Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Flip Side to the Bully Problem

I cried.
I felt the pain and frustration and anguish and nausea of the bullied 
kid's mom.
I felt what she felt because I've been there before with my kids.
But I also felt it from a different perspective.
See, I'm the mother of a "bully."
When I use the quotation marks I'm not at all attempting to say that the word 
bully is a misnomer;
not even in my son's case.
However, it is a label that I don't like attached to him. 
He's so much more than that. 
He's bright.
He's funny...and not only at your kid's expense.
He's also frustrated.
And he's embarrassed.
And he's ashamed.
He has a learning disability that we've only recently been able to figure out.
Does this excuse him punching his sister in the shoulder
because he didn't like how she told him "What's it to you?"
Does it excuse him constantly aggravating his younger brother by 
farting on his head and stepping on his pillow or throwing his used
tissues at him?
Does it make him any less responsible for his actions when he 
chooses to beat up his older brother or challenge his
"manhood" by calling him hateful names?

See, I'm well aware that this kid is my test in I fear I may be failing
I have tried talking to him,
yelling at him,
taking away his privileges when he bullies,
rewarding him when he doesn't.
It's not working.
I ask him why he hits and pushes and teases and hurts  others.
His answer is always the same:
"I don't know."

I am frustrated, too. I want to puke, too. I cry, too.
But not because my kid is being bullied...
because my kid is bullying yours.
And I get the nasty glares,
and the hateful retorts, 
and the threats from angry siblings, cousins, neighbors, teachers and parents.
I'm not ignoring it.
You're right it IS unacceptable behavior.

However, I do live in a country where psychological counseling is 
questionable at best.
So seeing a shrink is not an option.
I'm doing my best to try to find exactly what 
is making him behave this way 
so that we can work together
to fix it.

And it's hard...REALLY, hard.
And I can only apologize to those parents of bullied kids
on behalf of those of us who have kids who bully
and are aware of the behavior 
and are trying to change it.
I'm sorry.
But I'd like to ask a favor of you.

For just one moment, please step back from the emotion
of your situation and it won't be easy...
but before immediately asking that hateful 
and hurtful question:
We don't "allow it."
I know MY kid has never come up and said to me,
"Mom, if so-and-so gets on my nerves today, is it okay if I throw his
backpack out of the 3rd floor window?"
Most of the time, we're not aware of the bullying. 
Once I was notified, I began immediately to work with my son
in an attempt to identify the reasons behind the behavior AND to put an 
end to it.

It's not going to happen overnight.
Let's be realistic. 
All of our kids are works in progress.
I'm not saying at all that I'm sitting back and hoping that he'll outgrow 
this stage like he did the nail-biting thing.
But I'm also groping around in 
the dark.

All of these cool websites who offer "help to stop bullying" are
seemingly coming at it from a "how not to be a victim of bullying."
This is not helpful to those of us who are on the 
other side of the bullying spectrum.

I have found a couple of sites that at least touch upon it
without the immediate 
"Go seek mental professional help" option.

You can find assistance here:
or here:

Anyway, I just wanted to say that 
the bullying problem is just as frustrating from the other
side of it only in a very different
perhaps more guilt-ridden way. 
If we, as parents, work together to teach our kids
to work through their frustrations in a healthy way and how to 
stand up to bullies by talking to parents or teachers or
some other adult who can help,
then maybe we can succeed at stopping 

Feel free to place helpful suggestions in the comments section. 
I really am tired of banging my head against a wall
to come up with new ways of
trying to work through this with him.


  1. Bravo, Nikki. Great post, great perspective. This is wonderful and you're a great mother.

  2. Nikki,

    Your article really touched my heart and made me think about the other side to the bullying story. I will think twice before telling my nephew that the reason he is being bullied by a kid in his class is because that kid has parents who just aren't teaching him better, or who just don't care. Thank you for opening my eyes. I pray that you will find a way to get through to your son. I know you will.

  3. Nik-I understand. I am also the parent of one of each. One of my boys was bullied and the other one was the bully. It stinks. My bully was biting kids in his daycare class and literally pushing them around. Come to find out he had a hearing problem, things got better once that was recognized and we took steps to solve it. It didn't happen over night. He was also much much bigger than his peers (physically) which you also mentioned is an issue for you, that we solved by putting him around kids more physically matched-not sure that's an option for you, but my point is that once you ID what the bully's issue is, you can start to take steps to rectify it-you mentioned a learning disability; I know you're really on to something with that-and you recognize it too. I also think that most parents have also been in both situations, most of them have had a kid that has been a bully-else how come there are so many? Do none of those bullies have parents?? Yet most parents never want to admit it...'certainly not MY kid-we teach bullying is wrong'...yeah, so did I. I never told my son, 'yup-go right ahead and bite so-and-so or push them down' but you'd think that some parents would swear we do with the looks and comments...Anyway-hang tough, you can make a difference-you do make a difference for your kids; the bullied AND the bully.