Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Counts as Bullying?

When Lindsey came home from school feeling picked on and sad after her bike riding and name-calling day, I made the mistake of venting my own frustration about the incident on my Facebook wall. I didn't name the culprits and didn't blame the school, just said how sad I was that my daughter was so hurt.

Here's some of the feedback I heard (in fewer words than what was used):
  • Kids are cruel, bullying happens. Tell her to suck it up.
  • Soy Sauce is the tamest nickname I've heard, why does it even bother her?
  • That's too bad but there are worse things in life.
  • That's terrible and you need to get on that teacher.
  • Shame on those other kids' parents.
  • You should get those other kids in trouble.
I also found it interesting that some people jumped to the conclusion that the bullies were either boys or girls. I hadn't stated one way or the other, and can only assume that people jumped to those conclusions based on their own personal experiences.

The most telling comments were the ones in which people recounted their own experiences in being bullied. They could remember every word, every action like it was yesterday. For some of them the bullying had happened 40 years ago, but they still remembered the hurt that it caused. Those wounds stayed with them for a lifetime, to be recalled at a moment's notice.

Why would we think it's okay for that to continue on, generation after generation?

The parents of bullies, for the most part, would probably be appalled if they realized their children had reputations as bullies. I would be more upset if a teacher had to call me to tell me that Lindsey had been picking on other kids than on the other end of that equation.

The official district policy states that intimidation and teasing count as bullying. To me, bullying is any action that makes someone feel bad about him or herself. The fact that Lindsey was not looking forward to going to school the next day was the limit for me, because that impacts her education.

As a parent, it is my job to raise children who will become independent, confident, caring adults (add any other positive adjectives you like to that statement.) It is also my job to be their advocate, to fight for their rights where they are not able to advocate for themselves.

I asked Lindsey's permission before I contacted her teacher because I want to balance those two responsibilities. I don't ever want to be accused of being a "helicopter parent" but don't want to leave my child defenseless. If Lindsey had not given me permission I would have said nothing to her teacher and let her continue to try to deal with the situation on her own. I was relieved when she told me it was okay if I speak to her teacher, and the behavior was handled.

This situation made me realize how very tough parenting can be. I'd better start saving for my kids' therapy now.


  1. I read the comments on your facebook page and was surprised how many people automatically assumed the gender since you didn't say it anywhere in the post. When I first read your post my eyes welled up for Lindsay.

    I completely agree that it would be much worse to be told that Penny was the bully.

    My sister and I were teased incessantly on our bus ride home from school. Kids made up songs about us that were so hurtful, and sadly those songs will still pop into my mind when I'm feeling down about myself. We never let on to our mom how bad it was because we had seen them be even worse to the kids that involved their parents. When Penny was only 2 days old I was rocking her and sobbed my eyes out...blame it on the hormones but I was crying to Chris "I don't want other kids to be mean to her." So yes, all these years later it affects me and was one of the reasons I was unsure of becoming a parent.
    Wow...that was a long emotional comment.

  2. I have been following the blog posts about what has been happening at school for Lindsey - and I understand about bullying first hand as I was bullied.

    I always remembered before I dropped Marissa off in the mornings I would ask her about her class and asked if there were any bullies and she said yes to me and told me more - and I was like 'Marissa don't let them do it to you, or tell a teacher, its ok to get help' because we can't let bullies rule the playground or whatever.

    And you are right the more bullying happens I am 100% sure it would cause poor performance on Lindsey in the classroom.

    You are super mom! Now maybe you should start a group parenting session - help other parents deal with this?

    just a thought.

  3. When I was a kid I was skinny and buck toothed and cross-eyed (for a few years). I was bullied and beat up a lot.
    But that was the 70's and the boys will be boys attitude were persistent.

    And then puberty hit. And I started working out. And while I didn't turn into a bully, lets just say that a few guys that still tried to push me around learned real quick why that wouldn't happen anymore.
    Linebackers don't expect to be shoved around by a 130 pound kid ;)

    But yeah, fast forward to now, and my son tells me when he's been bullied. I tell him to stand up to them, and if they don't back down, tell a teacher and me.

    I won't stand for bullying at all. And I have no problem taking care of the situation by any means I deem necessary.