Tackling That First School Bully
And so it begins! As if parenting two small mini people is not hard enough, just as you get over the pooping, screaming, crying and shuffling stages and finally get into the fun conversational stages, you have to send them off to an institution that essentially turns them into wise cracking smart asses.
My darling daughter, the eldest of my two, is now in full time education. Her first day was one of the proudest moments of my life. I watched this little person, who in my mind had only moments ago entered the world red faced and screaming, stride confidently into a playground full of children and disappear into an abyss of grey and red uniforms.
She never looked back. Not once. As I stood there, not even trying to hide my emotional outpouring and smudged panda eyes, I realised that at the age of four and a half, she had already decided she didn’t need me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, since the very moment that I looked down at the pee stick, I knew that I wanted my daughter to be feisty, strong and independent. I would endeavor to teach her skills that would allow her to stand up for herself and be a force to be reckoned with. So far, so good. She is feisty (or mouthy, depending on what mood you catch her in), she is incredibly strong willed and her independence knows no bounds. But doesn’t she realize that I also want her to need me? I need her to need me!
I choked down my emotions and tried hard to tell myself that she will be more than fine. I looked at her tapping random children – some a good four or five years older than her – on the back with absolutely no fear whatsoever, and I knew she would be fine. It was harder to admit that I wasn’t so sure I would be.
A few days later, after checking in with her teacher, I was amazed to find out that not only was she strong and independent, but everyone loved her.
She was loved by everyone!
I know, I know. As a mum you think your child is the most amazing bunch of atoms that the world could have ever produced, but this time it was one hundred percent true. The teachers laughed with her and loved her attitude and willingness to learn… everything… all the time! They loved her inquisitive nature and admired the fact that she could make friends with anyone, be it the head teacher, janitor, or the kids in the classes 5 years above her! She walked in each day with a big smile on her face and the attitude that everyone was her best friend, and for the most part, she was absolutely right. I was an incredibly proud mother, and happy to let her go off into the world and make her happy mark.
That feeling ended only a few weeks later. Because one little shit… one little excuse for a mouth and waste of human genes, was making my little girl cry!
At first I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. Each day my daughter would return home and say she was “ok” and that was it. No chit chat in the car, no stories of games on the school bus or playing in the school playground. When I would ask her how her day had been she would simply reply “OK”. It wasn’t until a few days later that she mentioned that the little shit had been teasing her on the bus. She was being ‘rude’ to my little girl. Wasn’t letting her sit at the front of the bus and telling all the girls not to talk to her. When I first heard this there were no possible words to describe the ANGER that rose within me. Despite the fact that the girl teasing her was only seven years of age, I was, at that moment, more than willing to risk jail for the rest of my life and go take a swift sharp slap to the side of this girl’s head. How very dare she!
You see the thing is, my wee girl was loved by everyone and always had been. For this very reason she was so utterly confused as to why this nasty girl didn’t like her. It simply didn’t make sense to her. She was not even upset by the mean things she was saying, it was the confusion that was making her so sad.
So after cooling myself down (and a couple of glasses of wine), I took the issue to my husband. Nervous though I was about telling him that someone was bullying his first born daughter, I had to admit that save taking this child aside and scaring the shit out of her, I had absolutely no idea how to handle the issue!
Everyone warns you that at some point you will have to tackle these situations with your children, but as soon as you do, you want to reach for that mythical bible that you are sure everyone else has but you, that tells you, step by step and with annotated pictures, how best to DEAL with it.
That bloody bible! That amazing bunch of words of wisdom knitted together and leather bound. The bible that in your mind’s eye you are SURE exists somewhere in the world but somehow, like the holy grail, it evades you.
So, my dear friends, although I am no authority and do not in any way profess to know exactly what I am doing, here are my top tips for managing this type of situation. For all of you mothers out there who are yet to experience this – I say one last thing… it will be ok. Your child will recover and so will you.
In the meantime, here is the best advice I can offer :
1: Sit down. Have a glass of wine or two and allow yourself to be angry. The worst possible thing you can do is bottle it all up. This is your child. Your blood, sweat, tears and screams went into producing this bundle of joy… you are MORE than allowed to be angry.
2: Get over it. And fast. There is nothing you can do instantly, and reacting straight away would be foolhardy anyway. You need to make sure that what is being said by your child is not just a one off incident in the play ground blown out of all proportion.
3: If this situation has not resolved itself within 3 days, that is when you take action. More than 3 days (in my opinion) is more than anyone should go through. In fact, sod that, ONE day is more than anyone should be bullied for… but kids go through phases, and at that age it is very hard to believe every word they say when the sentence “that girl is bullying me” is swiftly followed by “my teacher let me ride on a unicorn today.”
4: Put aside your own old fears of the head teacher’s office, put on your big girl pants and go to the school. Mention to the office that you are having a little issue and would like to have it resolved, but that you really don’t want to go bulldozing down this girl’s front door and confronting the parents. While your child is at school, their welfare is in the school’s hands, so pass it to them and allow them the chance to deal with this. It is THEIR job.
Now I know, being a control freak, I am more than aware that this will be the hardest of all the points to do – but truly, it is the best way.
5: The school, if they are worth their salt, will then tackle the issue. Make sure you make them aware that you know it could be either child’s issue and of course at this age you may not know the whole story. YOU may know in your heart of hearts that your child is the victim, but in truth, you are only hearing from that little angels’ mouth. So be humble.
6: WAIT. WAIT and WAIT some more. The school will contact you (again if they are worth their salt) and hopefully, like in my case, the teacher/headmistress or master will contact you to let you know that both children have been spoken to and the situation explained. They will, hopefully, say that they will keep an eye on the situation but that if you hear of any problems to get in touch.,
Now – here comes the most vital and possibly the most difficult point
7: Forgiveness in the Playground. You have to FORGIVE THE CHILD. After all, he or she is just a child and you cannot continue to scowl at the parents in the playground each time you bump into them. They may be having just as tough a time with this situation as you are. You never have to mention it to them, or talk about it ever if you don’t want to… the school has dealt with it so that you don’t have to have that awkward confrontation… but most importantly, forgive the child. They know not what they do – and pray to God, that one day, you don’t have a letter in the backpack of one of your little angels with the situation reversed.
NB: My situation was resolved quickly, painlessly and I now get on famously with the child in question and her mother. In fact, our daughters are now good friends. I am not saying that every situation will end in this way, but have hope that it could!