From the Mouths Of Babes: Our 12-Year-Old Writer Helps Parents Get A Grip On Bullying

Editor’s Note: Today’s post marks the debut of Janelle Herbert, a New York-based writing hopeful who reached out to me to ask if I could help her hone her craft. I am proud of Janelle not just because she is a talented writer, but because even at the tender age of 12, she is bold enough to ask for what she wants and dedicated enough to follow up with questions and deliver on her promises. Today, Janelle writes about bullying from the perspective of a kid who’s been bullied and who, through a student-run anti-bullying organization,  helps fellow students and their parents understand the consequences of and put an end to an epidemic that plagues playgrounds across the nation. Presenting my mentie, Miss Janelle Herbert.


A multitude of people of every race, gender and ethnicity has experienced the depressing  tragedies of bullying at least once in their lives, and unfortunately, being bullied  is a daily routine for others. What causes people to join in on the cruelties of bullying? No one really knows. However, even though it may seem funny to the bully, for the victim, bullying is no joke. As a one-time victim of bullying, I can tell you that it is an awful, dreadful feeling to be discriminated against and singled out because of your differences.  Though it feels like an eternity ago, I can still remember in vivid detail my own brush with bullying. One afternoon while learning about slavery in class, my table partner packed up her things and started to move to another table to sit next to another Caucasian girl. In the beginning I didn't understand why she wanted to move or why she had such a nasty scowl on her face. Soon, I learned the ugly truth: she wanted to move away from me because I am Black and because of my people's background as slaves.

Her actions made me feel ashamed to be an African American. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to turn invisible and bolt out of that classroom with lightning speed; if I couldn’t be accepted by my peers, I didn’t want to be there. I went home that day drenched in tears and wishing that I could scratch or scrub the color off my skin.

When my parents noticed my sadness on the car ride home, I explained to them what happened; they reassured me that there was nothing to be ashamed of and that they would have a chat with the parents of the bully.  By the next day, the girl apologized and we were friends once again. I will never forget that awful, miserable day; it was funny to her, but for me bullying was and still is no joke.

It was experiences like this that caused me to join Peers Respecting Individuals’ Differences Everyday  (P.R.I.D.E.), an anti-bullying group that we established at my middle school. Our mission is to reduce the amount of bullying and discrimination that goes on in our school. All members of P.R.I.D.E are proud to stand up and speak up against victimization and teasing inside and outside of school 24/7.  I believe that being an active member of this group will teach me how to improve the way I handle bullying, and what to do when I witness it. In addition, I trust that my involvement in this organization will help to decrease mistreatment inside and outside of our school by giving me the tools to teaching my peers the skills I have learned through P.R.I.D.E.   I learned from P.R.I.D.E and from our diversity field trip to Kean University that no matter how old you are, you have to be aware and conscious of your actions and what you say, gossip, or post. Also, even though at the time what you communicate to someone else may seem like a minor joke, sometimes that is all that is needed to push that person over the edge.

But it’s not just us kids who need to know about bullying. Parents can stand a few lessons of your own. For instance, how do you know if your child is the one being bullied? What if your child is the bully? What do you do then? Well, the accurate way to handle these situations is to monitor your child's actions and expressions. Be aware of how they act around others and how they communicate with you. If your child is acting unusually rude or hurtful, this can be a sign of your child turning into a bully. In addition, be conscious of your child's attitude and emotions. If your child seems sad or upset, don't be afraid to confront them; you could be saving his life.

If you don't exactly know how to help your kid deal with bullying, what you should do is tell them every day how much you love them and take the time to listen to their troubles.

Also, you should provide them with the skills they need to drive the bully away and teach them how to ignore the bully. The skills they need to drive the bully away include, being able to come up with comebacks to defend themselves, having confidence in themselves, and, lastly, not allowing the bully to trigger a reaction from you.

In some cases, however, it is more helpful to do nothing and not get involved. This strategy may be beneficial if your child is being called names and knows how to handle it. Involvement in this type of bullying is unnecessary when your child isn't bothered by the bully's rude remarks. Interfering can sometimes cause conflict between you and your child, as well as between your child and the bully. Conflict between your child and the bully can occur because of the thought of your child needing assistance from their mother, which can be an embarrassment to some kids.

Still, if the bully is physically abusing, cruelly attacking online, or verbally harassing your child, then a conference with a teacher or principle is essential. Likewise, approaching the bully in person or his/her family about the damage he/she has done to your child is only necessary if the school refuses to address the matter and put an end to the bullying. If your child is a victim of name-calling, then you should wait a couple of days at most a week to discover if the name-calling stops, decreases or increases. If it increases then you should get involved as soon as possible, before it gets out of hand. However, if your child is being physically bullied, then action should be taken to cease the bullying immediately. Cyber-bullying is a little harder to track, but if you are aware that your child is victim to this, you should also take immediate action because cyber-bullying can increase tremendously without your knowing.

Starting a decent discussion with your kids about bullying isn't the easiest thing to do. So I suggest that you have them read my story, and use what I have taught you to teach your kids how bullying affects their everyday lives, inside and outside of school.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. loving this young, fresh talent! excellent job, Janelle; keep up the great work! 🙂

  2. Well done! We need more young writers!

  3. You had no reason to feel ashamed because your ancestors were slaves. It is the Caucasian who should have felt the shame because her ancestors may have owned slaves.
    I just told my son last weekend that I’m glad I was born into a poor family, because i have the satisfaction of knowing we never owned other people.
    Your writing is superb and you’ll go far.

  4. Great work, Janelle. Your advice is spot-on. As my mother would say, you seem to have a very “old soul.” (That’s a good thing! ;-))

  5. Wonderful essay, Janelle!

  6. Go Janelle! Great tips!

  7. Janelle, you’re representing yourself and your family well. You’re setting a shining example for your peers by speaking knowledgeably and candidly about bullying. I look forward to hearing more from you. Keep it up!

  8. Janelle,
    I am going to share your piece with the students that I work with (6-8th grade) to help us begin a discussion on the same topic. You are a courageous and inspiring young woman!
    Thank you for reminding us that our blogs are great platforms for our future philosophers, activists, teachers, poets, organizers, writers and the like!

  9. Janelle-You are an inspiration to adults and children alike! Keep writing!

  10. A right-on and timely topic to write about Janelle. You have been blessed with a wonderful gift so keep putting pen to paper. I can’t wait to read more of your work.

  11. Janelle’s on-target. “….lastly, do not allow bullies to trigger a reaction from you.” Her words are definitely the right clues for everyone. TEACH!!

  12. GrandPa Carter and Grandma Lil

    Janelle, I am so proud of you and the work you are doing! Continue your involvement and may you forever be successful.

  13. this a wonderful article by an isightful young girl.
    she has the true beginnings of a real writer.
    keep up the good work.

  14. Janelle,

    I hope your words on bullying find their way to many students and their parents. I’m glad your grandmother let me know about your writing.
    Good job!

  15. Thank you, Janelle, for all your great insights! I’m sure there will be some kids AND parents out there who will learn from your words. And, by all means, KEEP WRITING!

  16. Kudos Janelle!
    It was an excellent and timely article. Writing seems to be in our genes. Hopefully, this experience will be the catalyst for many more writing opportunities. My third eye sees the future of an up and coming magazine mogul. 🙂

  17. This was very beautifully written.

  18. Great advice and wonderfully written. GREAT job, Janelle! Keep budding as a writer.

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