The change was drastic, from one day to the next he went from happy to silent. Our child was bullied, but thankfully an expert gave me advice days prior.
The change was drastic, from one day to the next. He had been an open book all year. Cheerful, happy and full of funny stories about his classmates. I looked forward to our daily laughs at his experiences. He told me every detail about the other boys in his class and their antics.
Then something happened. Our usual laughs turned into an uncomfortable silence. His funny stories were exchanged with my nagging unanswered questions. Our bonding time came to a halt. We used to enjoy our waiting time in car line, instead our 20 minutes together were filled with him avoiding eye contact and speaking in one word sentences.
One week went by, things felt awkward between us and he became hostile and short tempered with his brothers. I KNEW something was going on, but he remained tight-lipped. I ended our conversations with an empathetic “I am here for you if there’s anything you want to talk about.”
Two weeks passed. I asked him in every which way if something was wrong. My questions were open-ended, they were cheerful, serious, frustrated, desperate, neutral, inquiring, humorous – you name it – I tried every angle imaginable.
I had a conference with his teacher. The meeting wasn’t scheduled to discuss the change I had seen in him, but I did mention it. His behavior was complimented. He was one of her favorites and she wished all the boys would behave as well as he did. I asked her to help me figure out what was going on, because I suspected something had happened between him and his friends.
Finally… FINALLY the bubble burst. Little boys can only hurt for so long, although they should never EVER hurt. It was a Friday afternoon. He jumped in the van, as he did every day during school pick up. That day though, his face was flushed with red blotches and his eyes overflowing with the tears he fought to hold back.
“Mama, the play date you were going to set up for me. Don’t bother.” I wanted to slam on my brakes, jump out of the van, into the back seat and just hold him in my arms – rocking him back and forth.
This was big, this was the breakthrough I had been waiting for… I had to tread lightly so I didn’t cause him to clam up again.
“I have no friends. None! They don’t like me, none of them do!” and then the waterworks started, his and mine. I watched him closely in the rear-view mirror as we drove to his older brother’s school to pick him up.
Without further prompting he told me everything. Every detail of the verbal and emotional bullying he had endured for almost THREE weeks. It had escalated a little every day until all the boys in the class, except for two, were whispering behind his back, excluding him, saying mean and horrible things during lunch and recess – every chance they got.
Fast forward a few hours, lots of tears, hugs, excruciating stories with heartbreaking details followed by encouragement and a well-worded email to his teacher and the school’s principal. The situation was much bigger than we could handle on our own, so we called in reinforcements from his school.
We are now three weeks out from this experience and we have our sweet chatty boy back. The school handled the bullying swiftly and promptly. Our family and the school worked together as a team, which did not go unnoticed by our son.What should #parents do when their child is being #bullied? Get #experttips. #Bullying Click To Tweet
A few weeks before all of this started, I interviewed Robert Hackenson, Jr.
Hackenson is a magician and “edu-tainer” who teaches bullying prevention to students using magic, card tricks, and illusions.
I asked him: “As a parent, when do you let children “handle things on the playground” vs. “unleashing mama bear”? We want to raise resilient children, but we also don’t want to overlook the beginning warning signs of bullying.”
(How eerie of me to ask that question just a few short weeks before it would happen to one of our kids.)
When our boy FINALLY broke his silence, I remembered Rob’s reply to my question. His experience and words of wisdom helped me handle our situation calmly – as calmly as a Mama Bear can.
Rob Hackenson, Jr:
First we need to remember there are a lot of types of bullying. There is the physical bullying, verbal bullying (calling names etc.), and then emotional bullying (spreading rumors, intentionally excluding others etc.)
If you start to see signs, which can be physical (bruises, ripped clothes, broken things), emotional changes (sad, angry), change of actions (avoiding people, events, places), or upset after using their smart phone or computer, inquire what’s going on.
Understand that they may not want to tell you at first, and if that’s the case just be open and tell them that you are there if they need to talk about it.
If something is brought to your attention.
- Ask questions. It’s important to get the whole story.
- I’ve heard many stories of parents getting upset and emotional and “unleashing the mama bear” before getting all the facts. Make sure you listen without blaming (hard to do when it’s your child being targeted), and don’t call the act bullying while you’re gathering the information.
- Find out the history between those involved. Is this the first time? How many other times has it happened? Are you worried it’s going to happen again?
- Once you have the information and determine that bullying is happening, ask what they have done so far to address the bullying, and work together to figure out the best way to proceed depending on the situation and type of bullying that’s occurring.
- Don’t tell the child to ignore the bullying or to physically fight back (as it could get them hurt or kicked out of school).
- The game plan might be having your child confidently say “STOP IT,” it might be asking questions, it might be changing seats in the classroom or on the bus (however changes to routine should be minimal as you don’t want your child to feel singled out or that they are missing out.)
- As a parent we need to guide them on how to deal with these tricky situations so that they can start learning how to deal with it for themselves in the right way. It can be difficult trying to let our kids fight their own battles.
- Unfortunately, a lot of parents are too quick to jump in, which is why I hear so many stories from College/ University Deans and Resident Directors about helicopter parents calling them about issues instead of hearing from the college student.
- We need to empower them and teach them, because these skills are very useful throughout your entire life, and the earlier they start learning them the better.
- After you have exhausted the other options for the child to address and stop the bullying on their own, it’s time to get more involved.
- It’s important to fight the “Mama Bear” urges to call their parents (as this could make matters worse), but instead let the school know what’s happening and let them be the mediator.
- Keep communication with the school and work with them until the bullying has stopped.
- Afterwards, make sure that you continue to periodically follow-up to make sure that it hasn’t reoccured.
As a Mama Bear with children who have been bullied, I know first-hand that Robert Hackenson’s advice is spot-on. Parenting a bullied child is a great balance between teaching them valuable life lessons while being their advocate in the background – or in the foreground, if necessary (as it was in our case.)
About Robert Hackenson, Jr.
Robert Hackenson, Jr. is an “edutaining” speaker and founder of Dynamic Influence that delivers highly interactive, educational, and motivational lessons to youth, parents and professionals. His unique delivery of infusing lectures with magic, illusions and sometimes even hypnosis skits, create captivating “educational experiences” for viewers. His presentations continue to gain popularity among schools, organizations and companies. Hackenson has now performed in 43 states coast to coast as well as several Canadian provinces.
This is one of my most popular posts: Ten Things to Tell Your Kids About Bullying
This is another popular post about bullying: Do You Have The Guts to Face Your Bullies?