Bullying has not gone away. This is my story, along with some resources you can use with your child.
When I was a youngster, I was the slowest kid on the playground. Tag was our favorite game, and the class bully fondly called me “It” because I could never catch anyone and was always… “it.” He proceeded to call me that from Kindergarten through 12th grade.
Another favorite was “Carrot Top” because of my red hair. Even as a kid, I was a bit snarky and sassy and my comeback was, “You are stupid – carrot tops are green!” Some kids are just A**holes. That was Bully #1.
Bully #2 enjoyed hitting me over the head with his backpack as we walked on the sidewalk after school. My Mother was a middle school field hockey coach and sent her girls… with sticks… to chase after said Bully. He stopped. Rumor has it he wasn’t being mean, he was “pulling my pigtails” because he liked me. Twenty years later, he shared a beer and some laughs with Hubby at my class reunion. No hard feelings.
Talk to Your Kids
Regardless of the reason, our kids are still going to encounter bullies today.
Between my experience, and Mr. Green Beret Hubby, we are constantly hammering home the anti-bully message to Stepson. I’m not an expert at this… I’m just here to share how we roll as a family on this very important topic.
1. Practice and model compassion, kindness, empathy, and being inclusive.
2. Talk to your child about what bullying looks like and feels like.
3. Empower your child. Every family has their own threshold of the ideal way they would want their child to react if being bullied. Talk your child through it step by step. #1 – Look them in the eye and firmly tell them to stop or knock it off. #2 – Get a teacher or adult. Etc. Etc.
4. Don’t forget to teach your child about the rule of the second hit. They are kids, they are not perfect, and they will react. But the kid who responds to the aggressor and hits back will ALWAYS be the one caught. And probably get suspended in this day of no tolerance. Just sayin.
5. Talk to other parents. What are they hearing from their kids? Who are the bullies in the class or school? Then go back to your child. “Hey, I heard “Billy” was being a bully in school. Have you seen anything? Has he said or done anything to you?”
6. Teach your child that it’s not good enough to not be a bully, that they need to be leaders and look out for the kids who are being bullied. Talk to them about what they can do if they witness bullying. I remember to this day, the one boy who would stick up for me to my Bully #1. All he would say was, “knock it off,” and it placated the child-beast for the time being. I’m eternally grateful to him.
7. Look for teachable moments. We were at an event where one of the boys was being extremely annoying to the other kids. The other boys just ignored him. Afterwards, on the way home, Stepson and I had a discussion about the kid. “He was pretty annoying, right?” “Yeah.” “You and your friends did right by him by ignoring him and not making fun of him.” “Yeah.” “What would you have done if one of the other kids started to tease him?” “Tell him to stop or get an adult. (eye roll and sigh… ) Stepmom, I know what to do. You and Dad want to talk about this all the time.”
I’ll take the eye rolls and sighs any day if the message has been received.
One of my dear friends, Rick Saulle, of ricksaulle.com shared his story of being bullied in his youth, how he overcame these challenges, and how it’s shaped who he is and what he does today. It’s an extremely inspirational story you have to watch!
Here are some great resources for more information on anti-bullying.
National Education Association
National Association of School Psychologists
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Holly, what great insight and tips for parents on such a difficult subject. My son was threatened in first grade, “Kiss me or I’ll bring an axe to school tomorrow and get you.” I was upset but not too too worried. I figured a 1st grader would have a tough time sneaking an axe into school. But I immediately called the teacher (and it was only the 3rd day of school, so II didn’t really know the teacher yet) and then talked to my son about how to handle the situation. The school took it seriously and handled it well. The same kid later called my son one of his best friends. Sigh. Being a kid and being a parent is tough.
Hi Susan – I can’t even imagine what the teachers have to go through at school. Bullying is tough enough to deal with, but then there is that line of kids being kids and actual violence. It’s such a different society we live in now. But with kindness we will all get through it together! Hugs, Holly
What a great article! I endured my share of bullies when I was younger. I think the key to dealing with them is to instill confidence in your kids so that they can feel pity, rather than fear, towards bullies and so that they have the moral strength to stand up for other victims. Of course, this is easier said than done. I love all of the tips you provide to help parents address this.
Hi Corinne – You brought up a very good point about teaching your children to understand why the bully is being a bully. Often times they are the ones who are having problems at home or low self esteem and are taking it out on the other kids. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Holly
I agree, I think it’s important for parents to be a good example. I think sometimes parents/adults think that kids are being dramatic and just blow it off and we always need to make sure we know when to listen. I got bullied as a teenager in one of the “pigtails” situations, but it went on for years and continued to get worse to the point that I was afraid for my safety. I didn’t have anyone that would listen to me, so I didn’t have support and it made life very hard. Great post!
Hi Heather – Thank you for visiting and for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how you felt with the escalation. It’s situations like that which make us stronger and able to deal with the trials of being an adult. Come back again soon! Hugs, Holly
I am so sorry about everything that you went through when you were a child. I am always so sad when I hear of stories like this. I am glad that you posted such a great list of things to consider. I think that adults need to read this list, not only for their children, but also for themselves. There are many bullies in adult life also. Thanks Holly
Hi Cynthia – You hit the nail on the head, and dealing with bullies as a kid helps build the FORTITUDE to deal with bullies as an adult. Unfortunately, they never go away. Thanks so much for sharing. Hugs, Holly
We were very blessed when we had our first “real” bully encounter– outside of taking our little ones to the playground and dealing with bullying there, under close parental supervision. When our oldest was going to 4-year old preschool, there was a bully in the class. He actually bullied a lot of the kids in the class, but the teachers were REALLY on top of it. They dealt with it spectacularly, teaching the bully how NOT to bully and giving the kids who were bullied confidence in how to deal with a bully. I truly was impressed with how they handled it. It is wonderful to come across those wonderful teachers who take bullying seriously and communicate well with the parents! They were truly invested in making the situation better. Great blog post on bullying and getting people to talk about the subject! 🙂
Hi Kimber – Thank you for visiting and for sharing your story. It’s great how the teachers handled it and gave the kids an opportunity to learn. Hugs, Holly
Bullying has grown so pronounced in our culture – where will it end? It seems like there is never enough we can do to help put a stop to it. I’m so glad you’ve addressed the issue here and provided 7 ideas to consider with children. Bravo! Happy to find you via #SITSBlogging,
Hi Stephanie – Thanks so much for visiting, I really appreciate it. Hope to see you back again soon. Hugs, Holly
I don’t remember too many bullies growing up, but it seems to be a popular topic lately! So I appreciate the tips.
Hi Katelyn – Thanks so much for visiting! Hugs, Holly
Bullying was barely, hardly effectively handled when my daughter was in school so although bullying exists perhaps things a better with more awareness.
Hi Sue – Are you as surprised as me that it’s coming out so prevalent in the NFL? And I thought the playground was bad. Hugs, Holly
My husband is a high school teacher and it’s so important to instill these values into kids. I’m so glad you linked this up to Frugal Crafty Home Blog Hop because people need to see this.
Hi Carrie – That is great that your Hubby is a teacher. We have a lot of amazing and fantastic female teachers, but high school kids especially need good strong male role models in their lives. Hugs, Holly
I’m lucky I was not a target of bullying, but I witnessed some when I was in school (too many years ago) and I hear such horrible stories these days. I am always amazed that in 2014 we seem to be less tolerant of people who are different instead of more tolerant.
I’m so against it! It just saddens me to what end some people will go.
I sell some bracelets on my website to benefit Stopping Bullying! http://www.geminiredcreations.com/shop/pura-vida-stop-bullying-awareness-bracelet/#tab-description
Hi Heather – Thank you for stopping by and for your thoughts and your commitment to make the world a better place. Hugs, Holly
Growing up I was always different from my peers. It was very confusing and hurtful to me when I was a kid, but as an adult I understand why. I have a very rare personality type (INTJ) and I’m an HSP (highly sensitive person). Needless to say I was a target for bullying from multiple sources throughout my school years. High school was the worst when the threats got physical. The only adults who took it seriously were my parents. The police and school staff waived me off like I was just a whiner. Funny that as soon as I left that small town and went to college no one ever bothered me like that again. I even made some friends!
As someone who has experienced the hurt and fear of bullying I really appreciate that you’re trying to instill principles of kindness and respect to your child. I’m very sorry that you also had to put up with people disrespecting you for things about yourself that you can’t change.
Hi Nicole (no h) – Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story. It’s a shame that we have to go through this as children, but it makes us stronger adults. I need to go back and check my Myers Briggs but I think I’m an INTJ or something close…. stand by… nope, ISTJ. I was off the chart introvert which confuses people who know me. I’m more of a gregarious introvert I guess. Digressing but thanks again for sharing! Hugs, Holly
I’m sorry to post a link right away, but I actually wrote about how I was bullied on my blog: http://thewalkerfiresidechats.blogspot.com/2014/02/real-talk-bullies-beauty-learning-to.html. I was bullied for my looks in middle school during the horrific throes of puberty.
Thank you for such an informative post on a subject which impacts a lot of people.
Hi Megan – Thanks for stopping by and for sharing the link to your poignant story. My heart just breaks when I hear of children who are the recipients of bullying and hopefully we can do a better job raising a generation of more thoughtful and kind children. Hugs, Holly
I was bullied a fair amount as a kid. One of my kids was bullied and to be honest, I was very unhappy with the way the school system handled it. I felt like they just wanted to ignore it like it would go away on its own. It was a rough year. Summer could not come soon enough. Thankfully once you are out of high school, it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. But try telling that to a kid that is being bullied. It feels like its going to go on forever. Visiting from the SITS Sharefest this morning. 🙂
Hi Michelle – Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your story about your child. It’s such a tough situation and we can only try and teach our children to put a stop to this when they see it happening to other kids. Hugs, Holly
I’m sorry that you had to endure bullying as a child. It is becoming more common and sadly the second hit does get caught. Thank you for trying to help others and linking up to Turn it Up Tuesdays!
Hi April – Thank you for your kind words and you know what… as tough as it was to deal with as a kid, it made me a strong adult and I don’t put up with adult bullies. Hugs, Holly
It’s scary since my son is a bigger kid but he’s a lot of love – it’s good we’re at a school that actively fights against bullying and is always giving tactics for the kids to stand up against it whether its towards them or others. Zero tolerance. So it gives me great relief in knowing that. Plus, I always talk to my son about it and just tell him to talk to the teacher and not to be afraid. As a parent it sucks that we can’t fight their battles for him but hope we prepared them well enough. Great tips Holly! Glad your experiences werent any worse! Have a great one -Iva
Hi Iva – Thank you for sharing your story about your son. As adults, we embrace our differences as our strengths, but as kids, it’s tough to find ourselves in an ever changing world. Hugs, Holly
Great information! I always worry about my kids and hope they know they can tell me anything. This will help me figure out how to talk to them about these sorts of things. I’m sorry you had to go through that but thank you for trying to help others. Thanks for linking up to Snickerdoodle sunday.
Hi Kristina – Thank you for hosting and the opportunity to share such an important topic to teach our children. Hugs, Holly
My younger son was an absolute magnet for bullies and it was heart-breaking. It finally got so bad, I went all the way up to food chain to the school superintendent before I could get it at least to a manageable level. It is so tough. I read an article recently that made me look at bullying in a very different way. It said that kids are bullies because they’ve never learned any other way to fulfill their needs. I think that makes a lot of sense and I think it is smart to start teaching children negotiation and self-control skills, and also a little bit of delayed gratification. Children are so spoiled these days, they just don’t have a concept that they aren’t entitled to anything they want when they want it. #SITSSharefest
Hi Adrian – Thank you for visiting and for sharing your heartbreaking story. You brought up some very valid points and sometimes these kids are the ones hurting the most who want to hurt others. Hugs, Holly
Bullying just wasn’t a concern back when I was a kid, at least, it didn’t seem to be. I don’t ever remember my parents or school talking about it. Bullying just didn’t seem to be done to the degree that it is now, and I think that’s because we didn’t have all that social media then.
My kids were homeschooled, but I did talk to them about bullying because I knew they were bound to come across one someday, somewhere.
I love what you said on #6 about looking out for others. Awesome advice. Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!
Hi Nan – Thanks so much for visiting and hosting such an inspirational party every week. Thank you for sharing and hope to see you soon. Hugs, Holly
I was bullied so much throughout my entire school career, from both peers and teachers, that by the time I was 15, I felt suicidal. I still, at age 32, find it very hard to love myself.
I’ve told my story before, and have been surprised that people didn’t believe me. You see, I was bullied because I was thin. You know, the thing every woman supposedly wants to be? Yeah, in real life, that’s not something to strive for unless you aren’t surrounded by a**holes. It was assumed I was too small and weak to ever be good at anything; it was assumed that I had an eating disorder; it was assumed that it was okay to throw food at me and tell me to eat it, to pick me up and throw me because I was light enough to do so, to tell me stupid crap like “I’m afraid to hug you too hard, I might break you.”
THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR TOWARDS THING PEOPLE ISN’T FUNNY. IT’S MEAN. IT IS BULLYING.
The worst offenders? ADULTS.
There’s lots of talk about peer-to-peer bullying, but hardly ever do you see talks about how adults treat kids who are different. I developed a severe distrust of anyone in a position of authority, especially teachers, that is still hard to shake, because I am STILL hearing the same ignorant, mean, asinine crap from people that I always have.
I still hate the way I look. I still obsess over food because maybe, if I eat more of this or more of that, I’ll gain weight and people will leave me the f*ck alone.
It’s no surprise that I have a daughter who is petite. At age 11, she is shorter and weighs less than most 8-year-olds. We are homeschooling this year because of bullying in school. Because of teachers than really just didn’t care. At all. They put on a good front, but they didn’t do ANYTHING to stop it. You know what I say to them? F*** you. You will not do to my child what was done to me. You will not ruin her self esteem, you will not teach her she isn’t good enough, and you will not be getting one damn penny in funding by having her enrolled at your school.
Hi Stephanie – Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and heartbreaking story. When I was going through cancer treatment, I lost part of my breast, all of my hair, and was dealing with horrible side effects from the chemo… I had to redefine what I thought beauty was. My (then) fiance (now Hubby) saw me as beautiful me and it took a lot of reprogramming of the brain to overcome. And then I figured it out… it really doesn’t matter what we have or don’t have, as women, we ALL struggle with finding our inner beauty. Hugs, Holly
Great tips! And thank you for sharing your story. Bullying happens every day. My son is ADHD and he has had his share of bullying. And it’s hard to explain to a child why the other boys won’t want to play with him. And try to teach him how to behave in a more acceptable way. When he really has hard time controlling his impulsiveness and focusing his attention.
Hi Joanna – Thank you for sharing such a personal story about your son. We can only try our best as parents to ensure our children learn to love the differences that make them unique and special. Hugs, Holly
I was bullied as a child. I was always quiet and “nice”, and was taken advantage of because of it.
I’ve always despised school. Those were the worst years of my life. It makes me sad to even hear myself say it. And when my son started school, I had butterflies in my stomach as though I was the one going back. I am always afraid for him because he’s so empathetic and gentle. During our first Parent-Teacher meeting, the first thing I asked the teacher was whether or not my son was being bullied. And what she said blew me away! “Your son doesn’t allow himself to be bullied” she answered. I can only hope that we manage to equip him with the tools he needs to keep this up, to be strong enough to stand up to a bully in the right way, and to be able to open up to us whenever he is troubled.
Thanks for sharing. This is such an important topic.
Hi Leila – Thank you for stopping by and for sharing such a personal story. You have to be so proud of your son and hopefully that confidence will only grow stronger in him. Hugs, Holly
In our bullying situation, it ended up uncovering a whole bunch of things happening at school (not even pertaining to my daughter).
As a parent I would say never just let it go. Talk to the principal, the teachers – let them know what occurred. Demand something be done. Don’t be a butthead to the school officials – just be factual. (That is why my husband had to go talk to them – I didn’t want to get overly emotional)
At the end of the day, 1 person got expelled, 2 got strict warnings and 1 – well, 1 has a court date in the near future. Hopefully they will learn. Hopefully.
Hi MommaO – Thank you for sharing your painful story and I hope and pray that good things will come out of all of the heartache. Hugs, Holly
Wonderful post. I was bullied all through out grade school because of my weight or the things I liked. Then I dated a bully who really made fun of everything I liked (down to the foods I liked). It made me self conscious about EVERYTHING – including sharing my hobbies with others. Then, I started blogging and my blog got a lot of attention…which led to online bullying from a jealous girl. It got so bad I had to delete my blog and everything for quite some time before starting over.
I think a lot of it comes down to kids not knowing what they are doing is wrong. A lot of the time if they can be told that they are treating people in a bad way they may stop. However without the life lessons they will continue. I understand in modern times it is hard to keep track of what your kids are doing and then to add other peoples kids in the mix makes for a busy life. But if other parents are not teaching their children responsible behavior then we as a society need to step in.
Hi Shirley – Thank you so much for taking the time to share. We recently had additional conversations about bullying when Stepson entered middle school this year. Hugs, Holly
Holly, you and your mom are my sheros! I stared public school (where being like everyone else and being ashamed of your body was cool) from Montessori (where creativity and self-confidence were encouraged) in the 5th grade. I had a hard time adapting, but 6th grade was where the real bullying began. I started my period when I was 11, in the middle of a school day. I came out of the stall and told some girls who I thought were friends. The next thing I knew, everyone was calling me “tuna fish,” and gross, telling me I smelled because I started my period. Literally NO ONE would talk to me, except like two girls who were SUPER nerdy and were also bullied. It followed me all the way to 8th grade, when one day, I thought everything had turned around. The COOL girls invited me to a slumber party!! What I didn’t know was this was all an elaborate and cruel “practical joke.” I fell asleep, and when I woke up to giggling, I was covered in maxi pads colored with red magic marker. They were in my hair, on my shirt, pants, everywhere. I had to act like it was funny, because I couldn’t call my mom and beg her to come get me. I was miserable for hours, and then days, weeks, and months, as the story preceded me when I arrived at school on Monday!
Hi Eullrich – Oh my goodness, you just broke my heart. I can’t even imagine the cruelty, especially when all of the other girls were dealing with puberty and getting their periods too. How horrible! Thank you for sharing your heart breaking story and I hope that the folks that read it really have their eyes open to the cost of being bullied. I hope to see you again soon my friend. Hugs, Holly