My eldest had a tough week last week. Without going into detail, she had two separate incidences where she was bullied.
I don’t want to get into the whole argument of who did what and who said what, but there were a couple of themes that presented themselves to me last week that I just want to take this moment to write them down.
Bullying is like cancer – it does not discriminate!
- Privilege: It also makes absolutely No Difference if you are a wealthy individual living your privileged life, or a life where you are barely getting by. Bullying is there, it’s everywhere. It does not matter!
- Geography: It doesn’t matter if you live in America, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or anywhere else in the world! It does not matter.
- Schooling: It makes absolutely no difference what type of school your children go to. None! Public, private, boarding, gifted, rural, inner-city, Catholic, Muslim, atheist. It does not matter.
There will always be someone out there who feels they need to assert some kind of dominance over others.
It is not always obvious!
Bullying takes many forms. Whilst most people see bullying in it’s physical form whereby one child might try to choke another (one example), there is also the mental form of bullying which is often unseen, or unnoticed by those who aren’t directly involved such as one child calling the other child fat (another example). One of the biggest forms of bullying now is cyber-bullying. Fortunately mine are still too young, but this is personally terrifying for me!
Some might say that the unseen scars of mental and emotional bullying are far worse than those affected by physical violence, but surely if you are a victim of physical bullying you will have mental and emotional scarring too? That’s just my point of view.
The ‘blame game’!
Can we cut our teachers some slack!?! Teachers cannot possibly know everything that goes on at school. It’s impossible. Whether that teacher has 20 children in their class, or 35 or even more, it is impossible for that one teacher to be aware of everything that is happening to each and every child.
Deal with it!
If we are to support our children who have found the courage to tell us what is happening, then it is our duty to back them up all the way! All. The. Way. Whilst I agree that some maturity and restraint are required, if we don’t deal with it we are effectively allowing it to happen.
No, I don’t think it’s right for a parent to confront the child in the first instance, but I do think that the parents should address the issue, either with the school or whichever institution this might be happening in. If it’s happening out of school then direct with the other child’s parents.
As a mother, I want to know. I want someone to come and tell me if my child is causing their child harm in any form. I want to know. I need to know. If I don’t know how will I deal with it? How will I fix it?
So what did I do?
Firstly, I informed the school of what had happened and made sure that they heard me. I don’t expect them to have seen or heard what happened, but if I don’t make them hear my concerns, speak for my child and show them that I believe in my child, they would most likely have put me in the ‘over-protective’ mommy box and shrugged me off. That’s not where I wanted this to go.
I also spoke to some of the parents involved. Between us we all managed to behave like adults and view the incidents as parents. We all want to understand exactly what happened, and hear all the sides and we all managed to be mature and supportive of each other as well as having our own daughter’s back.
I have to say that I am proud of all of us for this too as this is proof that it doesn’t have to be a bad confrontation and I am very glad that we took this approach.
Never one to miss an opportunity, on Saturday I sat down with my daughter and I looked her in the eye. I made sure she was listening to me and I used the one-on-one time with her in that moment to have one of the first ‘grown-up’ conversations I’ve had to have with her.
I’m going to write this next part from my heart so you can ‘hear’ what I actually said, forgive me if it is a bit rambled and excuse the coloquial use of English. Our conversation went something like this:
My girl, what did you learn this week about the way you were treated? Was it nice to be made to feel like you were?
No mommy, it made me feel sad.
Okay, so do you see why mommy always tells you to be kind to other people? If you felt sad because of what was done to you and said to you this week, that feeling that you had, the way those girls made you feel, that’s not nice is it?
So I want you to remember that feeling. I want you to remember how their actions and words made you feel. That feeling is not a feeling you ever want someone else to feel is it? Because it’s not nice to feel like that.
Yes mommy. It’s not kind.
Okay. So those are the lessons we learnt from what happened to you this week, and those are the reasons why we must always be kind to others, so that they don’t feel like you felt. Do you understand what I’m telling you?
Now I don’t profess to have all the answers. I don’t. In my personal opinion, bullying is a cycle. No child is born wanting to make another feel inferior, that is something that is taught or modeled whether at home, at school, or it could even be behaviour demonstrated by someone who your impressionable angel feels is a role-model (and that is very scary – I don’t mean to make jokes, but have you watched Peppa Pig recently?).
As adults it is so important that we are open and mindful of what is happening to our children. For me one of the hardest things I discovered this week is that my daughter did not want to tell me or her teacher what had happened for fear of ‘getting into trouble’. It took every bit of parenting restraint I had in me to not freak out when she said that to me.
My gut reaction was to explode … think Pink from her VMA speech
“Can I kick a six year-old’s ass?”
That was me! But … that is not the way to get your sad and broken child to tell you anything, you don’t need a psychology degree to figure that one out.
Instead I had to be calm, I had to encourage her to talk to me, I had to listen to her and I had to reassure her that she can always tell me when something isn’t right, no matter what it is.
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers, but I really believe that it is our parental duty to help our children and to collectively break this cycle and stop this endemic poison in our society from getting worse.
We have to teach them. Us. The parents. At the end of the day it is our responsibility to make sure that they turn into decent human beings.
Bullying is not okay. If we don’t stop bullies now, the cycle continues.
Today is Wednesday 17 October – if you want to see an example of a bully and what happens when bullies are not confronted and are allowed to get away with their behaviour, just see the headlines on the major news channels across the international community – Harvey Weinstein. Need I say more!?