Taking the sting out of bullying

About a year ago we went through a really tough time with our son being bullied at school. It took many months of play therapy to help him deal with it and about the same amount of time for myself in counseling to learn how to not fall down crying in a heap on the floor at the mere thought. 

I received a call from a school Mom today, her child is going through the same as our boy did last year, courtesy of the same little group of fuckers. (Doos is just not a strong enough word here). I’m hoping the school will deal with it better this time, but that’s a whole other story. 

It made me think of how far we’ve come, sometimes 3 steps back before we could inch forward, but we’re getting there. 

Something that Mom said today about how she is opening dialogue with her son really hit home. Our son starts smirking when he feels scared or threatened. It’s his coping mechanism. He also doesn’t disclose easily, we’ve had to find other ways to get him to open up. 

So I thought, why don’t we play the Bully Game?

As we sat down to dinner tonight we said we had an awesome idea, why don’t they (the kids) pretend to be bullies and they can say absolutely anything horrible and we would respond like we were the ones being bullied. 

They looked at us like we were mad. 

Then our boy started out. We oooeeeed and aaahhhd, thought long and hard and looked perplexed and then offered a come-back which they had the right to agree with or not. 

It was like a verbal diarrhea of junk that came tumbling out. I think it was cathartic because he (and the Sussies) were free to just blurt it all out. We could see in his face when he was having fun and making stuff up and when he was repeating what has been said to him. It was the most he’s ever told us, knowingly or unknowingly. It gave them all the freedom to entertain that dark side we are forever telling them to suppress. 

This is huge. It is monumental. 

The lesson for me is really about the fact that, the more we, as parents, freak out, the worse it is for the child. There is much more value in being constructive about things like this, opening the door for them to feel safe enough to talk and to never, never make them feel weak for having to go through something like that, no matter how good our intentions are. 

The world is full of bullies, whether you’re 9 or 39, so I’d rather us teach our  kids to think on their feet and to allow them to practice how to deal with it. To take the power away from the bully. 

Because fear is what fuels a bully, and when you can laugh in their face or verbally put them in their place they longer have any power over you.

Whether you’re 9 or 39. 

Let’s talk about bullying

On Saturday morning Daniel and the Sussies hopped into our bed and the 5 of us had a snuggle. Just as we all settle in he pipes up:

‘Did you know, I have a secret hiding place during break time at school’

Etienne and I were shocked. This was our chance to get to the bottom of why he slept in our room for almost 4 months, from right after school started this year.

We managed to extract names of who he hides from, who he hides with and, most importantly WHY.


Why, you may ask?

For 4 months of this year we have seen our vivacious son go from sad to mad. His anxiety was like the big old elephant lurking in the room. He didn’t want to go to school. He didn’t want to leave our sides. It was the single most soul-destroying thing we’ve had to deal with since we became parents.

We got help in the form of a very switched on OT and a play-therapist that have slowly but surely brought him out of his shell. He blocked them, he blocked us. He wouldn’t open up at all.

Until Saturday.

This morning we pitched up at school and refused to leave until we spoke to someone. There was NO way we were going to let him hide for another minute of his precious break time.

Will it happen again? Probably. The world is filled with bullies. I just hope that, along the way, he now has the skills to deal with them and realise that being bullied is not about you, it’s about the other person being a doos. (Yes, still my favourite word)

Here’s what I learnt:
1. Never, and I mean NEVER, show your child that you’re upset. Play it cool, ask questions. Do not, I repeat DO NOT freak out.
2. Create a space for them to talk. Whether it’s lying in bed just before they go to sleep or a casual conversation in the car.
3. Get the facts. Don’t listen to secondhand stories and do not jump to conclusions. This harms not only your child, but potentially other children as well.
4. You are not a drama queen. If you’re child’s behaviour suddenly changes don’t wait. GET HELP.
5. Listen. They may not be ready to disclose when you need to hear it most, but be there to pick up the cues of when they’re ready to talk.

I did all of above wrong, to varying degrees, this year has been ALL about learning the above lessons. They are very hard lessons to learn.

I’ll probably fail them again, but I hope to get better at it.

Did I miss any lessons? What have you learnt?

Ps. Im trying to write this as unemotionally as possible, but trust me, lots of tears were shed. If you were at the entrance of my son’s school this morning, yes, I’m the one that was having a good old cry.
Pps. Stay tuned for the Isabel broken leg drama. Having such fun, wish you were here. If only to pour me wine.