My message to kids who bully other kids is:
You know it’s wrong! What’s really going on? Try not to make somebody else’s life miserable because you are.
– Joe Nichols
Let me begin by saying that I detest the ‘Bully,’ label. Bully is a loaded word. It provokes an emotional reaction of some kind to any person that you mention it to. From outrage to fear, everyone has an opinion. Bully Vs Victim, simple right? I disagree.
For me, this is not simple. Varying levels of light and shade must be considered if we are going to be successful in helping to reduce incidents of nastiness in schools. For a child to carry the label of bully is akin to a prison sentence that will haunt them for his or her school career with little chance of parole. To have the bully label surgically thrust upon you implies that it is a fundamental part of the person that you are, it’s who people are therefore expecting you to be. What a burden for a child to carry. To say that a child is displaying bullying behaviour is so much more positive because behaviours can easily be changed and disposed of so it gives everyone involved hope for change.
I am one of these really irritating people who holds the belief that there is good in 99% of the population and often in places that we are not expecting. My mission in life has always been to try and identify with people and find common-ground. I love words and believe that good quality communication, partnered with love and an attempt at understanding, can help to ease any situation. As a parent to four beautiful babies, I have found this to be extremely challenging at times, as I will explain.
One day, my daughter (aged 7 at the time) came home from the local school very distressed. An older boy had beckoned her to him and then spat in her face whilst calling her hideous names. She was devastated and went and hid under a table in the classroom for the rest of the day. I was very distressed. I cooked dinner that night in tears. I was furious with that kid, how dare he.
I did not make her go to school the following day and allowed her to recover at home. My rage was consuming me and I wanted to go in and give that little bleep a piece of my mind! This is not who I am and the way I was feeling was upsetting me nearly as much as the incident itself. I decided to suspend my feelings and try to think about the situation logically and emotion-free. I decided to think about this kid, let’s call him ‘Adam,’ as my own son. What would I do if he were my son? What would I say? Then inspiration hit and I sat and hand-wrote the following letter.
My name is Cathy Domoney and I am Skye’s mum. I was called in to school last night to be told that you had chosen to spit in Skye’s face. Skye is my daughter. She is loving, funny, clever and kind and her daddy and I love her very much. What you did to her was wrong. I would like you to sit and think for a moment about someone who you love very much. How would you feel if someone did that to them? What you did made us feel angry, hurt and very sad and we were very disappointed that you did it.
However, Mrs. (Principal) told me that you admitted to what you had done and that it was wrong. This decision impressed me. It takes a brave and strong person to admit their mistakes and for this, I thank you. This shows that you have some sense of what is right and wrong and that you also have some sense of honour. I believe that every person has the right to make mistakes and deserves a second chance. It takes a great person to admit to their mistakes, learn from them and make better choices in the future.
Skye deserves to come to school safe and happy, as do you. I would like your promise Adam, that you will not treat Skye, or anyone else like this again. You have a chance to use your intelligence, strength and honour to make good choices and earn the respect of those around you. Only you can make that choice and I wish you luck with it. If you can give me your promise I will trust and respect it and I will feel happier that Skye is at school safe and well.
I look forward to your response.
To contact the child directly without permission would have been grossly inappropriate and so I gave the letter, unsealed to the Principal and asked that she would ask the boy’s parents permission to deliver the letter to their son. Apparently, as a result, the school had a really productive meeting with the child and his parents. It was reported back to me that the child had been at a crossroads and that my letter had helped to encourage him on the right road. ‘Adam,’ approached Skye at a later date of his own volition and sincerely apologised to her. He also wrote to us expressing his apologies and regret. I felt that I had done something to resolve this situation that had a positive outcome. They did not become friends, but they did have several very pleasant exchanges over the future weeks. This was very promising.
On another occasion, my daughter was physically and verbally bullied by an older girl. I complained. It was explained to me that the girl had been dealt with and that she was a rather big girl who was struggling to fit in with her peers which was the reason she had acted out in front of her friends. I asked the teacher what measures were being put in place to help this girl. The teacher in this situation looked confused, to which I replied that the girl was obviously struggling with very low self-esteem and was struggling to fit-in and that perhaps she needed some extra support.
As a teacher, I have had to deal with kids in my class who had been labelled as ‘bullies.’ Often, for obvious reasons, these children were very unpopular with their classmates. I would do everything I could to encourage good behaviour and help them to assimilate into the class. I would do this by pointing out all of their great choices and also allocate bonus points for extra play for the whole class because of those great choices. This really helped the ‘bully’ to be accepted and make friends and their behaviour improved naturally as a result.
My years of teaching and parenting have taught me that all behaviour is a symptom. Look beyond the behaviour to the reason behind it and your chance of resolving the conflict increases tenfold.
The two ‘bullies’ in my examples above were not blood-related to me but they were my children. We are all connected, all trying our best, all making mistakes. I never met the people involved in these incidents but I dealt with it as if those kids were my kids, like those mothers were my sisters. Do you have to meet me to have my support? No! Do we all need support from one another? Yes! I am blessed to have an abundance of support around me and have lived a very privileged life in many ways. Some people are not that lucky. It’s not my place to judge, it’s my place to try and help everyone involved head towards a solution. After all as the old saying states, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ That bully is your child, please help.
Tips for dealing with bullying:
Assure Them It’s Not Their Fault
Help the person being bullied to see that what has happened is everything to do with the other person and it is not their fault. Explain how unhappy people that use bullying behaviour are. Explain that the people that deserve our kindness the least usually need it the most. Reinforce all of your child’s qualities and strengths and help them to handle the unwanted behaviour with support from the school.
Help a bullied child by ‘role-playing’ what they could do and say to help if situations arise again. Practice scenarios and how your child could respond perhaps by calling out ‘Ouch! That hurt!’ loudly so that everyone’s attention is immediately drawn to the situation. Or, practising ways that your child could respond to the verbal exchanges based on past situations. Such as, ‘Please leave me alone until you can say something nice!’ again loudly to draw immediate attention. These are techniques that we have used successfully, you can tailor the ideas for your individual child.
Being bullied is not ok! It has to stop and your child deserves to feel safe and valued. Report the incident, if handled well by the school it will not only help your child, but may also draw attention to the other child who is crying-out for extra support.
Comfort your child, again reinforcing that they’ve done nothing wrong and work with the school to make sure that specific provisions are being made to ensure that your child is safe and free from harassment.
That ‘Bully’ is a Child Too
Children who bully are misguided, lost and very unhappy. That does not excuse what they have done and they should have to deal with the consequences to understand their actions are unacceptable, but in a kind and supportive way. Ask your school to speak with the parents of the bullying child to find out why they’re behaving in an anti-social way and how they can be helped.
Try to see the child who has displayed ‘bullying behaviour’ as your child and think about what could be done to help work towards a solution.
I acknowledge that this will not work in 100% of cases but I think you would be surprised how often it does work and isn’t it worth a try?
Author: Cathy Domoney, Positive Thinking Children’s Author
Cathy holds a Diploma in Counselling, Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy. With a BA Hons in Sociology & History along with a Certificate in Life Coaching, she offers the complete package that is destined to make changes in the lives of children through her books. When teaching she helped pupils & colleagues with self-esteem issues. Cathy knows how positive-thinking can impact on a child’s experience of the world & passionately shares this knowledge with parents & teachers.
Madeleine, Maddy & Midge – Positive Thinking for Children
Madeleine has two secret friends, Maddy and Midge. Maddy’s happy messages make Madeleine feel tall, strong and full of confidence. Midge however, fills Madeleine with worries, troubles and doubt and makes her feel small, scared and alone. Madeleine has found the magic spell so that Maddy’s voice will be all she will hear and Midge will disappear like the ‘Pop’ of a bubble. Madeleine has the power to decide whether to be happy or sad. The question is, what will she decide? Madeleine, Maddy & Midge contains a powerful message of self-esteem and confidence for children. It is more than just a story book, it is a literary friend. Complete with parent and teacher activities Madeleine, Maddy & Midge is a valuable resource tool.
Get Cathy’s book here.