Can parents raise their kids NOT to bully?


My friends over at have written a wonderful post about bullying: Let's talk about bullying. They have offered some insights into stats, resources, character-building activities and more.

Holding handsTo carry on our discussion, I was invited to share my own thoughts.

When I was a kid, the term “bullying” wasn’t used all that much. We heard terms like “playground bully,” “mean kid” or “angry kid” but it wasn’t the epidemic it seems to be now. I attended grade school in Australia and moved to America when I was six. We moved back to Australia for a short while and returned to the USA, again, when I was ten.

I attended private school from grades 6-8, in Oregon. I remember being called “Four eyes” in primary school and “Wall” in Jr. High (meaning… I was flat-chested). It got worse for me in High School. I befriended a gal who ended up joining the cheerleading squad. The team then invited me to join. I declined, as this group of girls was a bit nasty and spiteful. Proving my point, they decided to spend the next two years ridiculing me, because I didn’t join their team. They called me names, mocked me in the lunch room, told other kids not to like me and more. This was long before iPhones, laptops and Facebook. Thankfully, then, nothing was ever posted to the Internet about me.

Kids today are dealing with a much wider range of bully-potential pains. I empathize with what that must be like…

Here are some of the things my own parents did, in order to teach their four girls not to bully:

  1. We were a faith-based home and my parents often talked about our responsibility to love others.
  2. As a family, we gathered gifts for the poor year-round: single moms, single dads, seniors, children, veterans, kids of prisoners, and others. My parents taught us that no matter how little we had, we always had more than someone else. So we could always give. No matter what.
  3. We read Scripture passages and children’s books that taught us to be thoughtful of others.
  4. My parents told us that two wrongs never make a right.
  5. We watched movies that were mushy – like after school specials. The movies would show us what life is like, from the bully’s perspective, or from the child on the receiving end of the bullying. For instance: a bully might be getting abused at home or verbally ridiculed. Their behavior at school, then, may be a reflection of their home life. This isn’t always the case. My parents were simply trying to help us build empathy toward others, who may be hurting inside: both the angry child AND the child on the receiving end.
  6. My parents would often talk to us about having a thick skin, turning the other cheek and walking away.
  7. We volunteered as a family at soup kitchens, homeless shelters (my father ran one for 3 years), church, and much more. My folks wanted us to empathize with the needs of the poor and downtrodden.
  8. We prayed as a family, thanking God for all we had, and this helped to build gratitude in our hearts. I thought it was lame back then but I realize the impact, now.
  9. My father was a missionary. He traveled to faraway places, was arrested by Mafia, and interrogated by them for his faith. He preached in underground churches before the Wall came down. He helped people escape from oppressive situations and offered hope to many. He would return home and tell his daughters about his journeys. He would tell us about the children he saw in Russia, who were working the fields to feed their siblings because the daddy had run away or the mama had died. We saw pictures… and again, these activities helped to build empathy and gratitude in our lives, for all we were blessed with. It also pushed us to want to help those in need.
  10. My parents said: You WILL be kind to others. This is not optional.

It’s interesting to me, because I didn’t realize just how hard my parents worked at this, until I had my own kids. I have four children now: 13, 5, 3 and 6 months. From the time my eldest son was born, I would say, “Enjoy school today, honey. Please be kind to the other kids. Make a friend with someone, if you see that they don’t have any.” He would roll his eyes at me and then ask for 50 cents. “Why?” I would inquire. He’d reply, “Because the school sells popsicles at lunch time. I bought some for two kids yesterday but then another kid looked sad. So I need to buy one for him today. Is that okay, mom? I know it costs you money.” I would hand him $1 so he could buy even more, for more of his friends. This went on for about a year.

It was my birthday this week. I told my teenage son that I wanted a list of things from him, stating what he feels I have taught him over the years. Here is what he wrote:

  1. How to count
  2. How to be nice
  3. How to use a toilet
  4. To be generous
  5. To not bully
  6. To clean up after myself
  7. Not to say bad words
  8. How to be respectful
  9. How to work
  10. How to make toast

You can read more about this at the Lean on Us site: Ten things I'm learning, since becoming the parent of a teenager!

I’ve tried to implement many of my own childhood teachings into the lives of my kids. My parents did a pretty good job, raising four girls who did NOT bully others. Why fix something that ain’t broke, right?

I have a daughter now, who is oh-so-head-strong. She is in Kindergarten and every day I say to her, “Enjoy your day, honey. Please remember to be kind to the other kids. If you see someone playing alone, considering playing with that person. If someone is sitting alone at lunch time, scoot on over and sit next to them. Say hello and make a friend.” She says, “Okay, mom. I will.” I got her report card not long ago and it stated, “Plays well with others. Gets along with everyone in class.”

Good enough for me.

I don’t have all of the answers for how to stop this bullying epidemic. All I can do is work on what’s going on inside my own home.

And so I do.


Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Early Childhood News and Resources, Personal Child Stories and all additional sites under the Pine Media umbrella. She has four children (2 boys, 2 girls) and has a background in small business ownership, freelance, marketing, nanny work, early childhood, education, special needs and charity service. Shara serves as the secretary of her town charity group and the treasurer of the local library Board. She's been known to drink too much coffee and snort while laughing.

Early Childhood News and Resources is owned and operated by the Mommy Perks family of sites.


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