All three of my children suffered bullying at school, though mercifully in moderate forms. All three were (and are) strong personalities who were able to step aside from it to an extent. All three also kept it more-or-less to themselves for a long time. This told me two things – one was that there was an element of fear in that, if they told, the situation would get worse and two, that they felt issue could not anyway be resolved. I tried to comfort myelf with the thought that if it were that bad, they’d react … but unhappily it doesn’t work that way, and a long time can go by before a parent realizes their child is being bullied.
The fact that bullies are invariably “inadequate” people is no comfort at all.
Our case was exaccabated by two things – I was a working mother and, although I was devoted (and still am!) to my babies, I was nonetheless very very busy. Secondly, the staff at the respective schools had not only not noticed anything but also didn’t care at all.
Our eldest child, our daughter, was bullied by a teacher. An English family living in France, the children went to French schools of course. Our daughter was almost never referred to by her first name but always called “l’anglaise“. In the classroom the teacher(s) would call out to various children : “Samuel, a toi de lire!” or perhaps “Bernadette, tais-toi!” but to our daughter it was always “eh! l’anglaise!! Tu ecoutes?” or “l’anglaise !! Montre-moi tes devoirs!” … or whatever.
When I challenged the staff about this – at least a year later – they replied that her name was too difficult to pronounce in French. I used to be a teacher, I told them, teaching children from all over the world with names such as Hnsamatt, Tyreek, Subennda, Lasmanella, dealing with their various different accents … so don’t give me that rubbish. The attitude was uncaring and totally unrepentent. We moved out daughter to a fee-paying school where there were other foreign children, and the problem ended.
Now, this perhaps does not fall in to the usual bullying category. But it was bullying.
The second came with our elder son, when he was about eight years old. Every morning he asked me for a franc (about 10p in those days). I always gave it to him, and when asked why he needed one every morning he mumbled something about a school project. Dashing out of the door, as working mothers do, I suddenly stopped and looked at him more closely one morning. His expression was the same as ever, he hugged me cheerio and made for the car … some sixth sense, you know, that kind that mothers have for their children, made me question him more closely.
It turned out that a huge fat boy, aged 12 but in the same class, demanded 1 franc off our son every morning – or he would beat him up. My rage knew no bounds. I got to the school and waited in the car till our son identified the bully arriving with his dad. I sent our son in to school and approached the father. He was a big, ignorant man, true backwater stock where fists are the solutions to problems. The type I used to eat for breakfast.
I told him what was going on and challenged the son. It will never happen again, the father assured me. It will never happen again, said the son. I warned them in no uncertain terms about any repurcussions, and left. The man carted his son home and the following day the poor kid had a black eye and considerable bruising to one side. I suppose I should have forseen that.
Our last child was bullied in England. He was about eleven. The school was split on to two sites and getting from one section to the next involved several alley-ways, paths behind buildings, corridoors and so on. Again, a long time went by before I realized. A boy in the same class would follow our son mercilessly, or suddenly appear in front of him, never touching him in any way but constantly whispering ”I’ll get you. I’m gonna kill you. You wait till next time …” and so on. Constant aggressive taunting and jibing.
It went on, day after day, for months before I knew. I went to the Headmaster who made it abundantly clear that these things happen and that it was no concern of his. Worse, he challenged the boy in question about it, in front of our son, making the whole situation worse. Well, how was I supposed to handle it he exclaimed when I, furious beyond words, went back to the school.. You seriously want me to give you a lecture on child psychology? I asked.
What I did do was arrange for the police to go round and give a school talk about bullying. They were brilliant about it and put the message over loud and clear to both pupils and staff alike.
To the parents of children who are being bullied I would say this: your child needs to know how to stand up for him/herself. S/he needs to know that this does not involve fists or shouting, or even replying. If mature enough a look of boredom plastered across the face works wonders, pretending to have not heard or noticed. The bully wants attention. The bully wants to feel important and in charge. When our youngest son told me he was upset with me for trying to intervene I explained, as best I could, that the bully could so easily do far worse to somebody else. Bullying becomes a habit, just as bad temper, guffawing laughter, biting nails does. But most children do not have the social skills or the psychological nouse to deal with it … which is where parents and teachers step in.
Catherine Broughton is a writer, a poet and an artist. You can order her books as e-books on this site (click below) or from Amazon/Kindle, or from any leading book store or library.
https://payhip.com/b/tEva “A Call from France”
https://payhip.com/b/OTiQ ”French Sand”
https://payhip.com/b/BLkF “The Man with Green Fingers”
https://payhip.com/b/1Ghq “Saying Nothing”
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