My Child is being Bullied? Oh, I Don’t Think So!

Bullying Circle

Ouch! That hurts! Why did you smack me!? “I’m being bullied again today and this is getting serious, but who will help me?”

Bullying is no joke, and it’s no dress rehearsal. Bullying is real and children who choose to exhibit these behaviors are not backing down without intervention. To answer this child’s question – YOU will help him/her.

Because we realize bullying behaviors occur daily in our nation’s schools, we must stop, look and listen to our children and deal with the pressures that these annoying behaviors pose on their lives.

Parents, school officials, and legislators, we have a huge responsibility, so we must do ALL that we can to help our children, but not just the child being bullied. We must also reach out to the child bully, and we can.

Let me ask these questions

As a parent, are you aware of anti-bullying laws and policies in place at your child’s school? If so, how are these policies being enforced? If not, have you voiced your concerns and/or asked to work closely with school officials in hope to create anti-bullying procedures at your child’s school? Do you know if school officials at your child’s school are clear about what actually constitutes bullying behaviors? If not, what are you waiting for?

School officials, have you written anti-bullying policies and campus plan of action? Have you disseminated your plan to parents? Are your main stakeholders (students) feeling comfortable and safe in the school setting? I hope so, because it’s your duty to ensure these policies are not only in place, but acted upon consistently and proficiently each school day.

In some cases, there are concerns about what constitutes bullying behaviors verses normal play, or friendly horsing around. Remember, bullying behaviors are intentional and are repeated acts over time. The child bully intends to pose harm, and he/she does not plan on stopping. I know that you have these concerns too, so I’ll define what bullying is and what it looks like.

Bullying Defined

Repeated acts of:

Verbal (name calling, teasing, insulting, or threatening)

Physical (hitting, kicking, scratching, pushing, stealing, hiding/destroying someone else’s property)

Social (refusing to talk to or play with someone, purposefully excluding someone)

Cyber (using electronics such as computer to write mean, demeaning messages about someone)

Religious (individuals who use religion as a weapon in order to gain power while trying to make people do things their way, or believe in their religious tactics. These individuals may also quote the bible, but most times do not follow the teachings of the bible).

Signs of being bullied: Be Watchful

Bullying younger siblings/cousins – taking his/her frustration out on others

Sudden moodiness

Emotional – Crying/Whining

Poor eating habits or asking to eat as soon as he/she gets home – bully takes lunch or lunch money

Depression

Torn clothes or mysterious bruises/scratches

Isolating self from others – appearing lonely

A change in grades – poor grades

A sudden dislike for school

Exhibiting unfounded anxiety

Low self-esteem

Complaint of sick feelings – stomach aches, headaches

Asking not to go to school

Signs of threats or suicide

If you have reason to believe that your child is being bullied

Stop, Look & Listen – Take Action NOW

Talk to your child. Ask him/her about their school day. Ask if there is anything that you should know. Whatever you are doing or plan to do, stop! Your child must trust that you will drop whatever you are doing to see him/her through this crisis. Your child needs to know that you are listening to him/her; you hear their frustration and the pain they’re experiencing. You may want to repeat what you heard them say to you, thereby acknowledging that you are really listening. Let your child know that you will be there for them “at all costs.”

Documentation

Get the story as clearly as possible from your child and document everything from your child’s version of the bullying incidents to every conversation you have with school officials. Be sure to write things down as soon as an occurrence arises or a conversation happens. This way, incidents are still fresh in your child’s mind. You may want to keep documentation separated by tabs in a tablet or a notebook to maintain a distinct record of each person’s story. It will be important to keep your child’s version separate from a school official’s so that messages don’t end up overlapping, getting accidentally mixed-up or combined.

Have other students been affected by the bully or bullies who are attacking your child? If so, what are their names? Were there any witnesses to the incidents? If so, what are their names? Does your child remember which class the other students are enrolled in? Can your child point them out? Encourage school officials to interview other children who may have been bullied.

Use dates, times and settings in your documentation. Did the incident happen in the cafeteria, classroom, or playground? Detailed documentation will not only help school officials target bullying incidents, but it will also give school officials an indication of how best to resolve issues as they examine antecedents (causes/variables that may have prompted the bully to react inappropriately), so that changes and individually tailored support plans can be implemented.

You might try color-coding verbal vs. behavioral actions just to make sharing information more succinct and organized.

Approach school staff immediately

Bullying will not just stop on its own. Don’t be afraid to approach school administrators.

You might find that some school officials and administrators may be territorial and believe that they are the educational experts, and you are “just a parent.”

Since you are your child’s greatest advocate, here are a few ideas about how to approach the issue of your child being bullied while working collaboratively with school officials:

Do your research. You can assist school leaders with ideas of how to bully shield and bully proof the school that your child attends.

Approach the school leaders as if you are on their side. Do what you can to avoid creating an adversarial relationship between you and the people who have the power to help stop what is happening.

Let the school leaders know that you are not only concerned about your child, but all children enrolled at the school. This will soften your approach thereby giving you greater lead-in for support and next steps.

Begin speaking to the school counselor before working your way up the organizational chart – Test the water, first.

When my own child was bullied at school, I spoke to the school principal directly. Due to budget cuts, this particular school had no assigned counselor. I approached the situation as a concern for the other child as well as my very own child. I said, “Perhaps this young girl is having personal problems in her home-life that’s making her feel angry.” Other times I would say, “Sounds like this child wants to take charge and is a bit bossy. Perhaps she can be shown how to use her leadership skills in a more positive and productive manner.” By using this approach with the school principal, I believe that I softened the conversation, thereby gaining the principal’s attention. It appeared that she was more willing to hear me.

But, there are times when the school will not help. Now What?

Before I address this problem, I want to urge parents to always gather as much information about your school the first week or two of the new school year. This is the time when the climate is still warm and friendly, and stress levels aren’t heightened due to the pressures of trying to keep up with everyday school life. Know the district level office organizational chart and levels of administration assigned to your child’s campus. Attempt to retrieve their contact information such as names, email addresses, voice mail, and telephone numbers, and perhaps location of their office – This is last resort. Never show up without an appointment.

When your child’s school will not listen to you or help you through a bullying crisis, and you know that you have done your part, you have spoken to the classroom teacher, school counselor, assistant principal and principal if circumstances have taken you this far, you should contact central office staff and speak to your child’s school assigned area superintendent.

Share your concerns and let this individual know that you have tried to work collaboratively with school officials at the campus level of your child’s school. Trust me – Now that bullying has gained national attention, there is no doubt this person will be all ears.

There are approximately 48 states that have laws mandating anti-bullying programs and services in schools, but some schools have been slow in implementing the programs.

Be sure that you know the anti-bullying laws of your state (Bully Police, USA has a state by state listing of anti-bullying legislation). Be ready and able to recite the Senate Bill and House Bill laws associated with the bully’s offense. For example, if you live in Texas and your child is experiencing sexual harassment issues at school, and no one will address the issue, share your knowledge of SB 471 and HB 194. If you do this, everyone will know that you mean business!

When to call a lawyer

If you have gone through all the recommended steps above, more than likely you will not have to call a lawyer; however there may be times when your story will land on “deaf ears.” If no one will listen to you, or if everyone has listened to you and they have chosen not to intervene, there is no more time to waste. You will want to get legal advice immediately. Time is of the essence and the safety of your child is paramount!

Focus on your child

Remember, there are effective steps that you can take as your child’s anti-bullying advocate. Consider the fact that bullying related suicides are real.

STOP whatever you’re doing and act quickly on your child’s behalf. Our children count on us to help them during crisis. This is not the time to put ANYTHING else before your child. Show your child that they can trust and count on you.

About the author

Author Cherrye Vasquez has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Ed in Special Education; and a BA in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician.

Vasquez is passionate about empowering children, so her platform centers on diversity and bullying issues. She feels strongly that if children are empowered and armed with the tools needed for a deep love of self and self-identity, they will be able to withstand life’s challenges, including bullies.

Website:

http://www.BooksThatSow.com

Twitter

https://twitter.com/bullieswillstop

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Fall 2013

Please look for Cherrye’s new release – Clique, Clique, STOP

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8 thoughts on “My Child is being Bullied? Oh, I Don’t Think So!

  1. Kenneth Weene

    I should have been bullied more as a kid. Fat, intelligent, bookish, and incredibly nonathletic, I was the perfect target. That I was also from a minority (Jewish in a heavily Catholic city) wasn’t going to help. Perhaps had I been around during the summers when kids were freer to get into trouble, I would have been; but we spent our summers in Maine, where my parents operated sleep away camps, and where the fact that mine were the parents in charge kept me safer than I might otherwise have been. So the only bully I had to put up with was my brother (and one other, whom I will discuss below).
    It wasn’t that I didn’t know about bullying, it was that I avoided it. Even still, I did reach a point when I could no longer accept my brother’s behavior, and I picked him up and threw him to the ground. Suddenly, I knew I was not so weak. One kid at boarding school tried to bully me. I used a judo move and considered throwing him into the partially frozen hockey pond. I figured that would get me into trouble, so nah, just out the door.
    The funny thing is that looking back I wish I had suffered a little more bullying from my peers. I think it might have toughened me a bit. Instead I was unable to process the attacks of the one real bully in my life, my father. To this day his emotional abuse haunts me. Did I disappoint him? Did I fail to live up to his expectations? I don’t know. I just know that I was the sacrificial son. I always knew what the first line of Moby Dick meant; Ishmael indeed.

    Reply
  2. Sharla

    My middle daughter, Nicole, was born 80% deaf. Having been rejected by her father, separation was inevitable, which actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened for both of us. It led us to her Daddy, the person who has had the greatest impact on her life. This needed to be said as a precursor to the bullying she faced, especially in middle school. Kids can be so cruel showing absolutely no signs of compassion. So much of Niki’s abuse was never known until she reached college because she never spoke of it, instead, harbored the terrible verbal afflictions within herself. Then, one day she came face-to-face with probably the cruelest girl of them all. Niki was attending the University of Florida and had come home for the weekend. I don’t remember the exact location but I will never forget Niki’s words when she told me they ran into each other. It was at this time I truly learned of all the cruelty inflicted upon her at school. I cried. She cried. We hugged and smiled at the end. The girl did not recognize Nicole but Niki sure knew who she was. Niki smiled and proceeded to ask her how she was followed by a response that led to the fact the girl had practically gone nowhere with her life. “Do you know who I am?” Niki asked. A negative nod was followed by a look of puzzlement. “I am that girl who you bullied all through school with torturing remarks that I will never forget. Because of you I am stronger today, have accomplished more, will continue to be successful, understand better why I am who I am and so much more. What is your excuse?” As the girl’s jaw dropped, Niki turned and walked away finally feeling a sense of relief within her heart.

    Jim and I did not see the signs. How did we miss them? With education, knowledge, information, being provided via experts, such as Cherrye Vasquez, multiple opportunities are afforded to look at the who, what, when, where, why of the bully. Take advantage of every opportunity to become educated yourself. Know the signs.

    With October being anti-bullying month, Dr. Vasquez was featured on Awakenings. Within this post, are two powerful video poems presented by Cherrye that provide insight into the bully-ee and the child bully: http://awakenings2012.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-bull-bully.html

    Reply
  3. Micki Peluso

    The thoughts from Ken and Sharla have some merit; being bullied can make one stronger in the long run but is it worth all the pain and suffering throughout childhood? As I’ve said befoe bullying has been around since cavemen times. In the 50’s and 60’s of my childhood, it was a given and the one being bullied had to take it or, like I did, beat the heck out of the boy who bullyed me. But other bullying knocked down my confidense to a level never restored and that was by my boss, who was jealous of the attention I got. It caused me my job and left me feeling forever afraid to take chances.

    I’m glad to see that finally bullying is an issue taken seriously. It’s brought on more with the coverage kids have today through the internet. People like Cherrye who devote their life to stopping bullying are our saving grace, but as with most things, it may be overdone. This country either ignores wrongs or attacks them overzealously as in the case of the six year old boy who was arrested for kissing his ‘girlfriend’ on her hand in school. There never seems to be a sane middle road in these issures.

    Reply
  4. Trish

    Wow! A lot of food for thought and some very useful information. I think bullying is something that touches everyone at some stage of their lives, whether it be physical or psychological, or both. We were unable to stop the bullying our eldest son faced at elementary school despite a visit with the headmaster. He wasn’t different in any definable way, except that he suffered from ADD when little was known about it. When Rene chose to move to a boarding school far from home, we readily agreed because we knew it would give him a new start where nobody knew him. It worked out well and he was elected to be a prefect in his senior year, which put him in a position of authority over his peers.

    Reply
  5. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Trish is right. There is much food for thought here. No matter how or what we believe, this issue is still everywhere and hopefully will some day be resolved. I grew up in the late 40’s on and was bullied because of the abuse I dealt with at home. I just saw out as another form of abuse. My brother was bullied because when he was young, he was so small. It does not seem to be what the issue is really about but it just boils down to the person bullying. They feel a since of superiority and these type people are likely to never change.
    Thank you for this article bridging an issue in the forefront of our minds

    Reply
  6. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Cherrye, Thank you for this in-depth article dealing with an all too common issue. Sadly, I was bullied all during my childhood and teen years for being over weight and having acne. My parents were old enough to be my grandparents and basically took the stance of “deal with it. Life isn’t any easier when you grow up.” As a junior in high school boys would throw pebbles at me while calling out hurtful words. Years later my complexion cleared and the pounds melted off; but the hurt still remains, deep down, ready to surface at the first chance of my insecure moments.

    Reply
  7. Linda Hales

    As always, you hit the nail on the head Cherrye. I don’t have any memories of having been bullied but I have surely seen my share of it – especially in the schoolyard. The worst case of bullying I know of involved a boy I went to school with for the first 8 grades until I moved away to the city. He was an awesome friend, a wonderfully talented artist, even as a child, sensitive and caring. His name was Tam and I always knew that I would give that name to my child – boy or girl – and as it turned out, I did name my daughter Tammy who was nicknamed Tam. He was bullied throughout his childhood by his father no less, for having interests that were inconsistent with what he was raising him to be – a lawyer. All Tam cared about was his art but did please his father nevertheless, by becoming a lawyer in the family law practice. Even that was not good enough because once his father learned that he was gay, he was pretty much disowned. Tam was broken and had no love for his profession and ended up taking his own life as a fairly young man. Many have taken their own lives because of hopelessness and despair, because those who should have cared, didn’t and therefore failed their children. I know that this is a form of child abuse but it is perhaps, one of the worst forms of bullying too.

    Reply
  8. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    You know the tears we cry when we have to finally send our children off to school, this is one of the reasons for those tears, not just that your baby is and has become so independantm, but for all of the things he or she will have to endure. So young and so unprepared for the ugliness that lies ahead in some cases. Shouldn’t have to write articles like this! Thank Y9ou though for the information and will share it for others ging through this God awful mess!

    Louise

    Reply

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