You may wonder what the mom of a toddler knows about bullying. Well, I’ve been the victim of bullying and I’ve also been the bully. I’ve learned about both sides. So I thought I’d share with you these 5 steps to stop the bullying in its tracks
Just as the anti-drug campaigns in school have been fairly ineffective, the new anti-bullying campaign has its limits ineffectiveness as well. This means every parent, child, and sibling needs to be aware of it and doing their best to prevent bullying from happening.
When I was in elementary I had some troubling stuff going on. A boy I had a major crush on died one night in his sleep, I had problems with my parents, and I just wasn’t the most stable child around. As a result, I bullied a girl who had a life even worse off than I did. Both of her parents were ill so she lived with her grandma. She didn’t have siblings to gain strength or support from and she was often alone. And for some sad reason, I targeted her. I started calling her names. I didn’t do it quietly either. I really made others laugh because of the extremely ugly names I called her. They weren’t swearing words but in kid language, they were just as bad -maybe even worse.
I don’t really know how long this had been going on when I got called down to the principal’s office. I was about 10 years old and when you are 10 and sitting in front of the principal for the first time it makes an impact. My knees were shaking, palms sweating, and with a confused look on my face (as to why I was even there) our meeting began.
In our meeting, he did a few things right and something majorly wrong.
The first thing he did right was to sit me down and calmly explain that I had been really hurting another girl’s feelings. He said this girl didn’t have many friends and that she was often alone and sad because my group of friends and I would laugh at her and call her embarrassing names.
The next good thing he did was to inform me that he wouldn’t call my parents if I stopped and never did it again (showing he was on my side, believed in me, and was a sort of friend to me). And finally, the third positive thing he did was he introduced me to an opportunity I had never thought of before. He said if I stopped calling this girl names and started treating her the way I treated my other friends, that I could make another friend out of this girl. I could be kind and possibly have a friend for a long time because she was a great person and needed friends.
The major thing he did wrong was to inform me that this girl’s grandmother had called and complained. At first, I was angry at the grandma. Then I was angry at the girl I was targeting for telling her grandma. Then I thought ‘well I don’t want to have anything to do with this girl or her grandma. I can’t make this girl my friend if her grandma hates me.’ All of these thoughts hit me as soon as he notified me that it was the grandma that had really called me into his office. Not him.
At the end of our conversation, I still resented the grandma. Why didn’t she just talk to me? Why did she have to go to the principal? But because he did those other things so well I changed my heart.
The first part was hard, but I did go apologize and try to make amends. Further, I tried befriending her until eventually, we became great friends. Life has come between us now but we have stayed in distant touch.
Two years after this experience when I was entering Junior High, I heard an inspirational talk at church. It was about how someone went a whole entire year not speaking a bad word about anyone. When I heard it, I decided that that was what I was going to do.
I set a goal for myself that for the entire year of seventh grade, I would to not say a single thing bad about anyone. And I didn’t. I really didn’t. It was tough, but long story short, I made a ton of friends. I felt like most people could trust me because of it and I really excelled in other areas as well.
Now, I wasn’t perfect in not gossiping in my eighth grade year. I did find myself slipping a little bit but I tried not to do it much. As a result of me being friends with most everyone, I was voted in to be the Student Body President (by the students) for the 9th grade year.
It seemed others (not just my peers) noticed as well. In 8th grade, I was awarded a prestigious Montgomery Leadership Award that goes to one girl and one boy from each grade. My teachers all voted that I showed exceptional leadership skills.
Before 9th grade started, my dad sat me down and said, “When I was in high school the most popular girl would say hi to me and call me by name when she passed me in the hall. It meant so much to me that she would even notice me. I was unpopular, but the fact that she made an effort to say hi and knew my name really meant a lot to me. I want you to reach out and befriend those that need friends and who others make fun of and ignore with your position as President.”
That was a very meaningful conversation my dad had with me. We had some major issues growing up but that one conversation was enough to make me want to be that girl that he remembered 30 years down the road who actually made a positive difference with her popularity.
At lunch, I would look for and often find people who were sitting alone. When I saw them, I would go sit down by them (even move seats if I was already sitting) and many of my awesome friends came with. I remember this one boy who always ate his lunch alone, like really alone. He never had anyone sitting near him day in and day out. So I began looking for him and sitting by him. All my friends would too. We got to know him a little, not much, because he was very shy, and probably even shyer while he was surrounded by cheerleaders and 9th grade Student Body Officers. But we tried to make sure he didn’t sit alone.
I said hi to those passing me in the hall, stuck up for those being made fun of, and just really tried to use my ‘position and title’ for good. I wasn’t perfect but I tried my hardest to be an influence for good. About five years later I ran into one of my Junior High school teachers who said that out of the 25 years she had worked there, I was the best SBO President the school had seen. While that truly touched me, I wasn’t doing any of it for recognition. I saw my father in those people who I was trying to lift up. I wanted them to know they were important, accepted, and noticed.
Well, high school was approaching and we 9th graders were changing. One guy in the popular group (that I was a part of) decided I just wasn’t cool enough to be ‘in the most popular crowd’ and he was going to make sure I didn’t feel like I belonged. He demeaned me, used profanity, and would call me horrible names when we passed each other in the hall.
After a while, it became too much. I would come home from school and just cry. Or I’d stand in front of the mirror and practice telling him off. Eventually, I just started getting creatively mean back, which I knew was not right. But retaliation, I thought, was my only option.
I found out it wasn’t. Since I was frequently at the school office for my duties, I had something going for me. I got to know the wonderful school office secretary pretty well. She and I actually became great friends. We would chat for a long time when I was there and eventually I opened up and told her about me being bullied.
Her reaction shocked me, “Oh that is something we deal with all the time” she said. “All we do is an intervention”. “An intervention?” I asked. “Sure,” she said. “The principal just calls this guy down to his office, then calls you. He sits you down and says that there have been ‘multiple’ reports of bullying going on. Then he says that if it ever happens again he will call the parents and issue a suspension. And if it happens once after that the bully gets expelled”.
I was in shock, “So he doesn’t have to know it was me who told?”
“Nope, he’ll never know”. So I agreed to it.
A few days later I was called to the principal’s office. When I arrived, there sat my nervous-looking bully. The principal made it very clear that multiple anonymous accounts had been relayed to him that this guy was bullying me. He said that after he had heard it from multiple different sources he knew it must be true. He asked us to confirm whether it was happening. My bully said it was. When he asked me, I confirmed it but I even went so far as to confess that I’ve sometimes retaliated the bullying as well (just to make sure my bully didn’t suspect that I told).
The Principal asked who the instigator was and my bully volunteered. Then he said that if it EVER happened again, parents would be called in, a suspension will be issued to him, and further bullying would result in expulsion from school. He also asked us which classes (if any) we had together. We sat right next to each other in the one we had together. So he said he’d send a note to the teacher to seat us as far apart from each other as possible (which was a wish come true for me). And he required that we ask for forgiveness and forgive.
After we left his office not another name or snide demeaning remark was thrown my way. This guy even said hi to me when we were all in the same group (as we had many of the same friends). I was no longer crying in my room or practicing ways to tell him off in front of the mirror. Or lowering myself to his standard and making rude comments back. Not being bullied anymore, I went back to enjoying life.
And there is the point. When someone is bullied, life cannot be fully enjoyed. The victims are always living in fear. They have a what-is-going-to-happen-to-me-next mentality. It’s hard to function well or sometimes even at all. In some extreme cases, people even commit suicide. One boy, I was befriending in Junior High related to me his intentions of committing suicide! So I chatted with him for a long time, encouraging him, and letting him know he had friends. I called him, wrote him notes (before the days of texting), and tried to do all I could to show him I was a friend and that he didn’t have to resort to contemplating suicide.
Thankfully, he never did do it. But some people do sink that far in extreme cases when their peers are mercilessly bullying them. Unfortunately, I had a friend who, in college, felt friendless and did take his life, even though I did my best to befriend him. So if that has happened don’t blame yourself. Ultimately, the decision to take their life is the person’s own choice.
But we NEED to do all we can to prevent this disgracefulness from happening. So here are 5 steps to stop bullying in its tracks.
1. Get an intervention between both the victim and the bully that is held by an authority figure. It’s important that the authority figure phrases what he/she says just right. He/she needs to ask both parties if it is going on. He/she needs to act non-threatening and neutral towards the bully and victim but be firm with the consequences if the bullying continues.
The words ‘multiple anonymous reports’ can help the bully believe that he/she has been found out by many people. It has to be anonymous or else the bully will retaliate, hold a grudge, or place blame. And try your best to keep parents out of the initial intervention because certain types of parents will perpetuate the problem by justifying or denying the bully’s involvement. In my experience, going to the parents should be done after other resources have been exhausted.
And inform your kids of options they have if they are ever bullied that don’t involve you. Teach them that they can go to the principal or counselor or church leader and request this kind of intervention if they’d rather do it without telling you. I didn’t tell my parents a lot because I didn’t know how they would react. I was even hit by a car while riding my bike once and I didn’t tell them (I was just bruised all over and my bike got a little broken). I never knew if I would be blamed or grounded or if they would get stressed and freak out. So let your kids know which options they have to stop a bully on their own without involving you.
Likewise, ensure them that they can come to you and you will not freak out or call the bully’s parents, etc. That is a big part of why kids don’t tell anyone. Most kids don’t know that a resolution can happen anonymously.
2. Enlist the help of an older sibling or neighbors. It is sad but true; there are ranks of popularity and influence in school. If you know someone who is very influential, a popular neighbor kid or a popular older sibling, ask them to stick up for the victim and stand up to the bully. This is often the fastest way to stop bullying in its’ tracks.
3. Teach your children the importance of supporting and reaching out to those that are bullied. Tell them how great of an example they will be if they help. You could even make it a bit of a weekly conversation to ask them what they did to make another person feel loved and accepted that is often left out or ridiculed. Tell them to stick up for kids and not judge or gossip.
As parents, this is where you need to also set the example. If you are bad mouthing your neighbor or if you are derogatory towards other neighborhood kids, then, most likely, your child will be mean to them too. As parents, we need to be setting an example of kindness and encouraging our children to make a positive difference in the world.
4. Monitor their texts and social media. Even if you don’t love Twitter (or even know how to use it), if your child is on Twitter you need to be on it too. You should be their friends on Facebook and be following their Instagram and/or Snap Chats. Keep an eye continually and randomly on what their friends are Tweeting and Sharing etc.
Ask at random to see their phones and read their messages without any warning so they can’t erase them. If they themselves are a bully, don’t deny it. Just deal with it. Take away their privileges. Have a heart to heart about it. Call the other parent for an intervention. Make sure your child apologizes and changes. If they are the victim of social media bullying then you should first try the anonymous intervention tactic. Then move on to more bold ‘parent and child’ to ‘parent and child’ interventions.
5. Sometimes bullying happens in your own home. Sometimes it’s the parents who bully the children (i.e. emotional abuse). Other times it’s the children bullying the parents (i.e. kids who hit or make a lot of derogatory comments towards parents without consequences). But most of the time it’s the siblings or the siblings’ FRIENDS who are bullies in the home.
My best friend’s brother would often tie me up. One time he was about to put my head in the toilet and flush it (giving me a swirly)…No joke, I was two inches from the water when his mom came home and rescued me. With me tied up, and my friend not being able to over power her brother, this situation could have gotten pretty bad. After that, when we wanted to play I would ask if he was home. If he was I didn’t go over there. It is important to know what is happening in your own and your child’s friends’ households.
Don’t allow kids to have their room doors shut. There are just really weird things that can happen, even devastating things that can happen, even if you are home, behind a closed door. Children and teens need parental monitoring. So try to be home as often as possible and be proactive in asking about what is going on in your children’s friends’ homes.
Bullying has been around for years but it has become even easier to engage in this maliciousness with the electronic and instant messaging advancements. Parents need to take a proactive and preventative approach to bully. Siblings should be encouraged to stand up for their brothers or sisters. And if your child is the bully (like I was once) do all you can to help them change. They can change their hearts and even become a powerful influence for good. They need your love, for example, discipline, and guidance.
This video is a great way to introduce the topic and get your kid talking about bullying. It is the most powerful video on the topic that I have ever seen.