School’s back in session and despite the excitement and promise of a magical year, I’m overcome by this sweeping panic.
Is today the day that some bully sets their sights on the most important girl in my world?
It isn’t uncommon, of course, for moms and dads to worry about bullying. Heck, most of us have seen it with our own two eyes back when we were kids ourselves. Plus nowadays, living in this Internet age, there is a never-ending feed of bullying stories to look at. Or freak out about. So we’re conscious of it, up to date on the latest opinions. But still.
Where does it come from? Is it inevitable? Are some kids just bad apples? Or is it their parents’ fault somehow?
Lately I’ve gotten to wondering about the other side of the bully coin. Rarely do we hear much about the parents of bullies. Who are they? Do they even know that their kids are Public Enemy #1 when it comes to the new school year? How do you NOT know that your own son or daughter is being cruel on a regular basis, in schools and on playgrounds, in parks and on street corners all over the land?
I don’t know the answer. I’m not that wise, trust me.
But I’d suppose that many parents (me included) simply don’t know. They’re certain that their kid could never ever be the bully, OR they’re way too blinded by the understandable nature of being a parent who loves their kid to the point of utter denial.
It’s an unfair fight in a way. It isn’t easy to balance a razor-sharp perception of who your kid truly is at school or out in the world against the hazy, biased view we all tend to have. How many of us are guilty of peering at our sons and daughters through the foggy lens of hardcore love? Most of us, I’d be willing to guess.
So I ask myself the hardest question I can come up with here.
What would I do if I found out one of my kids was the bully?
Honestly, the mere pondering of the damn thing gives me agita. Talk about a soul-crushing revolution. I try to imagine what I’d say, how I would control my wildest emotions from taking over if I was ever told that my sons or my daughter were causing hurt and pain to another child deliberately and excessively.
I can only guess, but my guess is that I would have to spend some hard time alone. That would be first. I would have to come to terms with the recognition that I didn’t recognize that it was happening. And then, against my innermost demons and guilt, I’d have to try and forgive myself for that as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
Because bullying is hard to see if you’re the parent of a bully. It just has to be. And so when the hammer finally drops and a mom or dad is faced with the crushing blow that their kid is causing such harm, regret and anything that comes with it will only slow what needs to be done.
So, I’d talk then. With my child. Oh, we would talk long and hard, but not in a way that finds me as the hollering/punishing dad. I’d have to find another way. I’d have to find a gentler way into the mind of the most important person in my life. And bashing them from the start would probably serve to make sure that I could never make that happen.
I’d want to understand what satisfaction they were feeling from their acts. And I’d need to process that with my kid in a solid effort to help us both understand that the pain they were causing was only, and I mean ONLY, because they themselves were hurting bad, deep down in their guts, about something neither of us had known about.
From there, well, I suspect that it’s a long road back from being a bully. Or from being the parent of one. But I would have to imagine that it’s a worthwhile trip. From pain comes stronger hearts. From mistakes come less mistakes. And from digging pain out of the deepest, darkest grooves comes peace.
You probably have to love a bullied child back from the hell where they have been.
And you probably have to love a bully back from the hurt inside their heart.
For more information on addressing and preventing bullying in your school and community, please visit PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.