A sinking feeling. Another phone call from your 11 year daughter’s vice principal. Your loving, funny, and creative child has been accused of messaging a friend a heap of unkind names. She has been identified as a bully. Bully is a word heavy with meaning. It will be helpful to approach the situation with a curious mind, focus on what is in your control, and seek support from others.
Behaviour as an iceberg
Bullying is a description of aggressive behaviour. Like any human behaviour it can be helpful to approach it with curiosity. Some people find it helpful to visualise an iceberg, with the aggressive behaviour being the tip, or what can be experienced, while your daughter’s motivations lie hidden under the surface.
To approach with curiosity try:
Circles of control
After receiving a phone call about your child’s undesired behaviour, you may have the instinct to activate panic mode. You might ask yourself a hundred unanswerable questions.
“Is my child bad?”
“What does this mean for her future?”
“What are the other parents thinking about my family?”
Instead sort the specific factors of the situation into what you can and cannot control. You can do this by drawing two circles on a sheet of paper and listing all influencing factors in a column. Factors can be as vague as “who attends your daughter’s school” to the specific, “what was the last thing I said to my child when I dropped her off at school”. The circles of control activity encourages taking responsibility for what you can control, while letting go of uncontrollable factors. It encourages accountability without martyrdom.
Ask for help
Finding out your sweet child has been acting aggressively can trigger feelings of shame and confusion. These uncomfortable feelings might encourage you to stay quiet, and to hide the problem from those who love and support you. Try to approach the situation by thinking of a forest ecosystem. Your daughter, you, other kids at her school, school staff, and other supportive people are all in this together. You will all thrive and feel better when there is resolution, just like the plants and animals thrive together in a peaceful forest. You may be surprised who else has experienced a similar situation when you make yourself open to receiving support.