Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tackling Bully Woes & Foes

Remember the pep talk about a bully we had with Isaac last year? I had wanted to do a follow-up post after that... as... more stuff happened after that... yes, so drama, right? 

After his birthday party last year, I checked in with Isaac and found that The Boy was still terrorising him on a daily basis, and decided that I should have a chat with his teacher about it. I mentioned to Teacher Joranna that The Boy was saying mean things to Isaac, and she was appropriately aghast. She was very concerned and asked how come he did not mention this to her before? I told her that Isaac told me that she said that the kids were to handle their own disputes and not bring them up to her. She laughed and explained to me that that was because the kids often quarreled about very trivial matters such as "He say my picture not nice!" "She say I eat so slow!" but that she viewed name-calling very seriously as that constituted as bullying.
The kidzes a couple of years ago. So cute! :p
Upon questioning Isaac, we realised that The Boy slyly does his name-calling when the teachers are not around, or not within ear shot, as The Boy knew that this behaviour was frowned upon. Teacher Joranna then spoke to the boy and warned him again that this behaviour would not be condoned. We also told Isaac not to pay him any heed. We suspected that The Boy liked to tease Isaac in particular as Isaac tended to rise up and give a big reaction when taunted.

The thing is, The Boy seemed bent on irritating Isaac, and one day, said something very mean to him. Isaac was so bothered by it that he went to the toilet to try to hide himself while he struggled to control his emotions. Seeing him so upset, Teacher Jannah (a teacher from another class), spotted him and asked him what was wrong. Isaac told her what The Boy said, and she immediately went to class to tell off The Boy, and told Teacher Joranna (Isaac's teacher) what happened. Teacher Joranna immediately spoke to The Boy and gave him a stern scolding, for what he had said to Isaac was verbal, mental and emotional abuse - it was clearly bullying, though it was not physical.

Teacher Joranna must have handled it quite well for Isaac didn't even tell us what happened. In fact, I didn't even know about it until I had a chance to talk to Teacher Joranna a week after the incident took place. She updated me about it one day when I wasn't in such a rush while dropping off the kids one morning. She told me exactly what happened, and how they handled the incident - Isaac, and The Boy. I was quite pleased that she bothered to update me as I thought most teachers/centres would try to gloss over such unhappy incidences if they could. And, if Isaac could live through it without mentioning it to us, it shows me that he is not bothered by it anymore - which means that the teachers have handled it very well. Excellent! Maybe Learning Vision trains their teachers to handle such bullying cases: to be able to discipline the bully, as well as to be able to pacify the victim and ensure that the victim feels okay and not traumatised. 

I wasn't looking forward to such bullying issues that we knew were even more likely to take place in a primary school setting. Since last year, whenever possible, we tried to brace Isaac for more of such negative behaviour he can possibly encounter from other boys in school, or on the school bus. It was not an easy thing to do, for we hesitated to give him any "quick fix". 

For example, we didn't want to tell him "Anything happen, just go and tell your teacher." For kids often quarrel about many trivial matters, and we didn't want him to develop a reputation of being a tattle-tale either. We also refrained from telling him to haul our names into it, as in "My Mummy say cannot do that." or "My Father says so." - for we didn't want him to be called a "Mummy's boy!" or "Daddy's boy!" either. Dilemma dilemma. It was very hard to give him a general guide. In the end, we could only brace him in general (that there may be other boys who will misbehave), asked him to behave himself ("learn only the good things from other people, don't learn bad things!!!"), and told him to tell us if anything happens.
Things were simpler when they were all in childcare, all in the same school. But as with all babies, they have to grow up... How my babies have grown!
I learned early in the year, that asking "How was school?" gets you the answer "Fine" or "Okay" most of the time, and no useful nor interesting information at all. Thus, I usually ask "Did anything happen in school today that made you happy?" or "Did anything make you sad or unhappy today?" Isaac usually gave me fairly interesting replies to these questions, which would open up to more conversation related to what he does in school, and how he feels about school, information which we were interested to know.

We were just a few days into the new school year when Isaac told us about This Other Boy who has been saying mean things to him. What happened was, on the third day of school, Isaac couldn't find his homework diary in his bag (it was in there some where) and thought he didn't bring it. The teacher scolded him, and as it was his first scolding by an unfamiliar teacher, he teared. This Other Boy started his nonsense the very next day. He would go to Isaac and whisper in his ear "Cry baby!" and run away. He kept doing that the whole week even though Isaac didn't cry any more. It was starting to be very annoying.

To his credit, Isaac said he didn't really react, and simply told This Other Boy to stop. But of course, This Other Boy didn't stop. SIGH. Hubbs told Isaac that he had to get This Other Boy to stop though. We didn't want This Other Boy to tell other boys what he was doing, and it could all get out of control if a bunch of boys start doing the same thing. Yet, it was a fairly trivial matter, we felt it would be inappropriate to tell the class form teacher as well.We didn't want to step in prematurely. We wanted to give Isaac a chance to solve his own problems. One night, after dinner, we had the following conversation...

Hubbs:"So, Isaac, what do you plan to do about This Other Boy who keeps calling you names?"
Isaac:"I know! I have a plan!"
Me:"What's your plan?"
Isaac:"When This Other Boy's father comes to pick him up from school, I will go and tell him what This Other Boy is saying to me."
Me:"Oh! Okay, that sounds like a good plan, you can try that. But, let me teach you, first you must say "Hello Uncle, my name is Isaac, I am This Other Boy's classmate. This Other Boy calls me names and I told him to stop, but he didn't." Can you remember that?"
Isaac:" Er, okay, I try."

The next day, when Isaac came home from school...
Me:"So did you talk to The Other Boy's father?"
Isaac:"No, but I spoke to his mum!"
Me:"Really?! Wow. Did you say "Hello Auntie, I am Isaac... etc" like I taught you?"
Isaac:"Er, no. I forgot."
Me:"Oh. So what did you say?"
Isaac:"I just pointed to The Other Boy and said "He keep calling me cry baby!""
Me:"Then what did the auntie say to you?"
Isaac:"She didn't say anything..."
Isaac:"She just turned to The Other Boy and said "Don't do that! You shouldn't do that...""
Me:"Ah... okay..."
Isaac and his friends when he was still in Nursery level in childcare... "school" was much simpler then!
And after that, The Other Boy did stop... Then he started saying other things ("You're soooo lame!!!" - roll eyes. Where do they learn such things?!) And doing something else... Last week, The Other Boy crept up behind Isaac and "Boo!" him. I asked if This Other Boy was trying to play with Isaac, but Isaac didn't think it was funny. In the same breath, Isaac started telling me about how he and his buddy kept trying to creep up on each other to scare each other, and he had loads of fun with that friend. Sigh. I think it could be bad blood also? I'm not sure what the problem with This Other Boy is. He sounds mischievous and perhaps socially inept to me? Perhaps he doesn't know how to read non-verbal cues from people. Then again, he doesn't seem to take verbal, explicit instructions well either.

Just today, Isaac says that This Other Boy, came to him and said "I opened your locker and I saw what is inside." and walked away. I was like "Huh? And then?" But Isaac said "Nothing, he just walk away after saying that." Isaac has been asking for a lock for his locker, saying that the boys in his class takes his ball without his permission. Then I asked him "Did you tell them that they need to ask permission before they take your ball?" "No..." "Oh, then you SHOULD tell them..." 

And so this is the lesson of the day. " Isaac, you must tell your classmates clearly, that you do NOT like it that they take your things or open your locker without your permission. Or if they do something to you that you don't like, you must tell them to stop, that you don't like it. If you don't tell them, they will think you do not mind." "Oh, okay Mummy." It baffles me that he never actually expressed his displeasure to his classmates about having his things taken without his permission.So I explicitly tell him "Remember, you MUST tell your friends that you don't like them to take your things without your permission. You don't need to shout at them, nor scream at them. Just say it calmly and seriously. Because if you don't, they don't know that they have done something which is not proper."

But I think it is a good start, that he thought of the idea himself to go talk to The Other Boy's parents. We like that he thought of that idea himself, and he even executed it pretty well. And best of all, it did work to a certain extent. This gives him the experience of tackling his own problems, instead of replying solely on us. And the fact that it did work to a certain extent (The Other Boy did stop whispering "Cry baby" in his ear.) lends credence and gives him confidence that his plan to help himself does work. We continue to encourage him to think of his own solutions and executing them, while guiding him on the sidelines.

On our end, I have already obtained The Other Boy's mother's mobile number, just in case The Other Boy goes overboard and I need to talk to his mum. We have also introduced ourselves to The Other Boy's parents when we happened to see them, and have made the necessary small talk, so we are not total strangers. But while we are ready to step in and take action if the need arises, we are deliberately hanging back... we want to give Isaac the chance to resolve this himself, for there are some lessons, you have to learn yourself. So far, he has taken some baby steps, but we shall see how it goes.

SIGH. Good luck, Isaac!


  1. I was waiting for the part he went brains, brains. But very good way of teaching the kids to stand up for themselves against bullies. All the best Isaac!

  2. Isaac is shu a sweet boy. I'm sorry to hear about this happening to him but I guess it's common in primary school. I agree, it's hard to strike the balance- when to step in and when to simply let the kids handle their own fights. Right now we tell Poppy to simply not play with those who don't make her happy. She has a particular Boy in her class who often does naughty things and says rude things. She'd come back and tell me and together we come to the conclusion that she doesn't need to hang out around him nor be bothered by him. It's his mouth but her ears

  3. Seems that Isaac is learning to handle his relationships with others pretty well! (Also, it does sounds like The Other Boy is trying to get Isaac's attention for some reason! Maybe he just doesn't know how to be a friend. Some kids are like that.)

  4. I guess most of the kids ll go thru this growing phase. hope everythg goes well for your boy. (:


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