What if YOUR Kid is the Bully???

By: Tanya Dodd-Hise

“Often the right path is the one that may be hardest for you to follow. But the hard path is also the one that will make you grow as a human being.”
Karen Mueller Coombs, Bully at Ambush Corner

This is hard to talk about.  It is embarrassing, humiliating, and somehow a reflection of how my parenting has somehow taken a wrong turn.  I am one who has no tolerance for bullying – EVER.  When my oldest son was bullied in high school by some redneck kid (because his mom is a lesbian), I took action, went to the school, talked to an administrator, and it was straightened out and over.  When my youngest son was bullied this year in middle school by a snarky girl (because his mom is a lesbian), I took action, called the teacher, who spoke to the counselor and together they dealt with it.  So imagine my absolute horror this morning when I receive a call from the assistant principal of the middle school:  my son was in her office…for bullying. 

She proceeded to tell me that he and another student had gotten into trouble during band class for talking too much, and when they didn’t stop, they got sent to the office.  The other student had told my son to “shut up,” but when pressed for the reason, the truth came out that it was because my son had been picking on him for weeks during band.  Teasing him and making fun of him when he got notes to the music wrong, or for making a mistake while they were all playing.  I hung my head as I heard her tell me that while my child had told the truth and admitted his role, that it was indeed a form of bullying, and she had just suspended another for ten days for the same thing.  What do I say?  What do I do?  I was immediately at a loss, and wanted to crawl under a rock.  I told her that I absolutely did not understand where it was coming from, considering he had gone through the same thing just a short time ago in the school year.  She also knew about the previous incident, and therefore didn’t quite understand herself.  So she said that she wanted to put him into in-school suspension for today, and for the two days following; I told her I was absolutely behind her one hundred percent.  But now I have to figure out what to say and do when he gets home – there has to be consequences here as well.  I am just at a loss. 

I have thought about it all day, since I got the phone call.  When I called Erikka, she was at a loss as well.  We have both seen how he can be with other kids, and have had talks with him about the way that he treats others.  We know he is very intelligent, but with that comes the problem that HE knows he is very intelligent.  We have seen and heard him with other kids, talking down to them like they are dumb, or not as smart as he.  So now he is apparently talking down to kids in band, speaking to them like they aren’t as good as he is as well.  After years and years, for as long as I can remember, he has been taught tolerance and to treat others as he would want to be treated.  We don’t believe that we are better than anyone else, so I’m not sure where he would obtain this arrogant attitude.  It is very troubling to me, as his mom, just as it was troubling when he was being bullied by someone else.  I absolutely cannot abide my kid being THAT kid – but how do I stop it?  I will, of course, call his dad this evening, and I am sure that he will want to talk to him.  It just seems that no matter what any of us say to him, or take away from him as punishment, nothing seems to get through.  I think this is what is the most disturbing to me – consequences don’t seem to phase him.  How do I get through to him, to make him see all of the potential that he possesses in that magnificent brain, if only he would use it for making himself into a productive and successful person on planet Earth?

What do you do when it’s YOUR kid who is the bully?

I tearfully told him of my disappointment, embarrassment, and disgust over his actions.  I told him about the little boy who lived a few miles from us, who killed himself three years ago at the age of nine, because he was bullied.  That boy would be twelve today, and in the sixth grade.  I told him that I could not tolerate my child being part of this horrible problem of bullying in this nation.

“Noah, you absolutely cannot be part of the problem, and it is a very big and very real and very wrong problem.  You MUST be part of the solution.  That kid that you picked on may not have very many friends, and what if you were the factor that pushes him to suicide – you don’t want to live with that kind of guilt.  Every one of those kids that have killed themselves over bullying experienced someone who was part of the problem – the bully.  You don’t want to be that person.  You can be part of the solution.  You can be his friend.  We can never have too many friends.”

“You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down.”

~ Jeffrey Benjamin


  1. says

    I feel for you Tanya. Noah is clearly having issues, new baby Harrison and being displaced comes to mind. However, there are no excuses. As for punishment ask Noah what he thinks is the appropriate punishment. My kids usually came up with pretty good ones. Teenagers are not easy as you know. Noah is a bright , good kid (as seen in his loving face with photos) and I know you are a great Mom. Shit happens and as long as you talk to him about it, this too shall pass. There is a root for bullying and it is hard to assess sometimes but, you are always good at talking to your kids and helping them solve issues. Let us know how it goes.

  2. E. says

    It happened to me this month too, also with a middle school child. I was a wreck and there is not a way that immediately makes you feel better. I don’t suppose it should. We talked a LOT (way more than he was comfortable with). He lost important privileges and wrote a letter of apology to the child and his mother. And I took him to see the movie “Bully” this weekend instead of doing something fun. He told me he was trying to be “cool” which made me want to throw up. Social pressure is so ugly and overwhelming at this age, what is it doing to our children? He’s embarrassed and full of remorse now, but I’m still incredibly depressed and worried.

  3. Kim says

    U know I know this subject all too well. My SEVEN year old is THE bully. The ONLY thing that has worked for us is taking EVERYTHING from him. He too is not phased by spankings or punishments. While our situation is very different from yours, try taking things away. TV, video games. Etc. or have him come up with a list of POSSITIVE things he can do at school, sit with a kid that sits alone at lunch, etc and have his teachers sign off on it. For every good deed, give him a privallage or something back. AND BTW, u have NOT failed and u r a FANTASTIC mother. None of us are perfect and that’s why we have friends to lean on!!

  4. Tamara says

    I support Kim’s suggestion that you have Noah do something positive for someone else. Unfortunately, kids are egocentric and cannot see the effects of anything they do outside of their little bubble, nor do they find it easy to empathize with anyone else. Kids at this age think they are the only ones who have feelings of inferiority, lack of self-esteem, etc… Even for a kid who knows he’s smart or beautiful, he may be looking for another way to validate their feelings – whatever these feelings are. Remember: this is still a learning process and kids need desperately to be guided down the rocky path of finding socially appropriate communication.

    When we encourage service instead of receipt, we are teaching children to consider others before ourselves. When we teach our children to make a chart (flow, Venn, map, etc…) to visually see the effects of actions, we encourage another way of thinking to stimulate positive action. Writing a letter of apology is a great first step. Take it further: have him research and do a presi on bullying; have him do the presi from both perspectives: that of the bully and that of the one bullied. Then have him map out possible consequences. The school counselor should also have a program already in place for Noah to actively participate in to help prevent future situations (school service organization).

    Chin up! This too shall pass – it’s what we teach in these difficult moments that helps create the person he will become later.

  5. Tanya Dodd-Hise says

    Thanks everyone for the kind words and support. We are taking him to see the documentary “Bully” on Saturday. I have already told him that he will write an apology letter to the kid (and there is another kid as well, that i discovered in his text messages). We have printed materials to go along with the documentary, and i am giving him assignments to answer. I also am going to give him a list of kids who have died due to bullying, and i am going to have him research them online and write about a few of their stories. He knows that i am taking this VERY seriously.

  6. says

    Great post! I wrote about it on BabyCenter. Lots of people commented about it on the site and also on the BabyCenter Facebook page. You aren’t alone. Best of luck with your son.

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