Naturally, parents and caregivers may resist or reject the implication that their child could be unkind, and contribute to bullying behaviour. Of course, all parents and caregivers are invested in their children, and in their perception of them. Often children are an extension of their parents’ or caregivers’ identities such that any perceived attack on their child – for example, an accusation of bullying – may be experienced as an attack on themselves.
Parents and caregivers of children who are bullied will likely experience an intense reaction and desire to protect. As a result, they may find it difficult to view the child who has bullied as having the capacity to learn new behaviours; instead, they may be invested in that child’s punishment or expulsion. They may feel that the school is not doing enough to protect their child and may go up the ladder in the school system in an attempt to seek what they perceive to be a “stronger” response.
Many parents and caregivers are aware of their strong emotions. They fear that their own intensity may negatively affect the school’s response to them and therefore their children. They are afraid that contacting the school will make it worse, that they will not be taken seriously, or that there may be negative repercussions for their children.
A student was experiencing racist harassment at school. Her mother was a newcomer to Canada and although the teacher had made a special effort to reach out to her, the mother did not report the incident to the teacher, despite the latter’s many efforts to reach out to her. Instead, the teacher found out about the incident from another parent. The mother had contacted the other parents involved and the other child had apologized. When the teacher asked about the incident, the mother replied that she was afraid of overreacting.