My daughter is quiet and self-contained. Uncomplicated, compliant, she’s a blessing to any parent. This year in a new class, I was called to school for the first time. She had whacked a classmate. Anyone who knows my daughter will be taken-aback. Why would a quiet, self-contained child turn around and get violent in school?
My daughter had been the victim of bullying for over a year. The surprising part is I knew about it all along.
Bullying is a big problem. It can make kids feel hurt, scared, sick, lonely, embarrassed and sad. Bullies might hit, kick, or push to hurt people, or use words to call names, threaten, tease, or scare them. A bully might say mean things about someone, grab a kid’s stuff, make fun of someone, or leave a kid out of the group on purpose. Some bullies threaten people or try to make them do things they don’t want to do.
I’ve never bullied as a child. So when she came to me a year ago telling me that a set of children would gang up on her every snack break and rag her, I said: ‘Come on! Deal with it!”
There was crying; there was I’m-not-feeling-well-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school… and I was blind to it. When the crying and the complaining persisted, I told her, “Go tell your teacher.” When my daughter did as she was told, the teacher, who could not see any visible signs of bullying (bullying is always invisible), actually tagged her with a name—‘A-ro (crying, in Hindi)-ra’. So my daughter, who was crying for help, who received none from her parent, received none from the next responsible adult: the teacher. She was, instead, ‘Arora’.
Bullying is a big deal. And I don’t know what it is that goes in the mind of a bully, but I know now how scary and lonely it is for the one who is being bullied. I would tell my daughter: ‘laugh it out when they call you names. Why do you get so affected?’ I never intervened. I came from a space that said, she needs to handle it on her own. I also think it is wrong when adults intervene when children can sort it out, one-to-one
I don’t profess to know anything about how to identify a bully or to understand how the mindset of a bully works. I know one thing though: The adult world is full of bullies. There are people out there who push another human being only because they know that they can push them AND get away with it.