Bullying is back in the news. Have is ever really left? A young girl killed herself after being continually, mercilessly bullied. Apparently with other teens and school authorities well aware of the situation. I say “apparently” because I only know what I’ve read and obviously wasn’t there to see it first hand. But I have seen bullying first hand, on more than one occasion, in my children’s schools, at their bus stops and through the eyes of other mothers who have come to me for advice.
There comes a time as a parent when you can’t fix everything for your child. They’re going to face failures, disappointments and heartaches. Sometimes I don’t know if they are growing up more, or I am. But I do know this: I have zero tolerance for bullies.
As parents, we have to decide when to step in and when to back away. Some situations are easier than others. There are obvious situations — like when the class bully throws your fifth grader up against the gym wall at the school sock hop and bloodies his face. This is when I resist dragging the bully out into the dark parking lot and ensuring he never fathers children, but rather let the principal handle it. Until she refuses to do anything — which is when you have absolute permission to stand up to the principal and insist she contact the parents and instill consequences in the bully. Still no cooperation? The police. Yep, you’re allowed to call them. It’s called assault and battery. Just ask the six boys who pulled the bully off your son.
What about when a kid in a group of four friends has a sleepover and invites all but one of the four? Your kid. What if your kid handles it better than you do?
But what about the more subtle bullying? What if it takes place at the neighborhood bus stop? Not exactly school property. What about the bullying that makes both a mother and child’s heart bleed instead of the face?
One positive side of my children growing up is they’re old enough to walk themselves to the bus stop. One negative side is that they’re old enough to walk themselves to the bus stop. They have to face the hyper, backpack wielding boys and gossipy girls all alone. Either that, or face mortal embarrassment by a parent who hovers at the corner.
What do you do when your child comes home and tells you, in detail, the ugly nasty things the gossipy girl at the bus stop says about them, in front of him, to everyone at the corner? What if Gossipy Girl’s words sound uncommonly mature for someone her age…more in line with, oh let’s say, someone her mother’s age and vocabulary?
Do you start a catfight with the mother? With the gossipy girl? Do you try to have a calm, rational, mature parent-to-parent conversation with Gossipy Girl’s mother? What do you say to your young teenage child?
What would you do?