Bullies: When the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
By K. Parker
Bullying has always been a problem, but with the anonymity of the internet and the ease of being cruel behind a screen, cyberbullying has become all the more rampant. When I was fifteen, I had my first experience with this, both in-person and cyberbullying. A girl my age who had been my friend decided to alienate and lie about me, for reasons unknown to me. Despite these lies, her parents believed her and their reactions and choices made the situation worse, not better. I received cruel messages online, lost a fair number of friends, and was more or less shunned for things I hadn’t done.
I learned later that she didn’t get enough attention from her parents, namely her mother, and lying about being a victim of bullying herself got her a lot of attention from her parents. She never really apologized in the end, but all I feel for her now is pity. She was simply a fifteen-year-old girl who was starved for attention, so she went to extremes to get it because she didn’t know of any other way.
I’ve had a harder time forgiving her parents for their behavior, however. Instead of trying to intercede and understand the situation, they resorted to bullying my parents, which likely only encouraged this girl’s behavior. The girl’s dad called mine and verbally abused him, while her mother ensured that my mom was shunned from their social group. They used unrelenting hostility and power-moves to get back at our family while never attempting to find out if there was truth to their daughter’s claims.
Now that I’m grown, I know that there are ways of dealing with this better than my parents or I had known, and I wish such resources had been available to my parents.
Encourage Honesty and Open Discussions With Your Kids
- Teach your kids about what bullying is, and how to treat those around them with kindness and understanding.
- Make your home a safe environment where your kids will feel they can share their feelings and thoughts openly.
- Take a step back from the situation and think about it as objectively as possible. Don’t automatically believe everything your child says, but don’t discount their fears and concerns either. We live in a world where so many parents don’t want to give their kids the opportunity to be responsible for their own behaviors and feel the benefits of positive self-worth when they do make good choices.
- Be honest in your own life and teach through words and example on how important it is to be honest with everyone.
Talk to Personnel at Your Child’s School/Church/Sports Team, Etc.
One of the routes my parents took was arranging meetings with ours and this family’s congregation leader, asking him to be a mediator between us to help resolve the issue directly. I believe, had the parents of this girl tried to understand what exactly was happening, this method would have worked. Communicating effectively can solve a multitude of problems.
Still, this is the best route prior to legal action that can be done to put a stop to it.
- Talk to an administrator at the school, a church or community leader, or a coach. Help he or she understand the situation so that he or she can be a better mediator.
- If possible, sit down with the parents of your child’s bully and gather information, while discussing the situation in a civil and compassionate way. Try to find understanding without accusations.
Record and Report Abusive Behavior
Knowing what I know now, there were absolutely legal actions my family could have taken against this family based on not just the cruel messages I received online, but also the fact that my dad was being verbally abused on a regular basis over the phone. Getting a No-Contact Order or a Restraining Order may seem a little extreme, but there are times when it’s necessary and can bring peace of mind. Sometimes legal help is the best method to stop these behaviors from abusers.
- Take recordings or pictures of abusive language being sent to you or your child for evidence
- Research or talk with a law enforcement officer about what can be done
Through this experience, I learned that it’s so important as parents to teach and guide your kids through situations like this, and teach them beforehand about bullying and how to avoid it, especially teaching kids how to avoid becoming a bully.
Our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age is an excellent resource to build deeper connections with your kids and start tough conversations about bullying, integrity, overcoming fears, and much more. Check it out!
K. Parker is a writer and editor for Educate and Empower Kids, and a graduate from Brigham Young University-Idaho in Professional Studies in English. She is excitedly pursuing a career in copy editing as she grows her little family.