When I look at my daughter today, I see a happy, loving, vibrant, confident 10-year-old. No one would ever guess that she struggled for 2 years with bullies who constantly picked on her, called her names, and told her that nobody liked her. Even though she is fine, I still want to kick myself for not realizing sooner that my child was the target of bullying. Were there signs that I missed? Should I have read more into her behaviors?
The answers, of course, are yes. But I’m not going to beat myself up with thoughts of “what if …” or “if only I had …” Instead, I’m going to share the signs I should have seen in the hopes that you might notice sooner than I did that there’s something serious going on with your child.
Today, I’m simply going to list them, approximately in chronological order, and allow them to resonate. Then, in subsequent blog posts, I’ll analyze them one by one and compare (a) my interpretation of the behavior at the time with (b) what I now know was actually causing the behavior. For now, though:
The Signs I Should Have Seen That My Child Was Being Bullied:
- She required longer and more elaborate bedtime routines before we were allowed to leave the room.
- She got out of bed multiple times with various complaints and needs after the bedtime routine was competed.
- She didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and stalled getting ready for the day.
- At home, she complained of stomach aches constantly.
- At school, she visited the nurse’s office regularly, and the nurse found nothing wrong with her.
- After school, she refused to do her homework, and once she started it, she got up from the table multiple times and was easily distracted.
- Following struggles over homework, she took forever to eat dinner and then refused to get ready for bed.
- At school, she performed poorly on tests when she had mastered the material at home.
- When asked what she did at lunch or recess, she said, “Nothing,” and when asked who she played with, she said, “I couldn’t find any of my friends.”
- At home, she responded defensively to harmless suggestions or bits of constructive criticism.
- When asked to do something that was a typical part of her daily routine, she would respond with, “Leave me alone!” or “Stop picking on me!”
- After a school day, she would lose her temper or have a melt-down for no apparent reason.
- She started raising her voice and threatening family members to get what she wanted.
- She became increasingly physically aggressive with family members.
Did you notice how her behaviors became increasingly alarming as the list went on? With the first several behaviors on the list, we thought we had an attention-seeking child or perhaps a child who was afraid of the dark. By the time we reached the last few behaviors on the list, we feared our child had psychological problems, and our family was exhausted. Through counseling and lots of open communication, we realized our child was in pain and was crying out for help. We worked together as a family to pull her out of the dark hole she felt she was in. She’s never been happier or more self-assured than she is today.
At the end of any given day, everyone in a family is tired. As parents, we want nothing more than for our little darlings to climb into bed on time and get a good nights’ sleep so they can start the next day refreshed and healthy. We also wouldn’t mind having a few minutes to ourselves before we go to sleep to decompress or, more likely, get the dishes and laundry done! It’s often in those moments when we most need a break that our children need us the most. In the safety of their bed in their own room in their happy home, the truth is just a breath away.
The next time your child asks for extra hugs or just one more story at bedtime, it might be indicative of nothing unusual. But if it starts happening night after night, consider taking a few extra minutes to say something like this:
“I noticed that you’re feeling like you could use some extra time with me lately. I love spending time with you, but is everything ok? Did anything happen that you’d like to tell me about? You know, you can talk to me about anything …”