Realize that preparation really ought to begin long BEFORE the little b@stard shoots off his mouth.  While there's a line between talking to our children about what can happen and putting a chip on their shoulders, it seems to me that having - initiating - conversations about racism, bullying, family, adoption, "beauty" and all the other potentially nasty subjects that can come up tells our children that we are a resource for them, that we are there for them, that we will face their problems side-by-side with them.

Watching videos like the "What Would You Do" segment COULD be very useful conversation starters, though due consideration must be given to age and just what WE might say about it

4.  Realize that, especially as they get older, our children will naturally be less inclined to come to us (I wasn't especially communicative with my parents as a teenager, and I don't think that I was especially unusual in this regard).  We have to be watchful for signs that all is not well and do what we can - which, I hate to admit, may not be enough no matter how hard we try - to be not only open to our children but actively solicit their feelings.  Again, I think that there's a line between conversation and indoctrination, between making them aware that there are some bad people in the world and putting a chip on their shoulders, but I don't think anybody wants to learn, years later, that their children were miserable and never said a word about it because "You didn't care."

So... What do we do?

--- "Baba, little Johnny made his eyes look funny and said 'ching-chong' to me at school."

--- "Baba, we had to do a family tree in school.  Teacher said I didn't have to because she said I don't know who my family really is."

--- "Baba, why did that woman at the store think you aren't my father?"

--- "Baba, people keep asking me if I speak Chinese."

--- "Baba, that man asked how much you paid for me."

--- "Baba, I want to be pretty like the other girls at school."

--- "Baba, this girl at school said my real parents didn't want me."

--- "Baba, in a movie we saw, white people were fighting with Chinese, and the Chinese were the villains."

--- "Baba, am I really part of this family?"


  1. Scarlett is a very sweet girl and had a hard time playing this role. We are very happy that we met such a lovely girl who needed much coaching that day to pull off the role of a bully.

    On the audition for this role Pingping was able to draw from the bulling in school to land this part. I'm proud of my daughter for being able to bring to light what a lot of our adopted children go through.

    Scarlett is not Pingping's actual sister. All of my children are adopted from China.

    Julie aka Pingping's mom

    1. Thank you very much for this clarification. I will edit accordingly.

      I would be very interested in knowing how you and your daughter handled the bullying as well as any suggestions for us and other parents. Naturally, if you consider such to be a private matter, I completely understand.

      Please give your daughter and Scarlett a big "thank you!" for helping to make this video. My regards to you and your family.

  2. Well, to say that we are handling it would be past tense, we're still dealing with it. I assume when Pingping gets into HS it will be ever present.

    Teaching kids not bully begins at home. I started talks with Pingping before she started kindergarten. I told her there would be kids that were different from her and if she saw or heard kids making fun of them not to do that. Just be friends with all the kids.

    Fourth grade is when she began to have problems. I also had her IQ tested that year and was approved to move her up to 5th grade but decided not to since she had all her friends. I regret that decision because they are no longer her friends but her bullies. She needed to be with more mature children. My suggestion is if your child is advanced move them up for a better peer relations.

    NO SOCIAL MEDIA. To much gossip and one gets angry at the other, the whole grade knows about it. No texting while in disagreements. Camera snap shots and then posting causes to many issues. Resolve problems either one to one or phone calls.

    Your so right, when you say that as our children get older they less likely will come to us. They no longer will go to the teachers/counselors/principal, that's frowned up on as they will be looked at as a baby and not being able to handle it themselves.

    Encourage them to find friends that share like interests. Join after school clubs. Discourage a child from withdrawing. Make arrangements for your child and friend(s) to spend time together, outside of school. They will need a peer(s) outlet. I find that when my daughter is with a friend, she is more likely to talk as the two of them will join and recount the story together. Sometimes I'll jump in but mostly just listen. While she may not be talking to me at least she is sharing her feelings with someone.

    I know this may sound odd, but I screen the parent's of Pingping's friends. Our children may want to be friends with a certain kid, however, what a child learns at home is what they will do. I've dealt with that this past year and I explained to Pingping, be careful that child's mother has a big mouth and is bad mouthing teachers. Not to long after, I heard the child doing it. I backed away from being friendly with that mom and Pingping keeps her distance with that girl.

    Pingping has the gift of music, so playing piano has aided with self esteem. Her orchestra teacher loves her, so he let her run sound board for the school play and she was able to play piano for the Jr. Honor Society induction. The last day a school certain students also got to play for the 8th grade moving up ceremony, Pingping was one of those students. Feeling special has contributed to her not having to feel like she has to follow a certain group of people to fit in.

    Reiterate school is a place to learn not a beauty contest or social playground. It's ok to be smart, a nerd, that's what your there for. :)

    Situations may vary but the out come is the same, degradation and low self esteem. Teach them to be strong and accepting of themselves, talk to someone, even if it's just a peer.

    1. Thank you so much for that very thoughtful and detailed response. I feel furious that your daughter had to deal with bullying (I know from bitter personal experience what that's like) and has had to learn that set of defensive skills; kids should have nothing to worry about in school beyond homework or perhaps doing well in some competition, NOT being picked on or being targeted by a pack of knuckle-dragging bullies. Social media has got to make that so much worse than is was when I (most of us, I suppose) were kids.

      I agree with your remarks about screening the parents. My brother did that with my niece for the same reasons you state. It's a smart move.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write all this.

      My regards to you and your family.