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Moms Talk: Dealing With School Bus Bullies

Last week, readers gave great advice about organizing the mountains of toys our kids collect. This week, Hazelwood Patch Moms Councilmember Angela Atkinson inquires about effective ways of dealing with bullies on the school bus.

One day last week, my 7-year-old son Noah asked me if I could buy him an extra Nintendo DSi. As most parents know, these things aren’t cheap, throwaway toys, so after laughing through an emphatic “No,” I asked him why he thought he needed two of the same handheld game consoles.

As it turned out, a boy on his school bus had demanded that he give him a DSi by the next school day, “or else.” Noah said that the boy had also punched him in the stomach, called him and our family names and said a lot of mean and threatening things. And, my sweet boy told me, the kid had been bullying him for a few weeks.

By this time, I was no longer laughing.

As many parents have experienced, my initial reaction was one of the protective mother bear—I wanted that kid to experience the same pain my son did. My oldest son informed me that “no one messes with his little brother” and asked me to let him deal with it. Of course, that was not the right answer. I do not encourage violent behaviors in my kids, and I don’t believe that you solve violence with violence.

So, being the reasonable and law-abiding citizen that I am, I quickly put my irrational personal feelings in check and decided to take a proactive approach to ending the bully’s reign of terror instead.

Because it was Friday evening and the beginning of a long weekend, the first thing I did was e-mail the school’s principal. I explained what was happening and asked for her help in ending the problem. Though I didn’t expect her to react until the following Tuesday when school resumed, I was pleasantly surprised that she e-mailed me back that same evening.

She had already notified the school’s transportation company and Noah’s teacher, the e-mail said, and she would talk to and deal with the student in question on Tuesday. And, she did just what she said. Noah came home on Tuesday and told me that both boys were brought into the office and even though the bully lied and said he didn’t do it, she issued a punishment. She also made sure that Noah and the bully would not be seated near one another on the bus from that point forward.

While I was impressed with the principal’s quick action, I also sat down and had a talk with Noah about how to deal with bullies. First things first, I told him that he should never try to deal with these things himself. Instead, I told him, he should always tell me about things like this immediately so I can help him. I also explained that bullies only have power because we give them power, and that if he could try to avoid reacting to their initial jabs, they might get bored and move on.

This leads me to this week’s question. What do you tell your children about how to deal with bullies? If your children have been bullied by other kids, how did you deal with it?

Helena Hewlett March 07, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Angela, reading your article was so tough because my boys are still so little, and I know that inevitably they will be bullied when they are older (even as young as your little guy, who is only 7). My 2-year-old has been "bullied" a few times on playgrounds, and in those situations I was able to intervene and speak with the mother directly. But schools and buses are a whole new world, aren't they? I can imagine how difficult it would be to hear that your son was being bullied and to feel helpless. I definitely can relate to that protective "mama bear" instinct...I feel like I'd probably be tempted to go get on the bus and speak to that child myself (but of course I would fight that urge). Kudos to you for being smart and going to the school, and I'm so glad to hear that they responded and took care of the situation!! I wondered how this bully handled the situation after he was called to the office. Did he bother your son any more? I know that some kids might be even MORE upset after getting in trouble and might resort to other means of bullying because of their anger. I hope that this child did not. Good job taking care of your baby bear and teaching him what to do next time! Hope that there isn't a "next time" anytime soon!
Angela Atkinson March 07, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Thanks for your thoughts, Helena! The bully lied in the office and told the principal he didn't do it, but I believe there was video evidence from the bus surveillance system. (Thank goodness for that.) Afterward, he spoke to Noah a few more times, but Noah felt empowered and didn't succumb to his attempts. He is no longer allowed to sit near Noah on the bus and I understand that punishments were issued both at school and at home. I realize there is a risk of retaliation in calling the school but I just didn't know what other course of action to take. Luckily, the school enforces its zero-tolerance policy, so I hope that this will be the end of it! Thanks again for your comments! :)
Marsha Hays March 09, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Angela, Kudos for how you handled this bully! I have always taught my kids that they should try to handle things on their own first and that they have to stick together. My children are all only two grades apart. I remember getting a call from their principal when my youngest, Shane, was in kindergarten. It seems several children were calling him names and threatening him on the playground at recess. He told his teacher, and it stopped - until the teacher had to move to another part of the playground. Then it got worse. My son decided to do what I had taught him - he went to get his big brother Jamie. Apparently, Shane walked right in the class and told Jamie what had happened and refused to leave without him. Thankfully, this teacher called Shane’s teacher, the principal, and then called me. When I got to school, I asked Shane what Jamie could do to stop the meanness. My youngest replied that because brother was bigger, the teacher would listen to him better, and if that did not work, they could always get big sister Caiti. The teacher was stunned. She immediately apologized to Shane for not listening to him. The students in question were given "recess detention," the entire school had an assembly later that week about bullying and why it is wrong to call people names or be mean to them and my children learned a lesson that still sticks with them today: no matter what happens, they can always count on each other because family sticks together.
Angela Atkinson March 10, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Thanks Marsha! I agree that it's important to teach your kids to stick together, but in our case, my boys are six years apart, so they don't have that luxury at school. I think it says a lot about your parenting and your family that your kids know they can depend on one another and on you. So glad your youngest got the help he needed and that the teacher apologized for not listening to him. Families do need to stick together, and your story is a perfect lesson in why and how to do that. Thanks so much for your comment.
MichaelSmith April 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Bullies should not be ignored. Your child needs to know that he or she does not need to be treated in this way and should not need to put up with it. Keep up the communication to make sure ther problem with the bully does not come back. Your child should feel safe and secure at home. Be sure to provide a safe haven, letting your child know he or she has your love and support. I would like to share this link, about a service on how you can protect your children: http://safekidzone.com/

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