Tag Archives: Bullying


I picked the picture above, because bullying does begin young. More about that in a few minutes, but first the story that started me on this post: a sixty-eight year old bus monitor was bullied verbally to tears by a group of four middle school kids.  If you haven’t heard, seen or  read about this here’s the Fox News story: Police: Bullied bus monitor won’t seek criminal charges against students | Fox News.

Glad there is an outpouring of anger about these teens. Glad someone started a fund for her.  Sorry to hear some are sending death threats to the kids involved.  My feeling is the public shaming for this behavior is sufficient punishment.  As usual, however, parents are taking much of  the blame.

Before I became a foster parent, I was on the side of the blamers.  It took becoming a parent to see the errors of my therapist training and my own behavior.  Not to excuse myself, but most who do not carry 24/7 responsibility for a child,  respond to unacceptable behavior in children as  failed parenting.  This includes professionals.

Why? If you have not parented, you know only the pain children know and every child knows what it means to be hurt by those parenting.  Even the kindest, gentlest parents inflict pain. As simple an act as not praising a well praised child hurts.

Another reason parents are easy targets: most of us also know we are not perfect. When our conscience hurts, finding someone to blame eases our pain.  Jerome Kagan, Harvard  human development researcher and expert, believes we  calm uncertainty about our goodness by blaming others—not all the time as I discussed the Blaming Dance in an EFTI Blog post. It is a dance with some of us holding more tightly to guilt than blame.  Kagan says that it is likely to cause depression.

Finally, parents don’t always do the right thing. In an unfair twist of our memories, the rarer a painful event, the more likely it gets filed away in our long term memories.  My father was a gentle man, but I remember with great pain the few times he was angry enough with me to raise his voice.  Not yell, just raise his voice and add those dreaded words, “I am disappointed.”

REALITY CHECK: As Kagan notes, while parents start kids off, many other factors make us who we are. Here are only a few of the things he considers important:

  1. The mix of both parents’ genes
  2. Birth order
  3. Identifying or de-identifying with the powerful people in your life
  4. Your various competencies or talents and how they meet what their world wants of its citizens
  5. Who you think it is important to please
  6. The acted on values of your community
  7. Your  personal experiences
  8. The world events that were part of your growing up and later life
  9. The beliefs you create for all of the above
  10. Luck or what Kagan calls chance

In the scenario in the news at the moment, the bullying probably began with someone the other kids wanted to please.  One of the known facts about teens, and particularly young teens, is that more than parents or teachers or any other adult, the kids of today want to please their peers.    This explains why many otherwise good kids get seduced into doing bad things.

Howard Polsky, the researcher and author of the book  Cottage Six describes how smart kids can rule adults by getting less smart or secure kids to do the leader’s dirty work. He calls such smart kids captains and those who do the dirty work lieutenants. Often the captain can look like a good guy.  I have a great deal of respect for Polsky’s book and advice—he was a colleague at Columbia University helped stabilize our foster home.

Ageism also played  a part in the bullying of the bus monitor.   Ageism is a problem in the USA.  At best, those of us who are past sixty become invisible.  At worse we are blamed for all current ills.  Moreover,  particularly if  female, we  are the easiest to bully.  Bullies generally do not mess with anyone they think can out-power them.

Finally,  I think in trying to  protect our children’s self esteem, we have seriously over-looked something.  That something? Life in the real world.  You best survive that world by respecting others.  Sadly, too many of today’s children believe the world centers on them.  Others are to be ignored at best and at worse used for the child’s pleasure.  That was what the bullying of the bus monitor was about—kids feeling powerful because they could push an adult to the point of tears.

A clarifying note: mostly the problem of overly self-centered children is one of middle class Westernized children, parents who have time and resources to worry about protecting a child’s self esteem. Poor children and children in third world countries, or countries ruled by dictators, often learn different lessons. Often the poor are kinder and more giving than the well-off, providing they have not been beaten, abused, or starved into submission.


Another bullying story is making the rounds.  This is about a teacher who had a six-year-old deemed the class bully and then slapped by all the other kids in the class.  Click here for that story.  Use both stories as teachable moments by having a family discussion about bullying.

  1. Start the discussion with the bullying of the bus matron.  What are your kids ideas about why it happened?
  2. Add to their mix of ideas, your own ideas.
  3. Make certain the fact  that the media sends out  messages that too many people buy, but that are destructive and have created a bullying mentality in many places, not just on school buses.
  4. Ask them if they can think of messages that hurt people and support bullying.
  5. Make sure having to look a certain way, have certain talents, or own certain things are in the mix if your kids don’t put them out there.  Also point out negative messages about adults.
  6. Then turn to the story of the six year old being slapped and ask their opinion of that.
  7. Ask what might have been a better way to handle that bully.
  8. Re-emphasize that both stories have made you wonder if you have been making clear that the good life involves getting along with others without bullying or being mean.
  9. Ask your kids what messages they hear from you that might make them think bullying is okay.
  10. Apologize for any ways you have promoted bullying.
  11. Institute a a family monthly  “Give to Others” event.  Be sure to include your kids’ ideas in the mix.

Here is a good quote to end the discussion: “Human beings are created to be loved. Things are created to be used. Problems start whenever the opposite occurs.”

I found the quote in a cryptogram puzzle and do not know who wrote it, but it is a wise one.


Share this post if you think it will aid another.  The kindness will circle back to strengthen you even if the person rejects your effort to aid.  Sometimes it takes a while for advice to sink in; sometimes others have to add their voice.  Life is a journey and we are all on different parts of the path.

Stay strong, I work at it all the time.


Images found on ehow.com, Fox News, and NYork Daily News.


Think again. For while it is true a child beaten and bullied at home, or raised without values, is more likely to become a bully, the studies show as few as 30% of abused kids become bullies.  Here is the more traditonal view as put forth by Lianne Castelino of  www.whereparentstalk.com.

Here’s her ending quote, which I disputed: “The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Kids learn what they see, they tend to model behaviour they are witness to. Over-protective parents may not realize that their controlling behaviour is akin to bullying. It all starts at home.”


Here is a slightly edited version of the  comment I posted  on Lianne’s blog. Do remember I am dysgraphic and am forced to practice “good enough” and not perfection in my unedited writing.

I wish it was as simple as good parents doing the right thing.  Helps when that happens, but and a big but is parents can do everything right and still raise a bully.  Moreover, that is likely to be a smart kid whose parents believe “Not my kid!”

Briefly, bad apples might not fall far from the tree, but  that doesn’t mean the tree is to blame when an apple goes bad or doesn’t reach its full potential.  Might be the wrong mix of genes, not enough sun, too little rain, an unlucky lightening strike, crowding by other apples, worms. I think you get the point.

Our children are being raised in an unhealthy culture that preaches “Just do it” instead of do it with kindness.  We the parents need to take a stronger stand against unhealthy values.  I am not a preacher, a daily bible reader, but if the Golden Rule–which was first written in by a Hindu Pagan–was given the press of “Just do it” values, bullying might not die, but would be seriously wounded.

What’s a parent to do? Lianne and I agree about much so as she suggests parents need to take on the hard task of teaching their children caring values.  Moreover, they better live by those values.  A stunning example of good parents doing bad things–Thank you, Trevor O’Keefe for that paraphrase of my book’s title–pops to mind from the days David was coaching kids soccer.

You may not know this but in most leagues, teams move up and down the rankings in part by what league they play in.  Where we lived the A league were the winners.  The B league were the sometime winners and occasionally a B league team would move up to the A league . Of course that meant they would usually be soundly trounced at every game.  When the kids my husband coached were mainly B league, for example, for a season they played A league.

Anyway, to cut to the point, David’s team lost every single game that year.

To lift morale, we decided to have a picnic following a kids versus parents game.  Now we naively thought the parents would not play their hardest.  Foolish us.  We stopped the game because it was clear that too many parents “were in it to win it” not to have fun.  Now, I would insist on handicapping the parents.  Make them walk while kids ran. Or for bigger laughs, tie two parents together so they have to run and play three legged.

We are an “In It to Win Society.”  Moreover, the media strokes and makes money off that human tendency to want to be a winner.  Witness TIME magazine’s stirring up angersabout nursing moms.  Drives this aging woman off her rocking chair.

Here are my tips

  • Tip one: continue doing your best to instill caring kindness as a better focus than “In it to win it.”
  • Tip two: Also teach your child solid self defense skills.  Being too kind makes you a target for bullies.
  • Tip three: Unite to force the media to promote caring values.  I do see some ads suggesting that.  But we need a true cultural revolution to stop the bullying.

Self disclosure note: Lianne (from Where Parents Talk) is interviewing me via Skype tomorrow.  That is why I read her blog and was inspired to write this.

PRACTICE KINDNESS. Sharing is caring and if you think this worth someone else’s reading share it.  I for one will be appreciative and sometimes the other person might thank you also.

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