“Hello, Mrs. Jones?”
“Yes, this is she?”
“Mrs. Jones, when you come to pick up John from school today would you be able to stop by office?”
“Of course. May I ask what this is concerning?”
“Another student at Smith Middle School has reported a bullying incidence in which your son
was involved in. We can discuss it further when you come in.”
Now what? Panic? Yes, probably a little but get over it and get to that school!
No parent every thinks they will get a phone call stating their child is bullying another student. Parenting instincts tell you otherwise and while we know children are not perfect, somehow it is still quite unbelievable.
So what happens next? :
- The first part of your reaction will most likely include some sort of denial. Realizing this is natural, feel it and then move onward. Keep in mind that you do not have any facts at this point so just stay focused. There are many sides to EVERY story.
- When you arrive at school, be prepared to LISTEN. Going in to defend the situation will more than likely not accomplish anything. Your objective is to get the facts, access the situation, and be part of the resolution. If you are defensive and uncooperative a resolution may be laid out that you have no say in and don’t agree with.
- When you arrive home with your child give yourself thirty minutes to sit calmly before you speak of the situation. Digest all the information; confer with the other parent…etc. Sit down with your child in a neutral area (not in their bedroom or yours) and start with the facts presented at your meeting.
Example: “Today Mr. Smith recounted events and we are going to go through this event so I can hear from you exactly what happened”
This part of the conversation should end with your clear expectations when it comes to bullying. Zero tolerance. You need to make sure your child sees no ambiguity on where you stand when it comes to this event and bullying in general.
4. Depending on the age of the child I recommend role playing. (ages 4-10 is probably most effective) Take a situation and role play how each character in the bullying situation could have handled everything differently. Talk about the bully, the victim, and the bystanders.
5. Finally, with all expectations set forth you must also state consequences. This is not punishment it is a simple statement such as this: “If you engage in bullying in any setting you are involved in i.e. school, sports, then you will lose your phone for a month, make a public apology to the child and their parents, and do 3 weekends of community service at a homeless shelter.” (or any consequence you feel appropriate) The reason I suggest doing this is that it will reduce friction in that your child knew up front that if they engaged in this behavior this is what will happen. It puts ownership of their choices on them. Not you.
Remember that experts cannot pinpoint why every kid bullies. Be a detective yourself and try to find out the underlying issue of why your child chose this behavior. Have your child speak to a counselor to sort out feelings that may be causing this behavior. Students that bully are more than likely in just as much pain as those that are victims. In any event, don’t sweep it under the carpet as “boys will be boys” or “it’s just part of growing up.” It’s not.