Monday, 25 January 2010

Bullying: The truth and nothing but...

What happens if what you are told is not the truth you thought it was?
I am in a quandary for I cannot seem to work out truth from untruth. What I thought I had heard from The Boy I may not have. And me mentioning it has caused allsorts of ripples.
But there again I did ask the school what to do and didn’t seem to get an answer that tallied. It left me very confused and feeling dreadful that I should have caused anyone unnecessary upset.
So I ask you what is bullying and what is just teasing? When can children work out the difference? I am afraid it’s not going to be a black and white answer is it?
And then there is the fact that I am questioning the veracity of what my son is saying to me. For some people children have no concept of the truth and are therefore liars at every turn unable to tell fiction from fact. For others the opposite is true to the extent that they are blind to it.
To be honest I don’t quite see what my son has to gain from lying. But there again there is the niggling feeling that having got my attention in this way he likes it and realises he can keep it by in effect stoking the boiler of my moral outrage.
There has been a lot of talk going on in the household and some of it has bound to have been overheard. I notice I am having to ask The Boy to remove himself to the playroom or else physically checking in on his whereabouts before I speak.
Where once that would not have mattered, nowadays it is more difficult. We are in a place of transition with our eldest and trying to tie in that, and our natural concern for his welfare, is causing me to get extremely confused.
I do not like thinking that my son is lying to me but at the same time I really don’t think he is: I mean he can’t be with something this important: can he?
Perhaps there is a middle ground? A place where he is telling the truth but only as he sees it. I have spoken to him several times about the importance of telling the truth and I know he knows that I doubt him. He tries to make what he says more palatable by slightly changing the story but although I know he is only trying to help, it just leaves me doubting more.
I keep saying I just what facts just what happened but the telling of a story depends from whose perspective you take. Regarding the play fighting issue in the loos before lunch last week, it turns out there was in fact another boy as witnesses, a point The Boy had failed to mention. When I came back to this he said that of course they would all stick together as the other boy was best friends with the one who was play wrestling and he would stick up for his friend wouldn’t he? It is all so plausible. The numbers tend to sway one don’t they?


Pondside said...

This is a hard one, isnt' it?
If the line between bullying and teasing seems thin to you, how much thinner must it seem to the boy?.....especially if he's had a bad day or just didn't like the teasing. I think it will take all your mother-powers to sit back and do nothing for a wee bit. Just as you pay attention to your instincts when he may be hurt, it's probably a good idea to pay attention to them when you think something else may be going on.
As far as lying goes - an older Mum told me, years ago when my son was about seven and I was moaning because he'd lied "It's a good thing that he has done this now and that you have a chance to deal with it. He knows what it feels like to lie and to face the consequences. If he isn't caught in a little lie as a boy he could grow to be a man who thinks lying is a viable strategy for getting through life."

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Boy's truth is what's real to Boy , BB's truth is what's real to BB. It's in everyone's interests to make school a nice experience for them all , so you're right to keep asking the school to control the situation .
I think the difference between teasing and bullying is clear . Calling another child "Nancy-boy" doesn't really sound very playful and therefore doesn't qualify as teasing . And constant jibes aren't teasing but meanness .
You'll have to build Boy up so that he can shrug all this off . Don't ignore his stories but show as much interest in his other school news ....what books they're reading , what they did in gymn , songs and crazes , who's collecting what .
BB will sink in significance in the end , bully or pain-in-the-butt .

BNM said...

Maybe you could get the boy to watch the bullying special that CBBC have recently done. My eldest wanted to watch it and after that we had a good talk about telling the truth if someting is happening and not lying about things!
Hope that helps

elizabethm said...

I think you are right to feel that there is a grey area between bullying and teasing and that what might feel awful to Boy might feel perfectly within normal limits of teasing to BB - i.e. that the ambiguity you detect doesn't mean anyone is lying!
I think you have done the right thing in asking the school to keep an eye on things. Now I agree 100%with S&S that focussing your warmth and love and interest on the 1001 other things that form part of his day will ensure that he doesn't blow things out of all proportion to keep your attention. Just keep on being calm and loving and behaving as if you have utter confidence in his niceness and his ability to manage - can you ensure there are some other good things going on so that you are all distracted from this a bit while some time passes?
Sorry, not sure how clear I have made myself here! Good luck.

Tattie Weasle said...

Pondside - I sometimes feel like I really need supermom powers!
Smitonius&Sonata - I think I have focussed too much on the bad things that are going wrong and it is becoming a self perpetuating problem. Good idea to look at the other aspects of his life and steer towards them a lot more.
BNM - I will look that up. I know they have had the being mean to people talk perhaps it is slowly sinking in. I do know that whether the school agrees or not they are keeping a mcuh closer eye on things and that can only be good.
elizabethm - I am hoping hte biggest distraction: the arrival of his new baby cousin will do the trick. We go to see him on Friday!

Expat mum said...

Perhaps you can also make him understand that if you don't understand (a better way of saying "doubt") what he says, it's very difficult for you to really help him.

Tattie Weasle said...

Expat Mum - I'm trying to say that but I fear all I do is cause more confusion! However, will keep on plugging...

Anonymous said...

As you probably know, I lost a lot of friends and respect from staff and parents of Amy's first school when I charged in there accusing two boys of bullying her. Unable to tell whether Amy was perhaps "exaggerating" the truth, or whether I did indeed have a valid reason to be as angry as I was, it didn't matter to me, because my only instinct was to protect my little girl.

Bullying in schools is much too often brushed under the carpet, and it certainly was in this case. I never got to the bottom of it simply because I was threatened with legal action if I ever wrote about the school again in any capacity (I wrote about the incidents on my blog). Legal action vs Amy's welfare, fortunately I didn't have to choose, but I would have chosen the latter every time.

There is of course, no excuse for lying and the sooner it's nipped in the bud the better. But children are prone to fantasy, making something sound more dramatic than it really is, thus frightening we parents to death! It would help tremendously if schools weren't so protective of their reputation, and were more caring towards their pupils than they were their Ofsted reports.

There is also no excuse for bullying; bad homes, long line of parental problems, it goes on, but maybe a diary of some sort would help, a home-school diary and a suggestion of a friendship bench where any child suspected of being bullied will receive friendship from, let's say, a more caring pupil in school.

Love CJ xx

Liz (LivingwithKids) said...

Well bizarrely today I've been reading nurtureshock and there's a whole section on kids and lying. And what it tells you is that lying is often a symptom of a bigger problem. So even if he isn't being strictly truthful (and it's possible the other kids are lying, they can gang up, even at that age) then it may be he's trying to tell you he's not entirely happy at the moment - maybe he isn't making friends as easily as he wants to, or he feels isolated. According to nurtureshock, you have to tackle it now, because otherwise it could become a pattern. If indeed he is lying. I would just reinforce that you love him and if he wants to tell you anything he can. When our son was being bullied he told us and the boys actually admitted it to their head of year, which made it slightly easier. I still feel your school should be getting a better grip on this.

Tattie Weasle said...

CJ - The ofsted remark really hit home. The school strangley enough is having the ofsted chaos in this week. To be honest I am knackered by all this and just wish it would go away. I am sure you felt exactly the same!
Liz (LivingwithKids) - nurtureshock sounds fascinating. For others interested they have a web site
I think I will be spending some time there!

Go on you know you want to...


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