A Tale of Two Bullies

Today, Friday 16th of March, is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. Bullying is defined as the following.

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

So I thought I would share two stories of how bullying has affected my life.

When I was in Year 5, each Thursday I caught the bus to the local aquatic centre after school. I dreaded Thursdays. Because a girl in Year 6 was on that same bus and she really didn’t like me at all. She was a short little thing, but her words were like weapons. At the time “Sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me” was very much the vernacular that we were taught. We were taught to ignore the bully. So I did was I was taught to do and ignored her.

This made the bully very angry, and a part of that Sticks and Stones saying was correct. I ignored her taunts, based on my appearance and my swimming abilities or lack thereof, so she started throwing rocks at me. She would walk behind me, collecting stones from the road and pelted them at my legs. Tears would leak from my eyes as I picked up the pace to get to the pool.

Eventually, I begged my Mum to let me stop swimming in the squad. It wasn’t until I confessed to her what had been going on, did she realise what the real problem was. And just like a cartoon character, I think I could actually see steam coming out from her ears. Without hesitation, she jumped in the car and went around to the bully’s house to have it out with her Mother. I am not sure what went down, as I was too young, but the bullying stopped. Isn’t it funny that here I am, 33 years later and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

A few years ago, I became that enraged mother.

We had moved to a new suburb and my boys went to a new school. After a week, one of my sons just flat-out refused to go to school. It was so traumatic for both myself and him, as he cried and told me what was going on. One of the boys was systematically bullying my former happy kid, who was now having nightmares and had to sleep with me. I didn’t know what to do.

For the sake of the story, lets call this kid Nelson.

The next day I was up at the local shopping centre when I ran into Nelson and his mother in the car park. I was filled with rage and every inch of me wanted to tear strips off that boy, but I know that wasn’t going to produce a positive outcome. So I took another tack.

I walked up to the two of them, my heart beating the beats of a thousand coffees.

‘You must be Nelson’s Mum…” I said to the Mum. Nelson looked like he was about to shit himself.

“I just wanted to let you know how amazing Nelson is! He has been so very welcoming to my son. He has gone out of his way to make him feel so welcomed at school and has included him in the handball games.”

Nelson’s mum was beaming with pride.

“Nelson, thanks so much. He has come home every afternoon and has told me everything you have done to make him feel great about going to school.”

Nelson shat his pants a little bit more.

I looked at his mother. “You should be very proud!” I thanked them both again and walked away.

Sure, it was a display of passive/aggressive at its finest, and sure, there was probably a better was to handle it via the school, but you want to know something. It bloody worked. From that day on, Nelson steered clear of my boy and eventually things got back on track.

Those are my experiences and my stories and as I said, there are now very clear guidelines as to what to do if your child is being bullied, online or in person. Report it to the class teacher or year co-ordinator. Escalate it to the Principal if you feel the need. If your child is being bullied online, report it first to the platform that it is being carried out on. Then, collect as much evidence as you can. Once you have this evidence, make a report to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

And if you feel like you are not getting anywhere, contact the Parents Helpline in your state.

But most importantly talk to your kids. Ask them the questions. Let them know that it is ok to share their experiences and feelings. Be your kid’s advocate. Because you should be their first port of call to stamp out this hideous behaviour.

Bullying is not just contained to the classrooms. You can see it online at anytime of the day, in the media and heck, some of our leaders in Parliament are shockingly behaved. But it is our kids who are suffering the most. For more information visit Bullying No Way.

I hope this post was helpful, even just a little bit.

Thank you.