When school and law officials didn’t help end the online bullying of her 13-year-old daughter, Florida mom Debbie Piscitella took matters into her own hands, literally. When she ran into her daughter’s alleged bully at a St. Petersburg mall, Ms. Piscitella admittedly “lost it” and put her hands around the boy’s neck.
On Good Morning America this morning, Ms. Piscitella said she regretted the action she took, but noted that her daughter had gotten so distraught over the bullying that she wanted to hurt herself. In the mall confrontation, the alleged bully said “he wasn’t going to stop, and he didn’t have to stop,” Ms. Piscitella said. “So I lost it. I really did. I lost my temper.”
Ms. Piscitella said “they have all these anti-bully laws, but when it comes down to it, it falls on deaf ears.”
McKenna appeared on GMA with her mother, and wept when asked about the bullying. The alleged bullying occurred on McKenna’s Facebook page after she posted a photo of herself wearing shorts.
Ms. Piscitella offered these pieces of advice for parents of children being bullied: “I want people to try to go through the proper channels. I want you to monitor your children, and what they’re doing on Facebook.”
Looking back on her situation, Ms. Piscitella said she would “shut the Facebook down immediately.”
Local news in Florida said that the alleged bully’s mother, Keysha Tipton, wishes things had been handled differently, too.
“I wish that somehow they would have tried to contact us,” Ms. Tipton told KDSK News. “Cause then it would have been easier to not have this blow up into this huge thing. If my son said things he needed to apologize for, I’d make him apologize.”
Ms. Tipton said she wasn’t going to press charges initially, until she saw the marks on her son’s neck. “I don’t care who you are,” she said, “if you’re an adult, you don’t put hands on a child.”
She also said that her son is willing to apologize, but is afraid it would be too late.
I’m going to agree with Ms. Piscitelli that she probably should have just shut off Facebook. And I agree with Ms. Tipton that Ms. Piscitelli should have just contacted her. Because no matter how angry you might be, choking a child is just never a good idea. This isn’t an episode of The Simpsons, this is real life. You can’t be the best parent you can be when you’re in jail for child abuse.
Believe me, I know how angry you can feel as a mom when someone hurts your child physically or emotionally. When somebody messes with any of my kids, it’s hard not to envision myself turning into Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, or punching the other kid in the throat.
But I don’t. Because I’m an adult, and I have semi-control over my emotions and actions.
Keeping in mind that I’m not a mental health professional, and I don’t even play one on TV, here are some suggestions for parents dealing with bullying issues:
- You can punch the kid in the throat with your mind. You can’t go to jail for a mind punch, and it might make you feel a little bit better. Then take a deep breath and move on to do something actually productive.
- Talk to the school. Again and again and again, and basically be all up in the school counselor’s face until something gets resolved.
- If your child is affected by bullying to the point where you think he or she might hurt themselves, for God’s sake get a therapist. Seriously. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation if you don’t know who to call. Self-injury is nothing to mess with.
- Consider contacting the other child’s parents. There’s a productive way to do this: start with, “I’m sure you’re not aware of this, but I know you’d want to know…” and just state the facts of what’s going on. Explain how hurt your child is and anything you’re doing on your end to help end the problem.
- Remember that the computer works just like the television! If you don’t like what’s on, you can turn it off.
KidsHealth.org, part of the Nemours Healthcare Foundation, offers additional tips and strategies on helping children deal with bullies.
(via: ABC News)
(Photo Credit: Good Morning America)