Parenting is hard. We do our best with the knowledge and experience we have, but sometimes, no matter how hard we try to get it right, we get it wrong.
I was struggling with this a few weeks ago when I was in an IEP meeting with my oldest daughter (henceforth referred to as Cherry Blossom or CB)’s teachers and therapists.
CB had been bullying another child.
I felt horrified and ashamed. I had been bullied relentlessly in school. The idea that CB was the one causing another child to feel what I felt at that age make me feel like I was going to throw up.
But then I realized that this wasn’t the first time CB had bullied someone. I had dismissed my husband’s anger at my daughter’s snide remarks about my weight and eating habits as nothing I hadn’t heard before (because it wasn’t, thanks to my mother’s husband making fun of me to the point of tears in front of my mother, CB and my then-boyfriend). I treated it like it was no big deal.
But it was a big deal. Because I permitted CB to be a bully to me at home, she believed that it was okay to be a bully at school, too.
The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt guilt and even more shame. This was my fault. I did this. I treated her unkindness like it was no big deal, and I did her a huge disservice.
I apologized to CB and my husband. I apologized to my husband because I had brushed aside his warnings that she was bullying me as just family being family instead of seeing it for the harmful behavior it was and giving it appropriate consequences. I apologized to CB for not giving her consequences for the times she chose to be unkind to me, teaching her that it was okay to be unkind to anyone at all.
It’s been a rough road. There were tears and rage, but then there was calm. Thanks to CB’s teachers, therapists, father, my husband, and me coming to agreement on how to address the bullying and the consequences for it, we have created an environment where it is no longer okay to bully anyone, and we address the root causes of the bullying behavior.
As far as the kid at school goes, he had been listening to some music and singing along with it, and that annoyed CB, which caused her to react with hostility. We helped my daughter find other ways to handle her reaction to his actions, such as telling her teacher or an aide and/or wearing her headphones.
CB also received consequences for her choices, such as being grounded from the Internet if she bullied anyone, or being given a video game she wants if she manages to go a set amount of time without bullying anyone (including me!). So far, it seems to be working, and both home and school are happier, less tense places.
I’m proud of CB for turning things around and proud of myself for admitting that I was wrong, apologizing, and making better choices.