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July 02, 2012

Why Are You So Mean?

Blog-why-are-you-so-meanBy now, you've all heard about the bullied bus monitor, Karen Klein, a 68-year old Greece, NY grandmother, in charge of keeping middle school students safe – who instead, was verbally abused by 4 of the boys she was there to protect.  They bullied her with taunts, insults and profanity, and someone filmed it.

Since the video was released, a stranger in Toronto started a fundraiser with the idea of sending Klein on a nice vacation. It has since raised over $650,000.

But the bigger issue is not being addressed. I love that the international community has rallied to send Klein to Disney World, but the root of the problem is that today's youth can be so painfully mean – and are their parents to blame?

A recent article our team created is on how to raise a gentleman and provides 10 strategies to create kind, empathetic boys who listen and have good manners (sounds like a dream, right?!). In it, the experts say that kids who are gentlemen don't bully and are less likely to be bullied. They also stand up for their friends.

The experts say that talking about feelings is one tactic to raising an empathetic child. First, ask your son how he feels about something. Then ask him what he thinks another person is feeling. You can do this when reading books, after witnessing everyday interactions or when they're older, watching the news.

Other tips include teaching boys to listen to peers, and not just focus on one's self; make eye contact to gauge how others are feeling; smile at strangers to brighten up a room; practice table manners at home; write thank you notes – and have parents be a role model for good behavior.

That leads me to the parents of these boys in Greece, NY. Do they feel responsible? Should they? One report stated that the parents wrote apologizes to Ms. Klein (their kids were made to as well), but Klein was left questioning their sincerity. However, one father apologized in person with a hug, which she said felt more genuine.

Parenting is a challenge, I know. I'm raising two boys myself. And I've struggled with how to teach them compassion and responsibility. We talk about our feelings a lot. They also have good role models, but it's been hard – and sometimes kids can be so different at home than when they are around their peers.

As a parent myself, I would feel responsible if one of my sons was a bully. I know we can't control all of their actions all of the time. But it's our job as parents to raise good, kind people. And if our child is a bully, we as parents need to take a good long look at ourselves.

Tell me, how do you think the parents of the accused boys should respond? How would you handle hearing that your child is a bully?

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Comments

cathy

My 6 yr. old was bullied on the bus by a 9 yr old boy. The boy told my son he'hated him.' We said ignore it. The boy said 'I hope you die.' I told my son I would address it with the boy's mother the next week-we had plans to go to lunch. It was the worst mistake I've made as a mother. The next day the same boy got out of seat on the bus and said 'I'm going to kill you' and put his hands on my son's throat and pushed him off his seat to the ground. I never felt so horrible about how I let my son down. I never should have told him to ignore the boy's taunts. Bullies do not stop if you ignore them. I read on-line help blogs about bullies and followed their advice-which was flat out wrong. If someone does something that makes you uncomfortable, you need to react IMMEDIATELY. Bullies think they can get away with anything, which is why their bad behavior escalates. It needs to be stopped at the first signs. I had been friendly with the bully's mother-we live next door to each other. But after this happend I had my son and husband in the priciple's office the next morning. We had our son tell his side of the story to her in a safe supportive environment. The bully was suspended from the bus for 30 days. My son cheered when he heard. I still haven't forgiven myself for putting my son in such an awful position. Don't tell your to ignore it. Don't ignore it yourself. Its uncomfortable, but you need to speak up as soon as something happens, so your child isn't hurt, or worse. I lost that mother as a friend over this, but I have earned my son's faith in me again-that I will do whatever it takes to make him safe. Please learn from my mistake.

Laura

I only have daughters but I know what I would do to them if they got caught doing anything like that. First there would be a spanking from dad. Second I would first go to the injured party myself apologize profusely then ask if they would allow my child/children to come apologize and be required to do work around their home as a way of apology. Then my kids would also be grounded no friends games etc for as long as my husband and I saw fit.

Katherine

Learning that your son has behaved badly and has hurt someone in doing so can be devastating, if not just disappointing. I've been there. I think dealing with that knowledge well means taking time every day to talk out the issue of how to be a thoughtful, responsible, and kind person from many different angles. It also means finding every opportunity to notice and comment on kind acts witnessed every day. In these moments, I believe the key is for parents to give the child a chance to say what he or she thinks and for the parent to listen well. It's also important for parents to commend every kindness the child displays as a method of reinforcing--even rewarding--the positive behaviors we want them to engage in at all times.

Pam

I think the parents of the accused boys who bullied the bus monitor should have apologized in the same way many people have, with something that has made them give up something precious--like time or money. I know that I would personally feel guilty myself if my child behaved like that or ever treated another human being like that! I would hope that I could figure out how to make my child understand that he/she wouldn't like to be talked to that way so he shouldn't talk to anyone else that way. I still believe that the golden rule should be taught in the home and in the schools today--"Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you"!!!

Rob

My children are bullied by girls. Nice article, but it was obviously written by a woman. ALL kids are bullies. Mine, yours, and everyone else's; girls or boys. Parents need to step up and punish their kids. That's what I do. Raising them correctly is far more important to me than being their friend or the cool dad. I'll be friends with them once they're respectable adults.

TR

In my limited understanding of the subject, I believe that interacting with kids on a regular basis by doing chores around the house together, working in the garden, cleaning up after dinner or having a conversation in the car are excellent opportunities for nurturing and passing on values. We need to let things go as parents, save punishments to a limited few behaviors, create situations wherein the kid has the opportunity to evaluate his own behavior, and allow sufficient time for a behavioral change to happen. Being consistent, firm and polite in our interactions with our children goes a long way in influencing their behavior with others.

Jean

Why did Katherine have to wait for her husband to dicipline a child? I am a grandmother, and I hear kids making jokes about being "on restriction" and having all their electronic toys taken away for a while. Most parents don't stick with the punishment, and the kids know just how to get around it. In my opinion, all kids need constant dicipline with love, not when a crisis arises. They need to know where they stand with their parents, and not expect them to be "friends" and "playmates". Also, kids of all ages get addicted to their Ipods, and miss out on establishing friendships, thus on interactions with other kids and adults. Some of our best memories, now that my "kids" are adults, are remembering the times they got in trouble, and what the conquences were. TIME is the best gift you can give a child, along with a solid foundation in faith.

Jean

I'm sorry. Laura was the one waiting for her husband. Sorry Katherine.

Baggy

When a child is bullied, it may be difficult to prove anything after the fact to teachers, school administrators, other mothers, etc. If there's no hard evidence, they don't have to address the problem. However, it's easy for kids and teachers to capture video via cell or mini-cam. Without the video, there would have been far less outcry about the bus monitor and probably even some backlash against the woman. Children who already carry a device that can record video or sound should be taught to capture any situation they find troubling (whether it directly involves them or not) and then share it with their parents. Then the parents can decide what, if anything, should be done.

Kelly

I wish that more parents would take responsibility for how their children behave and give them consequences. I have a 4.5 YO who is one of the sweetest, most compasionate boys I know. BUT, we recently had a party and I caught him bullying another boy there, sort of 'showing off' for his older cousin. I FREAKED. I punished him. I talked to him. I told him I was SO disappointed in his behavior. But, I'm not sure that it sank in. This from a boy that I would never have thought would do such a thing! And we talk all of the time, he tells me about his feelings, we talk about how what we do makes others feel, etc. So, with that said, I feel that we have done the right thing as parents, but still there was an incident. But, we then gave our son consequences for what he did. That is key. We might not be able to fully stop it from happening, but once it does, don't be one of those parents who says 'not my kid!' Give them consequences for doing what they shouldn't have done, and hopefully it won't happen again...but if it does, consequences get worse.

SC

If we're trying to teach our children that bullying and violence are unacceptable, why in the world would we hit (spank) them? The thought makes me sick to my stomach.

foram shah

Thank u all so muchvfor sharing. parenting is very hard. I have a 5 yr. Old who gets bullied by hid cousin. i been telling him to ignore it all this time. however now iknow how to protect my son better and make him comfortable. Thank you again to the author and all moms for sharing. u all rock!!!

MH

First of all let's not bully each other on here. If parents agree that spanking is the best course of action for punishment and it works maybe that is the best punishment. Remember all children are different and respond to different punishments, what works for one child may not work with the other, so play nice parents. Bullying in my experience is a learned behavior wether the picked it up at home or from an older kid at school. All I know is that if this were my son or I ever caught him bullying another child, restriction maybe a spanking defiantly an apology a very public one (embarassment) and my son would jump through hoops to help that kid and be very sorry. Play with ur kids all the time my son is only 6 months old but he's grown up so quick :-( Love is all u need.

Christine

I was bullied by kids growing up but it wasn't a long time for each one. I don't know how but each time I'd say something back. I'd say something just as mean back. They would be shocked and wouldn't come after me again. I'm sure my words were mean but it stopped them in their tracks. For example, when they made fun of how skinny, flat booted I was I would just say "I'd rather be like me than be a fat a** like you. Guys like skinny not fat" or "go pick on someone your own size." Yes, harsh but I was quickly left alone.
I have a 3 and 2 year old. It will be a hard choice to tell them to say such things back. But I do agree that something should be done ASAP.

Liz

Done some research -- bullying can be a learned behavior, especially if child is abused by family members. But more likely the child is simply making themself feel superior to others because there is something lacking in themselves at the moment. Actually, depending on the degree, it's normal human behavior. Everyone, including adults relate to it and minimize it because either we have been victims ourselves our have done it to others. The most important thing to do as a parent, when your child comes home and tells you that they have been harassed at school is to arm your child with the 1st line of defense and tell the other child, "Hey, that's not nice! I will tell the [insert principal/teacher's name] if you do it again!" This usually stops them in their tracks because they now know they won't get away with it and the child is sticking up for themself - good life lesson. Then, as a parent, you need to report it to the school if it happens again. I have found that the schools do want to know about these things despite our resistance to reporting it (me included! but I have learned the hard way NOT to let things escalate).

Audrey

Hi there, I've a school bus driver in northern California for 14 years and have seen my share of bullying on the bus. I believe that the kids that are prone to do this know that there is no one watching so its an easy playing field. Although I do the best I can looking in the mirror almost constantly but have to watch the road too, not an easy task. Being safe on the road is number one. I do try my best to pin point the bullies and follow through with discipline. It should not be tolerated but you must have that back up and follow through from supervisors, teachers, principals, and of course PARENTS, etc. Seems we have lost a lot of respect from children, they need love AND discipline. It takes a village to raise a child but it starts at home. You can sure tell who is doing thier job parenting and who is not at home, don't be afraid to be the parent, you are in charge! These kids need to help at home, play outside (not at the tv or computer) and learn how to EARN things. Let's raise a better America! Never give up

Clare

My son has been bullied since he started at his new school he was raised to be kind and respectful of others he is bullied by girls and boys I continue to instill in him that maybe something bad is happening in these kids house hold to make the act the way they do I also told him to ignore them but they continue to do so until I went to the school to talk with principal the bus was monitored and the young man was not allowed to ride the bus I allow tell my son to continue to be the kind and wonderful son I raise him to be parents are fully responsible for their children and they need to try their best to raise their children to be kind and considerated to other there is no excuse for this type of behavior I am a single parents and I work hard to make sure my kids treat all people with respect

SC

Bullying is the use of force and/or coercion, particularly I. The presence of a power imbalance. The behavior is often repeated, aggressive, and intended to humiliate. Let''s not abuse the word by applying it to my comment about spanking. We're adults having a conversation and I'm not trying to force or coerce anyone to do anything.

When an adult strikes another adult, it's assault and potentially chargeable as a felony. I cannot see why we should define the situation differently when it's an adult striking a defenseless child. How does that teach them not to bully? And why is it OK to hit a child but. It an adult? Because parents should have entire control and authority over their children? And where does that stop?

critina m.

My baby girl was bullied when she started Kindergarten half the school year and I thought it was kids being kids. Until one day my baby girl told me she was sick(But wasn't) and then she just broke down crying and I kept asking her what's wrong. Until she blurted out 'mommy I don't want to go Blake is so mean to me he always pushes me down at recess and calls me names. I literally snapped and cried and hugged her telling her mommy will handle it. So I did I called the teacher and explained to her the situation and she said she will "handle it" and that she was aware of his behavior and I got angry asking her if she knew why the hell didn't she do anything about. It. So I called the prinicipal and kept in touch... everyday to make sure the school was doing with bullys. Then time had passed and one day my baby girl told me "mommy blake and I are friends I want to invite him to my bday party" aftter all the crap she went through i cried in relief and explained to her that their will be other people like blake in this world that will be mean and not to ever hate mean people it's not their fault for how they are raised. But to always make sure to speak up if you or you see someone being bullied. :)

AJ

My son has been to several schools from k-2nd grade. He was bullied at each school he attended. Then we decided to homeschool him. Then at the start of 6th grade, he asked us to take him to a regular school. After only one day, he told us he didnt want to go back as kids were teasing him, how small he was compared to others. As his father, i have a hard time accepting this. It hurts me thinking about this everyday. We talked about his experience last week and he started getting teary eyed. He asked why does this stuff always happen to me? I told him not everyone is as sweet and gentle as you. I told him the kids who bullied him are probably not loved at home. Btw i was a bully when i was young. I definitely am ashamed i bullied kids back then. My wife and i stress the importance of respecting others and not making fun of anyone. Im so lucky we have great, respectful children.

mc

This reminds me when I was young my cousin was being bullied by an older boy in school. I was one year older than my cousin, the boy was one year older than me, and I was a girl. Also, my cousin suffered from asthma. One day after school I could not find my cousin and saw a crowd in the playground as I broke thru I saw my cousin on the dirt floor barely able to breath and the boy was holding his breathalyzer and wouldn't let him have it. I found a large pipe and hit the kid as hard as I could on the head. Needless to say the mother came to our home with the bandaged boy to complain to my aunt of what I had done. She then very calmly asked me why I had done this to the boy (of course she already knew the story), after I finished retelling why I had hit the boy, she very calmly said, "you did very good honey', and then she told the boy, "next time you hit any one of my kids you may not be so lucky". I had always loved my aunt, but from that day forward she became my hero! Needless to say the mother and her son ran out of the house and we never had problems with him again. Decades later I saw the boy, then a man, who still had a small scar on the side of his head, he actually turned out to be a pretty good adult.

Of course, I don't condone hitting anyone with a pipe on the head, but I do believe that you never let a bully get away with anything, the longer it goes on the worse it gets. Parents and teachers need to immediately address the problem as soon as it happens before it escalates.

KMS

I recently came across the book, "Have you Filled a Bucket Today?" I think it has been around a while. It has provided a child-friendly way for me to talk about bullying and people's feelings with my 5-year-old son and 3-year-old boy-girl twins. There's a website, too: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/ My kids now have a way to name their behavior as a "bucket filler" or "bucket dipper," which I'm finding helpful. It's probably not for everyone because it is a bit high on the cheesy-factor scale. But I've been finding it helpful.

Dana

I agree with Rob, ALL kids are bully's to an certain extent. They lack maturity, impulse control, and are pretty self-centered through Jr. High. And, they live in such a microcosm at that age that they simply cannot appreciate diversitywhich is why kids who look, dress, act, differently from the "norm" or are outside of the bell curve often get bullied. It's difficult to teach empanty and compassion when the world revolves around you. Fortunately, most kids grow out of this and become good adults. However, the kids who were bullied often carry those scars for life. Parents, schools, administrators, teachers, etc...need to change their attitudes. While it may be normal, it's not OK. It's not OK to blow this off as "kids being kids." The issue needs to be addressed in the classroom, along wiht a ZERO tolerance policy for bullying. Afterall, this type of behavior whould NEVER be allowed in the workplace, why should our kids have to tolerate it at school?

BusyMommy4

Don't forget to think about your daughters in this conversation. Relational aggression/bullying is increasing with our daughters and actually decreasing in our sons. My daughters counselor said studies show spending the right kind of time with our kids - even 15 min a day gives kids what they need so they don't seek it out in the wrong way like bullying. So turn off your phone, tv, computer and give your child your full attention!

brenda

Dear AJ,
I know how difficult it is to hear that your child is being "picked on", bullying is horrible, I was often on the receiving end myself...However, I did learn how to deal with the bullies, I learned empathy and compassion, because I found that many bullies are bullied themselves, and then I found how to stand up for myself and for others...I know that there were many days I didn't want to go to school etc. but, I think that it helped to shape me into the person that I am today....
I must also note and I know that this may cause a little controversy, but, I have worked as an early childhood educator and as a Therapeutic Support Specialist with special needs children---I have made several observations...in my professional career as well as in my continuing college career (I am pursuing my Psy D), and well I have observed that most children that are homeschooled are often socially awkward and introverted...when they are placed in a social situation that they cannot handle they tend to retreat physically, mentally and emotionally...they often do not know how to handle it...I have also observed that when they do get to a higher education program that although they may be prepared academically, (sometimes) they are not prepared for the social situations...they act to extremes, and it is heart wrenching to see them struggle...
I cannot say how you should raise your child, but I can encourage you to help him to handle difficult situations rather than "leave"...(example "after only one day, he told us he didnt want to go back as kids were teasing him")
I don't know if you went back to homeschooling him..
I liked what you said to him, and I liked that you appreciate the role reversal you yourself are witnessing...
Maybe if you eventually explain this to him, it will help him to process what has happened...I don't know...I hate bullying...but I do know that many bullies are bullied themselves, and well, working with kids who are emotionally,mentally and intellectually disabled I see it often...and try to teach my clients that the bullies don't know any better, and well, we should just work at killing them with kindness...(ignorance breeds ignorance)

Carolyn

The remedy to bullying or being bullied is not a one size fits all situation. Being an advocate, friend, or a disciplinarian to your child may be the cause or cure. It just depends on how each child and their parent's are wired and their dynamics for delivery of empathy and/or discipline. Also, some playful banter can be considered bullying by some kids. (I'm not saying this is the case with the bus driver). Sometimes a playful retort or joke back at the bully, or a bit of desensitizing or self-esteem building of the victim can also work wonders. Bottom line is that even adults have and always will go through this. It seems evolution should have gotten us past this by now, but I think we are just at the beginnings. It's unfortunate but it's life - no one simple answer. For those going through this whichever side it is, my heart goes out to you. I don't believe in fighting fire with fire, nor coddling. Read all the advice, don't take it personally, consider it with a grain of salt and go with what's in your heart.

Alysha

First, we need to make a distinction between bullying and someone who is just being a jerk. I was seriously bullied in junior high school (I mean pushed into my locker, hit, shoved) by a group of girls who were relentless.No surprise, this all ended the day I finally lost it and gave one them a right cross to the jaw. This is different from some kid who is simply a jerk and likes to be mean and say things to put you down and hurt your feelings.I watch my kids like hawks because being a bully is in all of us-it's the natural law of the jungle-and as parents we have to help them socialize out of it. Every child will be mean to another at some point. Just like adults can be mean and petty to each other. We cannot elevate every unpleasent confrontation into being "bullied". Arm your children with things to defend themselves verbally and emotionally. When my daughter was being bothered by some girls who didn't like her I gave her this statement "Wow, you are really jerks-I am going to find someone else to play with who isn't so mean." This allowed her to retreat on her own terms, call them on their behaviour and let them know they were the problem, not her. Same advice to my son. Nevertheless, I did have to get her teacher involved at some point as the child simply would not lay off. I also point out bullies in movies and T.V. shows and tell them how dissappointed I would be if I ever found out they acted like that. When my older one teases the little one I point out that I could do that to her, just because I was bigger and what would SHE think if ME if I decided to push her around just because I could. Even with all this, I know they will be jerks and maybe even a bully at some point. The best I can hope for is that it is short lived and that they feel bad enough about it that they never do it again.

Laura

I have been a teacher for the past seven years. It is scary to say that most parents react in a way that supports their child. Although sheila says she would blame herself, many parents would make excuses. For example, "Billy was forced by Sam to pick on the crossing guard," or "Tom only did this the day the video was shot. He is a first time offender and was just having a bad day that day," or even "The crossing guard was taunting my son.". As parents we should take resposibility for our children's actions and make them learn from mistakes by accepting consequences. Just last year there were some kids in the middle school selling their ADHD medicine. This a school with middle to upper class families. You wouldn't believe how many parents I saw yelling at the police officers because they did not want to believe their child was even involved. Even if their child was the one caught, as long as the child said they didn't do it, then they believe the child.

Carolyn

Kudos Alysha! I don't usually support fighting fire with fire like I said, but sometimes that is what you need to do. This is totally against school policy and unfortunately it is usually the defensive blow that gets caught and punished in school. However, for my son it worked out beautifully twice, because he had an adult who saw it all happen over time. After he gave the bully several warnings and exhausted the "DeBug" routine, he pinned the bully on the ground without hurting him and gave a final warning. This happened once at age 4, then a separate incident at age 10. He is now 22.

michele

My son was bullied on the bus a couple years ago. He fought back. The school acknowledged that he was not at fault and understood he was being bullied (although they wouldn't use that word). In the end, because he was in 2 physical incidents and stood up for himself we were told if it happened again he couldn't ride the bus. In addition, he was being picked on at recess. We filled out the bulling forms and spoke with the school. Their position was that our son is awkward and that he needed counseling on how to fit in. The most that happened to the other boys, a warning and speaking with their parents. I think my son standing up for himself was the right thing to do. Bullies only taunt the weak. In the end, they did leave him alone after a couple more encounters when the school was not involved. As for the school, I never cried so much about my child as after that phone call with the school counselor. To suggest that my 7 year old son's only option was to see someone rather than the school provide a safe environment was horrible. We bussed my son, and continue to. If we could afford to send him to another school, we would have. I agree that parents need to teach their children, but schools need to as well and not hide behind legalese to keep their hands clean. My son went from a happy social kid to sullen and withdrawn. It breaks my heart.

Kristine

Michele,

I'm so sorry to hear about your son.

Is there ANY way that you can homeschool him? This gives him a STRONG base as he grows.

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