I went out to lunch this week with some of the people from work, and we got chatting about our school days.
Eventually, we discussed bullying, whether we were bullied or not and how we handled it.
The thing is, this got me thinking, what am I going to tell my kids?
This is me, around my first day at secondary school
When I was at school, I was bullied throughout my first three years at our local comprehensive. There was verbal bulling, and physical bullying, I had long hair when I started secondary school. By the start of the second year I insisted on having it short. After you have been dragged along the floor by your hair, you re-think your options.
Towards the end of my third year at secondary school
Rather pretentiously, I told everyone I was a pacifist and didn't believe in violence. This did not help my case.
Why was I bullied? I was more well spoken than some of the other children at school and wouldn't change the way I spoke to fit in. I didn't conform to the dress code (I don't mean just the school uniform, but what the girls in charge thought you should wear) and I had strange and wonderful hairstyles throughout school. To anyone who knows me, this will come as no surprise. Similarly, I was outspoken in class and in the playground, I had a bravery in my convictions that only comes with youth.
I was bullied by both, boys and girls. In the end it stopped when I had finally had enough and punched the main bully square in the face and knocked her tooth out.
After that, I was left alone. (Although, the school suspended me, for a week)
When I listened to the stories around the table, I realised those who did nothing continued to be bullied throughout school, those who stood up to the bullies and delivered like for like were left alone.
I don't want to condone violence, but at the same time the first three years of school were hideous for me. So, what do I tell my children?
My parents told me;
- You should stand by your own convictions
- Violence is never the answer
- If some one hits you and you hit them back, you have lowered yourself to their level
- Words should be enough
In principle I agree with my parents, in practise, however, it didn't work for me. What would you do?
31% of children experienced bullying by their peers during childhood, a further 7% were discriminated against and 14% were made to feel different or 'like an outsider'. 43% experienced at least one of these things during childhood.
Compiled by the NSPCC Child Protection Awareness and Diversity Department in December 2007.