When the Bough Breaks (bullying and how we dealt with it)
The school yard can be a haven for bullying.
A stick in a bundle cannot be broken
I came across this little quote the other day and was instantly drawn to the truth of it.
But also the pain of being that one stick who isn’t surrounded by a tribe of supporters and how easily that fragile twig can snap.
If you have the support of other people who love you and are for you, of course you will be strong and protected by their collective arms and voices.
But what about the adult or child who are on their own?
I thought about our 13 year son who was bullied so terribly at high school that he hid in the school library during breaks. And how I felt my heart would break when he eventually told us how much he was struggling every day.
Just because he wouldn’t swear along with the enormous gangs of pre-pubescent kids in his year or talk dirty with the cool kids.
What is a parent to do about school bullying?
There is so much on social media and the news about the impact on tender hearts.
To be singled out in a crowd and picked upon.
We all pray it won’t be our offspring.
Heck, I prayed it wouldn’t be our children.
And yet, it happened all the same.
Because he was simply too kind and too soft to join the bundle.
To go with the crowd.
Be part of a collective group of insecure children who needed gratification through a core following and the putting down of others to make themselves appear more powerful and strong.
My husband and I were heartbroken and so disillusioned when the head teacher of my son’s very popular and high achieving school, told us that his hands were tied.
And if it were his son, he would pull him out immediately and home-school him.
The children it seemed, very much held the reins tightly on group bullying.
Who was the leader? It was so hard to tell.
A bundle can sometimes hide the chief perpetrator.
A year later and with the gift of hindsight, we have realised three key factors in handling child bullying and the repercussions that follow.
Six steps we used to combat schoolyard bullying:
1. Our son is not damaged for life. We caught it early. We took action.
2. Don’t wait for it to just go away. It won’t. Speak to the school or a trusted advisor. Don’t sweep it under the carpet, because your child will most probably not be telling you everything that has been going on and it may be a lot worse than you imagine.
3. Find your child a mentor. Someone your child looks up to and who knows they won’t report back to you! Someone they really trust and aspire to be like.
For our son, it was our church’s youth group leader, however, to this day, he doesn’t know how much he helped our boy to regain his confidence. Laughter and fun were the key elements in re-building his wonderful spark. And friendship, which fed him beyond anything we were able to achieve.
4. Spend quality time with your child, one-on-one, without any outside interruptions. You will not believe the riches that flow from that space. We felt like we met our son for the first-time through talking and laughing with him. We fell in love with his heart in a million different ways. It was utterly precious.
5. Don’t compare your child to their peers. We give birth to little individuals who have their own giftings and unique personalities. Don’t push your child into a square hole if he fits like a glove into a circle, just because his peers are squares. You get what I mean. Find out what your child is truly interested in and focus on that. The happiness that follows will speak volumes.
6. Finally, bullying is not the end. It can actually be the beginning. Of a new and wonderful life.
Your child will grow and mature through the hardships and knocks of life and become an even better human being than you could ever imagine.
Here’s to being an individual stick that stands unbroken – even on their own.