Advocating for our kids against bullying
February 28th, 2018
In order to protect the identities of the students involved, this Parent Post has been published anonymously.
Our family’s experience with bullying was not a pretty story. For three years, my son found himself on the receiving end of some very strong words and actions which slowly chipped away at him. Those were a rough three years. But we’re not there anymore and I thought maybe sharing our journey, and how we came to find our way out of the anger and helplessness, could help other parents.
To fully explain, I need to start the story in Junior Kindergarten.
My son’s first few weeks at school went as well as could be expected. He was super friendly to all the kids, was happy to get up in the morning and excited for what each day would bring. It all seemed normal until we started hearing about a boy in his class who he said was being mean to him. My son’s class clown mentality had gotten him some not so positive attention, and some pretty strong words were being said to him. Those strong words eventually turned into some strong actions. We started hearing about how my son had been pushed, shoved or kicked by the other boy. These incidents became a regular conversation with the teacher at the end of the school day.
A few months into school we started to get a lot of resistance in the mornings getting ready for our day. His behaviour started changing and he started to act out in class with anger and frustration.
It was time to have a serious talk with the teacher.
Together, we decided that there needed to be some separation between the boys as much as possible. After some time, my son was then able to grow positive relationships with the other kids and made some amazing friends. We ended off his first year in kindergarten on a high note.
New grades meant new classes and new students, and over the next two years, my son continued to come up against bullies. We started to quickly recognize the signs. As much as we tried to encourage him and help him be resilient, having to deal with a new bully each year had done its damage.
The breaking point came in Grade 1.
I got a message from the teacher that she needed to speak to me after school. I immediately thought to myself that my son had acted out in class again and had gotten himself in trouble. I was not in any way prepared for what she was going to say. After the other students had left she told me that my son had confided to another student that he has no friends and just wanted to die. There are no words to explain the pain I felt when I absorbed what I just heard. I ran over to my son who was in the hallway packing his backpack, dropped to my knees and just held him and cried.
As close as I was to pulling him out of school right then and there and homeschooling him for the rest of the year, I knew that running away from the problems would never solve anything. I truly wanted to show him that he was strong enough to overcome this.
The next day, I kept my son home from school and took him to our family doctor for help. Three years of being put down and pushed around had come to a head and we needed help. In a perfect world, he would never have to deal with bullying, but realistically, he’s going to be faced with aggressive people in different situations for the rest of his life. We needed to take matters into our own hands.
This is where things started to turn around.
Our doctor connected us with a counselor. We went every few weeks and talked about our experiences, our frustrations, and how we have the power to control how we react to things. At first, I wasn’t sure how helpful these sessions were. Most of the time it was my husband and I talking and not my son, but we stuck with it because I wanted to see this through. There were a lot of walls he had built up over the last three years and I knew they wouldn’t come down in a day.
Over the summer we focused on positive relationships. We went camping with friends and kept close with the people who resonated with all the positive behaviours we believed in. It was a good and much needed break.
I connected with other parents.
I found out about PIC and started going to WRDSB events. I met other parents who, like me, believed that change needs to happen in our schools to help prevent bullying. I became more vocal at our school and helped launch our school’s Safe, Caring and Inclusive school committee. We had meetings with our school principal and ensured that there would be special consideration made for my son in Grade 2.
My son is having a good year. He’s becoming more socially confident, has made new friends and is back to being the class clown. We reiterate the tools we learned in counselling when we are faced with difficult situations, and can get through most things easier than we could last year. Most importantly though, is that my son understands, now more than ever before, the importance of kindness. He’s only seven years old but knows that just because someone isn’t nice to you, doesn’t mean you should be mean back. He has more empathy in his little pinky finger than a lot of adults I know, and for that I am very proud.
It’s hard being a parent. We’re often put in positions where we need to step back and let our kids figure things out for themselves. There are also situations where we need to stand up for our kids. There really is no “one size fits all” solution for everything, but what we all can do is be involved. We can be a constructive voice for our kids. We can advocate for change to make everyone’s experiences better so that no one suffers from the effects of bullying. We need to keep the conversation going.
Change is possible.
- from and anonymous parent
Creating a positive school climate
By Waterloo Region District School Board
We believe that every student has the right to be treated with respect, dignity and to feel safe at school. Our policy on Student Bullying recognizes that it is everyone’s responsibility to stop bullying behaviour which is why we partner with parents/caregivers, community organizations and agencies to put a stop to bullying. Families are not alone when dealing with bullying. Staff and administration are here to support you. If you notice a change in your child’s behaviour, or your child discloses a bullying situation, please contact the school immediately. Initial reporting can be made to an adult with whom the parent or student has a relationship (ex. the classroom teacher, Child Youth Worker, Vice-Principal or Principal). The Principal or Vice-Principal will work with the student, the family, other students and staff to investigate the report and work to resolve it. Bullying is a covert activity that we all have a responsibility to stop.
Here are some additional resources for parents and caregivers on bullying prevention and intervention:
- Ministry of Education – Bullying: We can all help stop it
- The Red Cross – Preventing bullying: Tips for parents
- PrevNet – What parents need to know
Parent Posts are written by parents, for parents in collaboration with PIC. This series features guest parent bloggers where they share resources and information with other parents. We invite you to email and let us know if there are other topics you’d like to learn more about on Parent Posts.