Bullying — Be a Parent or Teacher Who Helps

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Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing. Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.

“Cici’s the boss and she told Jenny and Amy that I can’t play,” my daughter said when she got home from school.

I stall for time, “Okay . . . why is she the boss? Who decided that?”

“She just is. She said.”

Now I’m mad. “Well, can’t you make someone else the boss?”

“NO, mom.”

That was Monday. Now, Thursday she is still “locked-out” – which is what it’s called when you don’t want someone to play. Six-year olds with a queen bee already? I thought I had more time to figure this out.

Today she brought two stuffed animals to school today and said hopefully, “Maybe Cici will like my stuffed animals and let me play with her.”

When the stuffed animal plan didn’t work, she told me, “When Cici gets sick, they said I could play with them.”


So What Is Bullying?

This happened four years ago. I look back and wonder, did this count as bullying?

Kat Eden of Education.com shared with me their definition of bullying. It’s not kids being kids — losing their tempers, or acting mean to their little sisters. Bullying is . . .

  1. Intentional
  2. Repeated
  3. A difference in power between the two participants.

To make matters worse, Eden says that, “It’s very unlikely that a child has been bullied tells an adult.”

Why Don’t Kids Always Tell?

Rosalind Weisman (author of the updated Queen Bees and Wannabes) says, “Their worry is that girls do not think that adults can help them.”

Elementary Bullying

Now my daughter did tell me – which is a reflection of her age and more typical for elementary school children. The bullying that happens in elementary school, says Michelle Anthony, Ph.D. and author of Little Girls Can Be Mean, allows for more parent intervention because at least for girls, they crave parent involvement. (We know that this shifts in middle school.)

Anthony says that the goal for us as parents is to make sure our children know that they are not alone, they can trust us, and they are empowered to use their resources when we aren’t around.


FOUR PARENTING STEPS from Little Girls Can Be Mean

  1. Observe. Watch your child and how he or she responds to conflict.
  2. Connect with your child. “I notice that . . .  when your friend Katie leaves, you start fighting with your brother a lot. Are you sad that she’s leaving?” Help your child notice behavior. Listen with empathy, don’t problem solve. 
  3. Guide. Brainstorm the things your child can do to deal with the bully. Write as long a list as possible so it appears that there are many solutions.
  4. Support the Act. Help your child pick 1 idea to try. You’re building inner strength and efficacy here, parents. Then, role play the idea at home. If the idea doesn’t work, go back to the list and help your child pick another idea.

Be An Adult Who Helps – Advice from Education.com

  1. Create a safe space for a child to talk to you about what has happened.
  2. Do not freak out.
  3. Listen. Don’t problem solve.
  4. Commit to helping.

Action Steps
Eden says. “Go to the teacher, if you don’t get an exact plan and response, go to the principal, if you still don’t get anything, go to the superintendent, you keep going even if you have to hold a town hall.”

Schools Who Get It
Eden tells me that schools that have the most success in eliminating bullying from their campus are integrating the skills in the classroom curriculum. Skills like what does it mean to be a good friend, or not a good friend, those kind of things. If bullying events do occur, these schools take a holistic approach. They bring in the children involved, witnesses, and make sure the whole story is understood. Then, they involve the classroom teacher, the bus drivers, the parents, the hall monitors, everyone, to make sure the child that has been bullied feels safe. The schools makes sure that the bully child knows people are watching for behavior and it won’t be tolerated.

The Bully Movie

Last weekend The Bully Project arrived in select theaters with some controversy over the use of language and the rating of “R.” Here’s the trailer for the movie which is slowly opening in more cities across the country. We get it here in Denver next week.


The Bully Project’s website says that “this year 13 million American kids will be bullied. 3 million students will be absent because they feel unsafe at school. . . . Often, the victims of bullying are socially vulnerable because they have some characteristic that makes them different from the majority.” A 2011 study found that 40% of teachers and school staff consider bullying a moderate or major problem in their schools. Read more:

Parent and Teacher Resources Related to Bullying

Bullying at School and Online from Education.com

Sesame Street’s Good Birds Club

StopBullying.gov with bullying and cyberbullying laws by state

Little Girls Can Be Mean

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. Find showings in your area for The Bully Project and buy tickets here.

Has your family been affected by bullying? What helped you?

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  1. I’m planning to see The Bully Movie when it becomes available in my area. In the interim, as a parent, I have to look no further than my own children’s experience to date in PreSchool and Kindergarten respectively, to glen that bullying will be a pervasive issue they might encounter their entire lives.

    Thank you Melissa for the examples and the helpful resources. Do you plan to review the documentary?

    Pragmatic Mom, I appreciate your in depth comment as it relates to girl bullying. The topic doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

    In general, I would suggest enrolling shy sensitive kids in a Martial Arts program to help bolster their confidence. The mind and body are intricately connected. Feeling a sense of control over one’s body leads to mental strength as well.

    Vincent | CuteMonster.com

  2. The girl bullying started in Kindergarten for my oldest. She wasn’t affected directly but it spread like a cancer from one kid to another. The victim of the bullying would then turn around and do it to another girl. By 3rd grade, the school finally held intervention small groups but it was already too late. By 4th grade, the school psychologist said it was the worst girl bullying she had seen in her 25 odd years of working.

    What did we do?

    1) We tried to make sure not to get in the Queen Bee’s class. This was tricky because many years there were just 2 classes for her grade.

    2) We tried to avoid the Queen Bee. It turns out that we ended up on the same girls softball team but the Queen Bee ended up respecting my daughter for her batting skills. Also, the Queen Bee loved my daughter’s little brother.

    3) Affected parents of bullied girls made repeated visits to the principal’s office. Teachers were also aware. The problem was RECESS and LUNCH when the lunch supervisors were untrained in handling this kind of behavior.

    4) Play date requests from Queen Bees can be tricky. Her M/O was that the play date was her BFF and got lavish attention and small gifts. In a few days, this same girl would be completely ignored by her and her group of friends.

    5) We got parents of bystanders to talk to their daughters. If the bystander girl intervened by saying NO to this behavior, it would change the dynamic quickly and nullify the bully. Yes, bystander girls can and will stand up. My daughter got zinged once during lunch recess and her friend stood up for her by saying, “Let’s go play somewhere else.”

    6) As for being locked out, the parents of locked out girls reached out to other parents to do play dates with a different set of (nicer) girls so that the locked girl has a new circle of friends.

    7) I would personally relay the story of “I can play with you when the mean girl is sick” to the parents of the girls in that group. Have them talk to their daughter about how wrong that is and why do they listen to the mean girl? And why don’t they stand up for the locked out girl? What are the consequences for standing up?

    So sorry that this is happening to your daughter. It’s so upsetting as a parent to watch this happen. When all is said and done, however, I think other moms of girls in your daughter’s class are your best allies. The principal and teachers are well and good, but the crux is to redirect the girls into forming new friendship circles and that is not what teachers can control. Nor principals.

    Parents CAN control this because we set up the play dates. We drive the kids to and from the play dates. We talk to the play date parents during the pick up and drop offs. We talk to our kids. We can talk about bullying and friendship and standing up to a bully. We can read books about this to illustrate and let our child apply this to their own situation.

    The best book ever: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (not sure if I have the author correctly).Perfect for grades 2-5: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2010/04/girl-bullying-the-hundred-dresses-by-estes-grades-3-5th/

    For girl queen bees, How to Rock Glasses and Braces is also good. It’s an inside out view of a Queen Bee and how she realizes who she is when she becomes a geek. It’s more for grades 5-8.

    All my posts on bullying are here: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/category/parenting/bullying-parenting/

    Best of luck!

  3. Melissa, Thank you so much for this great article and the tips for parents. This is a very concerning problem which I am glad to see is finally getting some public attention. I plan to see The Bully Project and hope it reaches a very wide audience. Renee

  4. My oldest was affected by bullying in first grade. It was heart breaking. I wish parents would talk to their girls about it, but sadly, in both instances the mom’s had very similar personalities to their daughters.

  5. I was bullied in junior high by a girl who has now spent a decade of her life in jail. What I now realize is that she needed more help than I did. I haven’t seen BULLY yet but I hope to–I blogged about the “R” rating and helped support the petition to change the rating to PG-13. What I hope is that the movie goes into depth about the life of the bully because it is learned behavior. The bully is most likely being bullied by an adult.