School bus bullying and projecting my own issues

My earliest memory of teasing is from 2nd grade, but things didn’t really get bad until 4th grade. I inherited my mom’s need to have everyone like her, which only made matters worse.

I remember once that my teacher, Mr. U. took all of the boys to the bathroom and had a talk with them about leaving me alone. I appreciated his efforts, but it just meant that the teasing happened more on the bus than at school.

I transferred to a different school in 5th grade, but it was still in the same school district. I had a really good year. I was definitely a part of the “nerdy” crowd, but I wasn’t really bothered.

Then 6th grade came and 6th grade meant middle school and middle school meant that all the kids from the elementary schools in that district combined. 6th grade meant that the kids from 4th grade met the kids from 5th grade.

And that’s when my life became hell.

The school day was pretty okay. My torture chamber was the bus ride home. 20 years later and I can’t remember what exactly was said, but I remember crying the whole way home. Every day.

My mom became fed up and called the school . . . After much protesting from me, of course. The bullies . . . because that’s what they were, even though I didn’t realize it at the time (I mean, bullies were only the big kids whole stole the lil’ kids’ lunch money, right?) . . . were all suspended from the bus for a week. It was a blissful week. And then they came back. And the torture started again. Only worse.

I think it was in the middle of 7th grade when the ring leader of those bullies made the mistake of calling me something nasty as I was walking to the store with my mom. I begged her to let it go, but she couldn’t do that. She walked up to the kid and said something along the lines of “You know, I feel sorry for the kind of life you must have at home if the only way you can feel good about yourself is to make fun of my daughter.”

The kid’s expression completely changed. He went on to explain just how crappy his home life was. And my mom listened. And she told him that if he ever needed to talk that he could always talk to her, but that he needed to stop treating me so poorly.

And the bullying stopped.

I never became friends with that kid, but every time he saw my mom, he stopped and talked with her.

For all my begging and pleading for my mom not to get involved, I shudder to think what would have continued had she let it go.

I would love to sit here and tell you that I’m totally over all of that stuff, but I’d be lying. 32 years old and I am still deeply affected by those years . . . even more so now that I have a school-aged child.

Last Friday I became aware of some borderline bullying that my daughter has been dealing with on the school bus. Instantly I felt my heart breaking. We had a long talk (well, as long of a talk as you can have with an almost-7-year-old) about sticking up for herself and not having to listen to what other kids tell her to do. She knows what’s right. And so on and so forth.

On Sunday night I started preparing my daughter’s school bag for Monday morning, and I felt the butterflies in my stomach. Would she be able to do it? What would the other kids say when she stood up for herself?

After one last pep talk Monday morning, I sent my baby off to school. Monday night, I discovered that there were still problems and my gut reaction was, “If this happens one more time, I’m calling parents.”

Kes reminded me that I could easily be making things worse than they are because I’m projecting my issues onto my daughter. It terrifies me that she will have to go through what I went through and that’s where my reaction comes from – not from the events themselves.

Another long talk ensued . . . both Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. We talked about how she could sit in a different seat if she needed to and once again, how to stick up for herself. I walked my daughter to the bus stop and I smiled as I watched her sit down next to a different little girl.

My nerves were on end all day long. I worried, I prayed, I hoped my daughter would have the strength I didn’t have. And she did. She was all smiles after school, authentic, believable smiles . .  . because I can tell when my baby’s faking it.

I doubt the issues have completely dissipated. In fact, I know they haven’t. We had more discussions after school on Wednesday. But the more I reflect over the past several days, the more I realize that the events that occurred affected me much more than they affected my daughter. She is handling everything with an incredible maturity that fills me with immense pride.

I just want to put her in a bubble and protect her!

I’m going to have to watch myself in the years to come, keep myself from projecting my issues onto my daughter because the last thing I want is to make my daughter anxious about things that she’s hardly concerned about.

This parenting thing is tough and it’s not getting any easier!

What would you do if your child was being bullied? What do you consider to be bullying? When do you encourage your child to handle things him or herself and when do you step in on his or her behalf?

What if it was your child doing the bullying? Please, be completely honest – would you say, “Oh no! My kid would never!” or would you investigate and react accordingly? If it was proven to you that your child was, in fact, a bully, what would you do?


15 responses to this post.

  1. It is really difficult for any parent to acknowledge that their child could be a bully. That said, I have addressed my oldest son bullying his younger brother (and it was definitely bullying, not just rough play). We’ve long promoted discussing our feelings and in doing so have opened the door for deeper conversation about why people hurt others. When we address the root of the problem, behaviors change instantly. It’s finding the root that can be so difficult.

    Unfortunately not all parents take the same approach and quickly become defensive about their child. I have basically ended one of my seven-year-old’s friendships as a result of the defensive behavior from that child’s parents. I have witnessed that child bully my oldest son as well as my youngest son when he has been in my home.

    We teach our children to follow the steps. Ask a person to stop (Stop – insert behavior – please.), demand that they stop (Stop -behavior-.), reach out to an adult (providing as many details as possible.). If a resolution is not found by reaching out to an adult, it is time for further action to be taken. That action depends on what the behavior constitutes, severity, and frequency.


    • Thank you so much for your thoughts, Mysti!

      “When we address the root of the problem, behaviors change instantly.”

      That is exactly what happened when my mom confronted that boy! As his victim, I couldn’t look past to see that he had deeper issues. My mom could and the results were amazing.

      We are very big on discussing everything here as well. Abby knows that she can always, always talk to me about anything. In fact, we just had a talk last night about how communication is the most important tool she will ever have in her life!


  2. Wow! I am just amazed all over again about how your mom stepped in and was able to get the bully to admit to his issues. Parenting is so confusing to me. I would have been scared to intervene and I would have no idea what to say to my child. And if my own child was a bully? Eek! I think I would be a completely lost parent. =P


    • My mom was a pretty special woman 🙂

      I *am* completely lost as a parent, so you wouldn’t be alone! Most of the time, I’m just pushing though, praying that I’m doing the right thing!


  3. Hurray for your mother! She did a great thing in confronting the bully….maybe something like that would have helped in my own situation in high school, but I honestly don’t think it would have. Reading this makes me worry about when I have kids if I am going to project my past being bullied on them as well…..I guess I am going to have to keep this in mind for the future. I know I have always told myself that I refuse to let my kids go through the same thing I did and I still mean that, but at the same time, I don’t want to do the wrong thing either. I just know I want to teach my kids that bullying is wrong and to never be afraid to stand up fo themselves and know that I WILL stand up for them as well.


    • I think that no matter what issues we have (and we *all* have issues – I firmly believe that!), we will project them onto our kids in one way or another.

      Here’s a connection I literally just made today . . . I used to be my mom to teach me how to cook and she always refused. I never understood why. A memory hit me today of her telling me that she used to have to cook dinner for the family at 12 years old because both of my grandparents worked. I don’t think it traumatized her or anything, but I think she wanted to make a point of not forcing me into adult roles too early. Even though all I wanted was to be just like my mom 🙂

      “I just know I want to teach my kids that bullying is wrong and to never be afraid to stand up fo themselves and know that I WILL stand up for them as well.”

      I think that’s the best we can do, really. And knowing you as I do (which I think is pretty dang good for only knowing each other online!), I am positive you will be excellent mother!


  4. It is so hard not to project, especially when our kids are in trouble and all we want to do is fix it. And it is so hard to step back while they handle things with “incredible maturity.” But you should be so proud of her. And you are so right — I have 2 teenagers and I KNOW that the most important thing you can do, if you screw up everything else (and by the time they’re teenagers we all are bound to screw up on a lot of things!) — is to maintain those open lines of communication, no matter what. And I think your awareness of projecting will help you a great deal — it’s when we don’t recognize we’re projecting — that’s where the real trouble lies.
    Your mom was the best 🙂


    • Bless you! I am TERRIFIED of the teen years! If this is what 6 to 7 is like, I just can’t imagine! But to be doing it with two of them?!

      I definitely think the awareness helps and will help. It at least allows me to step back and re-evaluate my reactions.

      “and by the time they’re teenagers we all are bound to screw up on a lot of things!)”

      I’m so glad you admit this, because I am quite certain that I’m screwing up plenty! LOL

      Thank you so much for your thoughts, Anne!


  5. Wow, Dayle, what a great post. I agree with Anne that having awareness of projecting is half of it, so it is helping you separate your trauma from what your daughter is actually experiencing. I was bullied in school for being short, and also have some unpleasant memories of riding the school bus–one time I arrived late to the bus and had to sit in the area “saved” by a group of kids. I was rewarded by a guy behind me clasping his hands together into a hammer and bringing it down hard upon my head. In retrospect, taking your mom’s perspective, I finally realize that if someone’s world is so disturbed by not being able to sit in a certain spot, that the they have to hurt someone else, they are in a pretty sad place. Your mom was right on.


    • Thank you, Alexandra!

      It’s amazing what we can come to accept in retrospect. I remember that on the occasions when my mom talked to that boy, I was often annoyed. I wondered how she could be friendly with someone who had been so awful to me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a truly amazing thing it was that she got him to open up.

      Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts. And I definitely agree that that boy must have been in a pretty sad place. Looking back, I think I can say that about a lot of kids.


  6. What a wise mother you had! I wrote down what she had said, hoping I’ll be able to say it too to one of my daughters’ bullies… I had thought of something similar, had discussed it with my daughter (9, almost 10), but it didn’t occur to me to say it to the bully. The problem has shifted here, after two years of being bullied, now the big issue is that Daughter is being ignored… (which is also a form of bullying)
    I am constantly checking if I’m projecting my own issues too; the older my daughter gets, the more vivid my childhood memories become (and with this I don’t mean only bad memories)
    Keep talking with your daughter, sometimes children don’t dare to say anything when they’re bullied. And trust your gut feeling, no matter how ‘colored’ it might be by your own experiences.


    • Thank you so much for your comment, Katerina!

      I am sorry to hear that your daughter has been dealing with bullies. And you are absolutely right, ignoring her is a form of bullying.

      “And trust your gut feeling, no matter how ‘colored’ it might be by your own experiences.”

      This is excellent advice and I absolutely intend to follow it!

      **On a side note, I briefly checked out your blog. I’m in the midst of multi-tasking, so I didn’t get to really read it, but I’m fascinated with what I’ve read so far . . . I will definitely be back when I have more time!


  7. What your Mom did was awesome! I hope that I will be that kind of mom, if I ever have kids. 🙂 I also hope that I wouldn’t be blind to my own child’s faults, and if he/she was a bully I would deal with it. As you know, I was home-schooled, so I never had to deal with bullies, and have no personal experiences to relate. It’s something that I am thankful for. I agree with what some of the other ladies said, and realizing that you could project your issues on to Abby is a big part of the battle, most people aren’t that self-aware. You handled the situation beautifully and you showed Abby how to do the same. That incredible maturity you are proud of, there is no doubt that she learned that from you. 🙂


  8. […] I started the car, I remembered Dayle’s incredible post about bullying  and the lesson from her mother.    While we may strive to treat others as we want to be treated, […]


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