Today’s Issues: Bullies and Your Kids, Pt. I

Hello Readers!  Today is a very important day for me.  My maternal grandmother, Nammi, goes in for a mastectomy this morning for her stage three breast cancer, and my family is praying for good news.  So, I hope you will keep my family in your thoughts and prayers, and I will let you know more as I learn.

Anyway, today, I want to discuss an important issue that faces a lot of moms and kids: bullies.  I don’t know about any of you, but I was definitely bullied in school.  I was nerdy, awkward, and “uncool”, and I was often one of the smallest kids in my classes due to my late summer birthday and, thus, young age.  Even though I’m an adult now with a college education and a family, those memories of bullies still affect me.  Now, however, I don’t feel anger or resentment or even fear of them; I pity them.

See, looking back on it, the bullies in my childhood didn’t have the best lives at home.  And while I came from what was classified as a “broken home” due to my divorced parents, I still grew up in a loving family with a great mom and wonderful step dad who supported me and encouraged me to do my best.  Even though my biological father was never in a part of my life, I never felt abandoned because of my step dad who truly was my father.

But the bullies of my childhood had different situations.  They came from divorced parents who fought to “win” them over all the time by buying them toys but never really spending time with them.  They had poor relationships with their step parents, if there were any. Their parents didn’t make a lot of money, so things were tight at home.  Not that we were rich by any means.  My mom was a school teacher and my step dad a self-employed businessman, which meant most of our extra money was tied up in his business while he got it going.  Still, I never felt I went without because my parents taught me to use my imagination over playing video games (which were never allowed in our home), and we spent time together playing board games, discussing important topics like world events and religion, and doing other activities as a family like horse riding, hiking/camping, and whatnot.

In essence, I never worried that my family didn’t care for me.  I never felt unloved or underappreciated in my family, even though I had another family–my biological father and his new family–elsewhere in the world.  However, the same wasn’t true for my antagonists in school, and many of them struggled with family issues or money troubles.  And for that, I can’t be upset with them.

So, what does this have to do with your own children and their antagonists today?  Well, even I had a hard time understanding why these bullies were so mean to me when it happened.  I mean, I never did anything to deserve it, other than being who I am.  So, when I cried over the incidents of bullying I had experienced, my parents would always comfort me and explain to me that these kids most likely did it because they were going through something more difficult than I could understand, such as family or money troubles.  And I, though not any better off, happened to have a loving family and less troubles than they did.  My parents would appeal to my compassion to understand my antagonists and to forgive and forget.  And for the most part it worked.

So, while bullying is difficult to take, it’s important for us parents to understand that the other kid, while mean, may be going through something at home and is looking for attention in some way.  Or they could be lashing out.  Now, I don’t condone violence or continued harassment, but I do think it’s important to take a step back and understand why the behavior may be occurring.  It could be that the bully may just want a friend or may feel alone.  It could be that they feel abandoned and unloved.  It could be that they feel the only way to get any attention is to lash out and hurt others.  Whatever the case may be, it’s important to talk to your kids about bullying and about having compassion for bullies.

So, how can you make a difference in the situation?  Well, if any of you have ever seen The War featuring a young Elijah Wood and Kevin Costner, you may recall the scene in which Wood and Costner are at the county fair and the neighborhood bullies start antagonizing Wood’s character.  When he begins to lash out at them, his father-played by Costner-gives their cotton candy to the bullies.  Immediately after that, Elijah’s character says, “What’d you do that for? That was meant for [his sister and mom at home].”  And I’ll never forget what the father’s response was: Because they looked like they hadn’t gotten anything nice in a long time.

That scene has stuck with me because it says a lot about what we should do to stop bullying incidents.  Showing a little compassion for the bullies can sometimes stop them from continuing their poor behavior.  I, myself, ended up befriending one of my bullies by just taking some time to think about why they may be acting out and by being nice to them.  And while it may not always be the case, I know that my conscience is clear about these incidents.

But, if any of the bullies had gone too far, I had no qualms about escalating it to involve authorities.  And, in one case of mine, it did go so far that I had to do just that.  However, by standing up to my antagonists and saying “Look, I don’t know what may be going on with you, and I know that I haven’t done anything to harm you.  If you need someone to talk to, I can be there for you.  But this behavior has gone on long enough,” I did manage to stave off quite a lot of that behavior.  Sure, the bullies may have mocked me at first.  But most of them stopped after that.  It wasn’t instantaneous, but standing up and turning it on them often had the affect of embarrassing them.  And it bored them.  It wasn’t the response they wanted, and they often moved on.

So, next time your child tells you of a bully they may know, sit down and explain compassion to them.  Ask them if they know why the other kid may be bullying others or if there are any negative thoughts about the bully.  Chances are the kid is bullying others because they feel insecure.  And ask your child to have compassion for the bully and to befriend them.  Show the bully what a friendship can do and tell your child to be a positive influence for the bully.  They may make a great friend out of it.

Until next time,

-BBM

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