Were you bullied as a child or teenager? If you were, then you remember what it felt like. You know how damaging it can be. Do you now find yourself as a parent who suspects your child is the victim of a bully?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. It can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle action.
Psychology Today claims that bullying is a distinctive pattern of deliberately harming and humiliating others.
Some victims become so despondent they lose the will to live. A child or young teen might say, “I just wish I could go away and never come back”.
Completed suicides directly related to being bullied are on the rise. You’ve probably seen reports on the news. What a tragedy.
In my book, You Are Not Alone, I shared how my daughter had been affected by bullies. I believe the emotional damage ultimately influenced how she viewed herself and others. She wrote about this in a special section, including warning signs and what she feels parents could do to help their children.
A friend told me how her daughter developed headaches, insomnia, and an eating disorder as a result of being harassed by her classmates. Another friend shared her son’s experience. Maybe they mirror your own or your child’s:
“My son has always been a target for bullies. Maybe it’s because he’s a foot shorter than everyone else his age, or maybe it’s because he’s one of the smart kids, or maybe it’s because he never liked sports. I don’t know what it is, but he’s had a problem ever since I can remember. It didn’t seem to affect him too much until his fifth grade year. That was the year we moved and he had to start making friends all over again. He didn’t seem to click with anyone in his new school.
By the middle of the year, he told me about this kid who was mean to him a lot. He said they would make fun of him whenever he got the chance. He would get their other classmates to laugh at my son and generally exclude him from everything. He told me he hated school and didn’t want to go back. I told him I would talk to his teacher, but he didn’t want me to. So I didn’t do anything at first, but as the year went on, the bullying didn’t stop, so I ended up calling the school.
Come to find out, the kid that was bullying my son was a girl. A big, mean girl who’s mother worked in the school’s office. The teacher had a talk with this girl and she claimed to not know what my son was talking about. She said she never did any of those things. Since it was his word against hers and the teacher had no proof, nothing happened, except now she knew that my son had tried to get her in trouble.
For the remainder of the year she continued to harass him, but he stopped telling me about it, afraid I would call the school again. That’s when my son learned that telling on someone who’s done something wrong doesn’t always help . . . he knew I couldn’t protect him either.
In the beginning of seventh-grade, he broke down and told me he was being picked on in gym class. He never liked sports and he wasn’t very good at them. The kids made fun of him for being short and pudgy; he was always picked last for teams, and they would trip him.
When I say broke down, I mean in tears. It was so sad to see him like that, hearing how he was being treated. He told me he hated going to school so much that he wished he could fall asleep and never wake up. That was a huge wake up call . . .
I ended up talking to a couple of guidance counselors who were very helpful. I learned about Florida Virtual School: he could take classes online at home and the rest at school, or he could take all of his classes online . . .
We decided to have him take some classes online, and the rest at school. He was so happy to be able to take his gym class online.
I can’t stop kids from being cruel to him and apparently, neither can the school, but I can tell him it will get better. I can share my own struggles that I had with bullies when I was his age and how I dealt with them. And I can tell him how much I love him – how amazing I think he is. And that is what I’ve done.”
What can you do? Believe your child. Check the facts. Get educated, then get involved.
God, Defender of the weak, please protect our children from bullies. Heal their hearts, minds and souls from the damaging affects they’ve experienced. Equip us so we can help. Make us wise to show them how to be strong. May we be willing to make a difference in our communities.
For our children’s sake. Amen.
Great Resources for Parents and Schools:
The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention and Intervention by Cindy Miller and Cynthia Lowen (Penguin Group; New York, NY; 2012)
Bullying: Help Your Child Handle a Bully; article by Mayo Clinic staff; mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/in-depth/bullying
Face Bullying with Confidence; article by KidPower 8 Skills we can use right away. They also have other resources to help parents; kidpower.org/library/article/prevent-bullying
Bullying: What Parents Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe by KidPower Solutions, by Irene Van der Zande ( KidPower TeenPower FullPower International, 2010, Santa Cruz, CA)
What Do I Do When: Teenagers Encounter Bullying and Violence? by Dr. Steve Gerali; Zondervan, El Cajon, CA, 2009
Bullying in a Cyber World, Grades 6 to 8 (also available for grades 4 – 5) ; additional materials available for parents and schools;
Didax Inc., 2012, Rowley, MA.
Bully Free it Starts With Me, nea.org/home/neabullyfree.html; The National Education Association (NEA) program to stop bullying in public schools.