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November 03, 2010

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No one forgets a screamer -- a boss who yells at workers, leaving them feeling powerless and constantly on edge, and sometimes...

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Like Kristen and many ther commenters, I was bullied horribly in 5th grade. It destroyed me.

Pushed around, mocked, humiliated, ostracized, outcast, shoved.

The worst came when my best friend was called a lesbian (worst thing you can call 10 yr old in 1990). I remember standing in gym with our entire class huddled on one side staring at herand talking about her. I stood by her side knowing a)she wasn't a lesian b) it didn't f***ing matter, cuze she was great.

A few days later, everyone forgot about her being a lesbian and she sided with the bullies against me.

I'm not a helicopter mom, I let my kids fall, I let them eat candy. But I will NEVER let me feel like its them, alone, against the world-or a group of 10 year old bitchs.

Well, my daughter was bullied at her tiny private school for three years.

I watched as my audacious, fun, strong-willed kindergartener turn into a withdrawn, frustrated, anxious third grader.

We pulled the plug on her school, and now she is seeing the counselor at her new school, working on her self concept. She began to see herself as someone who "gets bullied" and almost seemed to seek out those types of interactions with other kids - it was all she knew.

I almost let some bratty little girl steal MY little girl's awesome mojo. Never again. She'll get over it with time and HELP. Sometimes the help comes in the form of removing her from the situation (like your parents did, Kristin) and sometimes it's in the form of sideline coaching. The most important part of guiding them through the difficulties of childhood is to do your very best continue to talk to them - even when they go all Middle School on you. Knowing they can come to you goes a long way toward their survival into functioning adulthood.

I agree that parenting sometimes needs to be moderated. When it comes to bullying, the parent definitely needs to hover. Like freakishly.

Kids need to be taught, tried, tested, and ultimately uplifted. Not undermined.

Bullying is a more serious issue than people think, I think. It is never ok.

hey mom, stop reading all the bullying articles until you're a bit longer post-partum. They will tear your heart out, and there's plenty of time for that later. Love up those babies and leave the bully patrol to us non-nursing, ready for battle moms. Worried about you and your sleepless nights. Been there, done that. Four times. xo

Fully agree with you on the not-OK-ness of ever allowing bullying. But what do you mean by times have changed with regard to being a helicopter parent? Crime rates are down substantially from the time when most of today's mothers were growing up.

Oy. I'm in elementary and middle schools everyday watching how teachers are addressing bullying in school. It is so insidious. I'd rather see flat out, in-your-face, talk-to-the-hand name calling. At least then, teachers could easily target the perps. Technology really ups the ante. As does covert eye rolling. And mean faces. And well-concealed, purposeful, focused humiliation. All learned behaviors. I want my boys to grow up to be good. So, I'm consciously rolling my eyes at my husband less. And trying to control my transparent facial expressions. I know it's not that simple. But we are our kids role-models. That's the way I'm hovering. Right now, anyway. But, God help anyone who goes after my child.

I think it's good to step in when there is bullying. Maybe not the first couple of incidents, but if a clear pattern emerges, yes. Especially at the younger ages, I think (and hope) we can change the behavior of the bully as well as teach the other child to speak up for him/herself. The sooner we step in and say being mean is not acceptable, the more possibility there is that that child won't continue to be a bully in the future. I know I sound overly optomistic, but if we can get one child to change, then that one less bully in the world.

Anyone who says it's okay to let your child be bullied is a damned idiot. Even before the age of 5, I'm already telling mine to return a hitting with a hitting back (much to their mom's chagrin). If you let yourself get knocked around when you're young, you'll keep letting yourself get knocked around when you're older, until you grow up and become George McFly before Marty taught him how to stand up for himself. I'm not going to raise a future George McFly.

I totally agree. When parents don't help their children learn that they are not worth caring about, that they're unlovable, and that they can't trust anyone. A sad state of affairs. =(

Amen.

I was bullied in 5th grade too and I remember every single bit of it some 13+ years later. Being a parent includes protecting you child and if that's called hovering, then that's exactly what I'll be doing. The last two lines ring the loudest in this post because it's so true. Ugh, so very, very unfortunately true.

This was a great post and I identified with it 100%.

I've recently heard of a couple of "mean girls" in our area and, hmmmmm, lemmee see, their parents are kind of messes as well. It's that whole apple doesn't fall far from the tree thing.

There are bossy kids and then there are bullies. Bossy kids teach our kids to stand up for themselves, assert themselves---I try to stay out of those relationships. But, if it comes to bullying---really being mean to my kid, spreading rumors, hurting physically/mentally, then, yeah, we need to step into that, however messy it may be.

I agree with most of the comments that the term "bullying" is being used inaccurately in this piece. Clearly there is a difference between being mean and being a bully. Bullies choose targets and are unrelenting. But of course bullying isn't always physical. So as a parent the most important thing is to make sure your hearing your child.

In my child's case I just made the teacher aware that I was hearing things from my daughter that concerned me. I didn't say the things were happening, but wanted the teacher to be on the lookout as well. When things did get physical I talked to the parent of the child and the teacher, and later the child himself when I witnessed the actions. But throughout I was calm and clear. (Okay, when I was with my kid I said I would take her bully o-u-t, but in my defense that was a sight word for the week.)

Fric was bullied all through grade school and when she hit grade seven it reached it's pinnacle. Mean girl treatment at it's worst and I could no longer tolerate it. So I stepped in. And her parents then tried to bully me. And it was ugly. (They called me a baby killer, those bitches.)

But I held my ground and it changed. The behaviour went away. Mostly because the child was scared silly of me but also because her parents, who EMULATED the bullying behavior, realized I wasn't a chump they could walk over like they must do to so many others and they recognized I meant business.

My daughter tried handling it on her own but she didn't have the skill set to deal with it. And now, not only is she not bullied anymore but she knows she has a mamma bear willing to protect her no matter what.

Great article. (As was Amy's. But her editors? Not so much.)

I do not think you can hover enough when it comes to bullying. That's not helicopter parenting, that's protecting your child from (as evidenced by your post and the numerous comments) life long damage.

I am very strongly against the hysteria that makes parents keep their kids in the house because of all the apparent "dangers" out in the world - I truly believe free play is incredibly important and, like you, I don't want my fears and anxiety to effect my children's life but the line is drawn when it comes to bullying. As @suziejd said - by standing up for our kids, by stepping in we are showing them our values, our love and how to handle themselves in similar situations in the future.

I still haven't fully recovered from being bullied. It still haunts my interpersonal relationships at work and at home.
Bullying is never OK. It may get better when you are older, but it never goes away.

Sigh. I see both sides to it. I think in some respects we protect kids too much. In others not enough.

What Amy was talking about, was at first, not even something that anyone could do a thing about. I mean we can tell kids to be nice and polite to each other until we are blue in the face, but it doesn't always work. Especially not when they are five. When it became more than that, she did step in. Which is when I believe we should. Kids do eventually have to learn to deal with each other.

I was bullied too. In seventh grade. Horribly. I finally had to let my baby brother take care of it for me, because no adult was able to do a thing. Or didn't care too, I'm not really sure. He stepped up and protected me and became my body guard for a bit. Until those asshole girls knew he was serious. I will be honest, he resorted to violence to protect me. Which sucks. That no adult would help me. That my then ten year old brother had to protect me. I'm still thankful that he did though.

I just think it's a fine line. One that we sadly, can't always be on the right side of. My kids go to a choice school. Basically very Montessori, in touch with feelings. Very hippie-ish, lets all share and be kind and it's lovely. I adore it. In a way, my kids are sheltered from a regular school play yard, because of it. You are home schooling. Our reality is different from a lot of parents. I'm not arguing with you. I agree with you. I just also agree with Amy. This is just a hard one. What I do like though? Is that we are all talking about it. That is what is needed. People continuing to talk about it, not ignore it.

I love that you wrote this. When I saw the headline in my Reader, I was afraid that I was going to have to come say, "No, no. Amy wasn't saying that. The title sucked, and Fox News sucked even worse for baiting her."

It was a great piece. I'm glad you highlighted it.

It's so hard when your child is being bullied. My son, who is 9, likes theater, singing, & dancing. Because of this he has been teased at school for "being gay". I have intervened by calling the principal and speaking with his teacher at the time. My heart breaks everytime this happens. I just always reiterate to my son to never change who he is or what he likes to do for anyone. And you know what - it's hard. He questions the choices he makes now, wondering if he should do the opposite so no one makes fun of him. It terrifies me, he's only 9 - what happens in his teen years?

I blame whoever coined the term "helicopter parent." I'm sick and tired of watching women pitted against each other on the flimsiest grounds and asked to take sides and fight it out. THAT's moms being bullied for all trying to do their best for their kids. When we're so afraid of being called a name ourselves that we hold back from doing what's best by our kids, we need to rethink our motivation.

My kids are all under four, which makes this a lot easier in our home right now. However, we're a transracial family and my kids have been harassed at the playground. It's hard for me to confront someone else about their children but I'm finding it gets easier every time some horrible little kid throws dirt at my daughter and says "I'm not gonna play with the n*****"

I know bullying will get worse. In general I refuse to be the hovering parent because I think it makes life harder and with four kids under five, I'm looking for easier. But when it comes to bullying or harassment, you can bet I am on it. I know my kids will face some of that for their entire lives. Not every day will be good, not every person will be kind. But it's my job to show them the appropriate way to handle it and stand up for themselves because I won't always be there to fight for them. So for now, I hover. And hope like hell they're getting the message.

I totally agree with you. Kid's can be mean little pricks. I am a hovering helicopter parent. I may not ALWAYS be this way but as of right now I am. Being a parent has a learning curve right? My child is a loving, secure, happy-want-to-be-friends-with-everyone little girl. But sadly not everyone's kids are the same way. I will protect my child no matter what. And if that makes me a crazy person then so be it.

I was bullied through elementary school and it STILL haunts me. I see it in the way I interact with people. I see it in how self conscious I am. It's so painful and something many really don't get over. It stays. For life.

It makes me tear up even talking about it.

Carter (5-years-old) came home from daycare last night and told me about a child in his class they all call "snotface", and then he laughed.

I realize kids will be kids and it's "just" name calling, but I won't tolerate it and I let that be known. My greatest fear is raising a child that treats others the way I was treated.

So yes, I agree. 110%. Hover. Support. Teach.

Also? The title of the article kind of pisses me off. It's inflammatory and hurtful to those of us who have been bullied. It's never okay, it's not a right of passage or allowable kids-will-be-kids-type mentality. Harming another child, physically or mentally, is NOT something that should be considered NORMAL childhood behaviour.

*sigh* Now I'm just taking over your comments...

Her piece was great and so is yours. I think you speak for so many of us who are scared of looking like (being?) overprotective and overinvolved, but also wanting to protect our kids at any cost. It's so hard to know where to draw the line.

My only complaint: Your headline should have been: 10 BULLYING TIPS YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT.

Love the last 2 lines of this post.

Well said. It's a tricky balance as a parent. We have a fierce desire to protect our children, of course. But we can't, and shouldn't, protect them from each and every little thing. That's not how the world works, and making them think otherwise does them a disservice in the long run. They do need to learn to cope with arguments and even meanness from other people.

BUT, obviously, I think there's a big difference between fickle taunts from other kids and outright bullying that is more than just semantic. If it's chronic, or major, or in any way threatens the child's safety, we absolutely have an obligation to step in on our kids' (and other kids') behalf.

That title unfairly misrepresented Amy's piece. I expect her editors wrote it.

It seems to me that mothers are screwed regardless of the approach they take, because inevitably there will come a situation when our approach fails us. Unfortunately, it's those rare situations that make for good news fodder, not all the successes that we and our kids enjoy every day.

One of the most interesting and difficult things about the conversation about bullying is that we really don't have a definition for the word. There's a very large set of behaviors that can be called "bullying," and of course, there's a spectrum of severity.

I can see allowing your child to navigate a certain amount of negative social pressures and reactions on their own - which seems to be what the article is talking about.

But when my now-7th grader was made absolutely miserable in her 4th grade because of "mean girl" behavior (at the time, because it wasn't pushing, shoving and outright taunting, not what the school was labeling "bullying"), I stepped in. And I think that by stepping in, and standing up for her, and showing her that the behavior that was making her miserable - making a once bright & smiley girl withdrawn and tearful 90% of the time - was NOT okay, and should NOT be tolerated (or replicated), I did teach her how to navigate things on her own in the future, and how to behave, and how to choose friends, and how to stand ground inside of friendships, and how to treat friends ...

It's such a hard, hard thing.

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