The Unlikely Bully

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“She was bullying him.”

Those words. Those very words were spoken to me about my daughter. In that moment was I full of disappointment, anxiety, sorrow, fear, anger, and embarrassment. My sweet, bright eyed, loving child who prays for passing ambulances and readily offers to donate her toys had been the offender toward another human being. She had used her words to cut down another child. They say “sticks and stones,” but we all know that it’s not true. Words hurt.

I will not share the details of the incident, but suffice it to say this incident was a personal low for my daughter and for me as a parent. I have a personal rule that I will not complain about my children on Facebook because their mistakes, sassiness, and disobedience are none of anyone’s business. I don’t pretend they are perfect, but in this new world of online sharing I don’t know how far their childhood mistakes could follow them if I had an open book policy on social media. I struggled over if I should even write this blog post. I’m slightly bending my rule with the hope that our eyes could be opened to the reality that any child could be a bully.

When I was first approached about the incident the other adult involved said it “hurt her heart” to hear my child say those words because “it’s not like her.” I would have to agree. It’s not like my child to hurt another. Perhaps that’s what was most disappointing and shocking. How could my sweet one think it would be okay to say such a thing? I could have made excuses. Someone had said something similar to her. Maybe she didn’t fully understand that what she said was hurtful. Perhaps she was covering up her own insecurities.

BUT NO. Even if those excuses are true and maybe they are, she needs to be held responsible for her actions. If I let it slide because she’s sweet and the incident is out of character, it could happen again and again and become part of her character. Many parents worry that their children could be bullied, including me, but maybe we should be more concerned about our children being the bully. I’m not going to raise a bully. The first step to prevent my child from being a bully is to recognize that even she is not above allowing ugly words to spew from her mouth.

Mamas, it could be your sweet child, too. Do not be blind to it. Do not unintentionally raise a bully because you believe your child could do no wrong. If a teacher or coach or another mama approaches you about bullying, don’t brush it off or make excuses or claim the other child is just too sensitive. Bullying can have lasting effects as children grow, so do what you can to put a stop to it now. Even if the incident is seemingly small and insignificant, don’t ignore it.  

My husband and I handled the incident privately at home. In tears, our daughter told us what happened and what was said. She showed true remorse and apologized the next day. Even after the apology, we made it clear that the offended may not readily forgive and want to be her friend. Once words are out, they cannot be taken back. An apology is necessary, but it’s only the first tiny step in restoring a relationship. She’d have to be twice as good to earn back the respect she’d lost in a moment of bad judgment. It’s a tough and necessary lesson, and I wish we didn’t have to go through it with her. I can only hope that going forward she will think twice about her words, and that any pain caused to the offended child will be healed through time.

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