Parenting in the News: Should you confront your child’s bully?
While everyone is talking more than ever about bullying, the problem doesn’t seem to be going away—in fact, it seems to be getting worse.
This may be due in part to the fact that the media reports on these stories frequently; we now hear about it when a child is bullied in a small town in Washington, or Georgia, or Texas, when in the past we did not. Another factor is definitely the Internet. Kids have the potential to access it 24/7, which means that bullies have access to their victims 24/7, too.
Many schools are putting anti-bullying programs into place to stop bullying, and declaring a “zero tolerance” policy. In other areas, parents complain that the schools still aren’t doing enough, and that bullying is still taking place, despite rules around it.
Some parents have made news recently for confronting their kids’ bullies. Rebecca Sardoni, a mom from Tom’s River, NJ, boarded a school bus in mid-October and allegedly struck the 9-year-old child who was bullying her daughter, along with his seat mate. She denies striking them, but says she was upset. She told the Associated Press, “It's crazy that this got blown into me doing something wrong – me and my family – when this is my daughter that is the victim."
In May, mom Debbie Piscitella of St. Petersburg approached her 13-year-old daughter’s Facebook bully, (a high school Freshman), grabbed him by the backpack and choked him. "I shouldn't have done that," Piscitella wrote on Facebook later. "But you all do not even come close to understanding all the torment they have put my child through." The boy who was bullying her daughter had written that she was “so unattractive he wouldn’t even rape her” on Facebook. The moms in both of these cases were arrested and expressed remorse for their actions.
If you’re the parent of a child who has been bullied in the past, you can probably relate to the “mama bear” instinct these women—and many other parents—gave into, but is it the best thing to do? Experts say no. One big reason revolves around role modeling. As a parent, we are modeling behavior to our kids at all times. As James Lehman said, “Kids watch us for a living,” and they note and emulate our behavior even when we don’t realize they are doing so. By confronting our kids’ bullies and using physical or verbal threats or violence against them, in part we are teaching our kids that “bigger and more powerful” wins over small and weak. In effect, we are bullying the bullies.Continued on the next page