Motherhood

Dealing with Bullying at School

Imagine picking your child up from school or waiting for him/her at the bus stop and seeing a sad face every single day. Of course, you ask your child what’s wrong, and you get the usual answer “nothing, mommy.” You know it’s not nothing though, something has to be wrong for a child to be sad every day. You start to google different things that make kids sad or call his/her school to check if the behavior is different there. You know your child, you know how he/she acts, and this isn’t it. So you continue to ask questions at dinner, during bath and bedtime and you get the same response then as the sun rises and another day comes, you pray that it was really nothing and your child will be happy, yet you see the same behavior. What do you do then?

Well, that happened to me for weeks! For weeks, I had to see my son sad every day at pick up when he was in Kindergarten and although it was 2 years ago, the thought still breaks my heart. 

We had always heard about bullying but never thought it would happen to one of our kids (that was our first mistake). 

It wasn’t until I saw Lorenzo getting pushed by another child that I understood what was going on. Lorenzo was the line leader and was taking his time to walk up to where the parents stood for pickup when this kid behind him pushed him right as the teacher looked away. What I saw next shocked me even more; Lorenzo said nothing, did nothing and continued to walk towards me. That’s when I realized what was really going on. I hugged Lorenzo as tight as I could, until I heard him tell me I was embarrassing him and once we got in the car and started driving away, I asked the dreaded question to which I already knew the answer.

Me: “Lorenzo, who was that boy that I saw pushing you?”  

Lorenzo: “No one pushed me.”

Me:” I saw it sweetheart, it’s okay, and you can tell me.”

Lorenzo: “His name is (let's call him Billy) and I don’t like him.”

Me: “Has he pushed you before?”

Lorenzo: “Yes, ever since I beat his record in Math, he keeps bossing me around and is mean.”

That same night I told Bini what I saw and what our son told me. He said we had to work on making him tough! He didn’t want him to be scared of other kids or anyone for that matter, which I agree100% but at that moment all I wanted to do was protect my child from the immediate danger.

Here are some lessons we learned along the way that can be of use to all parents:

Never think it won’t happen to your child-

As mentioned earlier, our biggest mistake was thinking that it could/would never occur to one of our children. Bullying can happen to anyone, regardless of what we do as parents to prevent it.

Talk to your children about Bullying-

An open line of communication is by far one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Talk to them about everything from how their day went to what they are planning to do tomorrow at school etc. Dinner time is often the best place to have these conversations, or if privacy is needed, try during bath or bedtime.

Children need to know about the effects of bullying so that they are aware of what is actually going on if it happens to them. Lorenzo didn’t know how to tell me what was happening because he didn’t understand what was going on other than a classmate being mean. As parents, it’s our job to make sure our kids know that they can and should come to us with any problem and that won’t happen without an open line of communication.  

Your Child Tells You their being Bullied…Now What-

Once your child does tell you about what is occurring, please be sure to praise them for coming to you, do not show them signs of anger towards the situation or sadness, that will turn them away.

The first thing to do is to go to the teacher and discuss the situation. The school will probably set up a meeting between the two families affected and come up with ways to resolve the matter.  One of my close friends recently went through this process with her six-year-old daughter who was being bullied by a boy in her class. The teacher took immediate action and got the principle plus got the child’s family involved and was able to create a healing process for my friend’s daughter while also creating a teaching moment for the other child. It started by taking away recess time and built up to writing why his actions were wrong. He has to sit by the teacher during class and say one good thing to all the kids every day. Mind you, these kids are very little, but in doing these practices, the teacher is creating a safe environment for all the children plus showing the bully that his actions will NOT be tolerated. He/she will now think twice before hurting another child.

Lastly, (and please no judgment) but I am NOW quick to tell my kids that as long as they didn’t throw the first punch, they ALWAYS have our blessing to stand up for themselves and fight back.

Do not allow the school to downplay Bullying-

The whole experience was indeed a rude awakening that left us feeling upset and heartbroken and had we talked about it with him beforehand, it probably would not have had happened the way it did. Of course, as any parent would, we talked to the teachers, the other child’s parents and the principle but even with all the dialog occurring I still didn’t feel like my child was protected and ultimately we ended up changing schools.

One thing that confirmed my decision to move schools was the responses I kept getting from Lorenzo’s teachers. “Kids will be kids” or “let’s give the kids a chance to work it out.” My response should have been- “Are you serious right now… They are five-year-olds, please explain to me how they can work things out without our help!” I don’t remember what I said instead though! I agreed with them at first, but as the days went by and Lorenzo was still upset, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I met with the child’s mother again at that point, who was apologetic but defensive at the same time. All the excuses and people not taking action is really what made my decision final to move schools. Always listen to your intuition, you will know what the best move is for your children.

Document, Document,Document-

Make sure you keep records of all incidents that happen to your child. Keep all records, so if needed you can take the case further up the chain of command. This is one thing I wish I did!! If not for Lorenzo then for the countless kids who are probably experiencing the same thing and cannot easily change schools.

If there is anything you take from this post,I hope it’s that our children need us to be their spokesperson. I know we won’t always be there to protect them and they should fight for themselves, but when it comes to bullying PLEASE do not sit on the bench waiting to see what happens. More than the physical damage, it’s the emotional damage that will hurt your child the most and for the longest time.

I’m so happy to say that today, Lorenzo is a happy child and loves his school very much. Some might think I was showing him weakness when I decided to move him into a different environment, but I know I made the right decision every time I see his bubbly face at pick up time.

I hope this post helps you or someone you know. As always I’d love to hear from you. If what I’ve written resonated with you, please leave your comments below. Let’s build our community into a place where we can all learn from each other.

Yours,