How Do You Tell a Parent That Her Kid Is a Bully?Joslyn Gray
My 10-year-old daughter told me that a classmate was running in the cafeteria, slammed into another girl, and went on her merry way. When my daughter said that she should say sorry, the girl blew her off with a “whatever.” At that point, my daughter said to her friend (the one who had been slammed into), “I’m so sorry that happened. She should have apologized.”
The girl replied simply, “that’s okay, she’s always mean to me.”
Later that day, my daughter again tried to talk to the girl who had run into her friend and was blown off. My daughter has decided to drop it because, in her words, “I don’t need the drama.”
I know both of the other girls’ moms socially. Not close friends or anything, I guess you’d say we’re friendly acquaintances. Another little detail is that my daughter’s friend has some special education needs, making her an easy target for bullying.
Here’s my question: what do I do? Some possibilities:
A. Do nothing. It’s none of my business and nothing really serious happened.
B. Notify the school counselor.
C. Give the mom of the possibly-bullied girl a heads-up that something is going on? (I feel like I’d want to know.)
D. Mention all or part of this to the mom of the girl who has been, shall we say, unkind? (Again, I feel like I’d want to know.)
I asked an expert in bullying, a school social worker, and some experienced moms what they I should do.
An expert in tweens and bullying
Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an education consultant and the author of several books for tweens and teens including the Middle School Confidential series. She also has a blog, where in a post called “My Child? A Bully?” she points out that “no parent wants to admit their kid is a bully, but according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice study, 77% of students nation-wide reported having been bullied, verbally, mentally or physically, in school in the past month. Lots of tormentors. Each one is somebody’s child. Would you know if (s)he was yours?”
Here was Annie’s response:
“I am very proud of your daughter. As for what you should do, I would act on options C and D first. You might begin the conversation with the girl’s mom like this: ‘I’d like to talk to you about something that concerns your daughter. I feel a little awkward saying this to you, but I know if you knew something about my daughter’s behavior at school, I would want you to tell me so I could talk to her about it.’ The more honest we can be with other parents the more likely they will give their children a course correction when needed. If the behavior does not stop, then I would definitely go to the school counselor.”
School Social Worker (Anonymous):
The school social worker (not at my daughter’s school) told me that it’s always appropriate to notify the school if bullying may be going on. I asked her how she would go about telling a parent that her child might be a bully. I was told that schools never use the word “bully” to a parent.
“Who am I to say their child is a bully?” she asked me.
“Um, a school social worker. And sometimes kids are bullies,” I pointed out.
“Yes, but it’s not appropriate for me to make anything like a diagnosis. We describe the behavior without making the judgment.”
So that right there is a really good tip: don’t use the word bully if you really want someone to hear what you’re saying. The point here is to have a positive impact, not to just piss off another parent.
I also talked about the situation with some other moms. All agreed that as icky and awkward as it might be, I needed to give both other two moms a heads-up. One of my friends pointed out that if my 10-year-old daughter could stand up against a peer, we as grown-ups need to be able to (tactfully) address the issue as well. I have to agree; I’m 38 years old. I should be able to deal with life’s awkward moments by now.
I’d love to know what you guys think. I’m not even sure this is really what we’d call “bullying,” because I don’t know the specifics, except for just the one incident. Obviously, it doesn’t need to be a physical pummeling to count as bullying. From my own experience, I know that girls especially can be quite adept at being mean in all kinds of psychological ways.
I’m definitely troubled when a girl says, “that’s okay, she’s always mean to me,” though.
I can’t be the only parent that’s faced this situation. Has your child ever told you about bullying going on? What did you do? Any suggestions on how to word things if I talk to the other moms?
(Photo credit: iStock)