Bullying is a hot word these days.
Many schools and organizations have a zero-tolerance policy.
Parents are sure quick to complain if they even think their child is a victim of bullying.
What is bullying?
Bullying behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
3 Types of Bullying
1. Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things and includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
2. Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships and includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
3. Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions and includes:
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
See more at StopBullying.org.
What About Special Needs?
I have a friend with a young son who has Down Syndrome.
Her son is 5 years old.
A lot of young boys are a little rough and don’t always understand personal space.
A child in his kindergarten class got scratched – but did that mom really need to file a bullying complaint?
That mom will soon be crying about safe zones and micro-aggression for her fragile little snowflake.
Moms with special needs kids have to educate others. Many of these children are highly sensitive and need some extra attention.
It’s a sad world we live in when ignorant people accuse and file official complaints instead of talking it out and working together.
It’s not bullying when playtime gets a little rambunctious.
What if your child is a bully?
I’m not one of those moms who believes my children can do no wrong.
I’m not quick to believe their every word.
I don’t jump in to solve issues for their every complaint.
I won’t charge in when they shed a tear and accuse someone of being mean.
I listen. I ask questions. I seek to find out the truth about a situation.
I try to be diligent to teach my kids kindness and courtesy. If there is a lapse in judgment, I strive to correct it as soon as possible. I encourage my child to make amends: apologize and forgive.
No one wants to be that mom whose kid is a bully.
Are you raising a bratty kid? Don’t be a spineless parent.
Know your child.
Keep an open conversation about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors with your children.
Bullies are hurting and angry. Learn why. And do something about it.
- Change in behavior: withdrawal from social activities, hypersensitivity, avoidance of a certain individual
- Sleep disturbances
- Eating changes
- Lack of interest in appearance or hygiene
What NOT To Do:
Accuse. It’s better to listen than to immediately pass judgment. Learn all sides to the situation before taking any action.
Punish. The situation has already caused pain to all involved. Further punishment won’t help and it could make things worse.
Ignore. This won’t go away by pretending it didn’t happen. It could escalate.
What To Do:
Calmly discuss the matter with adults who witnessed the encounter – parents, teachers, coaches. Request a meeting to find out the truth.
Keep records of meetings, texts, emails, phone calls.
Make amends. Apologize and forgive. Reconcile.
Talk with your children to make sure they understand appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Avoid families who see nothing wrong with their bullying or mean words and actions.
Our Bullying Story
As homeschoolers, we often think we’re immune to things like bullying.
My teen daughter was accused of being a bully.
My first reaction?
She certainly has the potential.
She’s aggressive. She’s impulsive. She’s a natural leader.
I’m not delusional to think my children are perfect angels. I know all kids have the potential to be mean.
I wanted facts.
I received a late-night Facebook Messenger text from a mom in our homeschool community.
This mom told me there had been an incident earlier that evening at a drama practice where my teen daughter had hit and kicked her teen son and then he pushed my daughter in self-defense.
My daughter told me a different story. Quite a few others corroborated with my daughter’s story – both teens and adults.
It turned into a ridiculous “he said; she said” situation.
I requested to meet with all parties involved to get to the bottom of it and get it settled.
Then it turned ugly.
I usually drop my daughter off at her play practices. I’m not a helicopter parent. I encourage my kids to be independent. I don’t think a 15-year-old needs a mom constantly hovering or watching. But, that next evening, I stood in the theatre, waiting for the mom and theatre director to arrive for our discussion.
The boy’s mother breezed in and called over her shoulder to me as she passed by that the situation was handled and her son would have no further contact with my daughter. She went to sit as far away from me as possible during rehearsal. I was taken aback by her flippant manner. This was not handled.
The director didn’t have time to speak with me. He tried to ignore me, but his hands were shaking.
I wasn’t prepared for the confrontation that followed.
Her dismissal didn’t sit well with me since the stories about the incident were so very different…and there was no accountability or apology or anything? I needed closure.
During a rehearsal break, I walked over to speak to the mom, explaining I needed more than her comment. We needed to find out the truth about the night before.
She had apparently called the director with their side of the story earlier that day. She said there was nothing more to discuss. Her son and my daughter would have no further contact.
But they have rehearsals together several days per week and then performances every weekend for two months. How could they have no contact?
The theatre director slunk up into the seats and leaned behind us, listening. So, he witnessed the discussion, which he later denied any knowledge about via email.
I started to speak again, but she interrupted me.
She claimed my daughter had “bullied her son for over six months, ruining his life.”
I was shocked. Why was I just now hearing of this? What kind of parent lets something unpleasant continue for six months and says or does nothing about it? I would’ve dealt with it!
When I asked for specifics, they could remember none. When I pressed, they could remember nothing at any of the events our families had attended together for the past year – a Valentine’s Day party, an art fair, a geography fair, the homeschool graduation ceremony. Nothing.
The best accusation they had was that my daughter pulled her son’s arm along with several other teens onto the dance floor at the homeschool graduation. She claimed he had bruises from it. I later questioned one of the other moms who attended that graduation event if my daughter had misbehaved or acted anything out of sorts and she said no. So, it was just normal silliness.
The whole conversation was surreal. When I asked for clarification about the incident backstage the night before, she informed me that the two would just have no further contact and the discussion was over. She wouldn’t even look at me.
I then asked her son if he had anything to say. He had sat through the meeting, aloof beside his mother, eating a sandwich, as if he didn’t hear anything of our discussion. He’s not little.
He burst into tears and said my daughter “hurt him and he had bruises. He was scared of her. She had ruined his life for six months.”
I turned to my daughter with raised eyebrows at what they had said and she just automatically apologized out of habit – but didn’t admit to ever touching or bothering him.
I really just couldn’t imagine this fantasy the boy and his mother created for themselves that he had been bullied by my daughter. They had no evidence.
I wanted to make amends. I wanted truth. I wanted to reconcile the relationship.
His mother said they were just children and could not be held responsible for their actions.
It’s not like these are 5 year olds on the playground, throwing sand or wood chips. Teenagers are NOT CHILDREN.
This attitude of no responsibility is everything that is wrong with our society.
There was never an admission of any wrongdoing on their part, no apology…only half-truths, straight out lies, and avoidance of facts. Very weird behavior.
She told me, I was “the only one with the problem, to let it go.”
I realized nothing I said would matter to these people.
The theatre director offered no help to me, no protection for my daughter from this sociopathic family who lied and cried crocodile tears. He turned a blind eye rather than disrupt his production. Apparently, he considered a verbal reprimand enough to “solve” the problem. Emails remain unanswered. He even lied to my husband in the single email reply that he had heard nothing of any incidents regarding my daughter or any of the other teens.
There have been other incidents. The boy texted a mutual friend, threatening her to unfriend my daughter on social media and in person. He acts as if he doesn’t understand why the girls avoid him.
He claims: “I can get anyone to do what I want and they always believe me.”
He still teases and corners my daughter and other girls backstage at rehearsals. He makes sure there are no adult witnesses. There are no consequences. He has supposedly been reprimanded multiple times for inapproprite behavior during rehearsals. I learned there had been similar issues during another stage production a few months ago. I also learned another homeschool family had similar problems with this boy with his mother refusing to admit any wrongdoing.
This incident has been a great, if unfortunate, teaching tool for my daughter. I worry if the boy were older or bigger what he might attempt.
But we are now ostracized from our homeschool community.
We are not trusted. We are not included. We are not contacted or tagged on social media for events.
We are forgotten.
People I thought were my friends have disappeared, looking askance at us, whispering behind hands, even outright asking us what did we do to deserve the ire, anger, and problems? We do not feel welcome at clubs, playdates, parties, homeschool events, classes, field trips, or gym days.
We do no favors to our children or others by ignoring bad behavior. If my children are mean, provoked or not, I desire to make amends as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what kind of adults unchecked bullies will grow up to be.
If you were bullied when you were younger, the reason you freeze at genuine compliments is because fake compliments were a prelude to an attack.Resources:
- Bully by Patricia Polacco
- The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
- The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carson
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig
- My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
- Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig
- Sorry! by Trudy Ludwig
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig
- Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig
- Odd Velvet by Mary Whitcomb
- The Weird! Series (3 books) by Erin Frankel
- Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
- It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr