Hey Moms and Dads! School is back in session and with that comes the daily drama and mini crises that are going to school. This is the one time that kids are forced to socialize with those they’d never speak to otherwise, (other than standing in line at the DMV). Whether your kid is the town bully or the town cry baby or something in between -- this is where those behaviors first fester. Sometime this year you’ll be asked to come talk to a teacher or principal about something having to do with your kid good or bad. Take a deep breath and swallow your pride. Give that "oh no, not my kid" mentality a kick in the pants. Odds have it that it most certainly is your kid.

In my recent parenting journey, I’ve had to deal with bullying of one of my children by two brothers. Beware of confronting other parents about such things because everyone’s child is an angel until they are on death row. This got me wondering. Reactions to bullying run the gamet of denial to over identification with both the victim and the culprit. The following is my week’s ruminations. I think if all of us parents out there took an honest look into bullying and the developing personalities of our own children, perhaps we’d deal with it a bit better than we do.

1. First off -- last week was Manson family anniversary week. This got me to thinking about how all these kids forty years ago came from good homes and good neighborhoods only to become murderers in the future. Somewhere in our psyche we need to admit that as mothers we give birth to the molesters and the killers as well as the Nobel prize winners and the saints. Any of us could be raising the next big criminal no matter how we’ve tried to steer them otherwise.

2. How is your kid with his or her siblings? If the principal is calling and says "your kid started pushing the other kids off the swings" swallow that instinct to say "not my kid." Think about it a bit. Didn’t you see junior push his sister down the last couple of stairs? Didn’t he pull the dog’s tail? My kids are only 22 months apart. Most of my day is spent negotiating the power struggle between them. If the principal calls and says my 5 year old daughter is trying to start a girl gang by the monkey bars, I’m going to believe him. She’s strong. She’s independent and that serves her well. But she also has a tendency to want to bend people to her will. It’s not that big of a stretch. I’ve seen her order her dolls around.

If the principal calls and says my son did something similar I’m going to immediately investigate. He doesn’t normally hit. He usually broods. And he only does either if severely provoked.

3. Know about the violence. Confront your little angel. How will our bully/angels ever stop bullying if we parents ignore it and don’t discuss it with our bully/angels? They need to know what they did was wrong. Not confronting it will not make it go away. When my daughter was on a biting spree I asked her every day whether or not she bit someone and whether she’d stopped (she had).

4. Kids lie and they do so unabashedly. I once heard a group of moms extolling on the innocence of youth and how no kid really lies because they are still in a perfect state of living. They haven’t been "taught" to lie yet. Hogwash. Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn covered this territory a long time ago. Kids lie like rugs.

But maybe you don’t have a perpetrator. Maybe you have a victim. How can you tell when your kid is being bullied?

1. They tell you. Hopefully the lines of communication are open and they just come out and tell you. My daughter tells me everything. “That kid looked at me funny!” “That kid called me a name and pushed me off the trampoline.”  Often she handles this herself and just gives me a heads up of the aftermath. I try and find the parent and make a judgement call as to whether the parent once found is receptive to the information.

2. They tell you in body language and random comments. I wish my son told me out right, but often he tells me piecemeal and in body language. It’s not always easy to read. One day he stood at the door and cried when I went to take him and his sister to daycare. “Don’t make me go back there! I don’t want to go.”

That was code for “there’s that kid who likes to hit that’s going there now.” One time recently it was code for “there’s that same kid that tried to suffocate me with a blanket.” My son quit wanting to go to a park and would shake his head when we got near it because of a bully as well -- of course it was my daughter who ratted him out!

3. Fight back? It’s hard to know what to do. Your instinct is to tell your kids to stay away from bullies, but bullies usually seek their victims out. There’s no escape. It’s not your kid’s fault this bully has a rotten home life or a father that thinks roughing him up will make him a man. You can’t really explain to other parents that they need to hug and love their children more, can you? You can try running. You can try confronting. You can try ignoring. But none of that really works. Even at the age of four (as one of my son’s bullies is) a bully is already accustomed to only understanding the fist. My husband told my son to hit the bully back. He has yet to do so though.

The strangest part about the bullies and victims? It’s so unnecessary. Sure -- you were picked on. I was picked on. But was it necessary?! I don’t think so. Why is it and how did it become such a ritual of growing up? Why is it that bullying starts so young? Was it always like this?

For my part, last week I confronted our bullies’ (for they are a pair of brothers) parents. My kids have been picked on by this duo since April. I’ve said something twice before and no change so I thought this time I’d write a letter. Do yourselves a favor and don’t bother. I got a letter back telling me my kid is being raised too sensitive and that they are raising their kids to be men. And there was a fair amount of “Oh no! Not MY kid" thrown in for good measure.

So we are starting our son on karate. We are teaching our daughter not to defend her big brother the way she tried to as no one really wants to be rescued by his baby sister. But wouldn’t it be great if school, the park, and daycare were about academics, being outdoors, and safety instead of having to be on guard for the next batch of Mansons?