Monday, 20 April 2015

School Stories #9: I didn't even know my child was being bullied,until...

You would have heard about the ex-RGS girl suing her alma mater for her suffering while studying there. Enough talk has been going around, but what surprised me was the narrow definition of bullying which the school adopted. The "school policy defines bullying as involving hurting, frightening or intimidating others using power of strength while cyber bullying includes the sending of hateful messages."

I am glad that my daughter's school held a broader definition of bullying and the teachers were vigilent in dealing with such cases.

When she was in P4, she was the victim of bullying but I didn't recognize it. I associated bullying with being physically attacked or extorted from. Only after this incident did I learn that bullying can take on different forms, including verbal, emotional, sexual and cyber. Some of these can be just as, or more damaging to the victim, and usually harder to detect. I asked if she was ok with me sharing her story and she said yes.

In P4, she was streamed into a new class and started forming a close friendship with 3 other girls. Amongst them was a more domineering girl (let's call her D) who became the 'leader'. After a month or so, D started to ostracise her and the other 3 followed suit. They would gang up against her and talk behind her back. It got to an extent where D told the entire class not to let her join any of their groups, be it during PE or in class project work. She was treated like an outcast.

I listened to her tales and offered some suggestions on how to handle the situation. I guess none of them worked and it seemed D was adamant on making life miserable for her. I encouraged her to be strong and to be understanding. I explained to her that it was possible that her behaviour stemmed from her insecurities as D has a slight physical deformity. It dragged on for several weeks and she became more reticent. I thought it would blow over as it was common for girls to have such 'friendship' issues, but instead it got progressively worse.

Thankfully, I met her form teacher during the parents-teacher's meeting and the topic happened to be raised. Her teacher was saying how quiet she was, and I mentioned that she doesn't have anyone to talk to and the story unravelled. She got very alarmed and told me that it was a case of bullying and D was wrong to incite the entire class to alienate her.

Her teacher took it very seriously and dealt with it immediately. She had a talk with the 4 of them, with D individually, and with the class. She also told them that they were to welcome her into their groups. It was the boys who quickly included her and they couldn't even recall how it came about that they joined in to exclude her.

I shudder to think how much damage could have been wrecked on her emotionally if the issue had failed to be recognised or resolved. Being the victim of bullying can lead children and teenagers into depression and even the contemplation of suicide.

As parents, we can help by having constant communication with our children and to take their concerns seriously. Some kids may not be willing to open up which makes it more difficult to address. We can only try and be on the look out for clues such as changes in their behaviour, frequent physical malaise like stomachaches / headaches, or a sudden reluctance to go to school. I am really thankful that her teacher handled the situation in a tactful, caring, and professional manner.



School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

4 comments:

  1. Sometimes, it may be 'good' to encounter such 'bullying' situations early in life as it may help one to handle similar situations even in the working world.

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  2. The good thing was that we were able to learn from this experience and teach the other children about dealing with bullies and also helping their friends to recognise when bullying occurs. I'm sure the class also learnt a lot from this episode. Thankfully it didn't manage to drag on for long if not who knows what lasting impact it would have had on her. It is hard for children to have to deal with the additional stress of being an outcast and having the whole class treat you like you have the plague at an age where they are trying to fit in. Their self-esteem might not have been developed and it can be very traumatising.

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  3. Really great that her teacher took on such a pro-active role to resolve the problem in time as well, instead of brushing it aside. A lesson for all involved..

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

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  4. Yes you are right, Ai. It could have turned out badly if the teacher had not believed or understood the extent of what was happening.

    I guess it helped that her teacher liked her as she was a quiet and obedient child. The other girl was quite a domineering child.

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