As parents we have so many different hats to wear. We are guardians, we are friends, we are disciplinarians, we are teachers, we are so many things that its impossible to list all the elements individually that make up what it is to be a parent. We try to do what we can to keep our children happy and healthy. Everything we do we do with love, even if our children don’t always see it that way – as we probably didn’t when our parents kept us on the right path, but to us they were being unfair! I think parenting is the hardest job going, because you don’t go on training courses and get qualifications to do it. You read as much as you can during your first pregnancy but soon realise the experts are offering you advice that often contradicts the next one. It is a learning on the job experience that has the greatest rewards.
I really don’t like the word hate, I think it is so powerful that there are few circumstances when it is really needed, and I do get upset when I hear it used when things are just a minor irritation. However one of the few things I really do hate, and I hate it with a real passion is bullying. I spent my childhood, and most of my adult life being bullied because I am a fatty. It made my school life hell. I had good friends that saw past the blubber, but to the general population I was the fat kid, who became the fat adult. I got used to the name calling and the nastiness, because it was part of every day life, but it never stopped hurting me. I take great annoyance to having been told that “sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt you.” Words are extremely powerful at all stages of your life, and as a child to be told you are inferior to others, leads to a downward spiral of self negativity. It’s not a good experience, and we should be doing our best to teach the next generations that it is not acceptable to be bullying.
One reason that I am probably over protective to the boys is they are both vulnerable, which can leave them open to the nastiness of others. Kids are cruel, we all know that, but it isn’t always a case of them doing it deliberately. Is a child racist for saying another child has brown skin when they don’t know their name? Are they bullying when they describe another child whose name they don’t know as the fat kid? I say no on both counts, because kids speak as they find, but we as adults have to teach them the difference between descriptive and nastiness, and not teach them to judge people they don’t know.
My kids know my views on bullying and they know that if they tell me things have happened I will do my best to sort out the situation. They have also been taught that if I ever hear that they have bullied others, there will be consequences. It is something I feel very strongly about.
The other day, the boys came home from school, and D told me straight away that M had got into a fight at school. Alarm bells ringing in my head, I remove M from the room so as to be able to talk to him. He was of course really agitated – direct conversation with him agitates him at the best of times, but under these circumstances it was worse. We sat quietly for a while before I asked him if he wanted to tell me what had happened. He just couldn’t get his words out. I therefore had to ask questions to find out what had happened. I wanted to hear it from M before D told me what he had seen. It turns out he had hit another child because he was winding up M and the group he was in the playground with, and M had hit him when he wouldn’t stop. He was apologetic, but not for the incident, but for letting me down for doing it! I asked him what he thinks he should have done, and he was able to tell me that he should have walked away and got an adult – playground supervision is an ongoing dialogue between school and parents. He said he just couldn’t take it anymore. When I then spoke to D, who said he and his gang had seen the altercation, he said the other child was retaliating to M. He also told me that the child in question was one he had previously told me about who had told D that he really hated M and would get him. This sent the alarm bells into Klaxons in my brain as during P3, M had been constantly bullied by a group of children whose ringleader let the others do his dirty work, and nothing was done about it, until M finally snapped and attacked the boy. M was threatened with exclusion, but another route was taken with him being moved classes, and closely supervised – in fact it turned out to be the best thing for him, as he ended up with the teacher who turned him around as his learning experience became a positive after 3 years of going no where.
I was worried history might be repeating itself and M was going to be the one seen as the aggressor. After speaking with Hubby, we decided that we needed to take this to the school, as that it where it happened. I told M this was what I was going to do, and that he would be getting into trouble at school as well as at home. Rather than the class teacher, I decided to meet with the deputy head, as the other child is in a different class.
I was in inner turmoil over going into the school, because I was actively telling the school my child had been involved in a fight on the school grounds and he was admitting he threw the first punch. You can see why this wasn’t going to look good for M. However on the other hand, with the previous history, I though it was important to go in and put the case over, so M would get a fair hearing.
I was really impressed with the way I was listened to – previous conversations with the school about bullying have always had them on the defensive. It was agreed that both boys would be spoken to, and it would be taken from there. There wasn’t much more to say but I thought that was really the only course of action.
Yesterday the boys were spoken to. I asked M what had happened, and as usual he wasn’t overly forthcoming with information, but has said that he’s been told if he ever gets into a fight again he will be in a lot more trouble. Next time I am at the school, I will ask what was said to him, just so I know the school and I are on the same page.
So why did I blow the whistle on my son hitting another child? I think I did it to help him. I believe he has been let down by the discipline system in the school so many times, that he needs to see that there is a consequence to an action, and talking to the right person can, and does help sort out situations without the need to take it into your own hands. He needs to know that just as hitting isn’t acceptable towards him, it is not a satisfactory solution to problems from him either. I am a great believer – now, that the best way to deal with bullies is to rise above them, walk away, and just be a better person. I am hoping my boys learn this lesson a lot earlier than I did, as they shouldn’t have to waste their childhood feeling bad about themselves because someone else thinks its clever to put them in that situation.
As a society we have to acknowledge that bullying happens everywhere, in school, in work, in clubs, in the marketing of biscuits, in your neighbourhood, in your country, in the world, everywhere. Until we say it is wide-spread, nothing will change. However, having said that, every time we make a bully decide to change their behaviour, by not rising to their bait we have a moral victory, and all of these individual events add up to making us know there is a kinder way.