The Bully Inside

Bullying has always existed. Perhaps it has evolved over time with the ebb and flow of “coolness”. There are so many factors that potentially alienate a target for this kind of abuse. So many social, religious and personal factors have become reasons for ridicule. Then we have technology that has not helped the situation.The abuse is and can be perpetrated anonymously. Also, the bullying of the past existed between a finite number of people, and limited to the perpetrator and the victim and their respective social circles. However now,  those social circles have expanded exponentially and the world knows in a single tweet, perpetrators are potentially everywhere how on earth to we protect our kids? Additionally, where does all this aggression come from?

When my eldest son entered into fourth grade, he was a whole year younger than his peers. He is also slightly smaller in stature generally, which could be attributed to him being a prem baby. However, when we engage with him on a daily basis, he has no idea that he was dramatically brought into this world. He is a normal, healthy, 10-year-old. Mash-Allah. The school year had started normally but after a few weeks, a moody, unruly, sickly child emerged from what used to be my son. The entire first term resulted in a series of complaints and problems, where he was suffering from severe headaches and stomach aches. Generally moody, fighting with his brothers, just not himself.

It’s strange as a mom when you just know something is wrong. It’s that magic powers that my own mom always had and still has with me. I never quite understood how she knew intrinsically when something was happening with me and would immediately confront me to confide in her.

Years later, I find myself with my son struggling to pinpoint what’s wrong. Although, I did know with certainty that my own mommy-sixth-sense was in full force, I knew something was wrong.

We tried everything to get the truth out of him. Was he being bullied, was he having other problems, was it a particular subject, was he missing some friends that might have left the school? My husband goes straight into battle mode, in these situations and wanted to rush into school and wage war to get answers. I am slightly more pragmatic, I think, thinking let’s get to the bottom first. A bit of a yin and yang approach, perhaps? We questioned and prodded and probed to no avail, and eventually we did approach the school for answers.

We finally identified that the problem was with a particular teacher, which is something we didn’t expect. Her approach was very abrasive; She was yelling and using very forceful language with the kids. We wanted the school to assist to remedy the situation, however, we were faced with no real methods to resolve such an issue. The school had very little input and expected my son to ‘get over it’ as this was her ‘style’ and we should give her a ‘chance’.

My child does not respond to this kind of environment. He retracts when someone starts screaming and shouting constantly, to the point where he shuts off or he will retaliate in other safe places, which perfectly explained all his behavioural changes. The teacher believed that they were ‘Big’ now and needed to be schooled in this way. I knew immediately that the entire year would be riddled with this theme if we didn’t make a change. My husband and I discussed the options at length and finally ended up changing his school. To our relief, everything changed almost overnight.

The talkative, jokester that is my son returned. Till this day he hasn’t really come clean with what exactly happened, and it might have been a multitude of things not just the one thing we uncovered. This led me to thinking that sometimes, you have to be the voice for your children. You have to believe them and trust them first, even if they are not using their words to tell you when something is wrong. You have to act swiftly to change and rectify their situations as best as you can. We were lucky enough to notice and fix the situation when it arose. But I worry about all the kids out there who are silenced, either by their own fears or the fact that maybe nobody is listening. Pay attention to the children around you, and don’t brush off their moody behavior as pre-teen or just being kids.

From a child’s perspective every experience they have from the day they are born is linked to you (the parent/guardian) in some way, you have enabled it or are directly responsible for that moment. Therefore, you are a very big part of the people that they become. I think we underestimate this. It’s not what the child did or is doing that matters but rather what has led him to it. Maybe he is being picked on for something daily, until his own behaviour changes in retaliation? Maybe his actions and change in behavior over time went unnoticed, and all he was looking for was attention? Maybe it’s not drilling concepts of being good into them but rather showing them, in your own behaviour.

Let’s love our kids in way that teaches them respect for themselves, respect for each other and then respect for all things. Let us not be the bullies that make them retract. Let us not nurture the bully inside of them to emerge. Let us practice the essence of our beliefs, charity and kindness and love above all else.

Let us not to focus on the output that will result in them being in doctors and lawyers. Rather focus on the love, kindness and security of a warm hug, encouraging words and a safe place for them to be honest with you, knowing that you will love them no matter what, that you are there for them no matter what, and that they can rely on you to trust them, period.

Thus, allowing the qualities and capabilities that they naturally have to be ignited, and for them to be who they were always meant to be.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.      – Rumi

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