From the age of 13 I was bullied at school.
I was taunted by older girls who, for whatever reason, didn’t like me or my friends.
We didn’t have a ‘gang’. We loved Duran Duran, sports and each other’s company.
We were into make up, dancing and fashion.
We worked hard, were never in trouble (except that time I was caught wearing a ‘banned’ pair of earrings!) and would never dream of backchatting a teacher.
But these girls took a dislike to us.
Often, we were followed around the school by our bullies who stalked us like sinister shadows.
They would swing their bags so they hit us on the head or the back, issue ‘threats’ in mock whispers loud enough for us to hear and stand in doorways looking menacing.
It doesn’t sound like much. Trivial, almost, when you consider what goes on in some schools today.
But my friends and I were terrified.
I look back on those times now and see them as a learning curve. Those days helped shape the person that I am today and, I hope, have equipped me with the skills needed if ever it happens to my own two children as they make that perilous journey through school.
But when I think back to those days, I was made to feel utterly miserable – and I do not want my children to EVER EVER feel that way, at school or anywhere else for that matter.
I remember reading a blog a couple of years ago about teaching our children how to handle themselves when faced with bullies and how, if we’re not careful, we will be raising a generation of wimps.
“You want to know what I teach? That actions have consequences. That one must always take responsibility for one’s own actions. That words are sometimes not enough. And that, frequently in life, people need to be taught tough lessons. Don’t get me wrong. My daughter is a sweetheart. She’s kind. She’s caring. And she’s extremely empathetic. I don’t encourage her to go around indiscriminately hitting people. However, I do teach her not to take shit from anyone. Whenever another child pushes her, I tell her to politely tell that child that you don’t like being pushed. But if he does it again, she has my full permission to shove his ass to the ground as hard as she can.”
And I have to say I totally agree with him.
I was out last night with a friend whose nine-year-old son is being bullied at school.
He is a sweet, sensitive boy who would never hurt a soul – physically or emotionally – and his mother has brought him up to always consider the feelings of others, to be thoughtful at all times and to never EVER hit another person.
And now she’s regretting that mantra because she has no idea of how to handle the situation he is in and she feels totally out of control.
“I thought I was raising him to be a kind and wonderful little boy, but his confidence is shot and I feel totally powerless to do anything,” she told me.
I’m sure it’s a sentence that could be echoed the world over and I told her that she should be proud that her son would never hit another person – no matter what the provocation.
But it got me thinking about my own son, who has just entered his third year at school, and what his daddy and I should be teaching him.
Sure I want him to be considerate to others and to never use violence. But I also don’t want him to become a pushover and to have the school bully think he can take his pound of flesh out of my little man.
So I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on the whole bullying issue.
Do you think it’s right to teach the ‘never ever hit back’ mantra or are there exceptions to the rule?