Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bully Issue

When J(15) was in 4th grade, we started to get the sense that she wasn't happy in school.  By the end of the year, we were noticing she wasn't herself and friendships weren't coming easily to her.  Over the course of the next two years, we came to the conclusion that she was being bullied and the school was turning a blind eye to the problem.  Our final solution (after NO support from the pubic school) was to take her out and enroll her in our Catholic high school for 7th grade.

J's public school principal told me I had raised my daughter in a bubble, needed to cut the apron strings, and a slew of other cliches that never helped the situation.  In the back of my mind, I really thought maybe I had screwed up.  With that in mind, I made J a deal:  Give the new school a try.  If it was still tough, we'd explore other options.  By the second week of school, she was going to sleepovers and thriving.  In the three years since leaving public school, we have seen a new person emerge.  She's happy, confident, and seems to enjoy school as much as any 15 year old can be expected to.

I've taken several things away from this situation:

- Not all principals are created equal.  I have a great friend who is a principal in another district.  She coached me through dealing with this in a positive, calm way and couldn't understand why we weren't getting results.  She would edit anything I put into writing, making sure I wasn't letting my emotions get in the way of my requests for help.

-  Kids aren't always equipped to fix "these things" on their own.  We tried that approach.  We tried coaching J through things, giving her skills, and letting her deal with it on her own.  Only, when it's one kid facing an entire clique, it's really hard to put the skills, guidance, and advice into practice.

-  In my experience, parents are far too quick to deny their child could be less than perfect.  (One of these days I'll write about how we dealt with K(12)'s attempt at bullying.)  In my opinion, if you don't know your child is doing something rotten, you don't have a chance to correct it... which isn't to say parents should run around tattling.  But parents should be able to calmly say, "Our kids are having a difficult time getting along.  How can we help them with this?" without it turning into a massive ordeal.

-  Schools aren't really equipped to deal with bullying yet.  No one seems to know how to stop it or what skills kids need to cope with it.  And this is a problem.

-  Catholic schools are a blessing even if paying for them is truly difficult for us.

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