Editor’s Pick
APRIL 28, 2010 9:50AM

Battling my daughter's bully

Rate: 21 Flag

Kids are so mean.  If they find one thing that makes a peer different they’ll ride that one thing until tears or therapy ensues.  My daughter has been getting picked on all school year but I didn’t find out about it until last week when she finally broke down into tears and blurted everything out.

 Typically when she gets off the bus she’s bubbly and happy to be home.  Last Wednesday she came off the bus with her head down and two steps up the driveway she burst into tears.  She waited until the bus had pulled away and then let the sobs shake her shoulders.  My daughter has a bully.  Everyday after school I always asked her how her day was.  She’s getting to the age where monosyllabic answers are the way to talk to a parent.  “How was your day?”  “Fine.  What’s for snack.”  That’s what I would get.  The day she came off the bus crying I rushed to her and threw my arms around her shoulders and asked her what was wrong.  She shook her head like she wasn’t going to tell me.  I asked three more times trying different inflections of my voice to try to get her to give up what was going on.  Finally she let it all roll out.

 “Alissa picks on me everyday about my hair and I’m tired of it.  I’ve been tired of it but today she said something about you and my hair.  She sad ‘Doesn’t your momma ever do anything about that mop?’ and I wanted to punch her but I knew I would get in trouble.”

 I hugged her tight and praised her for not using violence.  I was touched that she was as upset with me being brought into the picture as she was about being picked on about her hair.  As soon as she was out of ear shot I was on the phone making an appointment to the hair salon where I get my hair cut.

 I think my daughter’s hair makes her look whimsical.  It’s as curly as telephone cords in the front so her face is framed with little wisps of boing-boing curls.  The rest of her hair falls in lumps of waves.  If she wasn’t my daughter and I was describing someone else’s hair I guess I would have to describe it as wild and unkempt.  Every few months we go to a hair salon and pour through the books of styles trying to pick the right one that would work for her hair.  She’s only in the sixth grade and doesn’t want to have to use a straight iron everyday (or a brush for that matter).  We try to agree on a style that would work for her and that she could do herself.  It never works.  She’s too impatient with her hair to care as much as other people sometimes do.  She’s much more content to throw her hair in a ponytail everyday and put a headband on to pull her boing-boing curls tight to her scalp (side note:  we call her tight curls her “crazy ideas” because they stick out at odd angles from her face almost like a cartoon character who’s fuming about something).

 I took my daughter to Wal-mart to buy hair magazines so we could try, again, to pick out a manageable hairstyle.  I tried suggesting she just get her hair cut short so she wouldn’t have to deal with it.  She’s too in love with the idea of a ponytail to have even an inch cut off of it.

 Finally the day of her appointment came.  My hairstylist took one look at her and had one word to say, “Perm.”  My first thought was that of me at her age sitting in the barber chair with tons of tiny curlers in my hair so I could do my best to achieve mall hair.  She didn’t need any more curls.  What in the world did this man see?  Apparently my thoughts were visible on my face and he explained what he would do.  He would flat iron her hair then put the chemical in, rinse it out, dry her hair again and flat iron it again then put the second chemical on, rinse, dry flat iron again and she would have straight hair, dream hair for my daughter.  My daughter’s eyes lit up for the first time in days.  She looked at me waiting for me to say yes.  I looked at those pleading eyes and couldn’t say no.  When I nodded my head she leapt into my arms and gave me a bone-crushing hug.  “Momma, thank you so much for doing this for me,” she said.  For the first time in my life I felt like I was really doing something for my daughter.  Yeah, I’d done birthday parties and Christmas presents and the like, but those things were expected.  This was completely different.  I was doing something that I didn’t have to do for the well being of my little girl.

 For three hours my daughter and I sat inhaling the stench of her perm.  With each passing minute she was getting more impatient to see the results.  It was such an amazing transformation.  Her hair made her look happier.  It made her hair so much longer now that the curls were taken out.  It made her eyes sparkle. 

 Now my daughter bounces off the bus with greasy hair.  All of the kids at school are amazed at the transformation and pet her head all day.  Ah, the price to pay for beauty, the price to pay for peace is priceless!


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I, too, have curly hair and no patience to deal with it on a regular basis, so I understand. But, oh, is that going to be a lot of maintenance (and expensive) if your daughter's hair grows fast!

That said, I'm glad she's happy and I hope that little twerp, Alissa, leaves her alone. What is it with some girls, anyway?
You go, Mama. I don't know if that brat at school is the bully or if the hair is the bully, but I've always thought that in fight, all I'd really need is a good curling iron and some kickass shoes.

~good on you! She looks completely happy and just beautiful :)
she looks so so happy there. save this for her. she has a kick-ass mom & might want to remember that some day.
"I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining
Gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted; Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied!"
... and Crystal Bowersox wants me to add "dread-ey"
We always want what we haven't got. Good for you, knowing when to say yes. Your daughter is beautiful, with or without boing-boing curls!

My 10-year-old Tadpole's ears stick out. A lot. They always have. At some point, and I fear not long, she'll notice it. And some day, if she wants it, I'll be saying yes to cosmetic surgery for her ears. (And she has thin, straight hair that doesn't cover them).

I'd like her to be comfortable in her own skin, but I know kids and life well enough to know this is coming.
I've always wanted boing boing curls. Wouldn't you know, my natural hair is fine and straight and wouldn't curl unless it was afraid. Why do we women spend so much time wanting to make our hair different????? I love this happy ending.
I've always wanted boing boing curls. Wouldn't you know, my natural hair is fine and straight and wouldn't curl unless it was afraid. Why do we women spend so much time wanting to make our hair different????? I love this happy ending.
I'm sick of Alissa. You should make a copy of the bill and send it to her mother for reimbursement. Not that she'll pay it, but she needs to know what Alissa's mouth and constant harassment have caused to your daughter. She'll need a way of understanding some day when someone without good impulse control (like your sweet girl) is at the receiving end of her mouth, and they slap her silly.
You are a very good mother to be so understanding. It's hard to give in to what one thinks is the wrong way to go but to do it for the sake of a child's happiness is the ultimate in understanding. Hair, don't we all have a hair story to tell ?
You are a very good mother to be so understanding. It's hard to give in to what one thinks is the wrong way to go but to do it for the sake of a child's happiness is the ultimate in understanding. Hair, don't we all have a hair story to tell ?
Hey, glad she's happy with it. Kids can be so cruel.

Should she ever decide to go natural again, advice from someone who has hair that is just like your daughter's sounds: Use the Pantene Restoratives Conditioner (the kind that is really thick and purple and comes in the plastic tube and is supposed to be used once a week) on everything below the shoulders EVERY TIME she washes her hair. (Since I've got oily hair, this is every night for me.) Rinse really well. Do not blow dry, do not use a brush. Use one of those very wide tooth combs that are usually used for combing conditioner through your hair in the shower. Comb it out after it's been partially towel-dried, then don't comb it except as absolutely necessary. Put it in a bun with a scrunchie and let it dry the rest of the way as you sleep.

Took me two decades to figure out that most of what they say you should do with your hair does NOT work if you have curly hair.
Leeandra's right; never brush curly hair and only blow-dry it if you're straightening it with a round brush. The more you touch curly hair once it's dry, the more you "break" the curl and cause frizz. (Just an fyi in case she doesn't keep chemically straightening it.)

That knowledge and a good flat iron have kept me from shaving my head. :)
Good for you! You came up with a sensible solution to a real-world problem. I'm proud of you for NOT taking the politically-correct, but real-world-cowardly, option of advising your daughter to ignore the taunts. Obviously, that ain't gonna work.

Although I do mourn the temporary loss of your daughter's boing-boing "crazy ideas." Love that imagery.

I don't agree with everything tomreedroon said, but I'm afraid he may be right about one thing. There's a good chance that the taunts will continue, possibly taking some new direction. If that happens, I think you should allow (even encourage) your daughter to punch Alissa. Make sure she understands that she needs to hit Alissa hard enough so that Alissa will never want her to do it again. Oh, your daughter will be suspended from school, of course. But I'd say it's well worth that to free herself from Alissa's brand of tyranny. With any luck, Alissa will defend herself, and the school will suspend her, too. Double Prizes!!
In hindsight, the appropriate response to Alissa's "Doesn't your momma do anything about that mop?" is "Doesn't YOUR momma do anything about those manners?"

Fight fire with fire.
What a good momma, and what a good solution. I wonder if maybe feeling beautiful (and she is) will also boost her confidence so much that she'll be less vulnerable to the Alissa's of the world. I hope so, with all my heart.
It takes true insight to find a practical way to ease your daughter's self-consciousness, without making her feel whimpy for being victimized and silly/vain for feeling "ugly." We've all been there. That shot of self-confidence might be all it takes to stop a bully from targeting her. I hope that's true. Otherwise Alissa needs to meet the Principal!
Great story, I have more to say later, but gotta run.

My youngest is in 8th grade and Still and Forever having trouble with bullying. I'm hoping it abates next year...

Girls are MEAN.
Wow! Did this post ever speak to me. When I was in school, the kids called me "MOP HEAD" for years and years because of my head full of cruly, crazy hair. I survived and actually like my hair just fine now. However, my daughter is relentlessly teased by her peers -- not about her hair, which is also curly, but for myriad other reasons. It's just maddening. I'm constantly amazed at how cruel kids can be. I'm so glad to hear that your daughter has been able to get some relief. Perhaps there's a magic cure out there for my daughter, too. I hope I find it soon.
You're a sweet mom. And you have a beautiful daughter. Thanks for this post. R.
Although you didn't battle the bully, you did do your daughter a major favor and I'm glad you did. I lived with a headful of bushy hair throughout my entire childhood. I know what a burden it was. I hated the way it looked and also got teased mercilessly. I wish relaxing perms had been around back then. I also wish I had a mother like you.

Now that your daughter has her relaxed hair she can feel good about herself and the way she looks.

Now, she will have the confidence to stand up to any bullies that come her way.


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First, let me say that I don't have any kids, never been a parent, so pardon me for being ignorant or judgmental. That being said, I am afraid that I have to agree with tomreedtoon. You did not take into consideration the consequences of rushing to your daughter's defense.

I don't agree with tomreedtoon that your daughter wanted to be a doormat, but by not fighting back, she is well on her way to becoming one. Alissa sounds like a mean little kid and a brat but she had a point didn't she?

"If she wasn’t my daughter and I was describing someone else’s hair I guess I would have to describe it as wild and unkempt."

So now with your daughter's hair straightened she'll be like everybody else. But what has she learned? Has she learned how to stand up to the Alissa's in the world?

Frankly, I think she needs to learn how to fight, either with her fists or her words, preferably with both. And she needs to learn to accept her beautiful curly hair and how to keep it looking good without depending on expensive salon visits.

I commend you for being a loving and compassionate mom.
As another poster to this thread noted I also am not a mother and while I applaud your willingness to help your daughter to solve the symptom, her hair issue as you wrote about it here, I also know from my personal experience of being bullied from 6th grade thru the end of high school -- more than 6 years -- that passive solutions do not address bullying issues.

That said I tend to find agreement with tomreedtoon's post and today believe in active, immediate and firm direct measures to take any traction out of bullying behavior aimed toward me. For young kids in this highly competitive and often brutal era, I also am a strong supporter of martial arts training inasmuch as it instills discipline and provides kids with tools if and when needed to take care of themselves. I find prevention is 90% of the solution with bullying matters.
Kids are mean and competition in life is fierce especially in large urban settings, colleges and jobs! So, I really admire parents who take the time and effort to figure out a formula which helps their little ones early in childhood to develop hearts of gold covered by thick skins off which most of life's B.S. and distractions such as bullying can roll into osmosis where they belong.

I know it's not easy especially with sensitive, deep thinking/feeling kids. I was one and suffered many a negative experience in life until I came to a solution that works well for me in the area of handling bullies and encroaching personalities.

I like the suggestion made here of martial arts training which can have lifetime physical and psychological benefits. In the interim between now and finding the unique formula to help your daughter
with this issue, I applaud your willingness to help her to blend in to her school environment. I hope you will view this capitulation as the interim solution it is though.

It was my challenge to be bullied at home by parents who wrung their hands in despair over my warm-heartenedness and sensitivity, and also at school from 4th grade to college. In hindsight I wish I had plugged the offending peers once in the snout -- if threatening to do so did not stop their egregious behavior. I didn't because it was all racially based and I did not want to be a stereotypical violent, Black girl and thereby shame my professional family.

Silly me! My self-respect was gutted in the process of my focus on surface, image issues. It would have been worth it to be suspended or expelled from school, rather than have my self-confidence and self-worth shattered for decades as a result of these experiences.

So when I say here that fitting in is important, but learning to stand up to threats and attacks from all manner of encroaching personalities is a more valuable life lesson in my humble opinion, I hope you get the empathy for what faces you and your daughter, as well as the urgency to meet it head on ASAP.

Good luck with handling this life issue!

Hi Jess! I missed this post and am sorry to come to it late. I have so many childhood experiences that involved my hair. It was always cut really short and I was often mistaken for a boy. I would have LOVED to have had a mom like you who would have been sensitive and proactive about such a simple thing. I say, choose your battles wisely which is exactly what you both did. And, look how happy she is in that picture...that is all the confirmation you need :)