We paint such beautiful pictures of our child going happily to school, that when they start whining and complaining one day about stomach-ache or headache the other day, it baffles us. We usually end up attributing it to the regular whining of our kid and decide to ignore it.
So when Saee started saying things like “school nahi jaana hai”, I thought it was the usual whining too, till she told me about the bully in her school bus.
Up until now as a mommy, I usually had a kiss-and-heal medicine for all her boo-boos. Nothing was bad enough that couldn’t be treated with mommy’s special kiss. However, this was something that a mere kiss was not going to resolve. Having never been at the receiving end of bully-ism in school, and being a kind of devil-may-care person myself, it never occurred to me that my child maybe under intense emotional stress.
It was when I gently prodded her and encouraged her to speak about why she didn’t want to go to school, or why she didn’t want to go by bus, that she began speaking. What she told me allayed my fears about the worst-case scenario. We hear about child sexual abuse everyday in the news, and I was afraid of what I would be told. I heaved a sigh of relief because she told me that there was this boy in her school bus, who sometimes pushed her and her friends and called her names.
I didn’t think much of it, but seeing the apprehension in her eyes, I told her that she should speak to her teacher about him, and I left it at that. What I didn’t understand is that something, which seemed like a trifle to me, might mean a lot to a four-year-old child. Children that small, do not understand complexities of life. Their world is small, and usually well cushioned. Events so insignificant to us, like an older name-calling kid, might be a source of fear and similar negative emotions to them.
However, I didn’t want to approach the teacher yet. I was torn between wanting to take some action myself, and teaching my child to fend for herself. This is a small challenge that God has posed before her. Someday she may have to face bigger challenges, and I want to prepare her to face them with confidence. I decided against the former.
First and foremost, I made sure that Saee knows that no problem is small enough to not discuss with me. Then I asked her how she felt when this boy bullied her and her friends. I asked her, whether she had informed her teacher. She said she had, and the teacher in turn had questioned the boy in question, but it didn’t quite stop him. Ignoring him didn’t work either. Not that a kid that small is fully capable of ignoring a bully.
Finally, I told her in a language she could understand that she should not take this boy too seriously. If he hits, then she has to fend him off in defense. She should not hit him, but she should be able to defend herself. He should realise that the kid opposite him is not going to take his maltreatment without shielding herself. Most of the times, I believe, young kids who push other kids around are not anticipating someone who will be defensive and having come across such a kid, they will refrain from hitting them in future.
I also told her that just because some kid calls her debasing things, does not automatically make her those things. It is our acts and our behavior, which defines us.
It seems to have worked positively. Without hitting him in retaliation, my daughter has been able to stop him from throwing his weight around. Yes, he does continue to say demeaning things everyday, but at last my daughter seems to have understood what I was trying to teach her. Everyday she comes and tells me what he called her and we call him a silly bloke.
I don’t know if what I did was right, or wrong. I don’t know if child psychiatrists will laud or condemn my effort. All I know is that I was able to empower my kid and give her confidence. All I know is that when she came to me the next day and told me that he tried to hit her and she held his hand and firmly said “NO”, I gave her the best gift a parent can give his/her child – self-belief. I hope she retains this belief in herself through her life.
Dr. Gauri Kekre is a clueless, 30-year-old woman, who still has to find her calling in life. A dental surgeon by education, she has almost given it up to be a mommy to her two beautiful girls. She loves to be a ‘jack of all trades’ and dabbles some in writing, cooking and her latest fad, sewing. She writes off and on for her cookery blog and you can find her as @drgaurikekre on twitter (although she seldom uses it). Amongst the things she loves are her mom, her husband, her daughters and people in general.