When Your Child is the Bully: No Easy Answers

Posted July 20, 2010 by

The principal at my son’s school and I are on a first name basis and it’s not because I am the president of the PTA. No, it’s because my son is a bully. I wonder whether other parents — parents of non-bullies — have ever given much thought to my position.

I choose to bravely volunteer at the school, hoping I won’t run into my son sitting in the office, waiting to see the principal. For now it is an unwritten rule that I not help in his class or drive on his field trips. That only makes things worse. But I still volunteer at school. Maybe a part of me being there is to quell any rumors that I don’t care, that I’m not trying.


Last year, after a volunteer shift, I saw another fourth grade parent in the parking lot. Recently his children had received some of my son’s negative attention.

“Hey Bill…I’m Timmy’s Mom.”
“I know who you are…”

Maybe I should have taken the verbal cue and retreated, but running away or ignoring a circumstance offers no solutions.

“I…I wanted to let you know that I was aware of the situation…that my son has been giving your kids a bad time. I…”

“I should hope you’re aware of the situation. Your son shouldn’t be allowed at this school! My kids don’t want to come to school because of him! You need to get him some help! Something needs to be done.”

My son is an equal opportunity offender. I, too, have been kicked, spit on. I, too, have been his target. More than once, he’s wished me dead and said he wouldn’t cry or go to my funeral. But what this parent had just done with his words hurt, too. I quietly gasped for strength and composure, feeling my face flush red as hot tears began their rise from that pool of endless frustration that is always simmering.

When he paused, I spoke fast. “Well, parent to parent, I wanted to apologize. Timmy makes bad choices and I’m sorry he’s picked on your kids. I wanted to let you know that we are working on things.”
I tried to keep my brave face on, not bumble or get defensive. He stood well-groomed, in a business shirt and slacks, shoes that would hold polish. I wanted to run, get the hell out of there. There are days I don’t want to come to school because of my son. This was one of them. How many times have I felt humiliated, attacked, shamed and judged, by my son’s behaviors?

He softened, “My wife, she… she says you’re okay. I guess it takes a lot of…a lot of nerve on your part to approach me and bring this up. You know, I was bullied when I was a kid and maybe I’m embarrassed that I’ve let it go on so long with my own children. It’s not easy being bullied.”

“I can assure you it’s not easy being the Mom of a bully either…” my voice cracked and I avoided eye contact. “I…I’m going to go.”

He wished his children weren’t picked on. And I’ve wished equally hard, if not more, that my son were not a bully, not a challenging kid.

About

Jodi Richardson is the mother of two and a Parent Blogger for Empowering Parents. Before having children of her own, Jodi held many jobs that involved kids. This included teaching “at risk” junior high students in an alternative schools classroom. She finds being the mother of two children equally as challenging.

Popular on Empowering Parents

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Valerie Lyn (Edit) Report

    Bullying behavior can be due to a variety of reasons, low self-esteem, harsh treatment at home, not empathizing with the victim of the bullying. While we used to pass it off as normal behavior, boys will boys, girls will be girls, and a behavior which kids will eventually outgrow the recent tragedies seen in the news shows that this behavior is often anything but normal and can have harsh and tragic consequences. In New York City on Dec.8th and 9th there will be a conference hosted by Today’s Child Communications Inc., which will bring experts and leaders together to discuss this very topic as well as the low graduation rates of America’s child and the ramifications of that to our country. To read more about this exciting conference or to register for it go to http://www.todays-child.com.

    Reply
  2. cindy W (Edit) Report

    Jodi, thnx for confirming for me, that I am NOT the only one out there in the same shoes. I also am on 1st name basis with the principal, and have received many harrassing calls FROM the parents regarding my son. I explain the O.D.D diagnosis, & remind them that the brain is a very complex organ that is still being understood & I repeatedly tell them I have tried everything & whenever I learn of another avenue to try, I do, that things have gotten better over time and Yes, I agree wholeheartedly there is much improvement to be made. To some that think they have the answers, I offer to let them take my son & “fix him” since they are all knowing, so far, no takers!!

    As I also am at the school volunteering in different areas, I get to know the kids. And yes, many of the Good kids are Good. But I will tell you, there are a lot of these good kids and for lack of correct verbage, I call it the “Street smart” kids,
    they are real adept at pulling the wool over the teachers/ parents eyes. They are
    very proactive at irratating kids that they quickly learn get in trouble a lot. And as we all know, it’s always the 2nd kid that gets “caught”. All this ‘out of site’ of adults teasing or I’m going to say irritating of some kids makes them into bullies. Ie. my son does not like to be touched. I have started down the stairs at school & halted on the stairway as his class passed in the hall below, and I see one of the ‘good” kids look over at his friend & smile & then he bumps into my son on purpose which my son, in his thinking, per the psychologist, is an affront to his being, which causes my son to strike out immediately.

    SO, to all the parents of bullied children,
    remind your child to keep a wide berth of certain kids, dont talk to ’em, touch ’em, etc. Other bullies that take your lunch $ etc., I don’t know. Each case is different and that makes it so hard.

    Having my son write apology letters & repeating the crime did help, and it helped because he had to explain WHY he did what he did, Ie. I’m sorry I hit you, but you …. and that made me mad, etc.

    It’s not an excuse, but he sees what he did was wrong, and the other child maybe will understand a little bit more

    To Dawn with the 3yrs old that bites, kicks, etc. Been there! IT DOES get better. Just pick one & concentrate on that behavior the most, dont ignore the others, but really work on one & soon it will go away. I think they are frustrated and cant express it & as they learn their body functions, ie. biting, everything is about biting, then we learn to kick & kicking gets thrown in. As they get older, those go away, but sorry to say, other behaviors take their place. Just take ’em as they come and do your best, and try whatever you hear about. Generally something works for so long, then you have switch gears again & try a different avnue.

    Someday, we can all hope that the brain will be able to be rewired to ‘fix’, cure or whatever all our problem children.

    Reply
  3. momoftwoboys (Edit) Report

    Judy,

    You have no idea how much I empathize with you. My 5 yr. old son is a bully. We have been dealing with this difficult challenge for a year now. He started in pre-K and now in Kindergarten. I too am making an effort to be involved in school in the hopes that this may help change his behavior. I am waiting for the teachers and psychologists to tell me I need to medicate my son, which I’ve always been against.

    I cry myself to sleep most days because I hurt so much. I feel like such a failure as a parent. And I understand the feeling of knowing you’re constantly being judged. I know I’m doing the best I can as a parent…mostly single parent because my husband is away so much. I have to face the criticism and stares EVERY DAY. I feel sick every time it’s time to pick him up from school because I never know what I’m going to hear.

    However, I love my son with all my heart and will continue to work through these struggles. I have turned to God and pray that He gives me strenght and wisdom. I will be praying for everyone in similar situations on both ends of the spectrum. It is not easy dealing with bullies nor it is being bullied. I was bullied when I was young. I’m mortified to know that my son hurts children and I can’t fix it alone. I am getting help, but it seems as though I am alone in this journey…I think some of you may feel the same way.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m a little more at ease knowing that I am not the only one with this problem. I take comfort in prayer and hope that we can fight this head on for the good of our children and ourselves. Blessings.

    Reply
  4. Dawn (Edit) Report

    In 2007 we adopted our son. He was exposed to methamphetamines, opiates & alcohol for the full nine months of fetal development. We did not know what we were getting ourselves into when he came home to us @ 2 days old. For 3 days we cradled him as he came off the drugs. He is 3 now & his nick name @ daycare is Jaws. He bites, kicks, hits and pinches. Do you have any idea how it feels having other parents look at you as though you must have taught him how to do these horrible things? Or worse, that you might be doing this to him at home? The crazy thing is, he’s only three, not old enough to know anger or how to inflict such pain but he does. He didn’t learn any of it from home! I can’t begin to describe the feelings of fear, frustration & anxiety when my husband or I see daycare’s # on our phones in the middle of the day @ wk. Countless tears have been shed and prayers are endless. I physically hurt for the bitten child & parents. I wish one of us could afford to stay @ home with him but that just is not financially feasable. It was recently explained to us that his “wiring” is not right. He lacks the ability to stop himself, even when he knows that what he is doing is wrong. Our son is a handsome little boy that can be incredibly sweet & loving. You would never know that his “wiring” is not right just by looking at him. We continue to fight for our son, to fail is not an option. By God’s grace he will be a productive & contributing member of society that is able to make good choices. It is not his fault or ours that he is who is – yet. If I have learned anything in these 3 years it’s NEVER STOP PRAYING & NEVER STOP ASKING QUESTIONS. If we can’t get answers from one “specialist”, we move on to another. I believe that there are others struggling like my family. Don’t give up. Our children are worth holding on to & fighting for.

    Reply
  5. 30 year teacher (Edit) Report

    Kaybet,
    There is no research to support that “swatting a child’s behind” has any success in teaching kids ways to behave. This seems to be the exact opposite behavior we want to show children–“I can control you by hitting you” I do not think this is a way to treat any child especially those who have a problem with aggressive behavior. I would suggest following more of the suggestions given by Dr. Lehman and those on the side of this webpage for ways to deal with misbehavior.

    Reply
  6. bonnie b. (Edit) Report

    I too, am the parent of a bully. I raised her to be a confident child, but she took this too far by failing to respect me as her parent. She has been aggressive towards me and other adults, threatening our lives and saying she is trying to hurt my feelings, doesn’t care, etc. She has learned this from another adult in her life.
    I’m busy hanging in there. A little therapy helps but most importantly, honest confrontation that her behavior towards me is not okay, and that the people she chooses to influence her are dysfunctional and unhealthy. I suggested she choose different people who value our relationship and making it better, and can provide her with modeling and advice for problem-solving, negotiation, confrontation and assertive communication skills.

    Reply
  7. kaybet (Edit) Report

    I am so saddened by this parent’s predicament, saddened not only because her son is a bully but also because she seems to have no real handle on what to do about it. She speaks of her son’s “poor choices;” what does that mean? How do we bring a child to want to make good choices?

    If your child at age 2 – 3 chooses to run into the street without looking, of what conceivable use is it to sit the child down and have a nice little chat about the dangers of crossing without looking? Far more effective is a swat on the behind and/or a trip into the house for a time out. The corrective mode has to match the age and understanding of the child.

    Don’t talk to me about “child abuse” where swats are concerned. “Abuse” is permitting a behavior that will continue to put the child in jeopardy. Some children respond to a firm “no” and a trip inside while others seem to require the physical mode just to get their attention. I have two daughters who are as unlike in their requirements as it is possible to be. The first seemed to want a smack on the head just to get her attention whereas the second would wilt into a puddle of tears at a hard look.

    It was so much easier to deal with #2 than with #1, and I personally am much happier with the gentler approach. But the result with failing to be consistent with #1 was a girl who decided early on that she could do as she pleased, and she did. We have all paid heavily for that even unto this day – 45 years later!

    I strongly suggest reading “The Chosen,” by Chaim Potok, for a start. You are dealing with a strong personality that is training itself in a most inappropriate way. The child has to, HAS TO, learn 1) the authority hierarchy (the child is at the bottom, not the top); 2) the consequences of all actions; 3) what it feels like to be on the receiving end of bullying (e.g. learn empathy); 4) how to channel those impulses into good leadership; 5)what constitutes good leadership.

    One place to start is with an intervention that includes the children who have been bullied, their parents and the teaching staff as well. All do not have to be present at the same time, but after two or three meetings the bully is made to understand that everyone is “mad as hell and not going to take it any longer.” The fact that everyone else is on the same page and he, the bully, is odd man out, should certainly make the message loud and clear that there are consequences for misbehavior and hurting others. A dose of “sending the bully to Coventry” (a well structured silent treatment) might not be a lick amiss.

    The idea should be to structure the penalty to match the perpetrator by age, personality and sex, and the penalty is one arrived at and agreed upon by those participating in the intervention. Society will have acted to protect itself and to bring the bully back into line with societal norms. Not to do so is to condemn the bully to further self harm as well as to permit the harming of others.

    There are several good books available on dealing with strong willed children, and it should be noted that today’s bullies may very well be the leaders of tomorrow if they receive the right training. It isn’t good enough to sit by and wait for them either to grow out of whatever demons drive them or to be destroyed by those demons. We must learn how to deal with all of our children in order to provide them, all of us, a successful future.

    Reply
  8. KathyT (Edit) Report

    Tam brings up an excellent idea with “Campus Restitution”. Sadly there would be many parents against that idea because they feel that the humiliation will feed low self-esteem. I feel that in our society today that people misunderstand that accountability leads to self respect. The truth actually is that the lack of self respect is what leads to low self-esteem and other problems such as bullying.

    I too have a very bright child and experienced the same circumstances as Sirius Mamma with being asked to remove my child from day care (both a group and private home day care)due to his being aggressive with the other children. I took my son to a therapist only for the therapist to incorrectly diagnose him with ADHD. With the help of his kindergarten teacher we figured out my son was NOT ADHD, but bored to death in class. When he got bored he acted out physically. So far we have been blessed with teachers that have understood and done whatever they could to help keep his behavior controlled but there are still many times where not enough can be done and he gets into trouble. And my experience has been that the schools do not do enough to help most parents or the child(ren). Many therapists put the blame on the parents instead of on the child where it truely belongs. The child too is responsible for their actions.

    Expelltions are NOT the answer either. School expelltions do nothing to change a child’s behavior. If anything, I feel they reinforce the negative behavior. Children view their days home from school as a “good time.”

    What is the right answer for this and many other issues is accountability but parents have to be willing to be accountable for their child’s actions as well.

    Reply
  9. hope (Edit) Report

    TO JODI, & OTHERS IN SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES,

    THIS MAY SOUND STRANGE TO SOME, HOWEVER I HAVE FOUND THAT THE ONLY WAY TO DEAL W/THESE ISSUES IS TO PRAY ABOUT THEM, SOMETIMES A LOT. GOD HAS A WAY OF WORKING THINGS OUT. I CAN SAY THIS FROM EXPERIENCE. MY SON CHANGED
    WHEN HE TURNED THREE. HE WENT FROM EASY GOING, TO NIGHTMARE CHILD. I WAS A PRISONER IN MY OWN HOME. WE HAVE DONE MEDS, COUNSELING, IN THE END THE ONLY THING THAT CHANGED THINGS WAS WHEN I STARTED PRAYING ABOUT EVERY PART OF MY SONS ISSUES, INCLUDING HEALTH. HE WENT FROM BEING ON 6 DIFFERENT MEDS. TO NOW JUST VITAMINS & OF COURSE THE WORD OF GOD. LEARN TO LIVE GOD’S WAY. IT IS INCREDEBILITY HARD, YET THE MOST WORTHWHILE THING I HAVE EVER DONE. THERE IS A BOOK BY STORMIE OMARTIAN, THE PRAYING PARENT, IT IS A GOOD START. ALSO HAVE YOUR CHILD CHECKED FOR ANY DEFICANCIES. SPECIFICALLY OMEGA 3’S. D3 B VITAMINS. TELL THE DOCTER WHAT YOUR LOOKING FOR. THERE HAVE BEEN STUDIES DONE THAT SHOW THAT MOST TROUBLED KIDS MAY HAVE SOME UNDETECTED DEFICANCY. DOCTERS ARE TRAINED TO TREAT THE SYMPTOMS, NOT THE REAL ISSUES, WHICH IS USUALLY A DEFICANCY. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS ON A GOOD MULTIVITAMIN. OUR CHILDREN DON’T ALWAYS EAT HEALTHY, THEREFORE THEY MAY NOT ACT HEALTHY, MEANING THERE TEMPERMENT. THERE IS A LOT OF INFORMATION ON THE WEB ABOUT HOW VITAMINS WORK & TO LOOK AT WHAT CERTAIN DEFICANCIES CAUSE. MOST OF ALL, I TRUST GOD. GOD BLESS YOU ALL HOPE

    Reply
  10. LuvMyBoys (Edit) Report

    Jodi,

    Thank you for being brave enough to discuss your experiences. I am terrified for the start of school. My 7 year old was suspended 4 times in 5 months because of bullying/physical violence. He was physically and emotionally abused by a relative 2 years ago (one-time incident thankfully).

    We were trying to find a therapist who fit with our son. We finally did, but the school did not believe me. The principal (now working at another school district) actually called social services to report that we refused to get help for our son!!

    My guy has been very good at home with me all summer. His therapist has diagnosed him with moderate anxiety, mild depression, and oppositional defiance disorder. He is very optimistic that we can teach him better ways to express himself, but these things take time. And we don’t have much before school starts.

    I also hold my breath whenever the school phone number shows up on my phone. I can not tell you how painful and embarrassing it is to walk in to meet with the principal. It only makes it worse to be yelled at and degraded by the administrators!! I understand that some parents of bullies don’t seem to be involved, but not all of us are this way! I was actually told that they did not want me volunteering at the school, even though I volunteer for EVERYTHING possible.

    We do have a new principal, so I am praying that she will be more receptive to open communication. I pray hourly for my son to just get through the day without hurting anyone. I truly look forward to more posts from you. Thank you again!

    Reply
  11. Joy2u (Edit) Report

    Where was this blog when my son was the school bully and all the parents with whom I was previously friendly began avoiding me like the plague. I never encouraged my son to be a bully. In fact, I would give him consequenses (as they teach you in all the parenting books). My son does not have a low self esteem, or come from a broken home, or has parents who do not care. Yet, nothing seemed to matter. I could not stop him until we got him diagnosed correctly and placed on medications. Now, I am worried HE will be bullied by others.
    It is a very difficult situation and I am so glad to read that I am not alone.

    BTW, I think it takes great courage to go up to another parent. I could not do it. I usually ran the other way. Maybe next time, I can try the same thing….

    Reply
  12. carrie (Edit) Report

    i have a bi-polar child who has always been difficult while a nice girl when not in a rage. now at 19 she is in drug rehab after going to college for one semester. i just have to say that i wish we had sent her to a special program earlier to learn how to behave properly and get the correct therapy. her therapist did nothing for 8 years and my husband and i gave in to her screaming just to stop fighting with each other. the program she has been in for 7 months has total control over her and takes away the phone, computer, etc and they have to earn these things. i would find the right program now while they are still young as it doesn’t get better until you get them the right help and regular parents can’t do it. she has been more appreciative these days and learning how to be grateful to us and the world. good luck.

    Reply
  13. Sirius Mamma (Edit) Report

    i too can identify with you. My 3 yr old had been kicked out of 1 pre-school and about to be another in a few days… He is wanting to control every situation and gets angry when ALL attention is not on him… On the other half, he is reading at a 1st grade level as well as doing Math on a 1st grade level… However, he was not taught this at school, but at home! We wrote letters of apology to all the parents and the school has refused to hand them out… At this point i don’t know what to do.

    Reply
  14. t52665 (Edit) Report

    Thank you, Jodi. I have never talked to or heard from another mother of a child who bullies. Its so hard. We see the effect our children’s behavior has on his victims and we hurt for the victims, along with knowing that the bully is also harming himself. I know of a child that has actually left the school, in part due to my child’s treatment of him. All I could do was apologize to his mom- and cry with her.

    heatherbabes- I’d love to read your blog when it’s ready. Can you give us a link?

    Tam- I insist on my child doing some sort of physical (not just written or verbal) restitution. It speaks louder to him than saying a brief, insincere apology. It is a lot more work for the teachers and staff, but they love the children enough to go out of their way to help the, grow and learn.

    AmberS- I’m with you on the visit to jail. I’m waiting a couple more years until he can grasp the full impact of the loss of liberties inherent in incarceration.

    Reply
  15. Holly (Edit) Report

    Thank you so much! As the adoptive parent of a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I thought “Wow! I can really relate!” My daughter looks neurotypical, so when her behavior gets unacceptable, I sure feel the heat of being a “bad parent.” It’s so humiliating and unfair to feel judged by people who really have NO idea what it’s like to give these kids what they need. (I’ve got bruises all over MY legs and arms from her impulsivity!) 🙂

    It’s truly heartbreaking that these kids are doing the best they can with a situation that is not their fault.
    I’m grateful that you have shown the other side of the coin – we’re not ALL “slacker-moms.” 🙂

    Reply
  16. Melissa M (Edit) Report

    Tam,

    I think all those are good ideas but unfortunatly i would bet most parents would find some reason to keep their kids from doing those types of punishments. Yes something needs to be done but at what cost? Our children? These schools today just dont have the resources or the desire to REALLY do something about it. I chose to homeschool my kids because of things like this and thats just something i dont want my kids to have to deal with. I really think some of the more serious bullies need to be schooled somewhere else maybe? Instead of trying to put in place a system in the public schools which doesnt work obviously maybe a school for these kids who can continue their studies but also get the right social skills in place until they can return to public school. If we can open up free charter schools why cant we open up something like that? Why put all the other victims through the hell while everybody tries to figure something out? Lets face it, something has to be done now and not later.

    Reply
  17. Naomi Drew (Edit) Report

    Jodi, I applaud your honesty. If more parents of kids who bullied owned up to their children’s behavior, we could decrease incidences of bullying a lot faster. Too often parents have the “not my child” syndrome and they end up inadvertently reinforcing the bullying behaviors. I really admire your courage in coming forward with a story like this one. May it help other parents accept that they child they love dearly may be one who bullies others.

    Naomi Drew
    author of No Kidding About Bullying

    Reply
  18. Becks (Edit) Report

    Bravo, Jodi. You are such a brave, heartfelt and intelligent woman, and your words spell the heartbreak of your soul. I wish you strength for those around you, and compassion for yourself. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing of yourself so honestly – an act worthy of every bit of admiration you are receiving here, including mine.

    Reply
  19. Debbie (Edit) Report

    As the grandmother of a child who is aggressive toward other children, I can certainly appreciate this mother’s difficult life. My daughter deals with this every day, both at home and in the school environment. I can empathize with both the bully and the bullied, and I know that there has to be help out there for children who are on either side of this issue. My daughter is seeking help from the school counselor at this point, but I believe an outside professional will need to be involved soon. My grandson just started kindergarden and is very bright. Being bored with what he considers “baby work” does not help. I am hoping for placement in an accelerated class for children with such issues. I pray for the parents and the children who deal with these issues each day. May God bless all of you for your efforts!

    Reply
  20. AmberS (Edit) Report

    Thank you, Jodi! I am looking so forward to reading your posts (and some of the others who’ve commented) as a result of this post. My son is a bully too and I feel like no one understands what this is like. It is humiliating to be around other parents and school administration, teachers, etc. The guilt and regret is overwhelming. We go to counseling, church, scouts, anything and everything I can think of that will have a positive influence on him but… you know there’s just not a cure. One helpful thing I did think of was I took him to our city police station to visit the jail. That way, he got to see where he’ll have to stay when he grows up and hits someone. As an adult, hitting is a crime (assault) punishable by jail time, right? That was very beneficial and the police were so understanding and helpful. The visit was down-right hilarious (for the adults involved, anyway). They were so friendly and kind to my son, and managed to scare the pants off of him at the same time. It couldn’t have been more perfect. The officers had obviously dealt with this before. Either that, or they think quickly on their feet. There’s tons of information and places to go when your child is being bullied, but not so much for the other side. I worry about his future – relationships, employment, even prison. I am so relieved to read your post and the responses. And I only wish some of Tam’s ideas could be instituted in the public schools. But they are not just reluctant to do these kinds of things, they refuse. They say that they cannot single him out like that. It’s too humiliating for my son, the bully. Seriously? I leave there in total disbelief. They expect me to fix the problem by myself. I wish I could! If any other parents have had ANYTHING that has been even remotely helpful in this journey please post it!
    AmberS

    Reply
  21. E.G. Sebastian (Edit) Report

    Great article!

    The truth is most of us were both bullies and bullied as kids. I know very few people who got only one end of the “deal.”

    I’m working on a book on bullying [looking for contributing authors] and I have difficulty pinning down the reasons of why some kids are chronic bullies and most importantly what the heck can we do – both as parents and educators – to stop the bullying…

    In high school we had a bully – a tall, strong guy – who’d beat most of us up every day… then one day the principal told him that he’d be expelled if he’d ever bully anyone again. He never touched any of us again – in fact, the coin flipped on the other side and some kids started hitting him [knowing that he won’t hit back] and i found myself becoming his protector and friend…
    This worked with this guy, 25 years ago… I wonder what other methods work today…

    Reply
  22. Lisa (Edit) Report

    Kudos to you, Jodi, for hanging in there and being a responding voice to a previously one-sided conversation. My son was bullied in Kindergarten, yet there were plenty of people he’s alienated all by himself as he’s grown up to be the twelve year old he is today. People are far more sympathetic to “the bullied” than for “the bulliee”. The bullies dealing with their own issues as are their alienated parents, and blame and shame never resolved the problem. In fact, aren’t blaming and shaming the parents of a bully actually bullying in itself? It just perpetuates the problem the way I see it.

    Bullying made my son afraid to go to school, yes. But my son was afraid to go to school before that. Perhaps his deep seeded fear and immature coping maneuvers aided him to be so negative to others…a problem he had before being bullied that remains to this day. The bully didn’t create the problem, however he did exacerbate it. By putting all of the blame on the bully and his/her family we are missing our opportunity for accountability. I like Tam’s idea about the restitution…showing that they are not just sorry but are making up for their hurtful misdeed by doing something positive. When that restitution is over, THEN ITS OVER, and people should in turn stop blaming the person who bullied for everything that goes awry in the school. Restitution should be truly about making it up to the person that was hurt and then in turn being accepted back into the fold to be trusted, cared for and able to start from a clean slate. Repeat offenders may not be offered restitution as they have surely violated the community’s trust. But the child him or herself should be held accountable and make the restitution, not the parents, as they did not commit the crime. Again if it is a repeated offense then accountability needs to take place that fits the situation.

    Bullies are just kids trying to grow up too and have not been given effective tools to get along with others. We have taken the power for the administrators and teachers to do this (teach civility) with any respect for their position. If we’re not putting our trust in and empowering those in charge of raising our children during the school day, let alone giving them respect, then can we blame anyone but ourselves when every child does not know how to be respectful and empowered?

    Be the change you want to see in the world. Jodi, it sounds as if you are already. 🙂

    Reply
  23. Robin K (Edit) Report

    I too have never thought of the other side, and I am empathetic to your situation. I guess I have always thought that a bully’s parents were unaware or uncaring as well. It is obviously as difficult to raise the child bullying as it is to raise the child affected by a bully. My heart and prayers go out to you and your son. I will continue to follow your blog.

    Reply
  24. Kay (Edit) Report

    This was illuminating, refreshing and very touching. The bottom line in my opinion is that both the bully and bullied need assistance. Bullies are often insecure and unable to handle their emotions. Humiliating and belittling them “so they feel as bad as their victims” isn’t going to help. The bullied child needs help in standing up for themselves and to know how to handle it. It’s difficult to know as a parent of either if one should approach the parent of the other party. It takes more guts to as the bully’s parent but would mean an awful lot. My experience unfortunately as the mother of a bullying victim is that the bully’s parent simply doesn’t believe it. Only after repeated reports from other parents as well did the principal believe the “model child” could be doing such a thing. My son is learning how to respond differently to other kids so that he is less of a “bully-magnet”. He’s doing that with the assistance of a counselor outside of school. One thing that seems to work with the younger kids is for the bully to simply confront them in a non-bullying moment- in front of others. Begin with a comment about how much they have going for them and that you are wondering why they then feel the need to pick on another child. Then ask direct question “Why do you pick on me?” I’ve had my kids do this more than once and the exposure and peer pressure causes them to stop. My daughter has been friends now for 5 years with a girl who used to bully her.

    Reply
  25. Jo Ann (Edit) Report

    Jodi, as I read your blog, I started sobbing. Finally I am hearing from someone who can articulate the feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment and sadness that we parents feel when we receive that dreaded phone call at work from the principal saying that our child has been bullying “the sweetest kid in the world.” She goes on to say how “terrified” everyone is of my son and “how could he do this to such a nice kid” and “I am going to suspend him” for his behavior.

    Unfortunately, there is no answer to this problem which has been occurring since the beginning of time. Having been bullied myself, judging bullies and their parents, it is now my turn to wear the shoes of the bullier’s mom. All we can do is support and listen to each other, knowing that eventually with our continued efforts, it will get better. My thoughts, prayers and empathy are with you, Jodi, and please know that you are not alone.

    Reply
  26. Amber (Edit) Report

    What a great article! It’s so uncommon to hear about what a family goes through because one of their children is a bully. Thank you for telling your side of the situation. You are a strong and courageous lady. I hope your article will help parents of bullied children understand that it’s not all about the bullied child! Both parties are still children, even if you feel your child has done nothing wrong and it’s all the bully’s fault.

    Reply
  27. Tam (Edit) Report

    Jodi, Thank you for your insight to “the other side of the playground”, although from my experience you are the exception to the rule! But really the only way around this epidemic is for both sides of the playground to work together at finding practical and productive solutions for both the bullied and the bully! As a parent of the bully’s vicitm, there are no words to describe the pain endured by my child. Each night I pray that he will survive the next day! It definately takes a village… doctors, therapists, psychariatrists, church, athletic trainers, karate and a completely involved extended family!I will not rest until we fix this broken system in our schools! It appears that every school and or district is just kind of trying to figure it out on their own, and failing! Did you know that everyday in our public school system 160,000 students do not attend school out of fear of a bully? And that is just what is documented…. who knows what the true number is? Everyday in our country 10 teenagers take their own lives… you do the math! It is time that we join forces and save our kids! We need outreach programs for both the bully and their victims. As we know, some of these bullies are also victims themselves. Jodi, I don’t think that is your son’s case, but there are many who are victimized on some level at home. The bully needs to be humbled, not humiliated! We need accountability on all levels. I think your character and behavior should be getting a pass or fail grade. Three strikes and you do not move on to the next grade level. Our school claims “zero tolerance”, which seems to translate as a slap on the hand. A suspension of 5 days then translates as a 5 day vacation playing video games! How about “Campus Restatution”? Kids wear a bright orange vest and hat with the words campus restatution on it, and the do the time where they commit the crime. Cleaning up after their peers at lunch, working in the library, bathrooms….hard work can be both humbling and have a postive impact on the school campus while also sending a message. Just a few ideas…. I have lot’s of them, but believe that a coalition of both parents and students from preschool on, can work together to implement some important and practical changes in the way we regard one another on “the playground”, and in life! I wish you all the best as the new school year rapidly approaches, I will remember to pray for your son as I also pray for mine! I welcome anyone with some insight or ideas in finding a way to save our children from this epidemic that is swallowing up our schools!

    Passionately,

    Tam

    Reply
  28. Sue Dawson (Edit) Report

    As a mother of both a bully and a child that has been bullied, I can honestly say there is no comparison. My son that was bullied gained sympathy from the teacher, other parents and of course his own parents and we were able to have many conversations that I feel were affective.
    When my daughter bullied someone, I found it hard to even be in the school. Due to privacy issues, I was not made aware of who she bullied and I found it hard to talk to any parents as I did not know who the affected child was. As it was online bullying, the evidence was irrefuteable and the things she said about another student were very harsh. We have been working with a family therapist for years but progress is slow. My husband, son and I are also on the receiving end of her abuse and it broke our heart that she did it to another child. Thank you for this article – it certainly hit home and I think it was very admirable to approach the parent.

    Reply
  29. Theresa (Edit) Report

    Jodi,
    You’ve articulated this issue so well. It truly makes one realize the other side of bullying, and that some parents do care what their children are doing. I admire you for sharing something that has, no doubt, been very difficult for you. My heart and prayers go out to you. Bless you, from one mother to another.

    Reply
  30. Honest Momblog (Edit) Report

    Nice job, Jodi, explaining “the other side of bullying.” I just posted on my blog about a bully who’s been harassing my 10-yr-old son. I spoke to the bully’s mom, and she was no where near as understanding as you clearly are. Thanks for giving me some perspective on this issue.

    Reply
  31. Robin (Edit) Report

    Jodi,
    Ever since we met you have amazed me with your commitment to your family and children. You are an incredible woman. I pray that your wrting helps others understand the other side of the playground~

    Reply
  32. heatherbabes (Edit) Report

    Jodi,

    Thanks for sharing this. I, too, have a bully in my home and have recently written a post that will be published sometime next week about my experiences and how other parents (of bullies and non-bullies) can approach the situation for change.

    It’s certainly not easy to be in our position.

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor (Edit) Report

    Jodi, thank you for this thought-provoking and moving post. I agree with Eanlai — your words are compelling and courageous…the truth is, at some point all children say or do something hurtful to another child. We’ve all been there. The fact that you are working with your son and volunteering at the school speaks volumes. Glad to have you here blogging for EP, Jodi!

    Reply
  34. Melissa (Edit) Report

    It’s interesting to hear from the parent of a bully. Usually it’s so one-sided. I appreciate that you care about what is happening and that you’re trying to make him stop. Some parents have no clue what is going on when their kid is the bully. Or they are also bullies and they encourage it. I hope you’re able to put it to a stop soon. I worry about whether my sons will be the bullies or the victims when they get older. I wouldn’t want them to be in either position.

    Reply
  35. eanlai (Edit) Report

    I found this blog compelling and courageous in its treatment of a topic that must be very difficult to address in the day to day life of parenting.
    Being the parent of a bully must have its minefield of daily self recriminations and social repercussions within the arena of other parents. Speaking the inner landscape of this side of the coin, will hopefully help other guilt ridden parents whose last frayed nerve may be lucky enough to stumble upon this article, if only to find that, at the very least, they are not alone.
    Well done, Jodi!

    Reply

SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS TO DISRESPECT?

Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help

150,000+

Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families