My Daughter Is Being Threatened
by Concerned Mother
My daughter "Jane" is 12 years old and is in the seventh grade. Another female student "Doe", who just transferred to the public school, is making threats to "beat her axx." Jane and her friends reported the witnessed threats to the school's administration, as prescribed in the school's student policy manual. After serving in-school detention, Doe has resumed making threats, now she says she will "smash Jane's head into the concrete."
It seems that Doe thought Jane called her a name, which my daughter had never even heard of. One of Jane's friends tried to advocate for Jane and tell Doe that Jane didn't say what Doe thought she said, Doe said she didn't care and was still going to beat her axx.
At first, I thought this was typical pre-teen behavior. However, Doe has already been in trouble and kicked out of a school. She is old enough to be in 9th grade, but is in 7th.
Jane's brother, who is 8th grade, overheard Doe's mother talking to the vice-principal in the hallway. Apparently, Doe's mother is making excuses for Doe's behavior that it is the case of the "haves picking on the have-nots."
I want to walk in love here and be forgiving and understanding, but I also want my daughter to stay safe. Our students should be able to focus on getting an education, not wondering whether they will be beat up or not.
We went to the police station to file a report (in case the situation continues to escalate, we have a paper trail). The officer was not optimistic that much would happen and they couldn't do anything unless/until Doe actually physically does something. That may be too late. I don't want Jane to have temporary or permanent physical or emotional scars.
It bothers me greatly to have to prepare my daughter for the worst (what might happen if Doe decides to carry out her threat). Jane is not a weak girl. She is one of the tallest in her grade, athletic and kind-hearted. She is the one who has not been afraid to stand up for others, but has a sense of fear now. I need her to stand up for herself this time.
HOW do I best protect my daughter and help Doe break this violent cycle.
I am praying for protection; what else can I do?
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thanks for submitting your question on this site where others might benefit. You are obviously a smart and loving mother, and your concerns make sense. You and your daughter have already taken some very good action, and that is excellent.
As you probably know, this stage of adolescence is a kind of "testing ground" for some children, where bullying, threats and picking on each other can get pretty intense. It's a kind of rite of passage that most adolescents go through, and as difficult as it is, it's important that they come through feeling good about themselves. That will be our goal in coming up with a plan for you and your daughter.
I'm going to list some things for you to consider doing, and sharing with your daughter.
1) Make up your mind with an fierce, inner faith and confidence that your daughter will be safe, unharmed and will grow stronger and smarter because of this experience. Hold this focus as your unwavering vision, and when your fear rises up again, use that fear as a springboard to bounce back stronger than ever into your focus on what you want. Make this a part of your prayer, if that feels right to you.
2) In your mind's eye, picture your daughter strong, happy, confident and clear. Picture her standing up to anyone who threatens her with absolute confidence and assurance. Even imagine her smiling as she makes the perfect choices to insure her position of strength and safety.
3) Understand that the bully's aggression comes from confusion, insecurity and fear. Picture the bully collapsing inside as she is faced with the clarity and strength of character she sees in your daughter. This is totally realistic, and it's exactly what happens in this type of encounter. You might find it of interest to know that in research with bullies, it has been found that when they are taught empathy for their "victims," the bullying comes to a screaching halt. Use that understanding as you visualize the bully backing off from her outer edges of aggression. By the way, you can easily see this visualization process as a kind of positive prayer--I think that's exactly what it is.
4) If you feel moved to do so, you might want to talk to other parents, teachers and school officials. You may have done this already, or it might not be best in your circumstances--that is your call. Realize you are not alone, and there are many others who want these kinds of situations resolved quickly and effectively.
For your daughter:
1) Suggest that she read this page for teenagers, which teaches about the power of healthy anger. I just reviewed it, and it is very well suited for your daughter in her situation.
2) Have her also do the visualization process. Every time she thinks about "Doe," have her see herself smiling, strong and confident in her presence. Suggest that she see it from the outside, as if she was an observer, and also from the inside--as if it were actually happening.
3) You may or may not want to suggest some physical anger release exercises to your daughter. The potential benefit of this would be that it would give her the feeling of the power of her healthy anger. You will find a full description of these exercises in the free Ebook that comes when you sign up for our Healing Anger newsletter.
4) Also suggest to your daughter that every time she thinks of "Doe" that she picture her distracted, losing her focus, becoming kinder or even afraid. This is not at all unrealistic, and is actually very likely to happen. Bullies are actually good people inside, just like the rest of us--although nothing justifies the bullying behavior. Suggest to her that they might even become friends at some point, if that is meant to be.
If you and your daughter consistently apply these processes, there is no doubt that you will get good results.
Please feel free to write again, or comment on this page if you would like to. I'd like to know how this turns out for you.
My very best to you and your daughter,