Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dealing With Bullying

Image courtesy of Prawny at
As a parent, I have now been on both sides of bullying.  Years ago when my oldest son went to Scout Camp, some boys who didn't have as much supervision as they needed now felt free to mistreat him in ways they were never able to do at Cub Scouts or at church.  It's pretty pathetic to say that the only kids who did these things to him were the ones who sat side by side with him for years as they received lessons on being charitable, kind, loyal, trustworthy, Christlike, etc.  Up until Scout Camp, their behavior involved things like moving to the other side of the room after he sat down.  He never did anything to them.  He just didn't fit in.

During his almost week at Scout Camp, he was roughed up by one boy as another one laughed, a lit match was thrown at him while he was using the bathroom, he was pelted with small, hard objects, and during the last 10 minutes a boy decided to grab his genitals. That's not all that happened there, but I'll leave it at that. An older friend who was there responded by punching that kid in the crotch as hard as he could.  I admit, I had a good laugh because judging by the way he had been disciplined in the past (which appeared as if there was no discipline), I figured that was all the punishment he was going to get.  I asked my son, "Why didn't you punch him?"  "Because he was too fast and beat me to it!"

To make a long story shorter, after talking to his leaders and hearing about the many other things that happened like these same boys stealing from the Trading Post, I opted not to call each parent because we were going to have a meeting.  What a fool I was to think that any of these boys' parents would actually show up.  Of course, they didn't.  That left me just ranting about people who act like their kid can do no wrong and don't want to hear it when they do.  Being too afraid that they would blow me off, I never talked to the parents because I knew I wouldn't be able to keep my emotions under control if they minimized what happened and I still had to go to church with these people.  My son never received any kind of apology from those boys. 

So when I found out my youngest son was involved in an incident two days ago where a boy decided to shove another boy while he was going to the bathroom and that two other boys joined in, I came down pretty hard on my son.  From what I gathered, this wasn't someone he considered a friend, but a kid who annoyed him on a regular basis.  He is in 5th grade and had never, ever been in trouble at school before, so I was completely shocked.  He was new at the school this year because we moved, so I don't know what was going through his mind. Was he trying extra hard to fit in?  I told my oldest son that when I was growing up, I preferred to have no friends than the wrong friends.  Always do the right thing no matter how unpopular it is. Maybe I haven't done a good job driving this point home with my youngest, but I couldn't be more disappointed.

I let him know that my first concern was for the boy they did this to.  I reminded him of what happened to his brother and how awful it felt as a mom.  I contacted his teacher and she too was shocked he was capable of joining in such a thing.  I asked her to please let me know if his parents wanted to talk to me.  I wanted them to know how seriously I was treating the situation.  You won't hear things like, "Boys will be boys" coming out of my mouth. 

To make matters worse, my son wrote him a pathetic apology.  You can't really call it an apology because he added, "P.S. My mom made me write this."  I was furious.  Maybe he was trying to ease his own discomfort with "humor" or is saving face, but I told him that's even worse than not getting an apology at all.  By the end of our discussion, he was sobbing his eyes out, but I think that started when I told him he was grounded for a week. 

How do you help a child feel true remorse?  I think that's another article.  I told my son that I can't make him like anyone, but I do expect him to treat everyone with respect.  Every day this week he will be reading about bullying, apologizing, and other related things.  He typically tries to buy his way out of trouble and seemed to think writing an apology for his "apology" would be enough.

I also asked his teacher to keep him in from recess for at least a few days.  I think it would be good for this boy to see that he's not just getting a slap on the wrist.

If your child has been bullied, I encourage you to talk to the parents no matter how awkward it's going to be.  I regret not doing that.  If your child has bullied someone else, please take it seriously.  Please let the parents and their son or daughter know that you are doing everything you can to make sure it never happens again.  You're not a failure if your child makes the wrong decision.  You fail when you give them no consequences.

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