On Bullying a Child

That Moment When You Realize You’ve Become What You Despise…

Years ago, when I was still of the mindset to yell, scold, and smack little hands, I had an acquaintance at work who taught me a lesson. Now, he didn’t intend to teach me a lesson, but teach it he did.

This guy routinely verbally-abused those he felt he were “weaker” than him. Anyone who was physically smaller or unable to verbally defend themselves was fair game. He would pick at them, mock them, berate them, castigate their decisions, and just generally act like an ass. Now, someone who he considered his “equal”, someone who could return fire with fire, he left alone. He only attacked the smaller and less capable.

I was really quite disgusted by this. He was the stereotypical schoolyard bully, except all grown-up. Then, one day, it hit me. No, it crushed me. Our first child was two years old at the time and I saw in my own behavior much of what I despised in my co-worker’s. I would constantly yell at my son. I’d speak harshly to him. I would swat him on the butt. I disrespected his wishes. I would say mean things to him. I was bullying him. I wasn’t gently guiding him. I treated him as an inferior because he was small and couldn’t defend himself. I wouldn’t act this way with his mother. I wouldn’t have treated a friend or grown family member this way. Yet, I was often treating my own baby boy like garbage.

Me and baby Science Kid, on the beach

Me and baby Science Kid, on the beach

This realization truly changed my life. The full impact of what I’d been doing affected me deeply. I began to change myself. I looked at my son with new eyes. Compassionate eyes. I didn’t want him to view me as feared authority figure. I didn’t want his memories of his father to be ones that evoked disgust. I found the strength to change when I placed myself in his position, when I looked honestly at my character and found it lacking, and when I confronted the uncomfortable reality that I had become what I despised.

I’m still far from perfect here, but each day I try to do better.

11 comments to On Bullying a Child

  • Perseveranda

    Thank you for this.. I read it to my older boys. It’s good for them to hear a man’s perspective.

    • Bullying happens in all fomurs: sports is no exception! My 12 y/o son was bullied by a number of his football teammates schoolmates after sustaining a concussion during practice last fall. Helmet to helmet hit – knocked unconscious. He worked so hard training over the summer and achieved his goal of playing quarterback . The injury put him out for the entire season. Unbelievably, some of the kids began calling him a wimp and a coward, and others who had previously been “friends” with my son joined in with these name callers. This lasted for several months. However, he also had several friends that stood by him. My son was very fortunate not only to recover from his injury, but to have true friends that stood by him during this difficult time. We must exemplify the actions of those like my son’s true friends – I believe it is a key component to combatting bullying.

  • You have come a long way, congrats and keep up the good work.

    Every human being is of equal worth in the eyes of God, worthy of respect, and every human being is conceived with a full set of rights.

    The parent’s job is to teach the child how to use these rights properly. And the purpose of education is to teach a person how to think.

    See my website for my essay on education!

    • Sadly, sometimes there are no signs. Great marks, winillg to go to school, still laughing. Another parent walking by the schoolyard happens to see it and it all comes to light. Look at their friends and how many children they hang with. In the schoolyard, the teacher comes around and says..is there a problem the kids say just playing . The teacher walks on thinking boys will be boys’ and it continues. Cirlcle kicking, name calling, shoving, holding them down on the ground. It wasn’t just playing and that’s how they got away with it at our school. It was several against 3, not just one being bullied. Maybe that’s why it continued for so long. Know your child and his/her friends. Know those friends parents. As a team, you look out for each other. Be approachable and pay attention. Help boost their confidence so they already think wonderful things about themselves and less likely to believe hurtful things others say. It can happen to any child in one form or another.

  • sarah

    That’s sounds all fine and dandy but when your child deliberately disobeys then it is time to be stern. Not compassionate.

    • Hetty

      That may be what you think, sarah. But that implies that a child should obey. I disagree there. A child is no much more obliged to obey me as I am to obey him. We are both free individuals, children are not our possessions in any way. Only our responsibility for safety and care.

      • I can remember kids saiyng mean things when I was younger. I was empowered by standing up for myself. I believe adversity builds power. Fortunately, the bullying behavior only hurt my feelings, and luckily I was never physically hurt. I did became a stronger person by handling those situations. Now as an adult, and to be proactive, myself and my family now practice karate. Karate has given us amazing confidence, strength and discipline. I highly recommend karate to the young and old alike! I, of course, have taught my children to never bully but also to always intervene when they see bullying. To me, to watch and say or do nothing, is just as wrong as doing the bullying .When you do stand up to a bully and defend the victim, it makes you feel good. I always say Be the bigger person and defend the underdog’. I appreciate the work you are doing and hope for the best for you, your family, and your organization.

  • Sarah, Children who feel loved, accepted, valued, safe, secure, free from threat, and recognized as a worthwhile human being do not “deliberately disobey” because their basic emotional needs are being met. For a YouTube video on this and other complimentary parenting handouts and activity, see: http://www.kellybear.com/ParentTips.html

    • your child is still inhaling.Parents shulod just assume that sooner or later their child is going to get bullied.A child that is bullied will try to avoid being where ever the bullying takes place and/or reproduce the bullying behavior. They will get sick or appear shy more than usual and/or they will criticize or pick on other kids (they might even do damaging things to themselves). It can be a simple as saying you are (I am) so stupid or it could mean physical violence.The key is not to wait for the worst to happen to teach them that they are special and valuable and no one can do or say anything that can make them any less. The best way to teach them is to show them.When a child SEES the adults in their lives show compassion and tolerance to people who are different from themselves they KNOW there is nothing that would every cause them to lose the love of those adults and the child becomes resilient.

  • Sarah, I think I know what you are saying. My mother is the sweetest woman alive. Home was a great place to be, and I still adore her and want to be like her.

    But as I was telling my son yesterday…When she said you kids quit fighting or I’m going to stop the car and somebody is going to walk home, she meant it. (We went to Catholic school. It was 3 miles…) The first time, it was the longest three miles of my life. The second time, it was longer. There was no third time. My father worked 16 hour days to feed 10 kids. She had to have control or it would be a madhouse. This sweet little old lady was the iron maiden at times when we were kids. But I never felt unloved.

    You have to love your kids to discipline them, to mean business, but not in a harsh way. I was sent to my room, a lot…but when I came out I was magically “transformed” or I went back in.

    Our children don’t belong to us, they are put in our care. It is a major responsibility. “Speak to us of children…”begins the greatest poem ever written by Kahil Gibran. We are to send our arrows straight…

    The rod of discipline guides the sheep, it doesn’t beat them. There were no pharmaceutical drugs in our home. Just saying…

  • Some signs of bullying:Avoiding shoocl and mentions of shoocl. Which often can be taken as just a child being willful or wanting to slack and be lazy. Also, a child who is sick a lot without actually being diagnosed as having any virus or bacterial infections.It may seem obvious, but there are a lot of people who really think that a child who throws fits about going to shoocl, skips it as much as possible, or fakes’ being sick and the like are JUST seeking attention in a Calvin Hobbesian way, but in my own personal childhood, and in others I have seen, it’s a sign of a serious problem and a child who feels they have no way out and that no one listens, notices, or cares.Another sign is personal appearance neglect- if a child or teen starts to become apathetic and Just Not Care about how clean they are or if their hair is combed or their clothing is in good condition (especially if they have in the past actually SHOWN signs of caring about hygiene, even if they never were interested in normal fashion’ or the like) it could very well be a sign that they have given up on themselves. It can also carry over to general tidiness of their room or their willingness to do chores.Energy level drops are another sign that comes to mind, and can be linked to the last one- a child or teen who doesn’t seem to want to go out and do anything, who sleeps a lot, or zones out and seems to have no motivation to do anything remotely challenging. It could be a sign that the child/teen/adult is suffering depression that is linked to social ill treatment as much as anything else.

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