Beating bullying by Rhianon

In this year's Anti-Bullying week, there’s a focus on cyber-bulling, a distressing and growing phenomenon which I’m sure will be a part of our lives in the near future. But whilst my kids are still young, it’s still old-fashioned sticks and stones which break their bones.

[advert:mpu]Bullies apparently tend to pick on one of three types of kids: the weepy/ scared looking, the physically small or different and finally the oblivious. Before I knew this, my eldest son didn’t seem like a natural choice for the kind of bully who wanted an easy life: he talks a lot and he’s on the wild side. But if I were allowed only one word to describe him, ‘oblivious’ would be it.

Recently however, he has been living in a different galaxy, a fact which I quickly put down to his finding German schooling challenging and to my taking my eye off the parental ball. We started doing extra homework, but concentration didn’t improve. I was beginning to understand why his teachers were becoming frustrated with him…

Then a few weeks later ds came home from school very hyper and wilder than usual. Turned out three kids (two older, one from his class) had tricked him into the bushes in the playground, held him fast and beat him round his legs and chest with a stick. He escaped, found a teacher and with the help of a friend told her the story (apparently the teacher found it difficult to understand ds through his tears). No action was taken against the other boys by the school that day.

I called the teacher the next day and – prompted only by my call – the class teachers of the other boys were informed. All involved were asked to apologise to ds (two of them did so). I also told them what ds told me: this wasn’t the first time, but an accumulation of nastiness which started a few weeks into term.

Today I’ve spent some time reading through other accounts of bullying, and it’s all sounding way too familiar: how kids get used to the insults, think they’re commonplace. How the bully pretends to be a buddy, then turns – and turns back again. How kids succumb to the guilt trip the bullies give them, and don’t tell their parents or teachers what’s happened. These things go on behind your back, without your knowledge and probably without bumps, bruises or even tears: emotional damage which the kids themselves might not be aware of.

For my part, I'm researching what I need to know about bullying. For ds's part, I think this last incident has shocked out of his oblivion: he finally knows for sure the ringleader is not his friend and actively means him harm. We’ve talked about steering clear of situations when he comes close to this boy, in fact we’re talking to ds about school life (as opposed to school work) casually much more now.

We’re also meeting with the school to work out exactly what their rules are and what the protocol is for dealing with an incident like this one. And dp has calmed down enough to be allowed to face the boy’s father again ;)

But it’s clear to all of us now: bullying doesn’t just happen to other kids, it’s not always easy to spot and - while kids need to fight their own battles – kids need our protection and the strategies to recognise and combat threatening behaviour, before the consequences become more serious.

The anti-bullying alliance have some great resources on what you can do to stop bullying and create safer environment for your child.

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