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Take a Stand Against Bullying

pledge to stop bullying

Were you bullied as a kid? Bullies tend to target people who are different, and I definitely grew up in a family that was “different”. There were ten of us (twelve counting my parents), and we traveled from country to country – so we were always new kids. Most of us were shy. I remember kids teasing me, and once, in middle school, a boy punched me in the face. To avoid bullying in middle school, I learned to ask my teachers for permission to leave class and do the day’s assignment in the library, on my own. They let me, and the library became my haven.

I moved to a new school in a new country for high school, and was assigned a locker next to a student who always said hello to me, always asked how I was doing, and always listened to my answer. I have always been grateful for that high school student who reached out to an awkward new kid and was her friend. The school also worked hard to prevent and eliminate bullying. I was able to regain the confidence I had lost, and I thoroughly enjoyed high school.

I want my kids to grow up to be like the boy at the locker next to mine. He knew how to be kind. And, to me, that made all the difference.

Here are a few things I know about bullying:

  • People bully when they feel insecure. Often, child bullies are being treated poorly at home.
  • There are lots of ways to be a bully. Being punched in the face is fairly overt, but in some ways I found the resulting swollen lip less painful than the fourth grade teacher who devoted class time to rants about how my parents were overpopulating the world.
  • It is easy to be a bully. I know I have done things that hurt others without intending to – simply by not thinking.

Preventing bullying starts at home. Here are a few things I am teaching my kids:

  • Different people like different things. It’s okay for people to like things you don’t like, and for you to like things that other people don’t like.
  • Different people worry about different things. It is not okay to make fun of something that worries someone else, even if worrying about it does not make sense to you. Don’t tease others.
  • People are always more important than things. Never fight over an object. Toys that are fought over in my house get put in time out, until they can be shared nicely.
  • If someone is doing something you don’t like, talk to them about it in a calm voice. Don’t assume that people are doing things just to upset you.
  • If you don’t like something someone is doing and they won’t stop, walk away. Get help from a responsible adult (parent or teacher) if you need to.
  • If someone is hurting someone else, find a responsible grown up.

I also spend time talking to my kids about their days at school, and any topics that are on their minds. I try to be kind myself, every day. 

What are you doing to prevent bullying?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

39 thoughts on “Take a Stand Against Bullying”

  1. I ended up homeschooling most of my teen years because bullying got to bad for me. I don’t know about that idea that bullies bully because they feel bad at home. Sometimes I believe that, but sometimes I don’t. I’ve heard of studies that say thats a myth that isn’t true and I’ve seen that being used to teach people to feel more compassion than they should for the people tormenting them. Then there’s the idea that if another child bothers you, just walk away and don’t play with them, and yet that other child could easily be thinking everyone is bullying him through excluding him. It gets so muddy and complicated.

    As an adult I’m fascinated by the interactions of other adults. Sometimes bullying is really clear cut and obvious, and sometimes it isn’t. There are bloggers who cry that they’ve been bullied because another blogger calls them out and points out where their mistakes are. There were adults at my town council that complained that the ombudsman was being too adversarial and bullying, when he was trying to do his job.

    May I leave a link here in my comments to too more posts on bullying…?

    1. I agree that bullying is an incredibly complex topic. I clicked through to both of your posts, and I think you do a good job of bringing out some of the complexity.

  2. Such an important topic! I agree with you, not only do I want to help my kids learn to not be bullies, but I’d love for them to grow up to be the type of people that care about others and seek out people and ask them to join in.

  3. Thank you for your story! I agree that teaching kids about bullying begins at home. We have to teach our children to be compassionate and how to deal with bullites. Its so hard!

    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  4. Great post – I signed the pledge! I never had a bullying experience but my oldest has come home in tears from school because someone was mean to her. It breaks my heart. I work hard to teach my girls to be accepting of others, to understand we are all different and that it’s ok to be nice even if someone else thinks differently from you. If we all did it, the world would be a much nicer place for our kids. Bullying seems to just be getting worse and starting younger – it’s scary.

  5. Bullying is a tough topic. Many times it’s hard to tell it’s going on, especially now there’s the internet. Let me tell you how thankful I am that I grew up 15-20 years ago when instant messaging was just barely coming into play and we weren’t plugged in 24/7. I was bullied in school because I was smart. I never wanted to play dumb to fit in. I was also the smallest in the class which also made me a target. We’re raising J to understand that people are different and that’s ok. We’re also trying to encourage not making a big statement in public if he does see that someone is different.

  6. Hi MaryAnne,
    I love this post. As another perpetual new kid, I appreciated you being my friend when I got to high school. I love all the things you are teaching your kids. Especially the things in timeout, instead of the kids, idea. It’s fabulous.

  7. I’m so happy every time anyone speaks up and says this behavior – no matter what age, place, or configuration – must stop.
    I’ve written a lit about bullying on my blog and will sign the pledge – and keep speaking out. Thanks Maryann for this post!

  8. I think no matter what you do bullying catches you off guard. My son is actually having an issue right now at school. His teacher told me he was crying and she told him to come to her. He told me there are two boys who chase him. I told him to not run but he said he is afraid and he wants them to go to another school. Very upsetting. I will definitely check out your links.

    1. I’m so sorry your son is struggling with this right now. I’m glad he is talking to his teacher, and I really hope you can find a positive solution to the problem, soon.

  9. This is a really lovely post MaryAnne. I’m sorry you had to go through all that in school but I love the way you are raising your kids – especially “people are always more important than things.” You’ve written about the toys in time out before and we have adopted that here.

  10. I agree that kids who bully are feeling some kind of insecurity. Great post on preventing bullying and taking a stand against it.

  11. jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa

    One of my main missions as a parent is grow compassionate children. We look for ways to serve others. We look for ways to show others kindness. We try to always look for the best in others. On the rare occasion when my children complain about other children, I encourage them to use it as a learning experience. God wants us to love all people (even those who may be a little difficult to get along with). They have been taught that it is their job to find a way to get along. Being kind to everyone is the first step . . .

  12. Oh, MaryAnne. Thanks so much for this post and opening up. I was never bullied, but I was extremely shy and insecure. I want my kids to be like your locker mate as well- brave and open and accepting and empathetic. It’s something great to work toward as a parent.

  13. Varya @ littleartists

    What a heartfelt post. I was also bullied as a child, and I too, was punched once in 2nd grade by a bully boy in my face. It resulted in 1 hour nose bleed for which I was taken to the ER to have a small procedure to make the vessel clot better. Unfortunately, the school did practically nothing since it was all signed off to being small kids and not meaning it.
    I was mostly bullied because my mom worked at school first as the leader of pioneers association, and later – as a teacher. Luckily, I was never scared to speak up to teachers and my parents about it.

  14. I think what is weird about bullying today is that everyone seems to think this is a new phenomenon and shocking. Honestly, I don’t know many adults who didn’t have at least one bullying incident in their childhood.

    Not that I think bullying is good. Of course it isn’t. But it’s strange to me that this is the “issue du jour.” And this is not P.C. advice, but the best way to stop bullying is to stand up to bullies. Self defense definitely helps. When my son was bullied as a 3 year old (and whacked by 2 x 4 wooden blocks), we told him to push back a little harder, and hit back a little harder. The teacher intervention did not work (which was to take the bully aside and keep him by her side). The next time it happened, I was the parent helper so I was able to witness. My son got pushed on top of a play structure. He stared at the kid and then shoved back. The kid stared back. Then they ran off to play. And they never had an incident after that.

    My son is very, very small for his age but he’s had years of karate and can wrestle and stand up to much larger boys. I think this helps his self confidence and it’s certainly seemed act as bully prevention because we’ve never had an incident since.

    1. I think bullying is the issue du jour because people are working harder to find ways to prevent/eliminate it, rather than simply accept it as a part of life.

      My children’s preschool has a “no touching other kids” rule to prevent incidents like the one you described. It’s not an optimal solution, but it is a way around hitting.

      I think the self-discipline and focus required by martial arts can do wonders.

  15. Elisa | blissfulE

    I wanted to comment as well with regards to your fourth grade teacher’s prejudiced comments: my husband’s manager talks a lot about overpopulation with regards to our family size (four kids). It is terribly sad that adults bully, and doubly appalling when adults bully kids. Some of the worst bullying I had was from teachers: one for my views on evolution, and another when I got a B instead of all As.

    1. Teacher bullying can be really difficult, especially since there is such a big power differential and students are stuck in their seats in the classroom. I’m sorry you had to experience it, and I’d sad to hear that your husband is already being condemned for overpopulating the world with four very well-looked-after children living in a home where resources are carefully stewarded.

  16. Elisa | blissfulE

    That is so encouraging to hear about the boy with the locker next to yours! And I love the concrete ways you are teaching your children to be kind and how to deal with people who aren’t. Excellent post!!

  17. A great post about something close to parent’s hearts!
    Couldn’t agree more about the comments regarding teacher/adult bullying kids :(
    My two boys look different, and I am trying to teach them to embrace and celebrate their uniqueness. But it’s hard, kids just want to fit in, not stand out.

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