The Suburbanite
  • Family Matters: What’s a mother to do with bullies on the playground?

  • What’s a parent supposed to do when a child or group of children on a playground bully ALL of the other kids?

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    What’s a parent supposed to do when a child or group of children on a playground bully ALL of the other kids? The parent of the bullies knew it was happening because all of the other kids were running to their parents saying, “The girl in the purple dress and the boy in the red shirt are hitting everyone, yelling at us and telling us we’re not allowed to play here because it’s all theirs!”
    Their parents took no action to stop their behavior. I tried to give my girls the “tools” to deal with it, suggesting what to say and do, but the bullies would not give up. Is it appropriate for me to approach bullies and ask them to stop when I witness it happening?
    You did a great job of empowering your girls with tools or skills of what to do or say when approached by a bully.
    Undoubtedly there will be many other situations when they will need those skills and will have them at the ready because of this experience. Standing up for themselves is very difficult for young children to do, which is why they need their parents and their friends to stand in support when bullying occurs.
    I’m not surprised that the bullies did not back down, with only your two girls challenging them. However, had the entire group of children said, “This playground is for everyone, and we’re going to play here,” the issue may have been resolved.
    Bullies single out a target or split a group that they feel they can defeat, so we need to teach children to back up their friends, which will usually force a bully to back off.
    It can be very uncomfortable to address or correct someone else’s child, but if it is affecting the well being of your own or another child, you should intervene.
    Challenging a bully can be done respectfully, without aggravating or accelerating the situation. Model for your children as they watch you thoughtfully but firmly address unacceptable behavior. Say that the hitting and threatening need to stop now and you will contact the authorities if it continues.
    Speak thoughtfully with their mother, explaining what you saw and have done about it. She may not have known how to handle her own children. If she becomes angry or threatening, then it’s time to leave the park rather than expose your own children to an escalated adult situation.
    Teach the difference between tattling and telling. Teach children to support one another. Teach them to report bullying, always. Teach them to be kind.

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