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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mama Moment: Bullying...A Mother's Nightmare!

Last Saturday, my son's school hosted a seminar entitled, "Bullying by Design".  I went with my son and as I expected, the theatre was full.  I knew that many parents will attend because the topic of bullying is one that poses so many emotions, fear, dominance, hate, depression, and a lot more.  And in one point all of us might have experienced it, witnessed it or maybe we were bullies ourselves.

Photo from here.

As a mother, bullying is one thing that really breaks my heart.  I always pray that no one will bully my children and that they will not bully anyone.  But I guess it's inevitable.  I had my share when my son moved to a new school.  Coming from an International school, he was picked on the way he talked.  He didn’t know Tagalog then (up to now I regret not teaching him the native tongue, even if we lived abroad!) and he had the American twang.  We told him that he is going to the best school, but he thought otherwise.  He said it’s not the best school, the boys are disrespectful and rude.  He said he hurts inside because the boys call him American boy, sometimes Australian boy, and at his tender age of 8, he knows that he is being labelled.  He just want to belong to his new school and make new friends. 

Maybe our case is not as worse as the others, there were no physical bullying that happened, but verbal can be as painful as physical bullying.  By the Lord’s grace and our conscious effort to conduct daily dialogues with him, informing the school about his situation, he survived his first year in his new school.   Though it was a bit traumatic, he managed to excel academically, and soon gained new friends.  It was quite a long process, and it hurt me the most.  There were times when I thought of transferring him to a new school, maybe a progressive school that is more tolerant of each other’s differences.  But I thought that will be escaping from the reality.    I wanted to talk to his classmates, but I knew he had to fight his own battle.  I wanted to contact the parents of the bullies but I knew better than getting myself and the other parents with the boys’ affairs. 

Photo from here.

It’s been three years since, and aside from small complaints, my son has not reported any bullying anymore.  I thought I would share with you some key points on how we dealt with bullying; and how they help in raising good children with skills that they will need until they're old enough to be left alone.

1. Conduct daily dialogue with the kids.  Refrain from asking how was your day or what did you do today.  Instead, you can ask if there were any special things that happened in school.   Or was there anything funny that happened.  That way, he will be more inclined to tell a story rather than the predictable answer of “School’s ok.”   This practice develops good communication skills for your children too.  They will be able to effectively sort and filter things that happen in school with your guidance.

2.  Listen to all the stories and do not take for granted complaints and hurts that they articulate.  Sometimes, we find their stories not very interesting or very trivial, but a mother should be able to read between the lines.  What can be a trivial thing to us can mean the whole world for them.  Communication is two way, so always encourage them to talk and at the same time, listen to them well, not just hear them.  They will replicate this practice and become good listeners themselves.

3. Let them fight their own battles but always be there to give guidance and   direction.  It is so tempting to meddle with our kids’ affairs outside of the home, but as mothers, we should also learn to step back and let them learn how to handle difficult situations.  Instead of telling them what to do, we should ask them “What do you think should you do?” or “How do you think should we handle this situation?”
This is one way of teaching the skill of problem solving at an early age and being independent, not to be easily rattled in future difficult situations.

4.  Inform the school authorities of what your child is experiencing.  The school needs info and data to establish effective measures and system against bullying.   And always make a follow through of your letters to the school.  This practice will make the children confident and secured in their school environment, knowing that the school does not tolerate bullying and rules and regulations are followed.

5. Know as much classmates as you can.  I find this very effective in developing friendships and earning respect from the school community.  If you know the classmates personally, chances are these same kids will look out for your own kid while in school. 

6.  Explain to your child the different domestic situation of every family.  Each family is very different from you own.  I tell my kids that before getting mad at the bullies, they should try their best to understand the bully's situation.  Some bullies are actually bullied at home by their older siblings or even by their parents, that's why they lash out all their frustrations in school and become bullies themselves.  Some lack attention or are always left to the care of the yaya so they try to get as much attention as possible (unfortunately, in a negative way).  And my son even confirmed that most of the bullies do fall in that profile of a troubled home.   By talking to your kids about the different familial situations, they become more understanding and tolerant individuals, key traits in this world that may not be friendly all the time. :)

7.  Assure them of your family’s love and support.  No matter what other people tell them, they should be confident and secured of themselves.  And these traits can only grow in children with a loving and supportive family.  Need I say more?  Love conquers everything.  A happy child is a product of a happy and loving family!

8.  Pray! Pray! Pray!  No matter how much explaining and role modelling we do, we still need the power of prayers.  And what's a more beautiful gift to your child than teaching them to pray at all times, whether they are troubled or they are thankful. I taught my son a chant that goes..."Jesus, Mama Mary, Holy Spirit, stay with me and keep me calm."  He has to recite this three times or as much as needed when he is in a difficult situation.  It teaches him also to be patient, calm, and not act against any situation when he is angry or frustrated.  I think it works!  :)  I myself do this too!

I'm not an expert, what I've shared is what I've learned and have helped us cope with the issue of bullying.  And the seminar has affirmed what we teach our kids.  As a mother, I can only do so much and pray hard that my children will never be a bully, never to be bullied nor be a bystander in a bullying situation (equally important to handle).

How about you?  Have you been in a similar situation?  I wish it against all mothers.  It is a nightmare!

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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