The cold wind of change blows right through the homes of many parents when they consider the next academic year and the possibility of their child experiencing bullying.
We contemplate the impact of rejigging classes on our offspring – the breaking of allegiances, the smashing of carefully forged bonds all in the name of “character building”.
Will classes be kept together we wonder? Will they be split? Which teacher will become the hero or heroine of our kids’ life next year?
It should be a time of some excitement but unfortunately, I suspect in some instances, classes will be rejigged not with the academic development of the pupils in mind but rather to avoid dealing with troublemakers and bullies.
The idea, I am assuming, is that by mixing pupils up, you defuse the bullying behaviour by breaking up cliques and gangs. In my experience, this is totally ineffective as the bully will simply regroup and find new victims.
No, it seems that, for all the verbiage given to avoiding bullying and zero-tolerance policies, it seems that in some quarters, the answer is to play academic chess with kids’ education rather than address head-on bratty behaviour with the parents concerned.
Don’t bother playing “name that bully” because you can’t. Staff seem to close ranks to protect the miscreants often on the basis that these are troubled children themselves. Whilst this may be true, it is a bitter pill to swallow for those of us whose children are being picked on.
Even at the age of 6 and 7, the mean girls are starting to emerge and whilst the adult thing to do is to have sympathy because I believe most behaviour is learned (and by that I mean learned at home at this age), it is really unsettling knowing that your child will be exposed to this and will have to learn to stand on their own two feet.
It’s no wonder Tae Kwon-Do is so popular. We have a black belt or two in the family and I feel a lot more confident that Ieuan can stand up for himself now that he has taken this up. We are encouraging Caitlin to do the same.
The husband says that when he was in school, all aggression was taken out on the rugby pitch between the lads, but girls are something else entirely when it comes to bullying behaviour. We start fighting against each other at an early age when we should be learning to work together. Sisterhood? Pah!
And sadly, I think many boys are missing a strong male authority figure in their life to give them a lead in what makes a man really strong. Clue: it ain’t hot-wiring a car, scaring old ladies and frightening anyone shorter than you. How do we deal with this?
All we can do, I guess, is encourage our children to talk to us openly and without fear of judgement. We need to teach them the communication skills to defuse potentially volatile situations and to develop their self-esteem so that they know what is and is not acceptable.
More than this, we need to find a way to work with schools so that anti-bullying policies become living, breathing entities and not something written on a piece of A4 and locked in a filing cabinet.