The Bully

By DeeDee


I have the honor of acting as monitor on a parenting message board. One discussion that comes up more frequently than any other, is the subject of bullying. Most of the time, parents are concerned with a situation their child is experiencing in a school setting. And more often than not, it is when the child has moved to a new school.

My heart breaks for these parents and the feeling of helplessness. Especially when they cannot get any help from the school system. I remember well when I moved to a new 8th grade public school, after many years of attending a parochial school. The school I finally landed in was the 3rd one in the span of 3 months of constant moving due to my dad’s job.

My dad worked under contract as an engineer for the government, and since I didn’t understand what all that meant, I just told people he was a spy.

Which always helped when making new friends.

Anyhoo, the school I settled in was a rather rough school. A girl with beady eyes who went by the name of Bertha, took an immediate dislike to me on the school bus on my first day of school. She made my life a living hell every single day, as she and her little minions threatened to beat me up. Simply for breathing.

I pulled a Body Guard move, and made friends with a quiet, fearless girl who sat in the back of the bus. It should be noted that she stood a good two heads taller than Bertha. My new friend finally had enough of watching Bertha wreak havoc on the school bus, and she got down in her face one morning and whispered menacingly, “If you ever touch my friend, I will kill you.”

I believed her. And Bertha must have believed her, since she never bothered me again. In fact, she and her little army gave me a rather wide berth whenever I walked by.

I never told my parents about the bullying. And I really don’t know why. Other than I thought they had enough to worry about, what with my dad being a spy and all. And possibly I feared even more retaliation should I get an adult involved.

Bullying among children is nothing new. But, because of media coverage, we are so much more aware of some of the tragic consequences that befall the victims.

I’ve been merrily going about raising my children thinking that I’ve spared them from bullies since we homeschool. I know all of my kid’s friends, and I know their parents, and when the children are all playing, we moms are usually within earshot.

But a while back, I witnessed my 10 year old teasing my 5 year old. Which was not out of the ordinary. Of course I put a stop to it and chalked it up to sibling rivalry. But as I watched how my 5 year old began reacting in fear and anger to his older sibling, I realized that what she was doing was a form of bullying. I’ve had to really open up a dialogue with her about bullying and how to treat other people, ESPECIALLY a sensitive little brother.

As a parent, I’m not as immune to bullying as I had hoped. I just thought I’d never witness it under my own roof.

The question posed by my parents on the message board usually is along the lines of, “Should I step in? Or wait to see if the authorities will handle the situation?”

I’m of the “step in because I’m the mama bear” variety. Which is always my knee-jerk reaction. And in some cases may not be the best thing.

So my question to you all is: If faced with a bullying situation, do you step in, or stand back and see if it can be resolved on its own?


22 Responses to The Bully
  1. edj
    July 18, 2010 | 11:06 am

    My son was bullied this last year and I went in and talked to the vice-principal about it. He dealt with it quickly, and it pretty much stopped after that.
    He’ll be at a new school next year though, and I’m already worried.

  2. kls
    July 18, 2010 | 12:05 pm

    Hasn’t happened to my daughter yet (she’s only 4.5 yrs) but my gut reaction is to jump in and “nip it in the bud”. Also, since there is supposed to be zeo tolerance for bullying in our school board, I would get them involved immediately…

  3. Alexandra Penn
    July 18, 2010 | 12:42 pm

    To all parents – please check out our website and avail yourself of any and all complementary info and downloads.

    Everyone has had a brush with bullying. Since silence and denial are the enemies, parents have to get the info on how to identify the signs of bullying.

    Studies indicate that bullying begins at age 2. I am an advocate of stepping in and dealing with a situation so that it doesn’t escalate. Sometimes intervention involves giving kids the correct tools of language. For example: Instead of grabbing the toy they want, you could give them the words that ask for it politely and respectfully.

    Happy to help.:)

  4. Tam
    July 18, 2010 | 11:59 pm

    I agree with regards to stepping in as a parent. Carefully, of course, so that you don’t make the situation escalate. I grew up in an era where the attitude was “work it out for yourself. Stand up to the bully and the bully will move on to someone else”. I reject this now. It sends the message to the bully to go ahead and keep looking for victims; there will always be someone weaker than you. What a terrible message to send! Children do not learn appropriate behavior from other children. They learn appropriate behavior from supervising adults. As a parent, that is me, the teacher, and the school administrators, NOT the biggest, toughest kid in the school.

  5. The Bully – 5 Minutes For Mom
    July 19, 2010 | 3:00 pm

    […] children been dealing with bullies? Have one of your kids bullied their younger sibling? Over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, DeeDee is sharing her own experiences with bullying and asking for your insight as […]

  6. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    July 19, 2010 | 3:19 pm

    I have yet to experience bullying as my girls are only 2 and 5. But I know they will experience it at some level… either they will be bullied, be bullies (hopefully not) or be bystanders.

    As they grow older, I am determined to learn more about bullying and how to properly handle it.

    I read a book about it a while back and learned a fair amount… I’m going to be reading more soon as Julia enters kindergarten.

    I definitely think adults need to take it seriously and get involved in an intelligent and responsible way.

    No kids should be left to sort it out themselves.

  7. Sara
    July 19, 2010 | 3:54 pm

    A child under the age of 10 should NOT be left to fend off a bully alone, under no circumstances. I just picked 10 b/c it seems that about middle school/jr. high kids want to have a little more freedom to solve things themselves.

    Every child should feel comfortable telling their parent/guardian that they are being abused. Physical, mental and emotional abuse are NOT acceptable experiences for our children! If another child is tormenting YOUR child, you owe it to your child to step in and protect them. Different ages may necessitate different tactics.

    Now, here is the other side — if YOUR CHILD IS THE BULLY, it is your responsibility as a parent to get your child help. It is not the other kid’s fault that your child is a bully to him/her.

    We are parents, it is our responsibility to help ensure our children are safe! It is also our responsibility to step up and recognize if our child is the one abusing another child.

  8. Tami
    July 19, 2010 | 5:12 pm

    My son is only 2, but for some reason he’s been targeted by another 2-year-old in his Sunday School class. She pushes him and takes his toys away, and has – one time – bitten him. That got the other adults’ attention, at least. The girl’s mom says she’s “aggresive” because she’s used to playing with her older brother at home. I’m not sure at this point how concerned to be.

  9. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)
    July 19, 2010 | 7:09 pm

    I agree that the adults need to step in and give the children the skills they need to change their situations.

    Sometimes it will require more involvement, sometimes less, but children shouldn’t be left to work it out by themselves and/or to let the bully move on to someone else.

    The BULLY needs help!!! Hopefully there is a support system to help heal the bully’s wounds so that he will stop hurting others.

  10. se7en
    July 19, 2010 | 7:17 pm

    Bullying is not the sort of topic that comes up in everyday conversation with my kids. And often when we think of bullying it is the more physical bullying that comes to mind. I really want my kids to de aware of more subtle bullying firstly when they are receiving it and secondly when they are serving it or just sitting back and observing it happen to someone else. We recently read Eleanor “The Hundred Dresses” for school and it opened up a whole lot of debate. I want my kids to face bullying rather than jam into the box of “untouchable topics” and this book really got my kids talking… I blogged about it here:

  11. Rachel
    July 19, 2010 | 7:48 pm

    I think I would have a hard time not stepping in. We homeschooled this year and we’re considering trying out the public school next year but bullying is one of my biggest fears.

  12. purple moose
    July 19, 2010 | 10:16 pm

    I always thought they teased me because I was dumb or something was wrong with me. It wasn’t until I was an adult, about 25-30, that I realized the problem was with THEM. That was when I learned that most bullies do so because they feel insecure or insignificant. Bullying others makes them feel better about themselves. So that’s my advice, teach the bully-ee that they are OK. I’m not sure what to do about the bully-er. As has already been said, they need help too!

  13. Noreen
    July 20, 2010 | 1:32 am

    We dealt with bullying this last school year. My daughter was in 1st grade! Long story short and a little girl started a ‘club’ at recess and only she was in charge. At first I tried to help my daughter stand up for herself (we tried that the first day). The bully got upset which upset my daughter. After a long weekend the bully forgot she kicked my daughter out of the ‘club’ and tried to go back to the normal. At that point I contacted the school and by the end of the day it was taken care of. The sad thing is that my daughter was not the only one being bullied but I was the only parent that even knew there was anything going on. If you want the whole story I blogged about it a while ago:

  14. Joanne
    July 22, 2010 | 8:54 am

    I was bullied for many years both on the bus and at school. Kids that are bullied need help from peers especially but adults need to help explain the proper way to handle bullying situations. I am in the process of getting my masters in teaching and created an anti bullying “seminar” for one of my classes. I have two sons and will never allow them to go through what I did. I have already had to talk to my 4 1/2 year olds pre school teachers because some kids were making fun of his lunch and he wanted me to stop sending it. I told them to deal with it and make it stop. They did. Here is a great link to a site with tons of information on how to handle bullying.

  15. Sally
    July 22, 2010 | 9:21 am

    We as parents walk a find line of wanting to protect our kids, being their advocates, and allowing them to have life experiences that will strengthen their character. Not that bullying should ever be accepted, please don’t get me wrong, but there has to be a two-fold approach to stepping in as a parent – to yes, go to the authority for assistance, whether it is a child’s mother, teacher, principal, etc. But also teach your children how to stand up for themselves, whether by asking for help from the authority, being more forceful themselves in their words and actions, and making wise choices when it comes to making friends.

  16. Alexandra Penn
    July 24, 2010 | 12:17 pm


    “My son is only 2, but for some reason he’s been targeted by another 2-year-old in his Sunday School class. She pushes him and takes his toys away, and has – one time – bitten him. That got the other adults’ attention, at least. The girl’s mom says she’s “aggresive” because she’s used to playing with her older brother at home. I’m not sure at this point how concerned to be.”

    I was struck in particularly with Tami’s dilemma. Here’s why: Studies report that bullying begins as early as 2 years of age, and while that may be difficult for many to believe and digest – those are the facts. So, we provide workshops to the pre school crowd and the moms. We help the little ones get in touch with their feelings and emotions and those of others. When the seeds of kindness, sharing and respect are planted in early childhood, we give kids the opportunity to learn the social skills they need in life to develop and advance.

    The most common question moms have is: How can I tell if it’s bullying?

    Here’s the bottom line: You can call it bullying or anything you want. However, if your child is frightened of or by another child – that’s what matters. Nothing else.

    As parents we all need to be very concerned over our children’s well being all the time. That means at school too and these days – especially at school.

    We just finished writing a book for the pre school crowd. Let us know if you would like to be on our list for how to pick up a copy – when it’s published!J
    [email protected]

  17. Debbie
    March 23, 2011 | 11:13 am

    Bullying prevention can be done through focussing on the bully, and trying to stop their behavior, but in most cases focussing on the victim, the child that is being bullied, has a positive effect in the long run. Self-confidence and self-esteem have a lot to do with this. I teach kids how to do this and educate parents on how to deal with the situation. If you like, you can check out my blog at for some free advice.


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