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Bullying by Proxy

Mike needs to choose a new "friend!"

A parent of one of my martial art students came in to tell me an interesting tale about bullying the other day. I want to thank him for talking with me about it as I can now pass the story along to all of you. This is not something I’d heard of before - I’ll call it “bullying by proxy.”  

One day, “Johnny” started receiving inappropriate bullying type texts from his friend “Mike.” Now Johnny and Mike are the best of friends and have never had any behavioral issues before, so this was unusual behavior on Mike’s part.

Even though they were the best of friends, Johnny knew that this sort of behavior was inappropriate and so he told his dad about the situation. Not in an effort to get his friend "in trouble," but rather to help him out if he was starting to make some lousy choices.

Johnny’s dad called Mike’s mom and they talked the situation through. Neither of them could believe that Mike would have texted such things. So they dug a bit deeper. Come to find out that Mike had a friend over that day, and each time Mike went out of the room, his friend texted Johnny using Mike’s phone! Why did his friend pick Johnny? No one is quite sure, he just seemed to pick a random name from the list and used it repeatedly. Oh yeah, come to find out that this isn’t the first time Mike’s "friend" had done this!

I am very proud of my students and their parents for how they handled the situation. It could have easily gotten out of hand and ruined a friendship or two.

Here’s what they did right:

Johnny reported to his dad what was happening. He wasn’t worried about being “a snitch” - he had his head in the right place, he knew what was important, and had the courage to do the right thing.  

Johnny’s dad didn’t simply dismiss the incident, ignore his son, or think that it was just a case of "boys being boys.” He didn’t call Mike’s mom yelling and screaming and accusing her son. He called to discuss a situation.

Mike’s mom didn’t react with indignation or hostility when Johnny’s dad called. She calmly and respectfully discussed the situation with him. Still further, rather that just blast her son for doing something so unacceptable, she stopped to discuss the facts with him before rendering a verdict and taking action.

Mike honestly and openly talked with his mother about the situation, and Mike’s mom believed her son when he said he didn’t text any of those things to Johnny. Together, they were able to work through the situation and figure out what had been happening.

Here’s some thoughts about Mike’s "friend"...

Mike’s "friend" used property that didn’t belong to him displaying a lack of respect for other’s property.

Mike’s "friend" could have some anger issues that he’s processing inappropriately. If so, he needs some help with this before his behavior escalates to physical forms of bullying.

Mike’s "friend" could be trying to get attention. If this isn’t resolved, by giving him the attention he needs and deserves, these behaviors will probably escalate to shoplifting and worse.

Mike’s friend’s parent’s aren’t very effective at helping their son, because this isn’t the first time this has happened.

Mike needs to choose a new "friend." 

The most important part about this story is not what actually happened, but how everyone handled the situation. This is what can happen when people know how to communicate respectfully and don’t jump to conclusions. When they treat their children with the same level of trust and respect they treat their peers.

Read this story over with your kids and let them know to protect their phones, to not leave them lying around. There is an awful lot of personal information on today’s phones – kids need to be taught how to take care of that information properly.

Leigh Ferguson August 17, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Mike's "friend" could also have been jealous of the friendship that Mike and Johny had...good way to break up a friendship, if cooler heads had not prevailed!

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