To tell you the truth, bullying as a topic makes me react with anger. I have suffered bullying in my childhood. But what hits me even more is when my kids are picked on. I have written extensively about bullying on my blog. This was a recent incident. Then there was another one when my younger son was little. My younger son also faces a lot of bullying for different reasons that I have talked about in the passing. Two aspects of bullying dismay me. One is when I don’t see the elders in the bully’s life making any efforts to initiate corrective action. And the second one is feeling empathy for the bully.
I think of myself as a compassionate person. But when I see another person hit out and bully someone I love, it is hard for me to feel empathy for them.
Here, I would like to share a small incident in which my 8-year-old son taught me something really valuable.
Last year, my husband and I took the decision of making our son repeat his class. Let me clarify here that he did not fail or even do badly academically. But, being a few months younger for his class, he was finding it hard to keep up with the pace of the curriculum. He was in first grade. I did not want him to be stressed with studies. A bright child, he had to put in more hours just to keep up. And that broke my heart.
As parents, both of us were worried how he would take it as well as about his peers since he was continuing in the same school. We spoke to the school counselor who was very supportive of this decision. She said that with our support and that of his teachers, we can help him make a smooth transition. His teacher had her doubts but offered to facilitate in whatever way she could.
I must tell you that I was immensely nervous when he re-joined school. The initial few days were a bit rough for him. His classmates who had gone ahead had many questions. Some of them openly called him a ‘failure’ and other words making him feel miserable. He was bending over backwards to defend himself. His new classmates were fine. Slowly he started making friends. My husband and I tried our best to help him cope. We encouraged him to speak about every small angst. My elder son took special care to keep an eye on any bullies especially in the school bus. Slowly, he integrated in his new class and found good friends. And best of all, he blossomed, loving his curriculum. My husband and I felt validated.
But, there were still stray incidents of someone calling his names. I tried my best to prepare him for any questions that he may still face. I felt he went into a defense mode to try and explain that he had not failed. This made him vulnerable to those who wanted a stray moment of fun. Then a few days back, he told me an anecdote that warmed my heart.
A friend of his, a classmate was quizzing him about his age. Anticipating what was about to follow, he told the friend upfront that he had repeated a class because he was younger for his class by a few months. He ended by asking his friend to please not make fun of him.
This made the other boy smile who in turn told him that it was no big deal. He himself had repeated a year. This made them both laugh and bond.
I saw how my son figured out a way to reach out to the humanness in another, much better than I could have ever taught him. It does not work always. But, it is an approach worth trying.
Do you have any such tips to share about bullying?