You Can't Protect Your Kid From Bullies Until You've Done This


Dear BullyI was about halfway through Dear Bully, a new book of essays from 70 big name teen lit authors (for my fellow YA fans, I'm talking the likes of Megan McCafferty, Alyson Noel, R.L. Stine, etc.) when it hit me. These were all grown-ups talking about some of the worst days of childhood. And almost none had kind words to say about adults.

If they talked to their parents about their experiences at all -- because, let's face it, most were too afraid to even try -- they got the sort of predictable responses that make the old DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince classic play through my head. "Maybe he likes you." "Just ignore it and it will go away." "Tell them to leave you alone, and they will." Yeah, parents just don't understand. Because if you've ever dealt with a bully, you know those answers are all a bunch of straight-up BS.

Kids are mean because there's an evil streak in most of humanity. And they'll keep on being mean until someone stops them ... or until they move on to their next victim. Alexis Eggleton, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Orange & Sullivan Counties in upstate New York, calls what happens to kids today "our bullying on steroids. Kids have less culpability than ever before, believing that words written over Facebook, AIM, or email somehow aren't as damaging as words said in person. And most of what is said via cyberbullying are comments that most kids would never have the audacity or cojones to say to a person's face."

Scared? This will make it worse: your kid is at risk. According to the statistics (straight out of the book): Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. An adult will intervene 4 percent of the time. A peer will intervene 11 percent of the time. Do the math, that leaves 85 percent of victims with zero support.

As long as you hold to the outdated "oh, kids will be kids" and "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" shtick, you can't protect your kids. You can't protect your kid from bullies until you start thinking like a kid. You have to take a walk in their shoes.

Maybe you were bullied as a kid (I hope not for your sake, but for theirs it might be best). Think about what happened then, and specifically why you lacked faith in the adults in your lives. Did they ignore you? Did they make it worse? Did you think that telling them the truth would make them look at you differently? Remember what it was like back then, and you can help your kids now.

Were you a bullied kid?


Image via Dear Bully

Disclosure: I received an advanced reader's copy of Dear Bully. All opinions are my own, and I received no compensation for this mention.



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Happy... Happypancake

I'm putting my kids in a martial arts class and going to educate them about bullying.

nonmember avatar ReginaSavage

I can remember one specific time I was bullied ver vividly. I was bullied pretty much solid from the age of 10-18 with very little parental intervention or aid. But this one always stuck out to me.

I was in Cadets and our group had gone to play lazer tag and were driven by parents of others in the group. We went, had a blast (pun intended) and on the way home I was in the vehicle with the assigned parent and 2 or 3 other girls my age. The entire trip back (maybe 45 minutes) these girls did not leave me alone. They made fun of everything about me, my hair, my clothes, acne, that I'm short, etc. to everything else, they made fun of the car my mom drove (at the time, it was a respectable vehicle, even). They were merciless! And while I didn't give in and cry (I wanted to though, but couldn't give them the satisfaction). But all the while I kept wondering why the woman driving didn't say anything. Why didn't she put a stop to it? How could she honestly sit there and listen to these girls rip me apart and not do anything? That was the worst part of it actually.

Ashleigh Munson

I was bullied pretty constantly, so if it happens to my daughter, I'm going to have some experience to draw on. And likewise, if she BECOMES the bully, I'm going to rock her universe in a very unpleasant way. I think if all parents paid attention to their kids BEING bullies as to being bullied, this problem would come to a very swift end.

Beths... Bethsunshine

I was bullied until I graduated high school. My oldest son has dealt with bullying from kids at CHURCH, believe it or not. This had been going on for a few years off and on, and I had spoken to parents, teachers ( my kids used to go to the private Christian school at my church) and nothing was done. Finally, in May, all heck broke loose and so did I!! The problem seems to be corrected, at least for the moment, and it has been a good learning experience and teaching moment for all of us. I'm very proud of the way my son has handled this, way better than I did when I was a bullying victim!

Carrie Jones

Thank you so much, Jeanne, for noticing the books and for the call to parents. -x- Carrie Jones

GlowW... GlowWorm889

I was picked on in middle school; I went to a very clique-y middle school with a very rigid caste system. I wasn't on the bottom, by any means, but I certainly was not at the top. I was a bookworm who got good grades fairly effortlessly and I wasn't very social. It made me a target for some of the "mean girls" in my grade. And "ignoring it" was not BS advice in my case. I figured there was nothing I could change to make them like me, and that I liked who I was just fine. I didn't need to change to make friends. That line of thinking served me well, and by high school I was forming my own social circles where I was quite popular. It's all about perspective. I hope to teach my children that so long as they are happy and not hurting any body else, who cares who doesn't like them? There's always going to be someone who doesn't like you. But there will also be someone who does like you, just the way you are. What's the point of making yourself miserable to appease the few who don't like you?

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Of course, my experience was was in the days really before cyberbullying and I wasn't being hurt physically, just picked on verbally. Someone who is being hurt physically obviously should learn ways to defend themselves or find a trusted adult to help rectify the situation.

nonmember avatar Clara

I remember hearing from somebody, who, at the time, was attempting to be humorous, who said "that which does not kill us, does not kill us." I think that applies a little bit here, because, while bullying does not always kill people, it does do harm! It doesn't make you stronger usually.

Sherr... SherriPie

Thankfully I was not bullied, but nor was I the bully.  I was too involved in sports and academics to put much effort into what others were doing, and I ran with a crowd that was pretty mild.  some of the guys I was "friends" with were probalby bullies though.

Melissa Ruel

My dad was in the "just ignore them" class of parent, I never told him how bad it got because of it. I was teased for wearing school clothing from the year before, I had glasses, short, shy, etc. Let's just say I was easy pickings because I didn't know how to fight back. I remember being in 6th grade and a girl that sat at a table near me had me turn around to hear, "if you ever want to lose your virginity, then.." I rolled my eyes and turned back around. This girl was relentless the whole year! I hope that I can teach my kids that sometimes you need to have zingers ready for when it's gone too far. That, and let them take the first swing. I don't want my kid to be a bully, but sometimes if you can dish it out too, then the bullies realize that you're not easy pickings.

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