Tuesday 15 November 2016

Dealing with Bullying

When Little Man started secondary school, I was worried that he would be an easy target for bullies. He is gentle natured, friendly and likes to tell stories. His school is very big with children from a very mixed catchment area. It was my old secondary school and I remember how rough it was at that time, although much less so now. Alhamdulillah his friendly and easy going nature helped him settle in to his school. He knew some of the older boys from our local masjid and has been joining them to pray at school.

In fretting about Little Man starting school, I missed completely what was going on under my nose. Gorgeous had been less than his usual sunshine-y self in recent days. I put this down to his growing up a little and becoming quicker to answer back and argue. I found him becoming sullen at times and angry at others. 

It is my habit to check in with the children to ask how their day was, what they had eaten and what they had been doing. When my older children were little, they would happily tell me about their day. As they have gotten older they have become less forthcoming. It takes longer for them to open up and they need space and silent company from me to start talking. Over time, I have learned to ask and then wait with patience for them to loosen up and make their complaints or share their exploits that day.

Gorgeous is no exception, except he is quicker to tell you what he is thinking or feeling. If you haven’t got round to asking, he will let you know by declaring that clearly no one cares about what happens to him. Then on asking, will vent about how horrible his teacher, the boys who are not his friends and all the girls in his class are.

Over the last few weeks, I reacted in the change in his behaviour by reminding him that I expect him to treat me with respect and asking him to behave kindly to his siblings. During this time there were a few high profile cases in the news where children had been bullied, including one particularly devastating incident that we discussed and which particularly seemed to stay with Gorgeous and which he kept coming back to.

It was only a few weeks ago when I picked up from school and saw him looking utterly miserable instead of his usual chirpy self that I asked him what was wrong. After much prompting, he told me one of the boys in his class had been beating him up. I was taken aback and approached the cover teacher who was in charge. Both she and the classroom assistant were very clear that this couldn’t have happened as the child in question had sat next to them all afternoon. I would have been stumped had a boy in the class not piped up that he had seen the child earlier in the day kick Gorgeous and punch him in the face twice.

The supply teacher said she would mention the incident to Gorgeous’ normal teacher. I took the classroom assistant aside and told her about the change I had seen in Gorgeous and that I was unhappy that this hadn’t been caught. The classroom assistant told me that she had noticed Gorgeous moping and dragging his feet in the classroom. She had told him he should improve his attitude or she would complain to his mum.

On the way home, I gave Gorgeous a hug and told him that we would sort out his problem and that he should let me know the instant that anyone bothers him. The bullying had been going on since the end of the previous year. I remember telling the teacher a boy had hit him and he told me that it stopped after that, but after the holidays it had started up again this year.

The following week I met with Gorgeous’ teacher and talked the situation through. He had met with the headteacher to work out how they could manage the other child’s behaviour. He indicated that the child was an abused child and they were working with the appropriate agencies to help him. I advised that I believe in being understanding and compassionate to those that had suffered, but that Gorgeous could not go into school to be hit every day. He had to agree with that.

In the intervening time there have been a few incidents with the boy, but I have seen him come back to his cheeky, lively self. A few things stand out from this experience. I was so focussed on Little Man who was dealing with the bigger change, I didn’t expect that Gorgeous, one of the biggest, loudest kids in his class could be a target, I could have been more open-minded. 

The other is that I assumed the changes in him were due to his getting older. I realise now that his fundamental nature is upbeat and extrovert. I think in future I might be more sensitive to any departure from his usual self, rather than assume that he is growing out of his usual nature.


  1. I'm sorry that your son has had to deal with this. Sending my salaam to you and your family

  2. Oh, I'm so sorry this happened to your boy! It is heart breaking when you do all you can to protect your kids, then you find out something like this. My oldest boy was bullied in Peru, but he didn't tell me for a long time. The school was good about taking care of it. School is supposed to be a safe place for our kids. Another of my boys was having problems with another boy hitting him last year, but his principal also took care of it.

    On the other hand...two of my middle boys are very popular and have lots of friends. I often remind them to watch out for other kids that might need a friend. I found out that last year, one of my boys separated a fight at school. He never told me about it, I heard about it from a teacher, then an assistant principal. He is friends with both boys. A couple weeks later he'd gone to a get-together at a friend's house, and the kids started talking bad about one of the boys involved in the fight. My boy told them the other boy wasn't there to defend himself, and they all needed to shut up. The kids look up to him as a leader. I guess despite my best efforts to ruin my kids, they're turning out okay.

    I hope you continue to see improvement in your Gorgeous, and I'm glad the situation seems to be improving. I also hope the other boy can get some help.