It happens at least once a year. We get a call from a teacher or the principal about Parker. He’s a good boy, but he is definitely not the typical student. In addition to his medical struggles – a seizure disorder that has him on meds that make him tired and sometimes sick to his stomach – he also struggles with his vision.

Born with a cataract in his left eye, Parker had to have eye surgery at 18 months old to remove and replace the lens. He has nearly perfect vision in his right eye and is nearly blind in his left. Seeing that differently from his two eyes makes everything – from success in gym class to reading notes off the white board – that much more challenging.

Overall, Parker has a great attitude about all of the challenges he has. Instead of crying about having to have his blood work done every three months, he looks forward to the milkshake reward he gets for going through it. Instead of giving up on learning when things get difficult, he spends extra time memorizing information that will help him get through his classes.

Occasionally, all the frustrations converge on him at once and he gets angry. This usually happens when some impatient, thoughtless act is directed his way from a child in his school, criticizing him for being “bad” at Volleyball or for slowing down the class during some inane competitive challenge. Most times, he just comes home to us with a broken heart and we boost him up and encourage him to try again. Sometimes, though, he lashes out.

This week, a girl in Parker’s class who has been verbally harassing him throughout the year made a comment during gym, yelling at him. Parker gave her a shove. He deserved to get in trouble. We do not condone violence as a reaction in any way. He deserved to sit in the hot seat in front of the principal, take responsibility for his action, and face the consequences.

What frustrates me is that the kids who manage to keep their bullying to verbal jousts are allowed to get away with it. Those words end up hurting a lot worse than physical pain sometimes. What’s funny is that Parker refused to tattle on the girl while he was meeting with the principal. He said it didn’t matter what anyone else did, he shouldn’t have gotten physical. His own attitude saved him from an in-school suspension, I’m sure.

I know that as a responsible parent, I’ll be sitting down and having that conversation with my kid where I tell him that he did something wrong, that I’m disappointed in the choice he made. I will require him to apologize to the girl. And I will make it clear to him that violence won’t be tolerated. He’ll probably even lose privileges. But I’d love to give a phone call to the parents of the girl who has decided Parker makes a great verbal punching bag and ask them to do the same with their child.

6 thoughts on “Verbal Bullies Hurt Too

  1. I wonder, where is the village when it comes to things like this? I hope that one day we will see that we are helping to shape the next generation both as individuals and as a community.

  2. Verbal bullying is often more harmful then any other kind. Being told you are fat, stupid, ugly does more damage to our kids than being shoved etc.

  3. I should mention this is why we need everyone to keep voting for us to get funding for peer mediation programs in the schools through the Pepsi Refresh Project!

    1. Unfortunately, peer mediation programs are one of the least effective ways to deal with bullying, particularly verbal bullying. Too often the popular kids are the ones chosen, and it’s their friends (and sometimes them) that are doing much of the verbal bullying. The student bystanders need to stand up for the victim and the schools need to have a zero tolerance for ANY type of bullying.

      1. Jennifer,

        It’s really interesting to know that peer mediation is not a successful tool. It makes sense. I believe one of the best ways to keep your child from being bullied is to foster self-esteem. Thanks!

      2. A properly established peer mediation program will select various kids – not just the popular ones. Depends on who is doing the screening.

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