Recently Jill and I watched the infamous “Bully” documentary about taking a stand against the epidemic of bullying in our society. We felt sad and disturbed and finally uplifted by the individual stories it tells of what these families have been through.
This film is a “must-see” for any parent who suspects bullying to be a part of their child’s life in any way, shape or form, at school, in the neighborhood or at home (that includes being bullied by older, more forceful siblings or being the bully with younger or weaker siblings.) Bullying can be either physical, psychological or emotional abuse.
Lee Hirsch, Cindy Waitt and Cynthia Lowen have created a moving, potent film that confronts the conspiracy of silence and inaction that surrounds this complex problem in our schools and on our playgrounds.
Communities all over the nation are moving into action as a result of viewing this shocking, yet inspiring film. The huge amount of publicity around “Bully” is well deserved and is causing a tsunami of inquiry into just how pervasive this traumatic situation really is. We applaud these great results!
However, with regard to mutual respect and mutual trust (our common themes for workability and the best results possible) the film shows how the adult interactions with the child victims and the child persecutors alike sadly fall far short of the opportunity to make those involved feel better and create a real change in their behavior or the overall situation.
What can you, a great parent, do when the sad circumstance of bullying touches your family?
1) First and foremost, have respect for the reasons that a child who is the victim of bullying has for not standing up for themselves and/or telling you about the problem. Shame is the main reason and avoidance of further pain or difficulty is the other. If you can demonstrate respect for these emotional underpinnings of their behavior they will be far more likely to trust you to be on their side in the situation (rather than experiencing you as lost in your own emotional reaction about it.)
Of course it is understandable that you as a parent have a whole bunch of feelings in reaction to your precious and beloved child being either the victim of a bully or having been caught acting like a bully. Your reactions will range from dismay and disappointment to shock and rage and grief and fear.
2) Of course, you will want to do something about your own upset feelings and we urge you to get them handled. However, we caution you against bringing these emotions to your child – they have enough feelings of their own to deal with and we request that you seriously consider how burdensome it is to them to add your emotional reactions on top of their own. Get your feelings taken care of first with someone who can hear you (and yet not further inflame your negative emotions) and help you to regain your parenting inner strength.
3) Once you have discharged your initial reaction of big upset and you can be more centered and calm, then go to your child and have a mutually respectful conversation with them about what happened and what they want now and how both of you are feeling at this point, strongly assuring them that they are not wrong or to blame and they can count on you to be there for them. (If this count-on-ability seems beyond you at the moment get yourself in the space of a professional who can be a source of compassion as well as problem–solving with you and your child.)
4) Follow through on any commitments you made to your child. Keep listening to them – it takes time for big emotions like the ones involved in bullying to be processed and these emotions go through several phases and stages. That will be true for your child’s feelings as well as your own feelings (and for anyone else who is closely involved, like a teacher or the principal or the parents of the bully.) At first there is always denial and defensiveness and blaming and excuses. Let this stage pass and keep making clear requests of everyone involved about what would work and have your child feel good again, whether your child is the victim or the persecutor.
IF you can hang in there long enough, continuing to stand for what is workable with regard to amends being made that are actually felt or observable, you will usually experience the situation starting to lift and turn for the better, at the very least with your child’s sense of self. Keep reassuring them of their inherent worth and inner strength and ability to find solutions for themselves in partnership with you as their advocate. Your child needs adults s/he can trust more than anything else now.
5) If your situation is not getting resolved and seems sufficiently serious then keep watching this site for more practical tips and research other sites for more extensive information on how you can be great in your specific bullying situation. We have noticed there are quite a few excellent books as well on the subject. Get support for yourself in the situation as it is stressful and you need to be in great shape to be a great parent. Call us if we can help you in any way.
Readers, join us in a virtual conversation as we dive deep into the hot button topic of what to do about cyber bullying. Leave any comments you have or suggestions about what works in regards to this specific kind of bullying below. As always, thanks so much for your contribution.
On the back of the video case for “Bully: It’s Time To Take A Stand”:
From Sundance Award-winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, comes a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary following five kids and families over the course of a school year. Offering insight into different facets of America’s bullying crisis, the stories include two families who have lost children to suicide and a mother awaiting the fate of her 14 year-old daughter, who has been incarcerated after bringing a gun on the school bus. With an intimate and often shocking glimpse into homes, classrooms, cafeterias and principals’ offices, this is a powerful and inspiring film that every educator, parent and teenager should see.
By Dr. Lonnie Green, M.Ed., PhD