It seems to be an awful fact of life that infant and junior school life is as full of bullying behaviour as it was when I was the same age. I hated being a school girl then because I was bullied and I hate seeing children going through it now.
However here I want to share a positive story, one which comes from my own Rachel and which has made me extremely proud of her.
I have always taught Rachel that everyone has something beautiful and special about them and that all you have to do is find that special thing. That it not right to exclude someone from playing or to be nasty to anyone. Indeed this tends to be a major focus of my sunday school teaching as well and I admit it's probably based on my own horrid childhood bullying experiences. Rachel is a confident child on a one-to-one basis but much more reserved in a group, much like me; and she is extremely empathic, often telling me how people are feeling or sharing her worries about others, again much like me. She finds it hard to cope with people disagreeing with each other or falling out and tends to try to broker peace deals between her friends if it happens.
Last term Rachel had a hard time fitting in with the other girls in her class. She is a summer baby so had only started school at Easter and when she enterred year 1 still didn't know many people and was in a different class to those she did know. After a few weeks she started saying she wanted me to pick her up at lunch time because no one would let her play with them. Then she said that everyone already had best friends and no one needed her. I was worried sick, but thanks to the fantastic people at BullyingUK and Mike's support I decided to speak to her class teacher who was fantastic. Within a few days of the teacher focussing on groups of friends and noone excluding anyone Rachel was playing with lots of different people. She hasn't looked back since, she now plays with different girls every day and goes to school happily.
Then this week she came home with a beautiful card from one of her friends and told me that this friend was really upset at lunchtime because some girls wouldn't let her play with them. She then told me about some games which were being played and becoming a bit exclusive. She was worried about her friend but also worried that if she did something then she would be excluded. I talked to her about maybe being able to play with both groups or trying to ask the groups to include her friend and she said "I have a plan Mummy, don't worry!"
well I took her to school yesterday as normal, trying not to worry but obviously worrying. And was thrilled when last night she said that she had played with her friend and told the groups that she didn't like how they were being mean and they were OK with it. And today her friend's mum told me that for the first time since christmas her daughter had gone to school happily because Rachel had played with her the day before. She had also spoken to their class teacher who apparently has banned the groups and explained how it is important everyone is included.
I think we have to be clear, bullying will not go away, what matters is that we as a society know how to deal with it quickly and effectively. It is through helping our children move through these experiences that they will learn how to behave as adults.