Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bullying: Parents Are The Best Long Term Medicine

Phoebe Prince's suicide and the stories of bullying from South Hadley, Massachusetts have so many parents worried. And for good reason. But it's parents who have the power.

For parents whose children have been bullied, you might relate to these feelings: stomach in knots, dreams of dismembering the bullies, feelings of powerlessness, frustration, fear, and deep hurt. It may be harder on parents at times than it is on the kids.

But even through your pain, if you're paying attention to your child, not putting them down, helping them improve the situation, being their friend when they have no other friend, hiding your worry that they'll be labeled a "loser," and just generally, "being there," then there's a very good chance that, although they're devastated and downtrodden today, they'll grow up to be happy adults who didn't let bullying leave a long tail of pain.

Take for example, a fifth grade boy I recently met. His parents were worried. He received so much abuse, they said, that he didn't give eye contact, he mumbled, his shoulders were already slumped from carrying the weight of the world. He had been a target since kindergarten.

Instead of getting totally discouraged, his parents stepped up their efforts. By the time I met him, he was standing up straight and looking me in the eye, told me in the most confident way, about the advice and support his mother and father gave him. They spent time with him, including reading about bullying and guiding him through the process of making new friends. Privately, his parents told me how hard it had been and how frustrated and angry they were. It took time. The bullying didn't necessarily stop but the constant reminder from his parents that he's important began to make him feel stronger. Now he wants to help the younger kids feel stronger.

Hang in there, parents. Remember that your unconditional love may not stop a bully but it will eventually stop the pain.

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