The bully's target.

We had our first experience with a bully over the weekend. The irony is, I even had a discussion recently with a friend about our kids and worry about bullies. I told her that if were ever to worry about any child, it would be my oldest Nate, who can be shy sometimes. Cole is my youngest and we laughed that he’s too outgoing and constantly smiling and would never be a target. I seriously used those words, “he would never be a target.”

You know where this is going, right?

Cole was swimming in part of the pool that’s 3 feet, 6 inches. It’s the shallower end of the “deep” pool. I was sitting right there and I noticed right away as this kid sort of herded him towards the corner (the kid also looked to be about 5). I didn’t really know what was going on and was watching when the bully started shouting at Cole, “YOU’RE A GIRL.”  I immediately jumped up. But this all happened within seconds but he said it several times more, “YOU’RE A GIRL.” He was literally right in Cole’s face as he did this.

Cole looked more shocked than upset and I reacted immediately and loudly said, “Cole, swim away. This boy is being very mean.”

Cole started to swim away and the boy looked up and said TO ME, “why is he wearing pants?” I said, “he’s not, he’s wearing surf shorts.”

To which he replied, “well they look like pants,” in a totally snide I’m-a-little-sh*t voice.

I was so shocked. I’m so mad at myself that at this point I was sort of dumbfounded at the whole thing. This all happened within seconds. Then the boy turned towards Cole again. He was holding a bucket and he went to scoop up water and I knew his intention was to dump the water over Cole’s head as that’s where his hand was headed…. and that’s when the real Whitney kicked in. I’m surprised I didn’t jump in and dump water on the kid myself. Typing this story out, I kind of wish I had.

“YOU WILL NOT DUMP THAT WATER ON MY SON’S HEAD,” I shouted from the side of the pool (like 3 feet away.) in a seriously angry Mama Bear voice. The bully knew I meant business and definitely looked surprised at my tone.

He backed off and Cole continued to swim away. Then, and I’m not even kidding, the little sh*t says to me, “well that’s fine, if I can’t pick on him, I’ll pick on my brother.”

He then turned to a boy who looked to be 3 (at the most) who was wearing one of those full chest floats, and started dumping water on him and yelling at him. The little brother was hysterically crying and trying to get away.

Cole was safe and swam off, totally unphased so I started to calm down.

But what really gets me with this whole story… where the heck was the bully’s mother in all of this? I was looking around and there was not one mother around watching these kids OR intervening. She was no where to be found. No surprise there, right?

I brought it up again with Cole later and he was completely unscarred about the whole thing – like it was nothing. Which is so his attitude. Meanwhile, I type this three days later and I’m still really fired up, replaying the scene in my head 100 times, wishing I had shouted more or made more of a scene so the mother would have noticed and known how nasty her kid was being.

And I’m disheartened because I know that bad parents and bullies exist and I know that I won’t be there every time to protect my kids, which is a tough thing to swallow.


  1. I am visibly shaken right now reading this- cannot ever ever understand how parents allow this type of behavior to exist. . you’re right, no surprise that this BULLY’s parent was nowhere around to intervene.. . . why the kid is the way he is-and it will only get worse-God only knows what this kid will grow up to become(probably end up in prison). . . . actually I can guess why they are the way they are:bullies usually are insecure, low intellect,unloved, frightened and no doubt abused as well. .. the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree- apt description. ..
    next time, tell the bully you have a green belt in Karate. . . . and to watch his back. . . . LOL- of course, then you are the one who would be arrested for threatening. What has happened to this world.

  2. Next time this happens, go straight to the lifeguard and demand that he/she remove the bully, and estabish rules to the bully. If that doesn’t work, the parents much be informed.
    Can just imagine what his parents are like especially if they were not present.

    • Aunt Brenda – such a great idea re: the lifeguard. That didn’t even occur to me and totally will if there is a next time (which hopefully there won’t be)

  3. Uggh. So awful. I’m so glad you were there for Cole. And beyond the bullying -the worst part of this is that no parent is watching the bully – and he’s in a pool and then likewise they are not watching his younger water who also in a pool and clearly can’t swim!

  4. I would have been a mama bear in that situation too… you never know how your response affected the bullying child… even if not immediately.

    • Jess, thanks for commenting. I hope that my reaction at least left some sort of lasting impression with the bully… even if it’s small. Maybe it was enough to give him a chance to pause before doing something next time… (to any kid…)

  5. I am so, so sorry that this happened to you and to Cole. I love that you stood up for your child because I hate to say it, sometime the only thing you can do is stop a bully from picking on your child knowing full well they’ll go after someone else. We had an ongoing situation on the bus with Emma being bullied by a fourth grade boy (she was in first grade) and it took a very assertive phone call to his mother to make it stop. She later reported that he had found a new target on the bus. So, so sad.

    • Amy, that is so totally sad. But it’s out of your hands at that point and that’s how I felt with the boy picking on his brother. I’m there to teach my kids to protect themselves, for me to protect them and to teach them how NOT to act.

      Totally sad and interesting to watch that he went into someone else … as your DD’s bully did too! Bullies will be bullies, I guess. Still really sad to think about tho.

  6. It’s nice to hear about moms that dont use the “boys will be boys” saying the most disturbing fact was he went to pick on his brother! I was also glad to hear you did tell you son to retaliate good job, If there are life guards I would have gone and spoken to them, that boy needed to go!

    • Thanks so much for the comment Shelley. I didn’t even *think* to go to the lifeguard and wish I had b/c that would have been a great way of alerting an adult but not having to search out the deliniquent Mom. Hopefully there won’t be a next time but if there is, I’m totally going to them!

  7. The truly disturbing fact is that the bully felt this was appropriate behavior. He was so compelled to bully that, when one “target” was removed, he went on to another. What kind of environment promotes that thinking? What was that miss-guided kid exposed to that led him to believe that this was proper behavior? Where will it lead him?

    Whitney, by your action, you at a minimum gave him a lesson in the “wrongness” of his actions, and a feeling for the repercussions. God Bless Cole for his reaction. Shows that he is confident in the love you and Jon give him. He knows, that even when confronted with blatant anti social behavior, that he is safe and protected. Good for you. Heaven knows what I would have done had I been there!

    • Dad, good thing you weren’t there either! Ha! Seriously, I am glad I reacted as I did now that I’ve had some time to think about it. I’ve gotten angrier about it and am not sure my reaction now would be something I’d want to teach Cole. And same with your reaction! He saw that I dealt with it relatively calmly and he moved away so I hope it was a good lesson for him as well.

  8. Ooo, I’m fired up just after reading your story. Whitney, I am so sorry you both had to go through all that. My daughters went through a similar situation at the library and I was infuriated. The difference is the mother WAS right there and said/did nothing even after I got upset at her child. She just walked away. That in itself told me a great deal.

    • Nadia. Ugh. I seriously paused before commenting back b/c I really don’t know what’s worse – the Mom who totally didn’t even notice her son was bullying, or the Mom who is standing right there and does nothing? Just crazy – neither Mom wins a gold star in book, that’s for sure.

  9. Horrible! I imagine the bully is a sad, lonely kid doing whatever he can to get attention and feel better about himself. Good for you for showing Cole and the bully how to stand up to wrong-doing.

  10. Geraldyne Dickerson says

    All bullies want to do is get attention and that’s not the right way to do things. Where was Mom during the bullying session? Why didn’t Mom try to stop the bullying on Cole and was making sure that the brother did not get bullied by his own brother? The kid needs some form of counseling or else he will end up on the wrong side of the law or worse. Good way that Cole was able to learn that bullying is not the right thing to do.

  11. Denise Felice says

    Ugh! I know what u mean about the Mama Bear thing. We had a minor verbal incident on the bus last year by a neighbor. Fortunately, I spoke ot the mother & she got her child and watched while I gave him a tongue-lashing about what he was doing was wrong & if it continued, I would involve the school. Then, we had a more concerning issue on the bus this summer with camp. Their camp is pretty far and their on the bus for awhile. After it had happened a few times, the girls finally spoke up about it. Some boys were threatening, cursing, following them when the moved & kicking their seats. Apperently, the bus driver did very little to deal with it. I was LIVID!!!! Called the camp and the bus company, they were a little slow to act on it. But after some prodding, eventually, they handled it amazingly well. The big security guy actually came to our house in the am, talked to the girls about how seriously they take bullies, that they should speak up if it happens again, even gave them his card and told them to call him personally if it happens again. Then, he waited with us for the bus and spoke to the bus driver right in front of the girls about it. I think it was a big lesson for them that they do have a voice and that they matter. I was beside myself.
    Unfortunatley, bullying does happens and we’re not always around to defend our angels as they get older. The best thing we can do is keep the lines of communication open, teach our kids how to handle it appropriately, walk away, show them that they do have a voice and the can fight back by speaking up for themselves, whether its to tell the child to leave them alone or to go to an adult. As miserable as the situation was, I’m thankful that my gilrs weren’t afraid to come to me (eventually) and that it began some conversation about how to handle the situation.

    • Denise, the bus is definitely a big fear for me too! Luckily I really think we have a good group of kids on our bus but you never know. I’m happy Nate and Cole will be on the bus together this year. But totally hear you on how we aren’t always around to defend…! It’s so good the girls felt they could come to you and so glad the camp handled the situation!!

      Hopefully they spoke to that bus driver too! We’ve had pretty good bus drivers. Only this past year she wasn’t so hot.. the guy Nate had in Kindergarten used to pull over to stand up and speak to poorly behaved kids! Loved that!

  12. I feel your pain. My 4 year old, yes 4 has endured 2 brothers, who are mean-spirited to the point of bullies, for the last 2 years. Unlike your experience, their mother was always around and did absolutely nothing. The last straw was when we had a block party and said 5 year old started hitting my son in the stomach because he wouldn’t give him his toy. Of course, my boy started crying as I head over to the boys. The bully was laughing before he realized I was coming for him not to comfort my son (which I did after I delivered the kid to his mother). It was the first time I’ve ever know these parents to take action. The bully got a much-needed spanking and had to unwillingly apologize.
    Fortunately, life is easier as they moved last month! Yay! We’ve been invited over for a playdate but my little one isn’t interested.

  13. Okay, maybe this is the teacher in me coming out, but I would have probably tried to talk to the kid as well. My sons are 2 and 5 and they pick on each other, but 5 is definitely old enough to know it’s wrong.
    I wonder if there is any way to redirect his attention in a good way, engage him in a game or some sort. I’m sure he probably didn’t want to play with you since you made him stop. I just wonder if there are any other options since the kid so badly needs attention.
    So sad. 🙁

  14. What you suggest, Krista, yes, is most charitable and compassionate. If it were possible, indeed,that would have been a good solution. There is a large however. . Instinct is a natural and powerful response that is real, and. . .well natural. A mother’s response to protect her own is the ‘right’ response, especially if the child being accosted is foreign to such uncalled for behavior and so probably perplexed by it.. . . .. And there was a timing issue here as well. . not sure the bucket of water this kid was planning on dumping would have allowed for a kindly response in time.
    It is, I believe,at that point the ‘bully’s OWN parent who SHOULD be doing the parenting(unfortunately this parent was absent- no surprise there).
    And, hopefully, that poor child will have learned that his improper behavior (which no doubt is ignored by his own parent/s) is certainly not acceptable- may (hopefully) give him pause.
    And again, let us only hope that he has learned something new: there is consequence to improper behavior. that due to current skewed social rules, this sometimes is not taught.
    Another point: this was a community pool venue: the lifeguard enforces the pool rules. At the very least, the child should have received a time out from swimming for his nasty behavior. . . .especially considering this took place in a pool where safety is a concern..

  15. Oh Whitney – I’m so sorry this happened to Cole. We’ve been there with Cooper and it is so hard. In fact, it lbegan on his first day of Kindergarten last year when another boy kept telling him he was a girl…. Coop is sensitive and was really hurt. We handled it at home at first , teaching him to use his words, to walk away, etc. It broke my heart the day he came home and wanted to cut his hair – even months later this kid was still getting his jabs in.

    My final straw was when the child started to put his hands on Coop – pushing and pulling him while he was trying to go to the bathroom. That was the moment my Mama Bear came out in full force. Fortunately, the school responded right away.

    I think you did everything right. It is so sad that a) the parents were no where to be found and b) the child moved right from your son (knowingly) to target his brother. It seems these two might be connected?

  16. My blood is boiling! Why can’t parents be good parents? Makes you wonder why they have kids if they are not willing to teach them kindness, manners and respect. Sadly bullying is common. I myself was bullied when I was elementary school. More recently my 4th grade son was bullied by my best friends 6th grade son. Neither she or her son has done anything to correct it and I’m so disappointed in them both. She doesn’t see it as bullying I guess. Needless to say we haven’t spoken in 3 months. It makes it uncomfortable because they live across the street. I have NO TOLERANCE for this behavior.

    It totally bothers me when people say, let them work it out. Kids don’t know how to work it out the correct way if you don’t teach them. Not all children are learning the best way at home. They are a product of their environment. If they see parents yelling, pushing, demeaning, then that’s what they do. You did the right thing. Good for you for standing up for your son and teaching him what to do in these situations. Wish the other boy had parents who were as concerned for him as you are for your children.

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