Today is a tough one, and I took a while to decide whether I was going to blog about this or not so strong are my current feelings on it. I have decided though, that ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and so I will.
My son is a bully. He is not a general bully, but something has been making him bully one particular boy in his class. The boy is three times the size of my son, and has Autism. He has some strange behaviours, and has learning difficulties. Apart from that, he’s the son of one of my son’s Aides, and everything I’ve ever seen of him tells me he is a quiet, gentle boy.
I knew that my son had said mean things to him before and made him cry, and I had a good long talk to him about not doing that, but I didn’t realise that he was still doing it and also physically bullying whenever he is near this other boy. The other little boy annoys him, simply by being. He doesn’t necessarily say or do anything specifically directed at my son, but he does have some odd little behaviours like lying on the floor and saying ‘silly’ sentences.
This morning, my son sat down in the line right in front of this boy, and I went up to him and said to him,
“if you are going to sit here, you need to remember that it is never OK to be mean to someone. You are to leave (name) alone, and if he is annoying you, you must just look straight ahead and concentrate on the teacher.” My son agreed (but he often does), and I went to stand with the other parents.
I noticed that my son had turned around to face this boy, and they were talking. About what I don’t know, but it was something to do with hats. Eventually, and again I’m not sure why as I didn’t see what happened, they erupted into a fight pushing each other with their heads. My son was pulled away and the other little boy was crying and was quite upset. The boy’s mother comforted and redirected him, and I came over to ask if she knew what had happened.
She tried very hard to maintain her professional demeanour, but naturally, she needed to be a parent on this occasion and she informed me that my son has been bullying hers quite a lot. I was devastated. There is nothing I hate more in this world than people who bully others. I don’t mind if my son stands up for himself, and have often turned a blind eye if I have seen someone push him in the park and he pushed them back. I cannot however, stand that my son has targeted this little boy because he is vulnerable.
The irony of course, is that he teases this boy for the very same behaviours that he himself displays!
“He’s silly Mum! He never does his work in class and he lies on the floor and says silly things. He acts just like a baby!”
Ummm…. My son never does his work in class, hides under bookshelves and argues with everyone all the time!
I left school this morning in tears. Tears out of sympathy for the other Mum, tears out of frustration for my own son, and tears of sadness for myself as it’s just another thing I need to find a sensible way of dealing with!
I came home and my emotions told me to ‘wring his little neck and be mean to him to see how he likes it!’. Fortunately, my brain knows that is the absolute worst thing to do in the situation. I suspect that he in fact sees a lot of himself in this little boy, and he doesn’t like what he sees and therefore decides to pick on him for it. Whatever the reason, it’s not OK.
I think most kids have a go at bullying at one point or another just as part of the learning process. I need to find a way to teach a literal minded, logical, but lacking empathy (to a certain extent, but not completely), boy how to understand that it’s not OK to hurt people’s feelings or their bodies as you go about your own day. He is so caught up with his own anxieties at school, and everything being about how bad he feels, I just don’t really know where to start on this one.
I have decided to quietly talk to him about how he felt when I said I couldn’t stand to look at his tooth. Or how he feels when we all laugh at something he’s said, when he didn’t mean it to be a joke, and then he gets very upset with us because he feels stupid. I am hoping that by tapping into these feelings, he might start to realise that other people feel too. I don’t know if it will work as we’ve been doing that with him for quite some time now.
I find it difficult enough to be “Bigger, Wiser, Stronger and Kind” all the time, so teaching him how to do that is going to be tough. In the mean time, I just hope we can keep him away from that little boy somehow. I am sure that my son doesn’t derive any actual pleasure out of teasing the boy. Well I don’t think he does anyway. He presents me with logical arguments like, “well, he doesn’t learn! He’s not very smart! He is fat!” grrrr… deep breath and I reply.
“Stop! I understand that is what you see, but it is not OK to tell him. No matter how true something is, if it is making someone sad to hear you say that, then you need to stop immediately, apologise, and just don’t say anything unless you can say something nice!”
To quote the movie version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
“If you cannot think of anything appropriate to say, you will please restrict your remarks to the weather!”