bullying: end it at home, school, everywhere

Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing.

Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.



Bullying is not okay.

It’s not okay at home, at school, on the field–anywhere.

And though a lot of families view ‘sibling issues’ as, ohhh, just a part of life–we do not.

For us, under our roof, in our home, and in our family, it’s not okay to treat another person in an unkind way.

And there’s no such thing as ‘that’s how brothers and sisters act’ or ‘sisters will fight’  or anything of the sort.  Yes, I know that sisters will fight. I grew up in a teeny house with one bathroom and three sisters. I know things can get. . . tough.

But I also know that growing up, even if we argued, it was not ignored. My mom said something.  My dad said something.  We were punished or sent to our room or talked to or something.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying that things were always squeaky-clean and perfect at our house; a lot got by that shouldn’t have. But a lot was stopped.  And though there were some rocky times, my three sisters have become my best pals, my favorite people in the world, my bff’s.

So I do think that a lot of bully-prevention can–and should–begin at home. With siblings. And the earlier, the better.  Because if children are taught about kindness and empathy and sharing and love and all that good stuff from the very beginning, perhaps bullying–at school, on the field, and and everywhere will slowly diminish.

One of our all-time favorite books, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, covers the topic of bullying.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Bullying– End it at Home, School, Everywhere:  I’ve admitted that I have been worried about my tiniest for the last few months–I’ve googled ‘bullying’ and ‘what to do when your child is a bully’ more times than I care to admit because I have been anxious about how Cora’s been acting toward Maddy and Owen.  And I’ve been worried about how she’s acting toward her friends at school.

She is learning how to push buttons, how her words can control her brother and sister’s temper and mood, and she’s realizing the power she can exert over others.  So we’ve practiced showing kindness and changed our Gem Jars and have doing a lot of showering with love.  And to my father’s suggestion, when she’s ugly or mean or throwing a fit–if I can take a deeeep breath and calm myself down–I wrap my arms around her in a big hug and hold her tightly.

And for Maddy and Owen–who can both dish it out–we’ve talked about standing up for yourself and using your words and moving away from a toxic situation and asking for help.

 Books about being brave are a great way to build confidence and self-esteem in little ones.

Along with open conversations about treating others with kindness, we’re also talking a lot about bullying–what it is, why people do it, and what we can do when we see it. 

And we’re taking the ole Atticus Finch angle of stepping into another person’s shoes:

  • What are some reasons why people pick on others?
  • How might it make them feel to get attention that way?
  • How do you feel when you see another person get bullied?
  • What kinds of things do you think when you see bullying–what do you wish you could say?
  • How does it feel to be singled out like [Chrysanthemum, or whomever]?
  • What do you think people who are being bullied really want to say to the bully? 
  • Why don’t they–or why can’t they–say what they want?
  • What should teachers or parents do if they see bullying?
  • What should friends or others do if they see bullying?
  • What do you do if the person you are with is a bully?
  • How do you think moms or dads feel if they knew their child was a bully?

It’s not an easy topic–I know–but like Stranger Safety and cyber safety–I think it has to happen often and early.

We have always used books for learning over here, so this has been no different.  We’ve been doing a lot of reading about kindness, bravery, and love. And I don’t care if it’s corny. I really don’t.

We’ve read books about bravery–what it means to be brave and stand up for yourself and others–and we’ve read books we know and love that deal with issues of bullying.  I like the round-about approach; I think books about building character may work as well–if not better–than books that outright address the bullying subject.

In Kids Talk About Bravery, Ruby Bridges is spotlighted for her bravery during the Civil Rights movement.

We particularly like these books for tackling this tough subject–and fyi, not all these books cover bullying in a direct way, but they all generate discussion about kindness, feelings, bravery, empathy, or an awareness of others:

  • Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes
  • The ant bully, by John Nickle
  • Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni
  • Dotty, by Erica S. Perl
  • The Rain Came Down, by David Shannon
  • Bear Feels Scared, by Karma Wilson
  • Kids Talk About Bravery, by Carrie Finn
  • Being Brave, by Jill Lynn Donahue
  • The Farmer, by Mark Ludy
  • The Gardner, by Sarah Stewart
  • Emma Dilemma, by Kristine O’Connell George
  • A Little Book About Feelings, Ruby’s Studio
  • Ramona the Brave, by Beverly Cleary
  • Chrissa Stands Strong, by Mary Casanova
  • Aloha, Kanani, by Lisa Yee
  • The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes
  • Arlene on the Scene, by Carol Lu

It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s what we’ve got so far.  Please do share in the comments which books YOU look to for starting this conversation in your house!

And to continue the bullying conversation, though perhaps for an older audience, is a new movie, Bully.  This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people in the U.S. experience.  (This statistic makes me ill.)

Bully trailer:

About the film:

Following five kids and families over the course of a school year, the film confronts bullying’s most tragic outcomes, including the stories of two families who’ve lost children to suicide and a mother who waits to learn the fate of her 14 –year-old daughter, incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus. With rare access to the Sioux City Community School District, the film also gives an intimate glimpse into school buses, classrooms, cafeterias and even principles offices, offering insight into the often-cruel world of children, as teachers, administrators and parents struggle to find answers.
Bully will be shown in select theaters beginning Friday, March 30.  Website: www.thebullyproject.com

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. Find showings in your area for The Bully Project and buy tickets here.




  1. Krystal says

    Amy, I just discovered your website yesterday and LOVE it. You have so many great things for me to use and I really appreciate it. As a parent educator who works with little ones under 5, I try to teach self esteem and sticking up for yourself. For the littlest ones I teach them to say “Please Stop!” if someone does something they don’t like such as taking their toy etc. As they get older it morphs into “Please Stop! I don’t like that.” then “Please Stop! I don’t like when you ____” and finally “Please Stop! I don’t like when you ___ because it makes me feel ___” I’ve found that it really helps the victim regardless of how big or small the issue is because it helps them find their voice. It also helps the offender because they are immediately spoken to about their actions. Thank you for shining a light on such an important subject.

    PS: Chrysanthemum is my FAVORITE :)

    • amy says

      THANK YOU!!! You are so kind, and I do appreciate your reading and taking the time to write. I like your progression–seems really age-appropriate, and it totally makes sense. I will DEF keep it in mind!! Best to you, my friend!

  2. dana says

    i just read little girls can be mean and it was pretty interesting. it talks a lot about using reflective listening and learning how to be available to your daughter so that she will continue to talk to you when things aren’t going so well. i also read raising an american girl by the folks at american girl. it has loads of good tips for moms and dads as well! i like how you said that we shouldn’t just settle for “that’s how brothers and sisters act,” that is EXACTLY how both my parents and my in-laws are, so i’m really starting from scratch on this topic! and my older one is def. a bully at home, but sweet as pie at school. the younger one needs to learn how to stick up for himself. thanks for another great post–i’m gonna check out your books!

    • amy says

      thank you SO much for your comment and kind words, Dana. Interesting that your older one is a bully at home but not at school; that seems to be how my youngest is, too.. . . hmmmm, tricky kids! And my mom gave me the American Girl book to read as well–looking forward to reading that one!!

  3. says

    I think this is really great, I particularly Love the idea that you talk about bullying. I haven’t thought about that before and while we do maintain strict policy in our house that we do not, under any circumstances, treat our siblings rudely I haven’t actually talked about why kids bully which I think is really important.

    Thank you for the list of books!

  4. says

    This is so close to my heart…my darling Grandson was bullied all last year. Told his Mom that the one doing it was so well respected by the whole staff at the school…no one would believe him. This Bully did not like the fact that Grandson is not a Jock! It has changed his decision as to where he will continue to HS. So he was in 7th Grade last year.

  5. says

    Thank you for such a wonderful (and well-rounded) article. From the beginning I was hoping you would have reading selections- and you did! C learns wonderfully from books and it’s difficult to easily find appropriate books on such topics such as this, virtues, etc. Thanks again. I can’t wait to check out these books from the library!

  6. Kate says

    I totally agree with this article but your child doesn’t have to have siblings to start bullying prevention. The parents should be watching how they treat each other, as well as how they treat other people. Kids hear and see everything and we lead by our examples to our children. Having parents who call each other names, etc are only going to show the kids that it’s acceptable to treat people that way as well. Same thing when a parent is heard or seen talking on the phone or talking to someone in the store… calling so and so an idiot or how so and so is stupid, etc. So of course they’ll follow in their parents foot steps. So I think parents really need to be mindful of that too.

    • amy says

      SO, so true. Thanks for bringing this up–I totally believe that parents have to set an example and be especially aware of how they interact with other adults–and about other adults–around kids. And having a respectful, loving marriage is HUGE as well!! Great point!!

  7. Cristy says

    A great movie (or book) about bullying that really hit home with my family and daughter was The American Girl Chrissa. Really worth a watch! She moves to a new home/school and starts being bullied by the class bully & friends.

    • amy says

      Cristy! I totally heard the same thing–we are big fans of American Girl books, so I look forward to checking out this movie–thank YOU!!!

  8. says

    Several months ago I found out that our daughter was caught up in a group in her pre-school class and picking on/ bullying one child. She’s 4 and I was furious. I had to calm down, gather my thoughts and then we had a LONG talk. My research the next day led me to – How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids (http://www.amazon.com/How-Full-Your-Bucket-Kids/dp/1595620273) This book is amazing for the littles – teaching them that being kind not only helps others but it benefits them too. It made such an impact on her little mind and heart. I can’t tell you how many times it comes up in conversation when she sees the way other people act (they are taking drops out of his bucket aern’t they Mamma) and in the way the acts towards other children (even her little 2 year old brother). She was even concerned the other day that some of the kids at school were still not being kind to others and she took the book to school and shared it with her class. (I’m thankful for a kind and loving teacher that allowed this). I’m interested in checking out the others books that you suggested – thanks for your post and for sharing!

    • amy says

      I cannot wait to find that book. I am totally up for anything and everything that will help in this situation, and I cannot thank you enough for reading–and taking the time to write. I’m ordering it now. . .
      Best to you–and let’s stay in touch!!

  9. says

    I really needed to read this post today. We are the neighborhood “kid” house. Mostly because it’s easiest for me to monitor what’s going on. The kids around us are going through stuff at home (I only know what they let slip) and I like to think we are a comfortable place for them to play where they have safe boundaries and adults giving them a lot of attention. Today was a rough day, there wasn’t a particular bully but I was really rubbed the wrong way by the way all of the kids were talking to each other. My husband and I called a “backyard meeting”. We laid down the law telling the kids they had a choice. They could stay, play, have fun and use kind words with EVERYONE… or they could go home.

    I felt a little bad, maybe we are watching them a little too closely. After reading this I feel like we really made the right choice. By keeping our family rule of kindness in tact with the neighbor kids we have the opportunity to spread it to them…. so thanks!

    • amy says

      Wow. You are such a great mom and neighbor, my friend! I do not for a second think you’re watching the kids too closely; this is such an important time for learning, that there’s a difference–I think–between helicopter parenting and demonstrating/modeling/facilitating appropriate behavior. I sit out front whenever my kids are playing with the neighbors–especially the ‘big’ neighbor kids.

    • amy says

      thank you very much for the mention–totally appreciate it, and your poster is great–no need to change it! :)

  10. says

    Also, I have added a poster quoting some parts of your article. Please let me know if this is OK with you and/or whether you would like for me to add your name as I’m sharing this. I wasn’t sure if I should or shouldn’t. xx.

  11. says

    This project is close to my heart as well! My granddaughter and I have started an anti-bullying project in our community. “What on Earth Can I Do” is our book that teaches kids how to be “upstanders” not “bystanders”. Check it out at dunlapdunlappublishing.com

    Thanks for your efforts!


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