Bullying is a complex issue that many of us faced growing up, and one that our kids are still facing now. As awareness has grown, especially with the advent of smartphones and social media, most parents are at least familiar with the many ways to prevent bullying. But what do you, as a parent, do when you find out your child is being bullied? What can moms do when their kids are bullied at school, around the neighborhood, at camp, or elsewhere? Turns out, plenty.
My son is still young and, as a result, hasn't really had to deal with any actual bullying. At most, as a 4-year-old, he's had to deal with the occasional student who doesn't understand personal boundaries yet. For example, he recently told me one classmate was following him and “bugging” him a lot. Because this other student was 3, I knew my son wasn't experiencing bullying. Still, I reminded my son to use his words to speak up when something or someone was bothering him.
Even at such a young age, I believe it's important to consistently remind my son that he should always try to use his words, walk away, and reach out for help if he's ever faced with an uncomfortable or potential bully situation. As moms, we do the best we can, which is why it's also worthwhile to prepare for the possibility that your child will be bullied, and think about how you will respond to such news. So with that in mind, here's how the following moms reacted when they found out their child was being bullied:
“An hour ago I dropped off my 3.5-year-old at her second preschool (she goes to one in the morning and a different one in the afternoon), and a 4-year-old was trying to bully her. I told her to go away and I immediately reported the incident. I will not send my daughter to a preschool to be bullied.”
“My husband and I sent emails to [our son's] teachers and immediately went to the office regarding the incidents. We had to do the same thing the following school year because the little jerks were doing the same thing to him even though they weren't in the same classroom. We made sure that was taken care of before we both lost our sh*t and ended up escalating it all.”
“My son had a child that physically and verbally bullied him last year... at 4-years-old. I told my son that people that make others feel bad about themselves have hate in their heart, and that the best thing he can do is know that that child's actions and words are out of jealousy and fear. I gave him two choices of how to deal with it, too: he can ignore him and find a teacher, and if he has to, defend himself. Don't let anyone's opinion of you determine how you feel about yourself. Or he can continue to be nice. Show him what having a friend looks like. Show the other boy the love and kindness he clearly needs. Forgive. Move forward.
My mama heart was proud that my son chose love and kindness. It turned out that the other boy was going through some serious emotional issues at home.”
“I have been building up my daughter’s self-worth since she was very little. I always remind her how important she is and how she is on another level. I remind her that she is a goddess. She is entering into preteen, and that is always a very difficult time… so I figure that building up her ego makes the tower more difficult to topple down.”
“My daughter was being bullied by three supposed friends because her bat mitzvah fell on a school trip they wanted to attend instead. They tortured her about it for months, sometimes in front of me. I gently tried to talk to their mothers but they didn’t really pick up on it, so I let it go. Finally two of the girls went too far in front of me and I told them to stop it in a stern voice. I then went upstairs and cried.
That night I emailed both mothers, who I thought were friends and told them what happened. They each called me and told me off, screaming at me for frightening their children and telling me I was lying about what happened. We had all been in a 20-minute carpool ride to Hebrew School, ironically, and all three sets of parents threw my daughter out of the carpool. I never received any apology and in fact wrote the girls general apology notes for ‘scaring’ them! I never spoke to any of the families again.”
“I confront the parent, the teacher, etc. I’ve also confronted the kid. I take a 'don’t mess with my cub because mama bear does not play' approach.”
“My 11-year-old son joined Broomfield Youth Lacrosse earlier this spring and was bullied by three or four different boys on the team. It started with them hitting him in the helmet with their sticks while in line waiting for their turn for the drill. At first I thought I'd let him handle it. He repeatedly told them to knock it off, but they wouldn't and started pushing him. I watched them from the sideline and yelled out, “Hey, knock it off!” It didn't stop. They heckled and continually shoved, kicked, and hit him with their sticks, with me yelling every single time from the sideline.
Then I had enough of it and brought it to (all three) coaches’ attention. They assured me in an email that something will be done and said about it. Then, wouldn't you know it? They didn't do a damn thing at all (and the head coach decides to say to his daughter on the team is that it ‘sucks’ that he has to teach a group of kids with ‘no skill’ in front of my son's stepmom and other kids on the team. This is a youth league where you build skill, not win championships to enter a hall of fame.)
So after I saw that nothing had been said, I kept my eyes on the group picking on him and realized it was getting worse. Finally, I got the director of the city youth league involved, but he didn't answer me about it for almost two weeks! I couldn't wait any longer, so I confronted the kids myself and got a deer in headlights look. I told them to back off and told anyone else that thought it was fun to bully my kid that it wouldn't be after today. That's when the bullying finally stopped. The kids were so nice and said, “Don't mess with him, his mom is scary!” But literally four adults in charge never really did a damn thing. And this was all in a six-to-seven week span. He had literally one practice and one game where there was zero bullying.”
“It started in third grade. [The bully] was a mean kid. When [my daughter] asked why he hated her, he said it was because he ‘hated all girls.’ He kicked her once. When she told on him for being mean, he spent the remainder of the day dragging his finger across his neck and staring her down. The culmination was hacking into a computer project of hers, deleting her stuff, and writing "F--- YOU" on the title page.
I was so pissed. [My daughter] was heartbroken. I encouraged her to stand up for herself and to always tell the teacher right away. I went to her teacher and had that kid under a microscope. The teacher was also incensed. His parents insisted he was being targeted, which I found to be hysterical. I never came face to face with them. After the computer ordeal, he got suspended and his parents pulled him from the school.”
“My son doesn't really get gender norms, so last year (in first grade) for Halloween he wore a ‘girl’s’ costume. He was deeply upset at the end of the day, saying kids had made fun of him constantly. It sounded like he handled it very well, but I was less thrilled with his teacher, who didn't intervene until almost the end of the day. My son said he kept telling the other kids to stop, but it wasn't until he directly spoke to the teacher and asked for help that the teacher did anything.
What I didn't know — and I feel so guilty — is that the bullying didn't end there. It continued with boys in his class calling him a girl, punishing him for talking at lunch, and writing nasty notes. My son asked me not to say anything, but I remember being bullied as a kid. I remember that not saying anything doesn't actually do anything. So when I found out I talked to the principal, who intervened immediately. From that point on, I checked with my son constantly, following guidelines I found online about what questions to ask, etc. Because asking for things that happened during the day isn't enough when your kid doesn't want to talk about what's happening to them. He loved school itself, and was more than happy to simply tell me about that part of his day while leaving the social aspects out. I emailed his teacher this year to give her the background so she can keep a better eye out for him this year and hopefully catch anything before it really starts again.”
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call theNational Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.