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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?

Pic courtesy Shutterstock



37 Thoughts on “Building from Bullying – When my Son Taught Me the Effective Way to Combat Bullying

  1. Oh! Children can be really cruel without they realizing about it. Their bullying acts can have have life long scarring effect on the other child. It is simply wonderful that with the fab support system that he had in all of you plus with experience, your lil one learnt the art of handling such bullies. Well done!
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Me, Myself and IMy Profile

  2. Children sometimes end up being so mean that I find it hard to fathom… Some day they are naive and don’t really know they are bullying soat…I think with a supportive family children can find their way around this problem of being bullied or being called names… How beautifully Gautam dealt with this…?
    nabanita recently posted…#1000Speak: When They Bullied The New GirlMy Profile

  3. Children sometimes end up being so mean that I find it hard to fathom… Some day they are naive and don’t really know they are bullying someone..somewhere I don’t agree to that…I think with a supportive family children can find their way around this problem of being bullied or being called names… How beautifully Gautam dealt with this…?
    nabanita recently posted…#1000Speak: When They Bullied The New GirlMy Profile

    • Yes, bullying is very common now. To safeguard oneself, one may end up bullying another. And thus the cycle just goes on. As parents I talk, commiserate and try to equip them to handle it.

  4. A good write up, Rachna. I’m wondering, if the other boy hadn’t repeat his class, would he able to empathize with your son! It’s very difficult to put ourselves in other’s shoes and feel exactly what other would feel in that situation.
    Ravish Mani recently posted…How to be Established in State of Highest WisdomMy Profile

    • Yes, Ravish. As always you bring up a grear point. To tell you frankly I thought of that one too. Perhaps he wouldn’t have associated in a similar manner. But you know I was just amazed that my son exposed his vulnerability and reached out to another boy. I probably wouldn’t do the same. Of course, this approach may not work every time but it is worth trying.

  5. What a sweet lesson! Pre-emptive strike with a dose of humour! Truly a blessed child. More power to you, Rachna. As someone who had equally supportive parents when I repeated a year, I can relate to the feeling your son and you would have gone through. Stay blessed.
    Shailaja recently posted…Song that never stops- #AmWriting #PoemMy Profile

  6. hmm i think you did mistake by making him repeat same class in same might have got admission for him in another school in same class if you want to repeat.its like keeping head in a crocodile mouth and expecting safety of your head.its not just school kids,in every aspect of life from software industry to any big corporations,the age difference is prone to bullying and we should always look for prevention and that we are placed in same age group.your kid may not tell you everything,it will make a very big psychological impact when it comes to his future.

    when i was in engineering, my senior girl was demoted to my class guys never allowed her feel normal.she used to spend most of time alone.when she was placed in my team while doing project,i have made her feel comfortable by giving equal work ,participation and company.we six people did work together without any discrimination.but you don’t get respite with single individual in long run.

    making your son survive in such circumstances is never a wise can shift him to another school coz its not a professional course like engineering or medicine.

  7. Your son sounds like a very wise person. Yes reaching out and connecting honestly can break many barriers if we are open and sincere in ourselves. It seems such wisdom comes naturally to many children who are in touch with their innocence and simplicity. If only we adults can behave that way too….
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…Sounds of SilenceMy Profile

  8. Rachna, everytime I read a post of yours, I am smiling and nodding at what you are putting through in it :). So so wise your younger one is, I know you must have played a big part in his outlook :). And the first point you have mentioned of parents not doing their part makes me see RED too.
    Aparna George recently posted…How Do You Recharge? #togetherMy Profile

  9. Children can be so so cruel. I completely loved the way your son handled the situation. Sometimes honesty can be so disarming. It truly is the best policy.
    BeatabouttheBook recently posted…Coming home to my loveMy Profile

  10. Bullying is a serious issue. Had read your previous post.
    Nice that your son managed the situation well. Hope no one is bullied…
    Anita recently posted…Pakhala DibasaMy Profile

  11. This is amazing. These ways of addressing the issue instead of the person makes even bullies step back. Reminds me of when Yuvraj would keep bullying Dhoni when the latter was new in Indian cricket. Instead of retaliating or defending himself, MSD said to Yuvraj one day “All this is okay. But why are you so angry?” That was it. Yuvi’s anger melted and we see that he was the player of the 2011 World Cup under MSD’s captaincy.

    Your son is also enroute to achieve greatness 🙂
    Vishal recently posted…What the ‘India’s Daughter’ Documentary Will AchieveMy Profile

    • Thank you, Vishal, for such warm words. Frankly I was quite touched that he did this. We parents in our zeal to teach them to defend or get back at the bully hardly teach our children to reach out to the bully’s humanness.

  12. I always feel that we tend to fret a lot about issues concerning our children whereas they find easy ways out ….and children will not be perfect and do what comes naturally to them including teasing their peers… We cannot accompany them everywhere and be overprotective… They learn a lot from classroom experience s..and they take life so easily…. But if bullying reaches a stage where it’s becoming a daily nightmare for the child , yes we definitely need to interfere ….I usually feel empathy for the bullies after some momentary hatred Rachna….They are kids too and it’s usually some other frustration that’s vent out ….
    jaishvats recently posted…Two times one is two together!My Profile

    • Some of them I do feel sorry for later. But if they beat up your child or regularly bully them then I find it hard to sympathize with them. Of course, there is an issue somewhere but we really are not in a position to fix them. Hence all we can try is protect our kids.

  13. Mentally strong kids yours are, Rachna! Kudos to you as much as to them.

    • Thanks, Suresh. They have had times when they broke down and were in distress. I guess they are living and learning, and we are helping them as best as we can.

  14. This itself has made him stronger I feel. Being able to say that requires guts and courage. Kudos to you Rachna and Gurudev for allowing him to repeat his class so that he doesn’t feel stressed. Not many I know would do that !
    Asha recently posted…Compassion – Where art thou ?My Profile

  15. Wow….it was quite daring to put him back in the same class given the circumstances you explained. But it is a good thing to do it in the early stages rather than when he is grown up. Or else the bullying will be even worse. So sweet of your son and the other kid too 🙂

  16. Bullying is terrible terrible ! I am have seen it scar people for life ! You handled it so well Rachna !
    Ruch recently posted…The Leg Room Chronicles !My Profile

  17. Pingback: BULLIES AND THEIR PARENTS | hastywords

  18. Very nice to read. That is the best way of handling bullies. He has shown lot of maturity for his age,

    Sometimes even adults lack this insight into human nature. We had a guy at MBA who was much younger than me but had the maturity. I used to tease him mercilessly – instead of reacting to my teasing, he took me aside one day and told me the teasing is hurting him. Till then I had been under the impression it was all good fun. Then I stopped. On another ocassion, he was ganging up with other friends and harassing me. I lost my temper and gave him a whipping with my belt. Again he remained calm and took up my behavior with me nearly a year later when I was sharing rooms with him. He held no grudge but dispassionately discussed my behavior and explained to me how I could have politely requested him to stop the way he had done with me instead of reacting violently.
    The Fool recently posted…Thus roared the Last TigerMy Profile

    • Thank you for sharing that, TF. Indeed, I felt that he tried something different and wiser for his age. Perhaps, reaching out to a bully can pre-empt the action.

  19. I havent exactly been bullied at school (nor did I bully anyone). I think I had this habit of giving-it-back to people so I didnt have to be worried. But it’s sad to see that parents, who are supposed to tell kids it is not ok to be a bully, be totally indifferent. Where are they when they are needed the most. Because for kids (at least), when the parents say something, they know it is serious.
    Ashwini CN recently posted…Choosing the Right One!My Profile

    • True, Ash. Frankly, I was quite upset with the behaviour of the parents. I think, this child/young man is so footloose because he knows that his parents turn a blind eye.

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