By Ashley Willis
With a new school year upon us, it’s important that we talk to our kids about bullying. According to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of every four students say they have been bullied at school, but only 64 percent of kids who were bullied actually report it. This is disheartening to say the least, and my family has experienced it first hand. Here’s what I’ve learned…
When my eldest son was in second grade, he came home one day and told us that a boy was bullying him on the playground. We hadn’t really talked about bullying at that point, because I honestly thought we wouldn’t be dealing with it in second grade. So, I asked him to give me more details to make sure that it was in fact “bullying” and not just two kids not getting along. Cooper explained that this boy would single him out during an otherwise friendly game of kickball and trash talk him when choosing teams–saying things like,
“You stupid little boy,” and, “You’re too little to play on my team,”
and other statements revolving around Cooper’s short stature. My husband and I told Cooper that if this kid said those things to him again, he should tell that kid to stop.
So, Cooper did.
Unfortunately, the kid laughed and continued. No other kids stepped in to help. No teachers seem to notice. For a few more days, Cooper–wanting to play with all the other boys who were playing kickball–kept telling the bully to stop to no avail.
The next day, I found a birthday invitation in Cooper’s backpack, and it just happened to be one from this kid who was bullying him. I couldn’t believe it. At first, I thought they may have turned over a new leaf and the bullying had stopped. But, Cooper insisted that this kid was only inviting him to embarrass him at the party. In fact, Cooper went to this kid and asked him if he would bully him at the birthday party, and the kid responded,
“Yeah, I will. And, the only reason I invited you is because I had to. You stupid little boy.”
So, we decided that Cooper wouldn’t go, and my husband called the parents to R.S.V.P. and take the opportunity to address the bullying head on.
My husband couldn’t have been any nicer about the issue–saying things like, “We don’t think your son is a bad kid, but he does seem to have something against Cooper. And, he is bullying him.”
I thought we would get somewhere. I thought the invitation was a divine opportunity to finally get this bullying under control. Boy, was I wrong.
After my husband briefly explained the entire situation to the parent on the phone, we both waited to hear her say something to give us hope that they would do their best to put a stop to the incessant bullying.
But, that’s not what happened at all.
Instead, she quickly said, “Okay,” and she hung up.
I was stunned. But, then I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was shocked to hear that this was going on and her mind was racing as to how to take care of this with her son. So, I told Cooper that the kid probably won’t be bullying him anymore since we had talked to his mom about it. I could see the relief all over Cooper’s face, and we all looked forward to the following week of school.
That next week, the bullying continued even stronger. When Cooper told the kid to stop again and mentioned that we had talked to his mom, he scoffed and said, “Who cares? I’m not in trouble. You’re just mad because you’re little and stupid, and you can’t play with us.”
We were disappointed and frustrated to say the least. And, we knew it was time to get the school involved. So, we told the teacher about it, and she took immediate action. There were no problems after that.
I was happy. The child had stopped bullying my son, and Cooper seemed to enjoy school so much more after that. But, I still couldn’t believe that my husband and I were unable to take care of things with the mother of the bully. Parent to Parent. The way I would want someone to handle it if my kids were bullying another child. Why didn’t she think it was as much of a problem as we did? Why wasn’t this situation taken seriously? Honestly, I will never know.
Eventually, I had a heart to heart with the teacher, and I told her how we tried to handle the bullying ourselves by going to the parent directly. The teacher just smiled and said, “I wish you had come to me sooner, because some parents are okay with raising bullies. And, I would’ve told you that she’s one of them.”
Ouch. I know. But, the teacher was right. Bullying starts at home, and many times, the parents don’t even realize that they are even encouraging it. Parents often tell their kids to be the best, get the little guy, and be intimidating when it comes to sports. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it stays on the field, but we MUST teach our kids to show kindness and respect to ALL individuals regardless of their size, color, or ability more than we teach them to be tough. 5 ways parents unknowingly raise bullies are:
1. Allowing our kids to mistreat/bully/trash talk their siblings without any consequence.
2. Bullying/trash talking/mistreating our spouse and children with our words, tone, and actions
3. Not teaching our kids to stand up/speak up for those who are being bullied or not teaching them to report bullying to the teacher.
4. Talking badly about a kid in our child’s class or allowing our children to do so.
5. Teaching our kids that they are better than other kids based on anything including but not limited to size, gender, race, money, ability, etc.
We live in a world that rewards over-confidence, so it takes effort to teach our kids humility and general respect for human beings. But, we must make the effort AT HOME and stop bullying before it starts.
About the Author: Ashley Willis is a wife and mom of four boys who together with her pastor husband, Dave, founded StrongerMarriages.org and the “Marriage” app as a way to encourage couples to build stronger marriage. You can follow Ashley’s blog on Patheos where she encourages women in faith, marriage and motherhood.