When our son was being bullied and he told the bullies to ‘stop’ they wouldn’t stop. When we sought help in school we were told “Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself.” When he stood up for himself and physically fought back, it stopped some of the bullies. Sometimes when one bully started a bout of verbal bullying others would join in and John would be out-numbered and unable to put an end to the unwanted taunting and teasing.
That sadly was the unpredictable and repeated reality for our son.
Some days school was what it was meant to be, a happy educational and social environment. He came home to us full of chat, in great form and ready to engage with after school sports or other hobbies.
But other days the school torment returned…
Slowly we noticed him retreat into himself and take refuge in his room. He started to delay getting ready for school and for his hobbies. We couldn’t understand what was happening to him. He couldn’t sleep and soon developed insomnia. We took him to his GP. Many rows centered around him always being late. He began to drop away from his hobbies and miss more time from school. We felt all our efforts to communicate in a positive and respectful manner were met instead with fits of temper. Now we know that he was unable to voice the painful abuse he was enduring, his behaviour was his only way of showing us his distress.
Bullies are cunning. Part of their power lies in the unpredictability of their attack and in their ability to silence and keep their victim in fear.
His tormentors knew that over time, with sustained and unpredictable abuse they could break him.
“I was only messing”,
“I was only having a laugh”,
These are just two excuses that children offer when they are caught bullying another child and challenged for their behaviour.
As parents or teachers it is important to discuss with all children what bullying is and what bullying isn’t. It is important to encourage children to talk about bullying, whether it is bullying they are experiencing, bullying they have witnessed or bullying they are perpetrating.
When boys are engaged in horseplay; which is a common way for adolescent boys to behave, the physicality is okay once all involved are willing participants. But if one child is being targeted by another child or by a group of children and being verbally or physically mistreated then this behaviour is unwarranted and needs to be addressed. Children buy into group behaviour and follow the lead of other more assertive children, often for fear of being a target themselves, if they don’t follow the bully’s lead.
As parents and teachers we can’t assume that all children understand when ‘messing,’ or ‘having a laugh,’ over-steps its boundary and is no longer just a bit of giddy fun.
Whether at home or in school, children need to be educated about bullying and made aware that when a child objects to any unwanted, continuous and upsetting behaviour, if it does not stop, then it is deliberate and willful bullying! If bullying is left uncontested it can and will undermine the victim’s physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. If you would like to read about some of the consequences of bullying, we have shared our experiences in Bullying & Beyond… Painting the Pain, part one.
Have you ever discussed bullying with your child? Have you ever watched your child retreat into themselves as a result of bullying? Is “I was only messing” ever a good enough excuse?
Mindfully Marie xx