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When Parents Battle Bullies

What should a parent do about bullies?

As more and more children become the victims of bulling, more and more parents are being forced to contend with it. I’m lucky in that I’ve not had to deal with the issue just yet. My triplets are 3, and my oldest daughter is only 9, all a little young with regard to the advent of the mean-spirited epidemic.

But I’m confident it will eventually rear its ugly head. And when it does, I wonder how I’ll handle it. An prominent blogger recently posed a very important question which pertained to bullying that helped lead me to my answer.

But before she posed that question, Lisa Belkin, author of NYT’s Motherlode, cited two news stories which prompted her to ask it. One was about the Florida dad, James Jones who staged a school-bus confrontation with bullies who had been picking on his MS-afflicted daughter. The other was the story of Betty Duvall, who gave her daughter, Michelle, pepper spray as a means of protection herself against bullies who had been tormenting her. Michelle was forced to use it and a gusty wind blew the spray into the eyes of some innocent bystanders.

Belkin’s question: “How far should a parent go when their child is bullied?”

And while I love Belkin’s blog, and usually think she’s spot-on, in this instance, I think she’s asked the wrong question. Or at very least asked a premature question. For before that question can be asked, we should be asking this one first: When should a parent get involved with bullying that is affecting their child?

Generally speaking, I applaud parents like James Jones, Betty Duval and Cheryl Joseph, a parent not cited by Belkin who stated she’d go to jail before she’d send her daughter back to the school where she’d been bullied. But in each instance, I cannot help but wonder if enough was done by these parents before they acted out.

Because I believe that the only time one should ever take this sort of matter into his or her own hands is after all of the conventional/formal channels for solving the problem have been exhausted without yielding a satisfactory solution. And call it a hunch, but I suspect that in most cases, the conventional / formal channels haven’t been exhausted.

Sadly, calling and complaining about a situation—any situation—usually doesn’t do much good. It takes something more formal to get the ball rolling. One of Belkins 122 comments came from “AJ.” And I think “AJ” agrees with my assertion. “AJ” brings some sound advice to the table.

“What are you to do before you first get involved in violence or have your child do so?” AJ begins. “First I would recommend putting the complaint in writing. Schools are scared of a record. They think they can get away with anything when only oral complaints have been made. If that doesn’t work right away it’s time to bring in an attorney. One letter from an attorney threatening suit if the bullying is not dealt with immediately is all that it would take. Schools are unbelievably scared of lawsuits.”

That’s what I intend to do. Namely, tackle the problem quickly and aggressively via written communication. If I don’t get the result I want, then I’ll call for legal backup.

And if I end up in a situation where nothing seems to work? It’s only at that point I would ask the question how far should a parent should go when their child is bullied.

I recommend you let your conscience be your guide, but me personally? I’d go as far as it takes. If the authorities won’t stand up for my children, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will.

Photo: Flickr/trixer

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John Cave Osborne’s personal blog.
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