Would You Confront Your Child’s Bully?

Posted October 30, 2012 by

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Would you — and should you — confront your child’s bully? There have been multiple stories in the news recently of parents dealing with their child’s bully and taking matters into their own hands. Recently, a woman in New Jersey was charged with criminal trespass, simple assault and making terroristic threats for boarding a school bus and confronting a boy who was allegedly bullying her daughter. All accounts stated that the woman boarded the bus and yelled at the boy; several students state that the mom cursed at the boy and his seatmate on the bus, and slapped them on the face as well. The mom denies cursing and hitting the boys, but admits to yelling at them.

I can certainly identify with that “mama bear” instinct of wanting to protect your child. No parent wants to see their child hurt. The mom stated that she had attempted to address the bullying with school officials, only to be met with no apparent response. I understand that frustration and the need to “do something.” While I can empathize with her situation, I am concerned about the message that her daughter may have received from her actions: that it’s okay to bully someone verbally and possibly physically if you are angry enough — and if you are bigger and stronger than them.

I think it’s important to think about the message that she was sending through her actions. We talk a lot about the importance of role-modeling the behavior that you want to see in your child during 1-on-1 Coaching. For example, if you want your child to be honest, then it’s important not to lie.

I am also concerned by one of the mother’s statements which has been quoted in the news coverage: “It’s crazy that this got blown into me doing something wrong – me and my family – when my daughter is the victim.” Another issue we talk a lot about on the Support Line is “victim mentality.” It’s that line of thinking that goes “I’m a victim so the rules don’t apply to me” or “It’s not fair, so I don’t have to follow the rules.” This is also poor role modeling by the mother, especially if the goal is to effectively address the bullying behavior.

So how do you address bullying behavior effectively? The ultimate goal is to help your child feel empowered to handle the bullying themselves if appropriate and at all possible. Start by listening, and try your best to keep your emotions out of the conversation. Ask your child, “What can you do to help yourself feel better in this situation?” Perhaps it’s coming up with a short phrase, such as “Leave me alone” or “Stop it — I don’t like that!” It might be making a plan to tell an adult or finding other kids to play with when the bullying happens. Talk with your child about how they would like you to be involved. Of course, if your child is telling a teacher or other adult and nothing is happening, if the bullying continues or worsens, or if it escalates to the point of physical threats or violence, you do need to get involved, and we encourage you to let your child know. If you try to address it with the teacher or other adult in charge, and nothing happens, we recommend “going up the ladder” so to speak; talk with the principal, the director of transportation (if happening on the school bus), the superintendent, the school board, and so on.

Unfortunately, almost all kids will be exposed to bullying at some point in their lives, whether that is being the bully, being bullied, being a bystander to bullying, or some combination. Remember, it’s our job as parents to empower our kids to address bullying effectively when it’s happening to them, not to become a bully ourselves in the process.


Rebecca Wolfenden is a loving Momma to her son and a dedicated 1-on-1 Coach. She earned her degree in Social Work from West Virginia University and has been with Empowering Parents since 2011. Rebecca has experience working with children and families in home settings and schools, and has extensive practice working with people of all ages who have survived significant emotional and physical trauma.

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  1. Ana Report

    My daughter was being bullied by a girl who used to be her friend. I confronted the girl at the bus stop. In my case I told the girl to leave my daughter alone and stop talking to her or about her. I had asked the parents to control the situation but it kept getting worse, so I stepped in. I don’t see it as bullying on my part. When a child misbehaves it’s up to adults to tell them to stop that behavior.  I didn’t curse at the girl, just told her to knock it off. The next thing that happened is her Dad came running up yelling at me because how dare I tell his child to knock it off. I had already tried going to the parents and they had just laughed it off. This guy actually said “they are just kids. They should work it out themselves and you shouldn’t get involved”. What happened to the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child? The problem is that people think their kids can do no wrong and take it personally when you tell them their child is bullying. Had I not confronted this girl, my daughter would still be being bullied. Thankfully after the incident the parents finally took me seriously and the girl apologized to my daughter and the bullying stopped. Her parents don’t like me much, but my daughter now comes home happy from school and that’s all I care about.

  2. EdMalice Report

    3 or more bullies is NOT the norm.I was bullied in school and it worked for me.Were you?You don’t try and befriend bullies either.They don’t deserve your friendship.They are your enemies until they decide to be nice to your child and change THEIR ways.Lots of times students are embarrassed or don’t want other kids calling them snitches,so they don’t tell on the bullies.Standing up for yourself is part of being a responsible person and not depending on adults or other people all the time.That is why we are so weak and p.c. as a  society now.I will agree,however,that in instances where there are multiple bullies then that needs to be addressed by the school immediately.You have a small gang problem at that point,not just a bully problem.

  3. Celine Report

    I agree that confronting the children who bully directly is probably not a good idea. As parents, we don’t have authority over other people’s children, not these days anyway. In France, in 2012 or so, a girl killed herself because of school bullying. Her mother said on TV that she had talked to the mean girls directly, though it sounded like she stayed as friendly as she could, but it backfired. 
    However, I think it is profoundly unrealistic to expect the child being bullied to stand up for himself, especially when he is facing older kids or is alone against 3 of them or more, as is often the case. What we need to do is get the people involved who are responsible for the children during school hours.

  4. EdMalice Report

    RebeccaW_ParentalSupport -No offense,but sometimes the only solution is stand up to a bully and show them you’re not scared.Forget teachers or the principal.90% of the time your child’s bully will back down when they are stood up too.In the rare case it doesn’t work,then the school or authorities can get involved if violence does occur.How do I know this?I was bullied and it stopped when I stood up to them.They were all nothing more then loudmouth wimps.

  5. marian Report

    I had my first big problem with bullying this year. Im sorry but I think mother bear has to come out and I know it didnt show a bad example to my daughter.
    7 girls threatened to jump my daughter after school. She got a ride from the counsler but was in tears saying she wasnt gunna go back to school etc.. Her friends were texting her saying that the little “gang” was asking were she lived.
    I know these kids have issues but when it comes to breaking my daughters spirit well, its NOT gunna happen.
    My neighbor ( a gangster looking young man) found the group of kids and yes…scared them with real words. He let them know that if they wanted to act like little gangsters than they better be ready for the reality of the gangter life. He really put them in their place and rumor has it they have calmed down. I really think we baby these kids way to much. These kids need to know there is a family behind these blllied kids that wont accept that behavior. We need more mother bears!

  6. Concern Report

    I have had first hand experience with bullies and believe me it is not easy to turn them off or discouraged them from their course of belittling, demeaning and expressing verbal abuse to someone. Bullying is scary and some kids end up committing suicide because of it. It appears that this mother felt she had to get the attention of the kids that were bullying her child. One has to be firm and assertive when dealing with this type of behavior. It is not acceptable behavior. Unfortuantely, this is a subject that most parents don’t worry about until it happens to their child and then it takes on a different face. You have to cut it in the bud. Any changes in your child’s demeanor or loss of interest should cause one to take note and find the right time to question and get to the bottom of it. Give the child support and self-esteem techniques to conteract this problem.



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