What Matters Most:
Parenting A Bully;
Encouragement For The Weary Mom
Bullies. I dislike labels and this would be one that is at the top of my list of DISLIKES…but it is likely not for the reason you may be thinking. Most of us have been bullied as a kid. Some of us, even as adults, have encountered someone who was beyond harsh or just having a hard day. It is not easy, fun or acceptable to have someone treat you in such a way.
I was made fun of throughout my earlier years in school. I know first hand what it is like to be called names and chased by the mean kid, calling me names like fatty Patty or thunder thighs and yelling, “I feel the ground shaking as you run by!”. I get it. I’ve lived it…However, on the flip side, I also know the pain of what it is like to be a Mom of a child who is labeled a bully.
Keep in mind… when labeling a child a BULLY it is in essence speaking of that child as if he/she were a disease that needs to be removed rather than recognizing him/her as a person, a real living and breathing child…with issues.
Am I raising him up to be a child that is mean, grumpy, difficult, rude, foul mouthed, harsh and completely insensitive to anyone else’s feelings? Of course not. Or perhaps he is this way because I am unaware and could care less that he can be, and often is, very rude, mean and harsh…when in actuality, for whatever reason, this child makes really bad choices and responds differently to his hurts and struggles.
Is HE hurting? Most definitely. Do we try to help him work through things? Yes. Do we correct him? Yes. Do we seek to teach him how to be kind or be quiet? Yes. Do we take him to counseling and/or therapy? Have we tried meds? Have we taken him off of wheat/gluten, dyes, dairy….Yes, yes and YES! Do we hope and pray that he will change and be able to better handle his emotions and make better choices? …More than anyone will ever know.
It is here that I want to speak to the heart of those who are trying to raise a child that has this label “BULLY”. There are a multitude of books, blog posts, websites and even facebook pages that talk all about “How to Deal With A bully” …yet no one stops to consider that there is a Mom…and a family that is struggling through each day living and trying to love this child.
Truth be told, it is a very lonely and weary job to parent a child that is extremely difficult, one that nobody wants around. There’s shame and embarrassment that because no matter how many times you have reminded your child to play nicely, to speak kindly, to not make fun of or threaten others, it ends up happening again and again. You know the dreaded phone call you get or the Mom heading straight over towards you to tell you what your child just did to their child.
Your friends, including those from church that you thought would have more understanding and compassion, start avoiding you and your family. Or maybe they just avoid the difficult child because they don’t want their angels to be influenced by your monster child. The invites come for your other children to come over for a play-date or to a birthday party…but not the one “mean” child. This just further convinces this child that he really is as mean and horrible as he thought he was.
As a Mom, those feelings of, “Why can’t he be like the rest of our kids?”; “What am I doing wrong?”; “How can I parent this child differently?”, eventually morph into “Why did I ever think that being a parent was a good idea?”; “How can I afford a boarding school for this child?”; “How many years until he is 18?”; “If he wants to go in the Army at 17 I will definitely sign the paperwork!” because you’re so tired of living through the daily strife.
For us, on top of the shame from those on the outside, the rest of our children also find it hard to want him around because he’s so mean. He doesn’t play fairly and they are embarrassed by his behavior when there are around others. They resent that he is their brother and want to avoid any interaction with him. But, can you blame them? We still encourage them to bear long, show kindness and remind them that we are a family and we need to stick together. They, too, are tired of it all and just want a break…and it all spirals down from there.
Step back from the situation. When I take a step back and look at what this child has created around him, it is no wonder he is grouchy and rude. He doesn’t even like himself and he is fully aware that others don’t like him. As his Mom it breaks my heart.
Know that parenting a difficult child is a journey of growth not only for the child but also for the parent. I have had to learn how to have tougher skin. I try not to shrink back when someone comes to report to me that he said something hurtful but rather try to say “Thank you for coming to me. We are working on this very thing. Will you help me?” I have had to work through my own frustrations, feelings of failure and embarrassments to see that his garbage mouth and rude behavior is not a reflection of me. I don’t swear like a sailor and I am not rude or mean…and most importantly his behavior does not define me.
Keep in mind that each child has a different road to travel. God is molding and making each child into the person they are to be. Often times a child that is bold comes across as a bully as they find their voice. I imagine that Rosa Parks, in order to be the bold, strong person that she was, likely had to learn how to find her voice and her strength. Raising a child that is bold and able to speak up or speak out for what matters most or one that is called to be a great leader will likely be a more difficult child to raise as you teach them how to be bold but not a bully, how to speak up, lead and yet not crush. The fire and passion in your child is still there to be that world changer but it needs to be guided and molded to become something great.
See the bigger picture. Help them find their value, purpose and destiny and help them dream. There is more to life than just today. Often times our kids lose site of the future because it seems so far off. They live in the present and can get stuck there feeling hopeless. Help them to see how their words and actions can be the very reason why someone else hates their own life. Do word studies on compassion, respect, courage, strength, boldness, and leadership.
Study and get to know why he reacts as he does. Search for ways to help him break out of that reputation he has made for himself. The question has to be asked, What makes your child do mean things, say mean things and even take it farther and actually hurt others? Each child is different. Each situation is different. Each family is different. Set him up to succeed by having a play date with only one friend. Often times when there are many friends or siblings around a child with poor friendship skills will feel that he is in competition for their friendship.
Remember to see your child as a hurting child. When I keep in mind that he needs love and guidance and I am the one that is here to help him navigate through his feelings and behavior, to learn to respond and not react, I am better able to come alongside him and be that guide instead of the disciplinarian that just wants him to be good for heavens sake!
Respite and Support. Find a friend with whom you can share and be real. This person can be a facebook friend that “gets it” because they are living the same reality you are. Or they can be a friend who lives close by and you can meet in person. You need a safe place and a safe person to share with and bounce ideas off of and to get encouragement that you are doing a great job. Respite for you and your spouse and the other children in the home is also critical in allowing everyone some down time. It doesn’t have to be an over night situation but even just an afternoon is a great break for everyone including the child that brings all the strife in the home.
Lastly, daily pray over and for your child. Ask specifically for healing in his heart, for a friend to come alongside and encourage him, for wisdom as you parent…and…Never EVER give up on your child.
What other ideas have you found effective in helping a child not be a bully?