I didn’t want to admit my daughter was being bullied.
Why was this so hard for me to recognize? I have a ton of experience with bullying prevention. In my years as an elementary school guidance counselor, I taught bullying prevention to classrooms full of kids. I currently advocate for this cause. I even run an after school club for kids to promote kindness! (Check out Samaritans365.)
This was personal though. My daughter was the target. My daughter who year after year teachers say is one of the kindest, most inclusive children, who gets along with everyone in the class. But she was not exempt from being the target of bullying.
Bullying Advice From a Third-Grader
My daughter and I sat down one afternoon, after the resolution meeting at school, and I recorded her with my camera. I wanted to document everything that happened and had wanted her to write about it. She is not a big fan these days of taking pen to paper, so we were going to have her dictate to me. Then we came up with the idea to make a video.
She and my younger daughter love YouTube Kids. I thought, what a great idea! She wanted to help other kids who are being bullied and, in her words, those who haven’t been bullied, but may in the future, be prepared. It is a very real and raw and unrehearsed conversation in which she goes into detail about what happened. I shared it on our YouTube channel and you can watch it here:
I Didn’t Want to Admit My Daughter Was Being Bullied
At first, it didn’t dawn on me that this was bullying. As the incidents trickled in, I coached her through them. I initially thought it was just an isolated incident. Then I thought perhaps this boy didn’t know personal boundaries, and I asked her if perhaps he didn’t know any better and continually gave the situation the benefit of the doubt while guiding her through ways to stick up for herself.
I don’t think I wanted to believe that she was being bullied. I’m not one to fly off the handle or to run to the school complaining. I felt I was handling the situation and was on top of it. I was listening to her explain what happened, processing her feelings, and guiding her through problem-solving strategies. I want to teach my kids to try to solve their problems themselves (with my help of course) before getting involved firsthand at the school.
At this time of the school year, standardized testing was taking place. My daughter was experiencing a lot of anxiety — a lot. She even began having panic attacks. They were brutal on the whole family. We were even working with someone professionally to help guide us through them. I had attributed these panic attacks solely to the pressure from the standardized tests, but began questioning whether this boy who was bothering her was contributing to the anxiety and panic attacks as well.
Then It Dawned on Me, This Is Bullying
After a few months and another report from her, I was sharing it with my husband, and I could hear myself recounting the situations she had experienced. Even with my help and her sticking up for herself, the incidences kept on coming. With my knowledge of bullying, I knew that this type of repetition, threats, verbal and physical aggression was indeed bullying.
According to StopBullying.gov the definition of bullying is:
“An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”
Yes, my daughter was being bullied, and I needed to contact her teacher immediately. Still, I didn’t want to believe it. Could it just be that this kid was just annoying her? Bothering her repeatedly? Where do you draw the line? How can you tell really? Why wasn’t this clear to me with all of my experience? Why couldn’t I just call it what it was? I went to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center website and read “What Parents Should Know About Bullying.” If your child tells you about a situation and you aren’t sure if it’s bullying, use this checklist:
– Does your child feel hurt, either emotionally or physically, by the other child’s behavior?
– Has your child been the target of the negative behavior more than once?
– Does your child want the behavior to stop?
– Is your child unable to make the behavior stop on their own?
If the response to one or more of these questions is “yes,” the more likely it is that the behavior would be considered bullying.
Getting the School Involved
My husband and I immediately drafted an email to the teacher. Coincidentally, that same day, the boy had an incident with another child in the cafeteria. The assistant principal was there and witnessed it. My daughter and her teacher ended up sitting down with the boy, the other girl who was being targeted, and the assistant principal. My daughter shared everything that she had experienced. There is a zero tolerance for bullying at the school, and it was handled right then and there and to our satisfaction.
From then on, the remaining weeks of school went by smoothly and without further bullying. I can’t stress this enough: Open communication is key. I was pleasantly surprised to see her empowered and not victimized, like so many other children may feel when being bullied. I was very proud of her. While I wish I’d intervened earlier, I’m so relieved we handled it before it escalated even more.
My advice to parents encountering a similar situation is not to wait, give the teachers a heads up, openly share your concerns. Don’t worry about being a squeaky wheel. Things like this can escalate quickly, so why have any regrets and wish you had done more sooner?
Also, keep communicating with your kids. Talk to them about everything: little things and big things because one day when big things happen, they need to know that you’re there to listen and to help. I hope that by sharing our story, we can help other moms and kids who are going through this or, as my daughter said, may experience it in the future.
These websites are also informative and helpful resources for bullying: