8

My 8-year-old daughter is a soft and gentle girl. She hardly has any friends at school and most of the time plays with no one at break time. Yesterday a guy in her class hit her, punched her and pushed her.

I asked her how she handled it and she told me that she told the teacher yet the teacher did nothing. I am not happy and I am angry seeing someone hurting my child.

What should I do? How do I deal with this situation and what shall I advise her to do?

5

I'm sorry to hear that, and would advise several things. Obviously these are very highly contextual and there is very little information in the question, so they may be wildly off base. Feel free to edit/supplement.

  1. The most important thing for your daughter is for you to understand whether she feels safe or not safe. If she does not feel safe, do not send her back to the school right away, and work to understand the elements of this in the experiences she is having at the school, then decide if you are able to approach the school about these dynamics (see below).

  2. Even if she generally feels safe, communicate to her that no one has any right to push or touch her or intrude in her space in any way without her permission. One can sometimes see advice in situations like this where she should stay away from the boy and run away or keep her own distance. Obviously everyone has to stay safe but in a supervised situation she has the absolute right to the integrity and security in her own physical presence and if someone approaches her in a threatening way, it is the job of the adults at the school to defend her, not her job to run away. If you and she do not feel that that defense will be forthcoming, then you may need to leave the school.

  3. Your rightful anger notwithstanding, do not approach the teacher or principal at the school with a confrontational manner. Before approaching the staff, you need to find your own peace and emotional place where you respect and appreciate the very hard and unrewarded work that all the staff at a school are engaged in- despite a potential failure in the case of your daughter. The goal in any engagement with the school is to understand, not to litigate.

    Creating a sense of safety at a school with hundreds or more distinct personalities and maturities and family dynamics is very difficult, and even at the best schools it does not work 100% of the time. All schools preach a no bullying/no violence culture, but you have to understand how the school actually practices what they preach, what their capacities and challenges are, and how they approach creating a culture of safety.

    Bullying and physical violence is an individual act, but it is also an expression of culture and power and group dynamics, and how schools handle it is going to be unique to the school and the population. At one end of the spectrum there are schools that have a zero tolerance policy- these are schools that are themselves in a position of strength to refuse to seat problematic children and have resources to have in-classroom programs that work on emotional safety and interaction as a distinct part of the curriculum.

    At the other end, there are schools that have difficult populations, insufficient levels of staff and resources, and their practices unfortunately amount to "boys will be boys."

    So you need to understand where the school is on issues like this, what concrete practices they have, what challenges they face, and what your role is as a concerned and engaged parent, before approaching them.

  4. Again, highly contextual, but you might want to start the engagement with the school with another observation in the question. Saying "she hardly has any friends at school and most of the time plays with no one at break time" sounds indicative of a situation, independent of any potential bullying, that needs attention.

    An important part of schooling is learning about working with others, and 3rd grade for girls (at least in the US) is a time where identities are forming and cliques and group dynamics reach new levels of maturity. If she is not participating in these interactions, it is important to understand why, and it may be a multifaceted answer that involves her, the specific kids in her class, the teacher, and the culture at the school.

In sum- if the school is good and your daughter generally feels safe, then best is to approach the teacher not about the pushing but about your daughter's success, and her interactions in the class and social development and so forth. You want to build a partnership/relationship where you can share insights. If you build that relationship and then mention that your daughter reported she was pushed, the teacher will know that you are paying attention and that they have to pay closer attention to her as well in the future.

If the school is borderline, and your daughter feels anxiety that predates and is not necessarily related to the specific incident, then you need to explore that with her.

Finally, I would strongly advise not engaging directly with the parents of the boy about their boy's behavior. That is the job of the school and other authorities. Every time I have seen parents approach other parents with whom they did not have a prior relationship, it has failed and made the situation worse.

2

Start by talking to the teacher.

There are many reasons for this. The teacher is the most likely to have seen it, can tell you what, if anything, had already been done, and can listen to your concerns based on your daughter's report. Also, going to anyone else first won't give you any answers. Starting with the teacher is the way to push things up the ladder.

Most schools have a formal rejection of bullying in all its forms. If after talking to the teacher you feel your daughter was bullied, you can bring it to the principal.

From there, some form of "incident report" will be made, and the principal will decide on further actions.

You might consider familiarizing yourself with the school's policy on bullying. There will probably be an online link from the school's homepage.

If you're not satisfied with how the situation is working out, and you think your daughter is at risk, you could have her find out his name and call the parents, explaining your concerns. Obviously you do not want to have an inflammatory argument. Just a simple "Can you ask your son to stay away from my daughter?"

For the time being, I would tell your daughter to stay away from that boy. She may need to sit or play closer to where other girls are playing.

  • You might also consider that school anti bullying policies are often constructed to penalize the teacher and school administration (the road to h*** is paved with good intentions ...). If official means are exhausted and you have not received satisfaction, it might be time to consider home schooling. Some battles are not winnable. – pojo-guy Jul 31 '18 at 3:14
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This is too long for a comment, but I don't really consider it an answer either. It comes closest to answering "What do I advise her to do?" than anything else. It is an admission that I, as a karate instructor who has made a deliberate study of school bullying, had no answer.

This is a recollection of a similar discussion I had with one of my middle-school aged webcast techs recently.

(skipping past the details of a Really Bad Week) " ... This is the part of the conversation where I'm supposed to have some words of wisdom and something new for you to try, and you pretend to pay attention while we both know that you've heard it all before and tried most of it, and if it changes anything it just makes things worse.

The teachers' hands are tied by the very rules that are supposed to protect you, if they are even present when things go down. Your parents aren't there, and I can't be there to advise or protect you.

You already know all of this, or we wouldn't be having this conversation.

You are on your own. You are the person on the spot who knows best what to do, and I trust your judgement better than anything I could suggest. Look after your safety first, and let the rest fall where it may."

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