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My name is Renae and I'm a mother of a bully. I had no intentions of taking on this role in life, but someone felt otherwise, and so here I am. The role is not fun. It's quite the opposite actually, but I do it because I love my child and because I love your child. You see, I have four children. There is a bully, but there are also victims in my own house. If you think that victims are only taken on the playground, in school, or on the field, you're wrong. Victims can be found everywhere, and it usually starts at home.
So when your child is bullied and you wonder whether to talk to the parent, or if the problem is caused by issues in the home, you're right to wonder. You're right to hesitate in moving forward, wondering if a conversation with a parent will make matters better or worse. As the mother of a bully, I wonder the same things when I find out my child has found another victim. Do I approach the parent on behalf of my child? Should I apologize and try to explain why my child is a bully? What will happen if I do share? Will I be considered crazy? Perhaps it will make matters worse? What if more harm is done than good?
The truth is my heart aches for your child. I wish more than anything to take back whatever harm my child has decided to do this time. If there was a way I could stop the bullying from happening I would. Would you believe me if I said we've been to specialist after specialist, therapist after therapist, and even tried medication to try to help my child's behaviors? Or would you think less of me? Should I show you all of the documentation from these appointments, or would that make me a horrible person and mother for being too willing to share?
This scenario is always a lose lose situation. If I share too much, I've violated the privacy of my child, and will leave you thinking my child has the plague of death. Depending on the week, day, hour or minute, I may cry when approached, not because I don't believe you, but because I do. No matter the circumstance, when you're approaching a parent about their child bullying your child, an emotional breakdown isn't necessarily the response you're looking for. One thing I can promise, is that I can't promise I won't cry. Even worse, if you catch me having a bad week, day, hour, minute, or second, my response is completely unpredictable. My wolverine claws could come out, not because of anything you're saying to me, but because I'm on the brink of having a meltdown and you may have just tipped the scale. So do you confront the parent of a bully? As long as you know the risks involved, and you can be the level headed one, who's not wanting to kill the bully who hurt your child, or not blame the parent of the bully who hurt your child, by all means, go ahead. But don't say I didn't warn you.
What you need to know, even if I'm unable to get the words out at the time, is that I'm doing all I can to help my child and help your child. You may not know this, but I worry about your child every single day. I pray that my child, the bully, will someday learn to be kind to others.
At home we try to teach the bully's victims, or should I say siblings, that "people make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed," using the song sung by the trolls in the Disney movie, Frozen. In some cases, if you "show a little love their way," things will get better. Sometimes showing love can make things worse. Victims can't take away a bully's anger, fear, or anxiety. A mother of a bully can't take the feelings away either. Only the bully can do that. And sometimes, that can take a very long time. Some can't even learn that in a lifetime. Situations can be made more difficult with mental health issues, developmental disabilities, and/or past trauma experienced by the bully, who did not ask to be born into those circumstances.
But, none of this changes my stance, as a mother of a bully and as a mother of victims of bullying. If your child says she's being bullied by my child, please report it. If it occurs at school, report to the teacher or coach in charge. The teacher or coach can document the incident correctly. If the incident occurred during an extra curricular activity, report to the supervising adult. If I need to be notified as the mother of the bully, they will do so appropriately and save you from a very awkward situation. Chances are this is not the first time they'll have had to do this, and they are aware of my child's situation, even if they can't share information with you. Trust that I will take the situation seriously, and would do the same thing, if one of my children were being bullied by your child. If this is a first incident for the bully, it's still so important to report it. Remember that there will usually be other victims that follow. Your report can make the difference.
From the mother of a bully, I love my child with all of my heart. Bullies have usually been bullied too. In my child's case, this occurred before I became the mother. If a bully is being bullied at home by a caregiver, (because this is always a concern in our day,) your reporting to the proper supervising adult, teacher or coach, will help build a case to help the child if needed.
Teach your child to speak up. From the mother of a bully, I know that my child may try to threaten your child. My child may try to scare your child out of telling anyone what happened. This is NOT okay! It IS okay for your child to tell an adult that someone is bullying them as soon as they are able. Your child NEEDS to know this. Talk about this at home. Role play. Do whatever it takes to be sure your child will be the best reporter ever. You have no idea the influence and example your child can be. Your child may take this too far and report too much information too often, but remember this is ALWAYS better than not reporting enough or in time.
In our home we have developed a four step process to handling situations with the bully. This process was discussed with our developmental pediatrician and received her stamp of approval. Keep in mind, bullies can use various ways to victimize others. Physical force, verbal attacks, manipulation, and passive aggressive attacks are all forms of bullying, as are several other situations.
Before I share our four steps, know that I am mortified that there is nothing I can do to stop my child from bullying others. Trust that I have tried EVERYTHING, the good, the bad, and the in-between. Approaching my child's developmental pediatrician about the issue took significant courage, because I was THAT parent who couldn't control their child. Always give the mother or father of the bully the benefit of the doubt. Believe that they are doing the best they can. Because, coming from the mother of a bully, you have no idea how many tears I have shed, how many sleepless nights I've spent worrying about my child, and how helpless I feel that I can't help them. My team of specialists knows this too.
Moving forward with our four steps:
1. Use your words-Politely ask the bully to stop. Make sure to say please. Express your feelings. Ex:) "I feel... when you..."
If this doesn't work, move on to step 2.
2. Move away- Whether it be to a different side of a room, field, or a different group of friends, teach your child to remove themselves from the situation. If separating one's self from the situation isn't possible, your child can turn around so they're not facing the bully. They can also choose to ignore.
If this doesn't work, move on to step 3.
3. Report in the moment, if possible-Teach your child to go to a supervising adult and immediately report the situation.
If this isn't possible, because an adult is not present, and/or it doesn't work, move on to step 4.
4. Defend yourself, using force if necessary-This is the tough one. We want to teach our children to be peaceful. Hitting, kicking, biting, and fighting are considered bad things. But the truth of the matter is, you won't always be there to protect your child. There may not be an adult present to protect your child for you. In those cases, children NEED to know it's okay to defend themselves. It is better that your child defends himself and the bullying stop than for your child to be hurt worse. And remember, this is step number four. This is only recommended after you've tried steps 1-3. From the mother of a bully, it's okay to fight back. It's okay if my child receives a natural consequence for bullying. In fact, I wish more victims would fight back. Perhaps more bullies will learn the natural consequences of bullying. And if they do learn, perhaps they won't continue to bully. Perhaps they won't end up arrested, on probation, in jail, or in prison. If your child fights back, and my child learns, perhaps my fears of being the mother of an abuser... a thief.. or worse, a murderer won't become a reality. Because the reality is, from the mother of a bully, we worry about these things. When the news reports yet another incident where innocent people die, I always think about the mother of the murderer first, and pray with all my heart that I only remain the mother of a bully.
From the mother of a bully, please understand that there will always be bullies and bad guys. We can't run and hide from them forever. We can't protect our children from them forever. There was a time when I was really bitter about my circumstances as the mother of a bully, but then I realized something. My other children are learning how to stand up for themselves. They're growing. As they grow stronger, they become more confident and more equipped for the real world. So as much as I wish sometimes not to be the mother of a bully, I am thankful for all it has taught me and taught my children.
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