My gregarious husband recently introduced me to a stranger who, upon hearing my name, repeated, “Penny,” and went on to add, “I used to know a guy with an assistant he called Penny.” 

Imagining he probably liked his friend’s assistant, I gave him a smile and a little nod. 

He finished with, “He called her Penny because she wasn’t worth a plug nickel.”

In that awkward, not funny moment, my middle school bus bully was resurrected. 

“What’s the matter, Penny,” he’d say. “Is your mother so cheap she couldn’t name you nickel? You’re one cent, one cent, nothing but a one cent.” 

At eleven or twelve those were powerful weapons of humiliation that sent me running for the cover of home on more than one occasion. That was until the day my grandfather lifted my tear soaked chin and said, “They’re right you know, Penny. You are one cent—you’re one sent from heaven and my special angel.”

Poof! Words of mass destruction annihilated! And today, all these years later, those powerful words of healing help still hold true. 

“Yeah,” I said, looking the sure-to-be son of a bus bully straight in the eye, “I guess that’s how some assistants can be. Not like me. A bright and shiny Penny, turning up when you least expect it, as one sent from heaven to bless your day. Hope you have a good one.” 

He frowned and shook his head as if to say, “Whatever.” 

His insensitive remark reminded me of the power parents, grandparents, educators, and caregivers have to speak words of truth, encouragement, help, and emotional healing to the children in our lives. We have the God-given authority and power to override anything a bully has to say. 

We passed a school yard filled with rows of shiny yellow school buses ready to roll, and I wondered how many bullies would be riding I them, and how many parents know the 3R’s for Bullying Prevention.

1. Recognize

2. Respond

3. Report


It’s real, prevalent ,and probably a lot different from when you went to school. 

The U.S. Dept. of Education estimates that 32% of all middle school and high school students are bullied in school. Verbal, social, physical, and cyberbullying take place every day. 

Some signs to look for from the National Center for Bullying

  • Emotional and Behavioral Signs of Bullying
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Frequent tears or anger
  • Mood swings
  • Complains of feeling ill in the morning
  • Becomes withdrawn 
  • Starts stammering
  • Becomes aggressive and unreasonable
  • Refuses to talk about what is wrong
  • Begins to target siblings
  • Continually “loses” money or starts stealing.

Physical Signs of Bullying

  • Has unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches
  • Comes home with missing or damaged belongings or clothes
  • Comes home hungry.

Specific Signs of School Bullying

  • Doesn’t want to go to school
  • Changes their route to school or are frightened of walking to school
  • Doesn’t want to go to school on the bus/tram/train
  • School grades begin to fall.
  • Often alone or excluded from friendship groups at school.
  • Cyber Bullying Can Include
  • Abusive or hurtful texts, emails or posts, images or videos
  • Deliberately excluding others online
  • Nasty gossip or rumors
  • Imitating others online or using their log-in.

Do everything you can to protect your children from suffering online abuse.

  • Help them set appropriate privacy settings.
  • Teach them to protect passwords. 
  • Friend or Follow them. (Just don’t embarrass them with “Mom comments.”)
  • Teach them to, Think, think, think B4 you put it in ink. Online is FOREVER!!
  • B4 you hit the post, publish or send button. Ask “Who’s going to see this?”
  • Never post something when you’re mad or really sad. The internet has no eraser!


Talk about it. Don’t sweep it under the rug or hope it will get better by itself.

Not talking about it will only make it worse. The bully will think it’s okay to treat you (and other kids) this way. 

Let them know this is NOT acceptable behavior and you are on their side. 

Help them learn to respond correctly. (No old school nose punching!)

Teach them how to use the C.A.L.M method to stop bullying on the spot.

C – Cool Down. Take a breath. Don’t take the bait!

A – Assert yourself. Use confident body language and wise words.

L – Look the bully in the eye. 

M – Mean it! Say “Stop it” out loud. Make a fuss. Don’t just silently take it.  


Parents and professionals have a responsibility to report bullying to school officials. 

Visit the federal government-run website for details.

Why Kids Don’t Report It:

  • The whole thing makes them feel helpless and powerless. 
  • They don’t want to be a snitch or tattletale.
  • They think they can handle it themselves. 
  • They don’t want your help.
  • They’re scared and don’t know what to do.
  • The fear of backlash.
  • True or false, they don’t want adults to know what’s being said.
  • And if it’s true – they’re afraid of the repercussions and punishment.
  • They feel like no one will understand.
  • They may like the attention–concerned adults and other kids protecting them. They don’t want to lose their support.

“Say only what helps.” Those are the wise words I once heard used to sum up a sermon based on the teaching of Ephesians 4:29. 

I hope what I’ve said in this Thought From Penny helps you and the children in your life as we head into fall and back to school.

Please share your thoughts, comments, and tips for stopping bullying in the “comments” area below. 

And remember, you’re not alone, and somebody cares about you.

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