Are shy or meek,
Are overweight or underweight,
Are neglected or dirty,
Have a learning difficulty,
Are taller than, shorter than or different from the average,
Have low confidence or self esteem,
Are seen as the high achiever; class swat, or
Are of an alternative ethnicity or race to the majority of the class
But our son didn’t fit into any of these categories… or so I thought,
and I was curious as to why he was targeted.
I asked him why he thought he was a victim of bullying…
He reminded me of a phase he went through in primary school when he grew his hair. For a while he was the only child with longer than average hair and then I realised this simple step, outside the norm, meant he had fallen into the “different” category…
Eventually the phase wore off and he cut his hair but it was too late…the foundations of bullying had been laid.
But during that conversation something very important struck me! As he was explaining his experience, he also added a… “BUT” or an “EXCUSE” as to why the bullies behaved this way…
“but the bully had issues of his own”
“but the other boy had ADHD”
“but another bully had a physical impediment and could easily have been bullied himself so he sided with the bully to protect himself.”
My initial reaction was how generous our son was, willing to make excuses and forgive their wrong-doing and destructive behaviour and all these statements made me feel proud;
speaking volumes about his personal values, his humanistic, empathetic private logic and how he saw the world,
but on reflection, it also made me sad;
it spoke volumes about valuing ourselves and expecting to be respected by others. It spoke of our son’s willingness to under-value himself. It spoke of the need for healthy boundaries and knowing when those boundaries have been disrespected.
And while I agree that each of those bullies probably had a difficult back story, or issue of their own…
victims of bullying are innocent and do not need to make excuses for or take ownership of the nasty behaviour or acts perpetrated by bullies. It is however, vital that victims learn the importance of self-respect.
So the bottom line is that it’s NOT OK that bullies treat you disrespectfully
And it’s NOT OK to make excuses for them. You deserve respect!
There is no BUT, there is no EXCUSE…
Have you been bullied? Do you fit into a stereotypical category? Have you made excuses for your bully? Do you still think there is an excuse?
As hard as I’ve tried, I can’t paint the pain of bullying experienced by our son because the canvas is blank and will remain blank as our son, kept almost all of the painful details to himself.
What I can paint is what we as parents noticed at home, which included, his frustration shown through nasty comments and angry outbursts. His loss of interest in his hobbies. His withdrawal into himself. His sleep pattern changed dramatically, unable to get to sleep resulting in him sleeping longer into the morning and soon he developed insomnia. He was awake at night and asleep during the day. We slowly noticed a real change in his pleasant and warm personality. All these changes led to self-isolation and school refusal.
We stood by helplessly, watching our warm, outgoing, resilient child slowly disengage from all aspects of his normal functioning life.
This did not happen over-night. Being bullied was something that chipped away at his resilience and eventually over years, wore him down.
Every child, no matter their age, sex, nationality, colour or faith is entitled to attend school, to feel happy and included. They deserve to achieve, to the best of their ability, without the fear of bullying and its devastating effects.
The pain of his upset is still visceral as I recall and share these memories. It hurts because I realise, yet again, that the sheer frustration and powerlessness we felt came from feeling unheard in a broken system. This feeling of isolation compounded the impact bullying was having on our family.
Thankfully we have, as a family and individually, empowered ourselves to move forward whilst not diminishing the pain of the past. But instead wanting to put our learning to the service of others. You might like to read our son’s attitude, Bullying…”I am grateful for it all”…
Have you or your children experienced bullying? Did it wear down your child’s resilience? Did it render you silent and make you feel powerless?
I would love to hear your experience so that together we can let other families know that they are not alone.
Last month I travelled to Bonn for ICASSI 2018, (learn a little more about ICASSI here.)
I got this opportunity after applying for one of a limited number of places on an Erasmus programme offered by my employers. I had been hoping, like a real live blogger, to post some updates while in Bonn but my internet connection didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m home almost a month and I’ve been unable to concentrate long enough to pen my thoughts because I’ve been paying and still am paying the price in CFS/FIBRO currency for the huge amount of energy I expended during the wonderful yet demanding week at ICASSI but I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, thanks to insights from Adlerian Psychology, one of which is having the courage to be imperfect I can accept that a post just over a month later is not perfect but is instead perfectly imperfect. It is good enough, I am good enough and I hope you find it good enough and if not, well that’s ok with me too!
I travelled alone to Bonn, and I didn’t know anybody there except one of the faculty, Karen. I found it a little intimidating heading into the registration area on the evening I arrived. Everybody appeared to know each other, there was an exciting buzz that was upbeat and friendly, yet I felt like an outsider.
As soon as I had my name badge on and a cup of tea in my hand I mingled about. I knew I just had to call upon my courage and do my best to connect with others.
I soon discovered that so many people, from all over the world, have either been to Ireland or are curious about Ireland. I sat down beside a young Asian lady, who was on her own. It turned out that it was her first time at ICASSI also. She came looking for me at tea break a day or two later, asking to take a selfie together and thanking me for talking to her that first evening as she had been feeling lonely and apprehensive in her new surroundings. Reaching out to encourage others takes courage too but it’s definitely worth the effort.
If you were energetic and wanted to partake in an exercise programme, then your day began at 7am. If not you could start your day at 9am, like me, with a Plenary session which was a one and a half hour presentation with power point delivered in English and translated into German or vice versa.
Tea break was from 10.30 until 11am and morning classes started promptly at 11am until 1pm. Lunch was available on site if you wished.
I usually walked back to my hotel to grab a quick siesta following my lunch. This helped recharge my battery for the afternoon classes which started promptly at 2pm until 4pm.
When afternoon class ended there was then the option to attend short presentations from 4.45 to 6pm at which time dinner was served. There was a vast canteen area and plenty of outdoor seating which was so welcoming in the warmth of the evenings and provided ample opportunities to talk to lots of interesting and like-minded people. Coping with the heat was challenging as it ranged from 31 degrees on Monday to 40 degrees celcius on Wednesday. Thankfully a thunder storm and lots of rain on Thursday saw temperatures drop back around the early 30’s which dare I say felt managable! Bear in mind 25 degrees is considered a scorcher of a summer’s day in Ireland and quite rare!
There was ample opportunity for socialising every evening and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday an evening programme of entertainment started at 7pm and included a German Night, a talent show and a closing ceremony. There was a lovely bar where we gathered to relax over a drink or two and there was always someone happy to sing or play a guitar!
There were many different courses to choose from and I decided to participate in two short courses, instead of one long programme. I chose Cooperative Problem Solving and Encouragement in Stressful Situations. These courses were delivered using an Adlerian approach which is based on respect and social interest. Working in small groups was a great way to get to know some of the participants better.
I’ve come away from my first ICASSI with so many beautiful memories which include lots of conversations, laughter, fun, cultural insights from participants from 35 countries, renewed awareness of the importance of community, lots of new friends and promises of e-mails, a fantastic approach to cooperative problem solving and strategies from BASIC PH to encourage myself and others through stressful situations. Looking back now it really was A New Book…a beautiful one!
Thank you for reading and sharing in this experience with me!
I’d love to hear your comments or answer any questions you have.