Thursday, 17 May 2007

Bully For You

Last night’s parenting workshop on bullying was very informative. I went to one of these school workshops a while ago on the topic of ‘Self esteem’ which was also very helpful. I had been to that one because I was a little concerned that one of my kids seemed to be rather anxious and unsure of himself (but then, if you read this blog, it will hardly come as a great surprise, given his mother).

Instead of fanning the flames of parental neurosis, the workshop helped me to see that in fact, he doesn’t have low self esteem at all. It’s just that many of the kids in his school suffer from eye-wateringly high levels of the stuff.

High self esteem seems to be the modern parenting Holy Grail, it’s what we all want for our kids, to help them become strong, confident individuals. But it also has a very unfortunate side effect, which is lack of empathy. The woman who ran last night’s workshop pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, many bullies do not suffer from low self esteem at all. In fact they frequently have way too much of it, which is why they have very little empathy with their victims. I know it’s not a simplistic topic, but this makes a lot of sense to me.

There was a great section at the end of the workshop about what to do as a parent if you think your child might be being bullied. Among the suggestions were the following:

1. Don’t over-react (moi?).

2. Talk to your child about what has been happening (without going into Spanish Inquisition mode I suppose. So, no staccato machine gun fire of: ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Who did?’ ‘When did this happen?’ I don’t think they encourage the use of the term ‘little shit’ either).

3. Communicate with the school (The fantasy scenario of grabbing the bully by the throat at the school gates and threatening them will have to remain a fantasy then).

If one of my children was being bullied, I think I could probably manage the first two. I’m not so sure about the third. Deep breath. Repeat the new mantra: “I am a grown-up.”

I am posting early today, so I am without my usual ‘mother’s little helper’ glass of wine, which always helps to correct my warped perspective.

I am taking my daughter to an International netball match after school. England beat New Zealand (world champions and Commonwealth gold medallists) earlier this week, for the first time in 32 years. Tonight they face Australia, who are currently second in the world rankings, so we shall both be screaming our heads off (no change there for me then!).


The Secretary said...

I grabbed a delightful child by the throat once - for shame.

I had bathed my (at the time) 5 year old son the night before to discover all the skin missing down his spine were this little 9 year old shit (you can say it and it does help) had held my son down and kicked him repeatedly in the back.

I told him that if he ever went near my son again I would break his legs - his mother was next to him. She scurried of quickly and my son never had a days problem with him again. I shouldn't have done it (it was 11 years ago) it was wrong and I could have got into a lot of trouble, but by god I felt better.

And I was my son's hero for quite a while!

mutterings and meanderings said...

My colleague received an email from another colleague in New Zealand today who was utterly shocked by the netball state of affairs. He ended his email with 'but I suppose it didn't even make the news over there...'

Have fun!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

v.jealous of you going to see a netball match. HOpe you had lots of fun!

debio said...

I too would be shouting for England - go on, shout so loud I will hear it here. Brilliant!
Re bullying, in my experience it is always the lovely children who are on the receiving end - and the bully's parents are usually pretty unpleasant too. For 'too much self esteem' read 'cocky, insolent and out of control' - we all care, which is why 'our blogs' are full of angst etc that we do things right.

VanessaR said...

I'm sorry to hear that they don't encourage the use of the term 'little shit'. There's a boy in my son's class (P3) and he's already vile and I'm sure he'll get worse. We did share the school run for a while (although thankfully no more) and a more sneaky, sly little shit you've never met! I also had to lecture him about racism one afternoon which isn't something you expect to have to do.

That boy will be trouble when he's older, mark my words.

Omega Mum said...

From experience, do go and see the school, largely because it then becomes their problem,too, rather than just being yours. Ask your child to keep a diary if they're at that stage becuase it helps if you need to provide dates. Check the school's anti-bullying policy and quote it back to them. And forget circle time - in my experience, it's a load of meaningless rubbish. Actual violence is easy (sounds awful - but the marks are proof of what's happened). What's much harder to deal with is girl to girl nasty comments, especially at playtime, because however good the supervision, they won't be heard.
Hope this helps.

Drunk Mummy said...

Secretary - wow! You sound scary! I'm glad it did the trick though.

M&M - Yes, I believe it has caused huge ripples of concern over there - the kiwis really do take their sport seriously.

Pig - thanks, we did have a great time. We are both really shattered today!

debio - did you hear us? We were certainly loud enough!
You are right about the obnoxious kids with their towering levels of self-esteem.

vanessar - it sounds like he already is trouble now!

omega mum - those are very good points. The woman who ran the workshop did say that the verbal bullying is far harder to eradicate.
My son isn't being bullied, but it seems so widespread that I went along to the workshop to find out what the current thinking/policy is. I think it would be very difficult as a parent to be in any way reasonable when your child is threatened.

@themill said...

Personally , I go with using the 'little'shit'terminology. I have even been known to use it on my own when they were being particularly disgusting. Shame on me I know.
Sorry about the netball - I saw your comment to SAHD. Hope you had fun tho'.

Drunk Mummy said...

Hello @themill!
I know - it's such a succinct and pertinent description.
Yes, it was a shame about the netball, but we still had a great time.