This week is anti-bullying week and thinking about it made me recall a conversation I had with a mummy-friend a couple of weeks back. She had been pulled aside by the nursery staff when she went to pick up her son and was told her son had been caught ‘bullying’ another child – a child with Downs Syndrome. The whole incident was very distressing for my friend and she apologised profusely.
I had very mixed emotions when she told me about it and lots of questions. In particular, what constitutes bullying by a 2 year old? My son, and many of his friends, are presently living out the ‘terrible twos’ in full force, testing every boundary known to woman and generally challenging everything. This sometimes manifests in what I suppose could be described as bullying: Being territorial over their toys, snatching, randomly diving on some poor unsuspecting child’s head, shouting at the top of their voices while just an inch away from someone’s face!! But is this bullying? Had the nursery made an issue out of ‘normal’ two-year old behaviour because the other child had Downs Syndrome?
Now, from our previous post on prejudice and children, you’ll know that I don’t believe very young children can be racist or prejudice. Difference doesn’t threaten them like it does when they get older. The other thing that struck me was how it is just as devastating to be the parent of the bully as it is to be the parent of the victim. We try to do our best with our children but sometimes they may still display bad behavior despite our best efforts – see our nature V nurture post. I am devastated at the thought of my son coming home having been bullied at school but, I am even more horrified at the thought of the school contacting me to say he has been the bully!
I am passionately against bullying and fully support this week’s campaign. Like racism, I think we can help our children against bullying by simply celebrating difference from a young age. Ask any teacher and they will tell you there is no easy way to deal with bullying however, if we can focus our efforts on growing our children into accepting, caring, confident and content human beings, maybe that is our best fight against bullying as parents.
The Beatbullying organisation says their key aim is all about ‘shaping attitudes and changing behaviours’. I’m inclined to agree that this is probably our strongest weapon to help combat bullying and we can start this with our young children as parents in the home before school even starts.