From the Mother of a Bully

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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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Photo By Christopher Michel from San Francisco, USA - Belle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37111354

19 comments:

  1. Very well written and great insight! Thanks Renae!

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  2. Renee.... I can only imagine how tough it was to write this post but it holds such power! Thank you for using your voice to talk about bullying from the other side. Hugs!

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. Brought me to tears. I too am the mother of a bully. I worry about what it is doing to my other child. I worry about what it means for his future, I worry about keeping them both safe. I feel horrible because sometimes it is so hard to love him. The few friends that he managed to scrape together are starting to not tolerate him anymore and no intervention that I have tried has helped yet. It is also mortifying to be bullied by your own child!
    Heather

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  4. Wow. Thank you for sharing your heart! I can't say I know how you feel, because I don't, but I appreciate your words.

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  5. This was a great article! I am grateful that you are/were willing to share your thoughts and words with others. As an educator, I think it is important to teach children the steps for dealing with bullying, intentional or not.

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  6. Renae, thank you for writing this post to give some perspective to the other side of things. I am a 45 year old SAHM of 3 and I have just experienced bullying for the first time in my life in two separate situations over the last 18 months standing up to a berating sports coach and a mismanaging of funds cub scout leader and I have to say I have never felt so victimized in my life and as a grown adult how near impossible it was for me to stand firm against these bullies, knowing clear and well that I was 100% right in what I was calling them out on and they needed to be stopped. I can only imagine how horrifying it must be for a child to deal with and stand up to a bully. I tried to use these situations to help my children see that I was being bullied and watch me try to handle it by staying strong but I have to make sure you realize how VERY VERY VERY hard it is for a bully's victims - I don't know if it is possible for bullies to change their ways but every effort needs to be made to stop them from behaving the way they do and the way they think they can treat others.

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    1. I couldn't agree with you more on every point that you made in your comment. It is VERY VERY VERY hard to stand up to a bully. And I can promise you, as the mother of the bully, I'm doing everything that is in my power to help my child. Everyone on the child's team is doing all they can and we pray that all we're doing will be worth it.

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    2. Jennifer I understand you completely , my nephew was bullied at school by 3 older kids, they were pinching him with sharp pencils in his back, his back was all scared and the school was not doing much, my brother told my nephew to be kind, but that didn't work (my nephew is blue belt in karate) so I told him to bit the s____ out of those three kids and be sure to do it hard because they were 3 against one so he had to immobilized two first, and he did.... he was in big trouble at school. (thing that I find so unfair) in trouble with his dad (thing that I took care) well he was never bullied again, he showed that he can defend himself and nobody else hurt him again. It s difficult to be on the other side of the bullies too.

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  7. Such a thought provoking post. It must have been so hard to write. Thank you.

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  8. Renae, Thanks for sharing your heart on this delicate subject! It would be very hard to admit you are a mother of a bully, but I know this helps all of us out as you share your wisdom on the subject, as well as your empathy towards others who are bullied. I appreciated your four practical steps, and yes, everyone needs to know that it is not ok to just let someone bully you but to speak up! And if necessary, use self-defense.

    Thank you for sharing this with us at Tuesday Talk. May God continue to help you in your efforts to help your child, and I know He will, for He is our great Shepherd!

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  9. I love this post, thank you so much for being open and vulnerable with us! I especially love your last sentence, that even if you did not wish for some things to happen, we can all be thankful that we are better off because of the knowledge and experience it imparts in our lives. The best thing you can do then is to share it with others, as you have. Bravo.

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  10. I really appreciate your honesty in this post. It's helpful to be real about being a parent in a challenging situation. I'm glad you explain the four steps and that it is ok to fight back.

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  11. Hugs Renae. I can't honestly put into words how grateful I am that you've shared this. Thank you!

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  12. This is such a brave post. So many need to read your words, and I'm honored that you shared with us at 100 Happy Days. Thanks for the practical tips, as well as the words of understanding. I know many mothers need to know they are not alone!

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  13. I am the mom of a bully too and it sucks. She has special needs and doesn't understand social skills. She "makes" the kids do what she wants. I fear she is on her way to being an full-fledged mean girl. Thanks for this post!

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  14. Thanks for sharing this Renae. I wrote a post a few years back about not wanting my kids to be bullies because they could easily become one. My son has no idea how words can hurt others and my daughter can be physically intimidating - at times they do display behaviours of a bully. They don't mean to hurt others but my worry was how they could be perceived as bullying as it's sometimes as much about perception as reality. I feel for you and I can only imagine how helpless you feel trying to help your child. Thanks for sharing what it's like to be the mother of a bully - hugs x

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  15. Renae, firstly, from the depths of my entire soul: thank you. With hugs love and kindness, thank you... Our situations may not be entirely word for word same but, I too have been to "teams of pediatric developmental specialist, have had a school therapy panel of 9 school staff and board special education therapist, and medication " TO NO AVAIL... THANK YOU... I Want you to know that I believe you. I know that may make no difference coming from me, but I believe you have done everything and then some, to assist, help, support, and uplift your child, beyond this behaviour,because we have a behaviour we have been working on for 6 years as well....an no matter how many times I AS MOM TELL SOME I have done EVERYTHING (accept eat worms, standing on my head in a corner of a full room..;) I know some still DONT 'believe me'.. Until now. Thank you cuz I feel believed.

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