Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Bullied Son: A Mother's Story

Recently a friend posed a question.  She wondered if it was wrong for a mom to hate a 6th grade girl. Now I don't have the details or the reasons for the strong feelings she is encountering, but the question itself reminded me of similar feelings I had a few years ago when we found out that one of our sons was being bullied severely.  What made that news worse was that when pressing for details, our son revealed that it had been going on for about two years.  When we found out, I experienced a massive jumbled mixture of emotions.  There was an incredulous/guilty feeling that it had gone on for so long and that I had absolutely no idea.  There were signs.  Oh my there were such signs!  He would  make himself throw up so he could come home from school.  He would cry in the morning or stall when it was time to leave.  He would have anger outbursts after school about little inconveniences like no milk in the fridge. Instead of disciplining him for those behaviors, I should have seen them for what they were; symptoms of a bigger problem.   There was also this feeling of deep sadness, almost mourning,  for my son who had to go to school everyday knowing that he'd end up being pushed, shoved, knowing he'd hear cutting words that made him feel worthless and less than the wonderful kid he really is.  The depression that engulfed me when imagining the many scenarios that he must have endured was overwhelming and swallowed me whole.  But the strongest feeling that I experienced was a rage like no other rage I have ever felt.  Every inch of me hated that bully, that child.  Loathed.  Detested.  One night I had a dream that I actually strangled the boy.  I woke up shaky and a nauseous.  The anger had taken over. 

Lately there has been a lot in the news about bullies and how they effect kids.  I can tell you from experience that what my son went through has had a profound influence on his self worth, on his self esteem.  It is very difficult for him to succeed at anything.  He self sabotages, doesn't do homework, doesn't try out for solos in chorus that the teacher practically tells him would be his if he'd just take the risk.  During his middle school years and into high school he relived the rejection he experienced in elementary school by setting himself up to fail at friendship again and again.  He set his sights on hanging out  with the popular of the popular.  I realize now that if any of those boys had accepted him into their group it might, for him, have erased the thoughts in his mind that he was unworthy of any friendship.  But alas, it never happened.  The stigma of being "the kid that was bullied" stuck with him for a long time and many kids didn't want to be seen with him.  So they didn't answer the phone when he called or wouldn't include him in trips to a football game or invite him to birthday parties.  He therefore has an extreme anxiety when it comes to calling or asking anyone to do something or go somewhere.  He assumes he will  be rejected.  Fear of rejection, of not being good enough has ruled his life since being bullied.

When my sons were little I remember conversations with them about how to handle it if someone was picking on them.  Looking back, I gave all the wrong advice.  Typically parents tell kids to ignore the bully.  To tell an adult if it continues.  I even did the old, "you catch more flies with sugar than you do with vinegar."  I actually told them that if someone is mean they should try over and over to be nice.  I even recall telling them that a bully is that way because there is something horrific in his or her life that makes them that way.  And all that might be true.  But I know now that it isn't how you teach your kids to handle a bully at all.  Not at all.

The thing is rationalization does work for adults but NOT kids.  For the most part we can remove ourselves from the source of the bullying, therefore not be subjected to it day after day.  Our adult minds are able to understand how truly pitiful it is to be a bully. We can almost sympathize with  abusers who use curse words as weapons because of their lack of verbal intelligence.  We understand how truly weak bullies are when they hide behind the anonymity of  emails or gossip spreading.  We can laugh at the pathetic use of blanket statements like "Did you know everyone thinks this or that of you?"  As adults, we know that those who bully and verbally abuse are damaged in some way and are looking to hurt others to make themselves feel better.  We can dismiss them as the small human they are, and by doing so force them to face that their hateful words and deeds truly are insignificant in our lives. Smart, evolved adults know to never give credence to the ramblings of unbalanced human beings.  

But children's minds are not as developed (now there is a revelation!) There is no time for understanding, sympathy, or empathy and there is certainly no time to laugh.  All that bullied kids know, all they comprehend is the humiliation and pain that they go through day after day.  The mental warfare that they experience at the hands of a menacing, seemingly maniacal meanie who is out to make mince meat of them is unbearable and life changing. As my daughter grows up, I will teach her differently. I will tell her that no one deserves to be bullied whether it be physically or verbally. I will tell her that she has a right to feel safe and to protect herself. Don't get me wrong. I won't encourage her to fight, but I will teach her how to be assertive. I will teach her to yell firmly, "Leave me alone!" and that stepping closer to someone and looking them in the eye while saying very sternly, "I am not afraid of you," is the best way to show that she is not someone to be trifled with, that she is not an easy target.

But in my son's case, I must thank the universe for the resilience of the human spirit.  That bullied son of mine is slowly learning through very hard work of his own, that there are kids out there who like him because of who he is and he's befriended them.  He's learning that there are very specific rewards for being the nice guy.  His new girlfriend is evidence of that.  He's learning that he has talents that make him special.  He hones them daily and seeks out where those talents are appreciated.  But the brightest light, the very most illuminated illumination of this whole rotten "getting over the big bad bully thing" is the fact that my son didn't let the bully win.  He is pushing on with his life.  Making the bully's words and deeds insignificant by dismissing him for the small human being he was back then in elementary school.  Head held high he can say with a wink, "I never give credence to the ramblings of an unbalanced human being."  You and me both kid.  You and me both!


  1. I doubt if there is a parent out there who cannot identify with your issues; allow me to render absolute validation to everything you stated in your post.

    To some, hating another child may sound cruel when, in effect, we are actually hating the environment in which they are being raised... "Children Learn What They Live" They learn these horrible bullying behaviors first, at home; from parents who raise them in a combative fashion, teaching them that they don't have to take garbage from anyone, teaching them to always be aggressive in the face of whatever comes their way. Sad to say, a large percentage of these bullies are abused kids, suffering either physical or verbal abuse at home only to dump their dysfunctions on others.

    I went through similar horrors when my three were growing up and the anger still boils deep inside me. My middle daughter was 7, attending a private, parochial school in a wealthy community; she befriended an African American child who was admitted and immediately was shunned by everyone she had been friends with. One parent had the audacity to call me explaining that my Jill wasn't included on a party invite list because of her "alliance" with the new student. Fortunately, we moved out of that area and built a home in upstate N.Y. where I was certain things would be so much better.


    The horrors of bullying on the school bus, in lunchrooms and beyond became a sad reality. My son, 8 years old at the time, was shoved through a plate glass cafeteria window in school by some horrid girl, three times his size because she claimed he "cut in front of her on the lunch line"; it continues today, even with my two young Grandchildren only the torture has worsened.

    Schools seem to have little control over "choking games" played on school buses in our district, or the constant theft of children's belongings by bus bullies, claiming that a lack of funding doesn't allow for bus monitors to be hired who can oversee the torment some of these children are enduring.

    Why should any child live in fear? Why should their right to an education be compromised by those raised with no regard for human decency? We already witness the parents who turn their back on responsibility for their children as well as too many school districts who constantly pass the buck back and forth, hiding behind the legalities.

    Our children suffer permanent scars because of bullying, there's no denying it. How they manage to rise above it is due to the blood, sweat and tears of responsible, loving parents.

    Is it wrong to hate some children? It's been my solid experience that some of these kids wouldn't think twice about inflicting their own hatred against you, as an adult, not just another child so any feelings of intense anger are well-justified. Just don't allow those feelings to consume you because then...the bully wins.

    And, I'd like to share that my oldest daughter is an Assistant Principal of a high school in Florida. She's been attacked, punched, spit on and cursed at; most recently an innocent girl suffered head injuries when other girls slammed her head into a locker; mistaken identity. This high school, by the way, is an "A" rated school.

    Thank you for allowing my long comment, thank you for sharing your feelings. I will keep all good thoughts for your son; you are one great Mom!


  2. Hello, I am now following you:) Very interesting post.


  3. Beautifully written, Logan, as always. My second son has been through similar situations (they're so prevalent, aren't they?), and has finally found a true ally. He just celebrated a birthday this weekend and his new friend wrote on his card, "Thank you for being you. You are my best friend."

    Best. Signature. Ever.

    Sometimes it only takes one to turn it all around.

  4. I feel your pain. I found out my oldest son was being bullied this year. It was so bad that I got a call from the counselor because my son was thinking of suicide. That is how bad they made him feel. The issue was addressed quickly thank goodness but I do hate those boys for making my son feel that way.

  5. Another well written piece Logan...I think we have all had a taste of this kind of behavior and wonder why in the world some kids can't be kind to one another..its just that simple -- be kind.

  6. I so appreciate this post Logan. This issue of bullying seems to be everywhere, and you're not alone in missing the signs! I recently wrote on my own blog about my experiences having two sons, one who was routinely bullied and one who was a bully. Being mom to either is one of those soul-crunching experiences. Kudos to you for helping your son face his pain, and super-kudos to him for finding some healing!


  7. Extremely well written post Logan! While I have not experienced this kind of bullying as of now, and I hope to not ever have to deal with bullying, I can relate to the feeling of hatred of anyone who bully's either one of my girls - even if the bully is a child themselves. I feel that my feelings of hatred towards this child/children would absolutely be justified. Our children are so impressionable, especially when they are so young and as a parent, I believe we all would do anything for our children and when they hurt, we hurt, when they have feelings of hatred, we have feelings of hatred... We feel what our children feel, naturally.

    I live in Western MA and am about 20 minutes from South Hadley, MA - the town where Phoebe Prince was from. She was a high school student who was bullied to the point of her taking her own life. These bullying children tore poor Phoebe down to the point of self-destruction. It is so sad that a beautiful little girl had to die over such nonsense. I didn't know Phoebe personally and I wanted to strangle every single one of the 4 or 5 kids who have been charged in connection with her suicide. I can't begin to imagine the feelings Phoebe's parents felt.

    Thanks for a great post!

  8. This is phenomenal. I have a teenaged daughter and she hasn't been bullied, but she has had friends who have been and it was terrible for her to experience (even on the side lines). O

    As a parent, we learn from experience (just like our children). You gave your son the best advice you could give at the time; but in the words of Maya Angelou "when you know better, you do better." So you learned from your son's experience and now you can teach your daughter a better way.

    What I know for sure is, we learn the most in times of adversity. So although the experience was tragic for your son, he is a better person because of it. The important thing is he made it through and he something greater and stronger grew inside of him. It's unfortunate that a bully would think so little of his/her self that they have to transfer their feelings of inadequacy onto others. I'm so glad that your son was able to rise above.

    Great post!


  9. Great blog! Thanks for finding me on BloggyMoms!



  10. This is such a scary thing our kids are faced with. I can totally see your dream in my head. We as parents want to protect our kids so even if its a child doing the wrong I don't think our minds care. My son hasn't experience it, there is a no tolerance for that in his school. He is in 5th grade. I'm sure it happens but they really get involved right at the onset.

    My daughter is 6 and in 1st grade and there are some mean girls in 1st grade. I'm shocked at some of the things she comes home telling me. I tell her how important and wonderful she is everyday and that those things although hurtful cannot bring you down.

    I am happy to hear your son is strong and not letting this get the best of him. His girlfriend sounds like a keeper!


  11. I can relate. Although, my daughter is now in college and having a wonderful experience and she eventually made peace with her high school tormentors I still can't like them. Yes, not real mature of me...but just remember the cruelty at their hands for no reason. As I told a school Principal when given the "kids learn about life through these experiences" mumbo jumbo..."NOTHING I Learned on the playground at the hands of my peers has benefited me one iota as an adult other than to make me hesitant to trust and reserved in making friends." I don't want that for my children.

  12. Kids are mean. Very mean. The good news is that most of these mean kids grow up and regret what they've done as a school aged child. Sadly, those who were bullied will carry it with them forever.

    Found you at Bloggy Moms and following ya!

  13. My daughter has been taught kindness, sharing, empathy, love. She has also been taught how to defend herself both physically & verbally should she ever have the need (i.e. bullying). There is nothing wrong with this. Everyone should heed your point that children don't rationalize in the same way that adults do, it applies every day in all different situations.

  14. Ugh. I am dreading the day when my daughter goes off to school for this very reason.

  15. This topic brings out many different emotions for me personally. As a child I was happy, well adjusted and from a good family...... until my older cousin moved in. He was around 16 and I was about 5 when he began his relentless teasing,tormenting and bullying which included sexual abuse. This all happened in my own home without my parents knowledge. At school I began to bully a new girl who had come from a broken home. I can't explain what had come over me to be so cruel. My mother soon found out because she was involved in the school lunch program and I was punished.
    I WISH TO GOD!!! that someone had tried to talk to me and find out why I was acting out in such a terrible way. Instead I was grounded and endured many more years of abuse.
    AS much as we hate bullies I think we must see them as the solution by somehow reaching out and finding the root of the problem. They are only children and often don't understand why they are so cruel.
    I taught my children from early on to always stand up for kids that are being bullied. I have heard stories about my boy, where he would intervene , pick up the tormented child, brush off the dirt and say everything will be OK. Because of his no tolerance attitude, he is well liked and has many friends. We need more kids to get involved and not allow the bullies to have any power.
    This was very hard for me to write as you can all imagine but it would be worth while if it helps shed some light on this awful problem we are having in our schools.

  16. Hi! Great Post!
    I'm happy to follow you!
    Here's my blog address

  17. If I could have only known what my simple post, which was meant SOOO tongue and cheek, would bring about. I meant it only as a joke. I SO don't hate this girl, just what she made me son feel...but in the end, I am so thankful that I did post.. because I now have so many more talking points I can do with both my kids. Thank you all for your honesty. you are inspiring.

  18. I empathize with your feelings. As a mom, we all naturally feel protective of our children. Bullying can act as a trauma, producing depression, anxiety, fear, low self-esteem. Bullied kids can also get stigmatized, so it interferes with other relationships.Thank you for raising awareness about this issue. Bullying should not be tolerated and more awareness makes it harder for bullies to get away with it.

  19. Wow, I can't imagine my kids being bullied like that...okay I can imagine, and it scares me to no end. I am extra worried because my son has a condition called hydrocephalus and I worry that one day he will be bullied because of it. I am glad that your son has a strong mom like you to help him navigate through the tough times. Thanks for sharing his and your story, and welcoming me on bloggy moms.

  20. What a lovely well-written blog, thank you for your note via Bloggy Moms! I particularly enjoyed/identified with your Christmas post about remembering to move. Am now following, and I look forward to more great content. Here's my blog by the way: http://www.mananamama.blogspot.com/

  21. This, sadly, is so common. My oldest will be 12 in just a few weeks and we have had to endure the wrath of a bully. Now, I know that kids usually bully for a reason (they're neglected, abused, hear verbal exchanges like that regularly, etc) but when your child is on the other end of that bully's hatred, it hurts. As a parent, you never want to see your kid hurt, physically or emotionally. In our case, we also have a zero tolerance rule but I think it really depends on the teacher involved, the teacher ignored it. I found out about it after my son stood up for himself.....and was sent to the office and I was called. Now, our kids have "planners" that are sent home for us to sign everyday, we also use that to communicate with the teachers for small things. I wrote many times about this boy picking oin my son throughout the day, nothing physical and it had not gotten too far yet. I was giving her the option to take care of it. She did not. Once it escalated and my (pretty small) 4th grader, at the time, stood up to the bully and shoved him (this kid was probably double the size of my kid). I was livid when I received the phone call. My husband went straight to the school and had a conference with both of my son's teachers at the time and both the principal and vice principal. That planner really helped tell the story of BYSTANDER EFFECT that the teacher hid behind. She is now not a teacher for a certain grade but more of an aide who helps with testing.
    I have taught my kids how to handle bullies, whether they are the ones being bullied or the ones standing by. THAT is the key-to teach them not to just stand there but to STAND UP and say something.
    Love that you wrote this, thanks for making us think this Thusday morning.

  22. Just blogging around this morning and found your blog. Wow, it made an impression on me. Alot of people if they ar honest have been bullied when they were in school. My husband and I both were, and so were both of my children. It's sad, and now in today's world, look how it has escalated. There are metal detectors at schools, policeman, and I dislike t have to mention even the school shootings. Children are suppose to go to school to learn. What happened to the world, where it seems to ge progressively worse all the time. It's hard to find a safe spot for our children and ourselves.

  23. My son has been struggling with being bullied but by a teacher. Your first paragraph about the signs you saw in your son's behavior mirror what we are going through right now. It's funny that I already knew but sometimes hearing a similar story from someone else makes you realize your own perceptions are correct.

  24. I have yet to experience this with any of my children, but I'm sure I will. A friend of mine's son is being bullied and it is all she can do to keep herself from beating that kid up.

    Thanks for your comment through bloggy moms! I'll follow your blog!

    Jenny @ the Southern Institute

  25. This story was very moving. It certainly made my heart ache for your son.

    Thanks for your comment on bloggy moms! I love your site and am now a follower! Check out mine if you'd like:

  26. New follower! Got your message on Bloggy Moms. I also have a post about bullying with the same picture, lol!

  27. I wrote on this very subject on my blog over at wwww.mysistasvoice-mi3centsworth.blogspot.com. My son is always being accussed of being a bully because of his size. What people fail to realize is that even big/tall children get bullied by smaller statured children. My son is more psychologically bullied than physically. He has a short fuse and everybody knows it, so they'll say stuff to get him going, knowing he's going to get in trouble for his actions, when in fact, they are the ones messing with him. I talk to him constantly about not letting people push his buttons.

  28. Bullying is a subject that needs to be taken more seriously!! Oh it makes me so angry and I am almost afraid for my oldest to start school next year.

    Thanks for finding me on Mommy blog!

  29. I posted a comment and not sure it posted??? here I go again... lol. I absolutely think more ppl need to take bullying seriously. I am so scared for our oldest son to start school next year!

    thanks for finding me on mommyblog! :)

  30. Great post! My little one is still very young and though we are not hitting these issues just yet, I will keep this in mind for when the day comes! I will teach my daughter the same way you are teaching yours.
    I, too was bullied when I was younger and know that ignoring and trying to be nice don't make the problem go away.

    So glad your son is doing better!

  31. Wow, such an interesting post!

    I'm a new follower, btw! (:


  32. following you back from:


  33. Thank you for sharing! VERY well written! I am from Bloggy Moms and now following!

  34. I'm from Bloggy Moms too - please follow me at www.toeuropewithkids.com. Thanks!

  35. New follower both here and on twitter. Very well written. I am sorry to hear what your son had to endure to go to school. Hopefully as adults become more educated they will learn to put a stop to it. When I was in school there were a few of us girls that were bullied. Problem is the thing that sticks with me the most about it is the principal informing us that if we were that bothered we should just stay out of the cafeteria at lunch time. Hopefully as more and more people talk about their experiences schools will be forced to take it seriously.

  36. I know what it's like to have a child bulled. When my son was 8-9 years old there was a kid who lived on the same block as we did. The bully was in 5th grade a thought he was "all that". One day I saw him picking on my so so I got out my trusty skillet..well, I'm sure you cam figure out what happened after that@ LOL

  37. Very well written! I think that every parent can relate to this issue in one way or another. I hate when a child talks about things that are said to them from time to time. My middle school daughter came home one day shortly after Christmas and was upset because a girl in her class was telling her about how low class she was because the Uggs she was wearing was so "last season"... really out of a 7th graders mouth. I am thankful that my daughter was able to look past it. Thanks again for the great post!

  38. Awww I remember very clearly being bullied in school even though it was millions of years ago. Once it had gotten so bad that my mom watched me get on the bus and once I was seated she saw my bully get up and move to my seat. By the time the bus reached my school, my mom was already there and waiting in the principals office for that bully. I must say that I was never bullied again by the same girl. - Banana


  39. Thanks for sharing your incredible story, I'm so sorry these types of things have to happen to children. My daughter met her "bully" in 4th grade, and thankfully, my daughter is fine now, but she has forever been changed by that experience. The bully's parents finally pulled her out of my daughters school, stating there were too many "lying" children there picking on their daughter. I can't tell you how many thankful teachers, parents and children there were that school year, so relieved to see her leave.

    Why is it that the Parents of "bullies seem to think it everyone elses fault?

  40. Bullying is not tolerated at all that is horriable!

    Connect at my blog:

  41. Bullying....it drove my outgoing son out of school. He decided to homeschool when he saw it going on....and it impacted him deeply. So glad you are such a strong Mom and are working through this with your son! Thanks so much for your note. I am following you...I don't have teens, but I need to prepare now....so, I look forward to reading and learning more from you!


  42. Hi, I'm a follower now. I really anjoy the honesty of your blog! Feel free to check out peasareyucky.blogspot.com and follow if you'd like. :)

  43. Hi! Just wanted to say thanks for inviting me to your blog from Bloggy Moms! I'm now following you lol

  44. Hello Logan,

    Thanks for the story. My daughters have had to deal with bullying also.

    In my book, Wisdom of Our Mothers, there are stories of what mothers have taught about bullying and how to deal with it. (Find it on CreateSpace or Amazon; I'm omitting the link so I don't get accused of spamming.)


  45. With the spread of technology making bullying even easier, this is unfortunately a growing problem...
    Thanks for stopping by on Bloggy Moms. I'm following you on GFC; please check out my site http://theresjustonemommy.com

  46. Thank you for that message and touching story. I am truly touched and cannot say enough about relating to your emotions as a mom. I am so happy to hear that your son has grown and forged on. That is how you win bullies over!

  47. So I just gave you a Stylish Blogger award on my site! I love reading yor blogs so I wanted to give you a shout out and hopefully drivesome more traffic to your page. Go check it out!

    Margaret (@goodbadfamily)

  48. First off thanks for stopping by at Bloggy Moms to tell me about your page. This post hits home for a number of reasons. I was bullied but unlike how you supported your son my parents blamed me for making those friends in the first place. I think that is great advice that your going to give to your daughter. I've been wondering what to do differently when it comes to my child. Bullying today is so much worse than it was when I was younger. With the internet there is no escaping how large it could get. I'm following you.


  49. My son has autism and I worry about this. He seems pretty tough and has a great sense of humor, which gets him by. I'm glad you blogged about this scary issue. It is very important and should stop now! Thank you!

  50. Hi , I found this post this evening after my son stated that he could not understand why I got so upset for the needless taunts of his 17 year old friends.I stopped and thought for a moment and considered that maybe I am over reacting so I googled ,"why do I let my sons bullies affect me" and here I am.
    My son has suffered taunts for 2 years.He is 17 intelligent articulate and fun loving.He is kind and helpful and has had his own business for 3 years.
    The taunts initially seem childish and pathetic however they have continued and they attack my relationship with him, he has removed them from Facebook and they continue to taunt him by using other friends Facebook pages.
    I too have taught him to turn the other cheek......but I know this affects him and I want it to stop...I know a lot of this is jealousy and yet he doesn't believe this.
    It makes me feel so sad

  51. Bullying such a sad thing my son was bullied in 2nd grade and i didnt know until I saw a poem from school about his bully made me cry. I was so mad and went directly to principal and the bullying stopped.