Kids, Motherhood

The Bully, Part II

7th December 2014

Earlier this week, Hayden was bullied at school.  I can say the term bullied because it is was not an isolated event.  He has been bullied several times this year – which in itself is not a good thing.  We have been working with Hayden and the school for these ‘situations’, which has been since Term 1.  This week though was the first time something of that nature occurred.  We still don’t know exactly who did it.  Which is mildly frustrating.  I do wish we could find out, not for any other reason than I would want to know that that child is not going to do it again; and that they are ok as it is not a common thing to just urinate on kids clothes.

This week however, I have been amazed at the depth of character in Hayden.  He has been sad, and embarrassed for the best part of a week.  Monday night he barely slept, instead tossing and turning and having ‘bad’ dreams.  Tuesday night he slept marginally better.  He did not eat much at all Tuesday or Wednesday – said he felt a ‘bit weird, like I am dazed Mum’.  He talked openly about how he was embarrassed by what happened, and how he did not want to do swimming at school for the week.  I had a few meetings and conversations with the school.  I cannot say they did all that I hoped or that they supported Hayden as well as they could have, but they did listen.  I really think they should take a leaf out of Hayden’s book and act with ‘care’ as he would say.

 

We had a fairly generic apology.  Not really specifically aimed at Hayden or myself.  More a ‘we know you are sad Hayden, how can we make you happy’ type apology.  Which was disappointing, for me; but Hayden did not seem bothered.  He was more concerned with making sure it did not happen to anyone else.  At one point, he said to the Deputy Principal, ‘if this happens to another kid, please ring their mummy or daddy.  Please let the kid know that they can go home and not be at school when they feel sad about what happened’.  She was shocked that he said this.  And after picking her jaw up from the floor assured Hayden that the parents would be contacted.

 

I watched my special little guy struggle with his feelings all week about this.  Eating (well picking at) breakfast on Tuesday, he asked me ‘Mum do you think it is because I like dinosaurs and no one else does?’ – trying to work out why he was singled out.  That broke my heart.  I told him absolutely not, and that we will probably never know the reason why.  People sometimes just did silly and potentially mean things for no reason other than opportunity.  I watched him think about the incident, and how it made him feel.  I watched him struggle with questions like ‘why did they pick me?’, ‘why am I different’ and him questioning his own ability to talk to other kids.  He then even began thinking about the characters in Harry Potter.  He came up with the theory that Dementors were in fact either a) cursed – so they once were happy but when they became dementors, they lost all happy thoughts and feelings or b) made that way so it is not their fault.  Kind of a unique insight huh?

 

I cannot tell you how proud I was of him when he said he would go back to school.  I had come to the conclusion that he probably would not go back for the last week, and maybe just a day this week to get all of his things.  He went back Friday morning.  He stood tall and proud and walked into his classroom.  He was greeted with very happy hello’s, lots of ‘we missed you  Hayden’, and ‘there are lots of Christmas cards on  your desk, open mine first’.  He was initially nervous going into school, but I could see his trepidation ease with each passing second when he walked into his class room.

 

What this week has shown me is how often bullying happens.  Not just in schools, but in every day life for a lot of people.  In workplaces, in families, it happens.  It starts from young ages – as young as Kindy.  It has lasting effects yet it still occurs so frequently.  I have been told it is ‘character building’ or ‘part of being a kid’.  I don’t agree with either.  Hayden is not alone here.  This  year he has had his tuckshop money ‘taken’, been punched, slapped, and verbally insulted/abused.  We have a bully plan that Hayden devised as a step by step process for when (sadly not if) it happened to him –

1.  Tell the bully to stop and to go away

2.  Move away from the bully if they do not go away

3.  Play near teachers on duty

4.  Tell teacher, keep telling teachers until one listens

5.  Tell Mummy & Daddy so they can help too

This is his ‘process’.  What is upsetting is that he has to use it a few times this year; which is horrible as a Mother to know.  A large part of why this is difficult for me is that I feel like I cannot protect him.  I know that he is not going to live in a bubble and never face any form of obnoxious behaviour, but it still makes me feel like I am letting him down.  I don’t understand the train of thought that bullying is character building.  Every day, thousands of kids navigate their way through their play ground to find the path that is the least painful to walk down.  The one without name calling, or taunting.  The one where they can just play and be a kid, without any consequences other than skinned knees from slipping over when being chased by a dragon/pirate/evil queen/insert villain here.  The people that are enabling this to happen a high percentage of the time are the teachers – who stand and watch the kids playing and probably get called a few names by the kids for their trouble.  But bulling still does happen.  And when it does happen it is not always addressed appropriately.  I only hope that for Hayden, he can continue to tell me when it does, and that he will keep going to another teacher and then another teacher until someone listens to him and then helps him.  He needs to feel safe at school, like every other child and teacher there.

 

I don’t think there is a quick fix solution to getting rid of bullies.  Because they are everywhere.  We all have at least one in our workplace, and then another for whom we offer special dispensation for – just so we don’t have to deal with the consequences of them not getting their way.  All we can do is stand taller, walk prouder and politely decline or refute what the bully is saying – which sounds lame, but there is not really any other way to appropriately suggest for kids to ‘bully manage’.  As Hayden says, we have to ‘stop their powers’.  And the way you stop their powers, according to a 7 year old, is you just ‘ignore everything they say that is nasty and tell them that you are doing that, and you don’t stop what you are doing unless you have to.  You tell them that they are saying mean things, and you don’t like it.  If they keep doing it, you walk away.  You ask them if they want to play with you, you ask them if they want to help with something, you just ask them mum.  Because they might think that I am smarter or stupider than they are, but they don’t know me, and I don’t really know them, so maybe if they knew me they would not do it’.  Sounds easy, but I know it isn’t.  I know that so many times Hayden has had to try one of these tactics and work out what is the best way to move forward.  For a 7 year old, there is so much analysis of the social setting and steps to try and navigate the best possible outcome – and all I can do is show Hayden how to be proud of who he is while he is still trying to work out all the social stuff.  How he fits in.  It is possibly one of the most difficult things to do – because you cannot fight your kids battles for them, you have to show them how to fight their own fairly.

 

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply Shode 7th December 2014 at 19:18

    Hi Ali,
    I just read your blog post on Mamamia about Hayden being bullied. I have a baby boy myself and i was crying by the end of your post. The whole incident is horrifying- i cannot believe there are children out there who would do something so abhorrent and vicious (god knows what their home life and parents are like). I was also beyond horrified at how the teachers reacted and think they should face some kind of disciplinary action (and have they never heard of the term ‘body fluid’?!) for handling the situation so badly and essentially making your son feel embarrassed and even responsible? You sound like a wonderful mother with a beautiful son and yes, the world has failed you both. Thank you both for sharing this story- when my son goes to school i will at least have a heads up that there are very disturbed and unhappy children/people out there and will head your advice. I hope Hayden recovers quickly from this experience- i’m sure he will with a such wonderful family around him.xx

    • Reply Ali 8th December 2014 at 16:45

      Thanks for your lovely comment 🙂 Hayden has done all the hard work here. It has been difficult as a mum not being able to stop it from happening! Unfortunately bullying is all around 🙁

  • Reply Jodie | Polka Dot Creative 8th December 2014 at 10:49

    I agree. We can’t fix the bully. We can only arm our children with a ‘process’ on how to protect themselves and how to let others know i.e. teachers, parents, friends so that we can help them. You are doing an amazing job addressing this Ali. I applaud you for taking this situation head on and confronting and discussing what has happened and what can be done. Most of all though I adore your deep love and protectiveness of Hayden. He will forever continue to know that you and his daddy have his back. That is so huge for a kid. Love you xxx

    • Reply Ali 8th December 2014 at 16:48

      Thanks gorgeous! He knows we have his back. I think that helps him stand tall and walk on.

  • Reply Sunhat 8th December 2014 at 18:17

    Hi Ali

    I read your blog on Mamamia this morning and posted the reply below, which I thought you might be interested in.

    “I would be livid too! I would also be expecting the parents of the perpetrator to pay for new school clothes. The child needs to learn that there are consequences to uncivilised and inappropriate behaviour NOW otherwise in the future he well may be standing in front of a court of law for his unruly and possibly unlawful actions. He needs to understand that his actions were very wrong and be accountable for them.

    His parents and the school will not be doing him any favours, nor the rest of society in the future, if they let him get away with this poor and totally unacceptable behaviour. Of course, one can only assume that his parenting and home life may not be the greatest for him to have acted that way in the first place, but he still needs to know from the school at least, that that type of behaviour towards a fellow student is wrong and will not be tolerated. This means taking away privileges or whatever will fit the bill in the school world. I also think the parents could be asked to make a donation to the school fund etc to also make them accountable.

    If he gets away with this behaviour now, then that is only teaching him that he can do whatever he likes and there will be no consequences. What sort of message is that sending to him from the very people that are supposed to be educating him. More importantly, how is it protecting the rest of the students that he may target next from suffering his abuse. That should be the school’s paramount concern – they have a duty of care to make sure a known troublemaker is not affecting the students well being. What will his actions escalate to if he is left unchecked?”

    • Reply Ali 9th December 2014 at 09:48

      Thank you for your comment! I am getting around to reading them all – there have been so many, and I am amazed by how much this is hitting a chord with so many other people 🙂
      I agree with what you are saying – the student needs to be made accountable and aware of his actions and what they caused. They have it narrowed to two boys they think have done it. It is frustrating because I want Hayden to have a chance to ask them why – so he knows, because he wonders. Both of the boys have been mean to him throughout the year – taking his lunch money, punching, name calling, so I am fairly certain it is one of those. I just wish that parents would be more mindful of checking in with their kids about what and how they are doing and going at school. I want to know, and ask questions. And I am busy and sometimes would rather not! But thankfully that has played in my favour as Hayden will tell me anything.
      I really appreciate you taking the time to comment – thank you so very much 🙂

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