Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Day 7 - Bullied in the playground

It's tough to see your child being bullied.  Puttachi ran home last evening, sad-eyed, saying that everybody in the playground was throwing things at her.  This wasn't the first time - Puttachi has been bullied before, by the same set of kids. (6-year-olds, all)   But this time, she was even sadder because one of them was her best friend K, a classmate from school who has moved into our apartment complex recently.

Me: What were they throwing at you?  Are you hurt?
She: No, it was just those small colourful thermocol balls that you find at birthday parties.  But everybody was throwing it only at me.  I tried throwing some back, but everybody, Amma, was throwing it only at me.  I told K to stop throwing, and come with me, but she didn't listen. 

Like I said, she's been targeted before, but this time she was upset because her friend was there too. 

One - I have no idea why she is bullied - she is usually lost in her own world.  Perhaps that could be it - she doesn't actively join the other kids while playing.  And she doesn't really care much for group dynamics - if everybody decides they should do one thing, Puttachi doesn't necessarily go along with them.  I think she doesn't really care, and so she doesn't listen to the "gang-leader" among the kids.   According to K's mom, this is what bothers the leader the most.  And she instigates the others to target Puttachi.

Two - K is a very go-with-the-flow kind of kid.  I can totally understand that she had't even realized that Puttachi was upset.  K has obviously thought of it as a game and gone along with the others.  But since Puttachi is an intensely empathetic kid, she expects others to understand her pain too, and that is obviously not possible. I've tried telling her not to expect it from others, but she doesn't quite get it yet. 

So, she was walking around morosely.  I told her that  K probably was totally unaware that she was hurt, and asked if she wanted to call and tell K how she was feeling.  She cheered up immediately... and called her.  This is the conversation that ensued. 

Puttachi:  K, you were throwing things at me at the park today.  I didn't like it a bit, and I felt very sad.  Why did you do that?
K: But it was just a game.
Puttachi:  But you were all throwing it at me, for me it wasn't funny. 
K: I did not know.
Puttachi:  I told you to stop throwing, and come play with me, why didn't you do it?
K: Did you?  I did not hear you.  Everybody was shouting.  I'm sorry. 
Puttachi:  It's okay.  Please don't do it again next time okay?  I felt sad.
K: Ok I won't do it again. 
Puttachi:  Next time when everybody is throwing things at me, will you play with me?
K: Yes
Puttachi: Ok, bye, good night!

Puttachi felt much better after this conversation. But I later learnt that K was very upset about it.  She called again after a while, and apologized again, the poor thing.  

But I know this is not the end.  Puttachi will be bullied again, and she'll be upset again.  How do I handle it without getting involved, or how do I teach her to handle it?

Any ideas/suggestions?


Radhika said...

In general, the kids will resolve things on their own. But one can't be at the receiving end always. You can tell Puttachi that it's okay to be stern with others if the situation demands. May be some stories might help. Last year Ananya was bullied at school. All I said was, resist when you know somebody hurts you intentionally. But I doubt if she did that. Sometimes she would give me lessons that if others hurt us, we shouldn't react the same way! An overdose of do-good stories I think!

Madhu said...

From what I saw, sometimes it helps to let them handle it on their own. Maybe you can tell her to not look at it that way and just pick up the balls and throw it back at them and join the fun. After all K said it was just a game, and maybe it would help to show the lighter side of things to her. But also tell her that if she feels they are really targeting her then to stand up for herself and make sure the others know she is not gullible.

Mangala said...

Kids naturally feel bad when unfair things happen to them. Initially when these inevitable mean things happened amongst kids in my apt, I'd go and "save" sk, scold/counsel the perpetrators, etc. But I also noticed that it made him feel like he couldn't handle anything hard/bad, like he was a victim and at the mercy of external forces which dictated his internal emotional condition.

Now that he's over 6, I'm inculcating some amt of independence in him by telling him to communicate clearly when ppl are mean to him: "I am angry, I am sad, I think this is unfair, etc." so that he's not suffering inside but still putting up a brave front and acting like nothing's wrong. I also tell him meanness is the problem of the person who is mean, they are mean because they are unhappy inside, and it has nothing to do with you. So you don't need to feel bad about their actions with you. If the perpetrators persist, I tell him to remove himself from the situation, to just walk away.

He's also been guilty of being part of a bigger group that is mean to another child, and I tell him to always do to others what he would have others do to him...as an incentive I've told him about the law of karma - that if we do good, good comes back to us, if we do bad, bad comes back to us.

And all this in shuddh kannada cos we've lately realized we've increasingly drifted into lapsing into English at home, as he gets more used to talking in English at school and with friends, etc! Anyways, I digress... HTH :)

JayEnAar said...

Bullying in school is a sad but preventable occurrence. It blights many children's lives and creates entirely avoidable unhappiness. It's a reflection of the violent times we live in that there is still the notion that some bullying, and learning how to cope with it, is character building. May be so but ultimately it is the habitual and persistent bully who is shown to be the weak person, and so long as the victim can be supported and develops coping strategies that do not harden the soul and destroy a sense of compassion and kindness, the outcome is at least tolerable.

But schools teachers and parents need to do more to ensure that children have the opportunity to grow up in a safe and secure setting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shruti,

Please stay involved especially when she asks you to. I think it may be too early for puttachi to deal with this entirely on her own.

take care,

Noodlehead said...

oh my! this sounds terrible. The thing about kids being bullied, I don't really know how to handle it. The mother in me wants to rush out and give them all a good thwack but then that won't solve the problme, will it? I might not be around always to make it all better for my child :( I'm still wondering what to do about this too.

Most days A won't even tell me if anyone bullies her. She'll just keep it to herself :(

- -