image taken from google images
Every grade has them. Most classes have them to some extent, even among the Kindergartners (and some preschool class rooms probably I'm sure).
Mikayla is nine years old and has already dealt with a few different bullies. In Kindergarten and 1st grade it was a couple boys who were mean to everyone and pushing them around, threatening them with nasty looks. In second grade it was more the mean girl kind of bullying. She's in third grade now and has a particular boy in her class that is both obnoxiously distracting and physically aggressive. I'd pick him up by his collar and scream in his face if I didn't think I'd get arrested.
The bullying this year has just recently started, and her class has been a mess of teacher switching because her main teacher has had a lot of back problems, so when Mikayla told us about this kid last weekend I told her if it happens again to tell her new teacher. We are hoping her new teacher is strict and vigilant about this kind of behavior and will turn it around.
If the teacher doesn't do anything or it happens again though? We told her this: First get in his face and yell at him in your angriest voice, "Don't hit/kick me again or I'll hit/kick you back harder!!" And if he takes it as a challenge and keeps it up then we gave her full permission to use what she learned in 21 months of karate and knock him on his nasty little butt. She's a really strong girl, she could do it! We told her if she were to get in trouble for it, and only if he got physical first, we would stand up for her.
I was bullied when I was a kid. First in Kindergarten, then again in 6th grade, with some mean-girl junk somewhere in between. In Kindergarten I had to walk quite a ways (at least it felt like it to my 5 year old self) down the road to my bus stop. There I'd have to wait for the bus with two other Kindergarten girls who lived right next to each other and were good friends, and little b*&#@'s. I'd have to get there about 5 minutes before the bus came to make sure I wasn't late or anything, and then they would torment me. Pushing me around, knocking me to the ground, and when there was snow on the ground they'd throw big hard snow chunks the plows left at me until I cried.
Once there was enough snow to have created a big mound at the end of a driveway about half the way to the bus stop, I'd crouch next to that, hidden from those girls, and watch for the bus to pull onto our street. Then I'd have to run like hell to get to the bus stop, where the bus driver would very irritably tell me to get to the bus stop sooner so he wouldn't have to wait. I was five.
My parents had no idea this was going on because I never let on. I don't know why I didn't tell them, I know they would have helped me if I had told them but for some reason I didn't. I really wish I had. They didn't find out until after the school year I think when a neighbor mentioned to them that they had seen me sitting in that other driveway before the bus came. I don't remember what all the story was there, but I wish she had mentioned something to my parents sooner.
In 6th grade I was sitting in the back of the bus with my little sister and 2 other 6th grade boys. For whatever reason those boys decided I'd be their kicking bag and the object of their constant teasing. I came home crying most days, hiding it well from my parents. I don't know exactly why I didn't tell them about it, whether it was out of embarrassment or fear of it being worse if they did something about it. I wish I had told them about it earlier because when I broke down crying one night and told my parents, my dad got pretty pissed at them. He got in the van with me and I showed them where the boys lived and he drove to each house and went in to talk to their parents. I don't know exactly what was said, but it did get better after that. I'm glad he talked to them, and I'm sure he would have rather kicked them right back for me, but knowing my dad he was probably much more of a calm storm than what was going on in his head.
I only wish I had been the kind of kid that would have been able to stand up for myself better. I was quiet, shy, and other than some weird game where my friends would call me "Abigail" and I'd punch them in the arm, passive. I guess I was an easy target, which is what I don't want for my kids.
We told Mikayla, and will be talking to Izzy about as well very soon, not to let herself be an easy target, and to always come to us when stuff like that happens because we (like most parents) will always be in her corner. At the age she's at right now, most kids will back down if the victim puts up any kind of believable fight. "Get in their face and make them be afraid of what you will do to them" is what we told her. It's not the kind of thing I had the guts to do in elementary school, but I really wish I had. Lots of things made me stronger as I grew up and learned more about life, and though I'm still pretty quiet much of the time, and the idea of confrontation fills me with anxiety, I'm a lot stronger.
Bullies are everywhere, and unfortunately we can't always count on teachers and school staff to see or do anything about it. There are lots of teachers, some that I know personally, that are fantastic anti-bullying advocates, but there are too many out there that stand idly by and do nothing, or not enough. And if the bully's parents are told about the behavior and do nothing about it, then there's not much a school can do other than expel the child when it gets to a certain point. We've all seen the articles and news stories about kids getting bullied to the point of suicide in middle and high school, and the teachers and staff can't be everywhere and sometimes just don't know what to do about it. It's worse these days than when I grew up, because it's not just school, parks, neighborhoods that it happens in, it's online. Kids are getting viciously harassed on facebook pages and through text messages. Nasty lies and names can be spread to an entire school in a matter of seconds.
I don't have the answers to the big stuff, except to raise your children to accept people for their character no matter how different they act/look/believe/are. [[edited to add: I also realize that being a strong kid and them standing up for themselves will not always save them from harassment and violence. I don't for one second mean to imply that a child is being bullied because they aren't standing up for themselves properly, only that it can help when no one else is standing up for them. ]] I don't have the answers, but we're trying our best to raise strong daughters and a strong son that will be compassionate and stand up for themselves and their peers. Because, unfortunately, bullies will never be a thing of the past.