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Mothering › Child Articles › Making Peace with Bullying

Making Peace with Bullying

by Sarah Juliusson of www.MamaRenew.ca – Find Mama Renew on Facebook & Twitter

Our oldest son has been struggling off and on over the past few years being bullied – it gets better, and then it gets worse – and right now? It’s worse. As those of you who have a child who has been excluded know, it is absolutely heartbreaking watching your child be excluded and emotionally & physically bullied. We’ve been blessed with a positive response from all fronts – the teacher, school administration, the parents of the other children involved – not to mention an outpouring of support from friends and family.

sarahayStill, I’m left with the question of what I can do in support of my son. Long daily snuggles, quiet time together, supportive play-dates, talking through how he can best navigate this challenging social realm, negotiating with the school & other parents, researching resources on bullying… All these are absolutely core to our strategy, but it’s not enough.

Again, I come back to the question – What Can I Do?  Beyond devoted advocacy and loving support for my son, I’ve come to the following understandings:

1. I can’t change the children who are treating my boy in this way. I can only do my absolute best to treat them with respect and to feel compassion for the hurt inside of them that is leading to this behavior.  I can also offer loving support to their parents as they navigate equally difficult terrain.

2. Recognize that my own history of being bullied is shaping my response to my son’s experience. This is an opportunity to make my peace with that time in my childhood, and let it go.

3. Focus on a spirit of inclusion in my own life. We all have our routines – the parents we always talk and laugh with at the playground or school pickup and drop-off. I’m making a commitment to myself to step outside of this comfort zone and connect with a wider circle of parents during these times. I’m making more tea dates and scheduling shared family hikes. I’m doing my absolute best to set aside my assumptions and prejudices and simply be open.


One of the things I love the most about facilitating a Mama Renew group is the way it opens us up to a wider circle of women – the discovery that beneath the surface identities and realities, we have a deeper shared experience that unites us. I adore the spark of recognition that grows in a group, the growing realization that we’re not quite as alone as we had imagined.  Sadly, this spirit of inclusion is not always present in our life as grown adults on the playground…  and yet we despair when we see it in our kids…

Your Mama Renew challenge this week?


Reach out to someone new in your life &

model the same spirit of inclusion we wish for our children.

& Please do share:  What strategies have you found helpful in dealing with bullying & exclusion?

Mama Renew

About Sarah Juliusson

Sarah Juliusson, founder of Mama Renew, is a gifted facilitator and writer on the journey of birth & motherhood. She brings two decades of experience supporting families through pregnancy, birth and motherhood to her work. Sarah is mother to two growing boys, a playful crafter with cloth & wool, student of traditional food preservation, and a diva at heart. Join the conversation on http://www.mamarenew.ca & on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/mamarenew

Comments (16)

I needed this right now. We've been dealing with a bully for almost 2 years now with our twins who are only 5. I contacted the school more than once since the kids are in a preschool disabilities classroom. I wrote letters last week after my one 5 year old came home saying that the kid called him a "shithead". We've heard nothing back from the school. I'm livid! .-= Marissa´s last blog ..The 4 year old bully =-.
What is he being teased about?
My son is 5 also and has had some issues with this as well. When kids call him names we discuss the fact that it is the bullies problem and he or she must be quite sad inside. We even talk about laughing with the bully then walking away. It takes away his power and my son has responded well to that. As always, I use the old "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Im not sure if this helps in the least, but I wish you luck with this. Its hard, I know. hg
This is precisely why I'm going to homeschool my children.
Yes Bryna! We too homeschool our 5 children. You never hear of bullying with homeschoolers. If there ever is a problem with a child it is dealt with right away and it is done and over with. If I had my child in public school and they were bullied I would pull them right out. If you had a job where you were harrassed you wouldn't stay there. I could not imagine sending my child somewhere I knew they would fear going. I have heard of child committing suicide for this reason. That is horribly sad! Horrible that the bully could do this to a child. But even more horrible that the child had to continue to go to the school where it was happening.
My 9 year old is very small and very sensitive. When he gets picked on we usually try to focus on why that kid might be a bully. Maybe he has insecurities of his own, and what they may be. Maybe he has some private issues that cause him to be an angry child and what those may be. It takes the focus off of my son so he understands it's not his fault that he got picked on, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If that person wasnt picking on him he would find someone else. Then we explain the best way to get them to leave him alone is to not let him get a rise out of him. It's no fun to pick on someone who doesn't care and is ignoring you and continuing to have fun. .-= Eve´s last blog ..Lets go Couponing!!! =-.
Having to see one's child go through this is heartbreaking. Working at an elementary school, I've also learned that many parents THINK their children are being bullied, when in reality those kids are the biggest bullies at school. Everyone sees it, except for the parents. I find this very strange, but I've seen it so many times, it doesn't surprise me any more.
It's interesting to me - we've had so many responses from family & friends sharing their own experiences with bullying. While some are deeply grateful for having changed schools, others wholeheartedly believe that the greatest gift they were given was to remain in that environment and find their way through it, with active loving support from the adults in their lives. His experience of bullying doesn't seem to be targeting any particular aspect of who he his - but rather a consistent exclusion from play & pushing/poking/teasing. we absolutely do explore the experience of the child who is bullying, and the hurt that must be inside of them to make them act in this way, and how wrong that is. We also have been exploring his response to help minimize the "satisfaction" received by the bully. Again - I come back the question - if we can't change the bullying behaviour, what can we do within ourselves as women and mothers to model the inclusion we wish for my children?
As a grown homeschooler (actually unschooler if that means anything to you!) I just do NOT understand our societies tolerance of bullying. It is shocking common and considered by many to be "one of those things kids go through". it makes it extremely difficult for me as a physician to counsel families since my reaction is "get your poor kid out of that toxic environment!!!!!" until we fix our broken schools, we cannot expect happy healthy children.
Hey Laurel, I'm an unschooler at heart, but for a variety of reasons it doesn't feel like the right choice for our son - at least at this time in his life. And I agree - bullying should in no way be considered a standard experience of childhood nor something to simply tolerate because that's just how it is. I'd also suggest, however, that the presence of bullying is not the sole definer of an environment as toxic nor an indicator of a broken school - in our case we have a classroom filled with other children who demonstrate kind ways, a supportive and engaging teacher who is just as committed to dealing with this issue and is able to see both children as whole beings, not just bully & victim, a phenomenal circle of parents -including the parents of the child who is bullying - working together to create a healthy environment for our children. We are fortunate in this way - i know many parents who have not experienced the same depth of support - and Marissa (above) - I encourage to you keep on speaking up & addressing this issue until you get the attention it deserves. All the pieces are in place to work with this in a positive way - what I am trying to do here is question my own experience of bullying and exclusion - both in my own past, and how I am in the wider community today. How am I modeling the very social inclusion i wish to see for my son?
I am so very grateful to read this, especially as I'm the mama to a boy who may be considered a "bully" by some. Thank you, thank you for recognizing that there is difficult terrain on this side of the fence, too. We are doing so much to discover the root of the issue, and address it, with a social worker, psychiatrist, occupational therapist-- the works. Unfortunately there is no "silver bullet" and it looks as though we've got a long journey ahead. And he's only 4!! The absolute most difficult part of it? I myself was bullied as a child; I cannot believe that *my* child is now the aggressor. What hurts him so? We are only beginning to find out. In the meantime, thank god for dedicated teachers, thorough "Individual Education Program" screenings, and a community of compassionate, friendly, open mamas and other caregivers. Things are never black-and-white, are they? Such a long road we have, to being "fully human". Thank you for your post! .-= Pilar´s last blog ..Wonder =-.
I am forever and always intrigued by the 'bullying' phenomenon! There are so many interesting takes and such a varitey of ways in dealing with the 'bully', 'victim' and 'bystander'. Something that I have discovered as an educator and the parent of both a 'bully' and a 'victim' is that the Bully is not necesarily angry and sad and hurting inside. There is research that actually says the opposite - that bully's can have quite a high self esteem! Some bully's are simply socially unaware, or they are bored, or the simply get enjoyment our of the 'game' they are playing. Which sounds harsh to us fully incarnated adults - but to our developing children, they may not necesarily understand that this 'game' is hurting another being. They enjoy the reaction they get from the 'victim' and as long as the 'victim' continues to respond in the same way, the bully continues to enjopy the game. What I have found is to council the victim, first of all, to get rid of the word victim, to encourage resilliency and coping skills. To learn how NOT to create an enjoyable game for the bully. To simply laugh with the bully, knowing deep down that he or she is not really a shit head - to say - oh, you think I am a shit head? Huh, interesting - I don't! and walk away. I know, I know it is difficult. But this is how we are dealing with our own continum of 'teaser' and 'whiner' in our own home. We tend to council the 'whiner' more often then the 'teaser'! Well, parenting is so full of learning opportunities! Thanks for the article...and the conversation!
Sarah, to answer your question, I think that parents of children who are bullied can model healthy boundary skills. My parent wasn't able to role model those for me, and she also fell into "victim" mentality easily. I think that contributed to the years of bullying and social exclusion that I painfully endured throughout public school. I am working on boundary skills as an individual and as a parent, and I am finding that boundary-setting can be far more complex and nuanced than I realized. I found this to be a really good guide to boundary-setting: Boundaries http://al.turtlecounseling.com/blog/_archives/2005/3/8/409606.html Here are some characteristics of having excellent boundaries: An "Excellent Boundaries" Teaching Tool http://al.turtlecounseling.com/blog/_archives/2005/3/24/474953.html With our children, these are all teachable moments: Thank Heavens for Bullies. We need them. http://al.turtlecounseling.com/blog/_archives/2005/7/28/1086037.html "And I believe bullies help. They give us something to practice our firm resolve upon. We get chances, up front and real, to practice being tough for peace without becoming a bully ourselves. We get to stand up for peace, right in their faces. And I believe we all should learn how to peacefully, and firmly, handle bullies. We learn how to not let bullies get away with it, and we can enjoy retraining people out of the habits of throwing tantrums when they don't get their way." Finally, here's Al Turtle's definition: "Bully – A person who wants their way and when they don’t get their way, they make other people unhappy." Al Turtle really delves into what causes people to bully, or assume a passive position in response to bullying. Parents can look at their own areas of bullying and passivity (most of us do both at various times in minor ways at least) and role model shifting out of those roles to facilitate Friend-Friend dynamics. That's MY plan anyway. Should only take a week or two :P [BTW, I can totally relate Pilar.]
Sarah, My one son has a language based disorder called apraxia. He jumbles words and doesn't produce the sounds correctly. My other son, the "shithead" has a physical problem where the nerves, muscles don't work properly in his lower half and he has frequent accidents. We are in the process for testing him for a mild form of spina bifida. .-= Marissa´s last blog ..The 4 year old bully =-.
Oh Marissa, what a difficult path to walk with your children as they make their peace with their physical struggles and how to navigate these in the realm of their peers. I wish you the support you deserve from the school administration and other parents.
Thank you, Ksenia - some great resources!
Mothering › Child Articles › Making Peace with Bullying