Image courtesy of Johnny Goodtimes
When I think about bullys, I have a vision about their home lives. It looks something like this:
- abusive or at least neglectful parents
- struggling financially
- parents aren’t well educated
- outspokenly prejudiced parents
Basically, I have this picture of an out of work redneck man sitting on a front porch chair with a can of Bud Light in his hand, wearing a wife beater t-shirt and saying things like “Boy, get your tail over here, boy.” , and maybe kicking the hound dog laying at his feet.
This week I learned that my picture is wrong. All I had to do to envision the type of parents that raise bullys was to take a look in the mirror…
There has been a lot of attention given to bullying this week in response to the tragic death of the Rutgers University student. I have read wonderful articles about bullying written by parents that discuss what do to if your child is the victim of bullying.
While in the midst of reading this article by Amber at Mile High Mamas, my cell phone rang…
“Hi, this is Principal B over at your son’s school. Do you have a minute?”
“Um, yes, now is good.” as I got up to shut my office door.
“First of all, everyone is fine. Your son is fine. But we had an incident this morning with your 1st grade son.”
“Apparently your son asked another boy in the class to give him a High 5. The other boy refused and your son slapped his cheek.”
“Gasp! What? MY son? He did what?” That is what came out of my mouth. The immediate thoughts in my head were much closer to…
I swear we don’t model that behavior. Neither my husband or I have ever slapped anyone. Where in the world did this come from? OMG – MY child is the bully! I am such a FAILURE as a mom.
The principal was very gracious about everything and explained the conversation he had with my son about the poor choice he made, that you can’t force someone to give you a high 5, etc.
The Principal felt like my son “got it” because he was crying pretty hard during the lecture and his teacher, Mrs. W, said she was very surprised and would never have expected something like this because Tev is usually so well behaved. Phew, maybe not COMPLETE failure, maybe just 98% parenting failure.
They made Tev apologize to the other boy. The boy accepted his apology and followed it with “But don’t do it again.”, which was incredibly appropriate. I thanked the Principal profusely for handling it so well, for providing the lecture, and especially for calling and bringing it to my attention.
I hung up the phone and sat dumbfounded in my chair for some time.
Where did I go wrong? What should I have done or said differently that would have made it clear that slapping someone is NOT acceptable? What can I say to Tev that will change his behavior so not only won’t he slap someone again, but won’t do other unkind/bullying things either?
We talked about it later that night. I lectured him about the normal things “It is not ok to hurt another person. How would you feel if someone slapped you? You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want you to do. You made very bad choices and I’m very disappointed in you.” etc.
He made excuses for himself in between crying. “I just gently touched his cheek. It was an accident. I don’t know why I did it. I couldn’t stop myself.”
I believe we responded the right way. We talked to him about his behavior. Discussed consequences and making different choices next time. Talked about putting yourself in other people’s shoes (empathy), etc.
But, throughout this process I have this great fear that he doesn’t get it. That somewhere along the way we’ve missed the boat on teaching our son empathy and compassion for others.
I’ve taken him with me volunteering for underprivileged families. We talk about right vs. wrong choices. But what if my son IS a bully? What if he lashes out again?
What do I do?
Do you have any suggestions on things I could or should have done differently? Do you have any parenting moments like this that made you feel like a parenting failure? What are your thoughts after reading this story?