People vs. Bullying

Recently, Childhood Obesity News mentioned young LaNiyah Bailey, who wrote the children’s book Not Fat Because I Wanna Be. Ms. Bailey has become a well-known anti-bullying activist, and the author of Stand Up: Bully Busters Coming to Town. She has hosted events and made media appearances, always working to help kids champion themselves and others.

LaNiyah has a Twitter account that does not seem very up-to-date, which is an encouraging sign, because we would like to think that the experience in dealing with the public, and the friendships and connections cultivated during the years of anti-bullying activism, have led this charismatic child into new areas of interest and accomplishment.

A great many parents have looked for advice about what to do when their child encounters this particular kind of aggression. Sometimes children are ashamed to talk about the hostile treatment they are subjected to at school and in other public places. But they are not the ones who should be ashamed.

The mirror’s unblinking eye

Just as every coin has two sides, every victim has a perpetrator. In our haste to help the victim, we sometimes forget that somebody out there is doing the bullying. Could it be our very own child? Some parents of obese children are oblivious to this possibility. Somehow it doesn’t make sense that fat kids would make life miserable for other fat kids. But as we have seen, it is totally possible for those who should know better, to actually be bullies themselves!

In that same post, we mentioned how bizarre it is to quiz parents on their children’s experiences as either victims or bullies. In any study that hopes to be taken seriously, self-reporting is never an ideal practice, and this is second-hand self-reporting; self-reporting at a remove; what a court would call hearsay evidence. A child in a bullying situation should be considered competent to answer questions about it herself or himself.

Whether a hostile, obnoxious child is overweight or in tip-top shape, this is a terrible problem because of the high likelihood that the parents of bullies just don’t care. Most often, they are the ones who taught their kids such loathsome behavior through their own bad example. In fact, they probably believe that those other kids deserve to be mistreated, for the same reasons they feel justified in torturing their own kids.

Antidotes may exist

But just in case the rare bullying parent might wish things were different, it is worth trying to reach out to them anyway. One of LaNiyah Bailey’s Facebook entries says,

Is your child the bully? It’s OK to admit it. Maybe they don’t understand the severity of it. Bullying at school is the #1 reason children have been committing “bullycide” (suicide due to being bullied) at an alarming rate. Now is the time to raise awareness in your household. Because, it starts at home!! Help save a life!

A page at offers a lot of helpful information for parents, including a definition of the line between teasing and bullying. And then, there is the whole gray area between bullying and victimhood — which is being a bystander. Children need guidance about how to conduct themselves in the “bystander” space. They need to understand that watching is not a neutral position, but an enabling one.

And then… there is a section titled “When Your Child is the Bully.” The suggestions are good, but it is easy to feel hopeless, because children who bully are often the victims of adults who just don’t care that their behavior hurts people, and whose indifference to their own culpability is profound. Also, some parents, like overwhelmed single mothers, qualify as victims of their bully children. Sadly, some parents out there are frightened of their own progeny — and justifiably so — and it will take more than a book or a webpage to help them.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Bullying: It’s Not OK,”, 11/21/15
Image: Fair Use

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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