Nicole F is worried about her 11-year-old daughter, Brittany, a victim of bullying. Changing schools doesn't seem to do the trick; three schools and counting and things haven't gotten better. Nicole feels alone in her struggle to help her daughter. Other parents have told their kids not to be friends with Brittany, and the school doesn't seem to be particularly motivated to take the problem seriously.
This concerned mother needs help. She doesn't know what to try next. She's unsure where to turn. Nicole posted her plea on my Motherhood Cafe website earlier this week. I have reproduced her letter below, with her permission, in the hopes that there are readers who will be able to relate to her story -- and who will be able to offer their advice, insight, and support.
I am at the end of my rope. I have tried to help my daughter through many tough situations at school and nothing seems to be helping. When I ask others for advice, nobody can relate. I feel as alone as my daughter does in this and wish I knew how to help her. I need help!
My daughter is 11 years old and in the 5th grade. She's gone to three different schools since kindergarten. At each school, she's had to deal with large numbers of kids treating her badly and has been the brunt of many jokes. I have tried to do everything I possibly can over the years to help her. What surprises me is that talking to "the powers that be" -- teachers, principals, and school counselors, nothing seems to get resolved. Well, maybe for a little while, but then the kids at these schools are right back to their old ways with the same tricks up their sleeves.
I know that kids can be mean to each other and I know that my daughter is not innocent. She may be doing things to cause these problems. I'm almost certain that I never know the whole story. But what makes this the most difficult is that these things never happened to me as a child. I never had the difficulties she's having and neither has anyone that I've ever talked to about it. It makes it hard for me to help her. And it breaks my heart to hear the things the kids at school do to my daughter. And I tell myself all the time -- "this has to stop. And it has to stop now. Today." But it never does.
My daughter is a talented girl. She's highly artistic and quite the creative writer. She seems to excel at everything she does and with such ease. On the other hand, she isn't the best with words and is often misunderstood. She says things in a way that can be misinterpreted by others. She says things that in her mind make complete sense -- she doesn't see how the things she says could ever be taken as an insult by others. But others don't see it that way.
Because of her way with words (or lack thereof) she's lost a lot of friends. No matter how many times I've tried to explain to my daughter that she should think about what she's saying before she says it, she just doesn't seem to understand. She wholeheartedly believes that she isn't doing anything wrong, even when I tell her that I would be sad or mad if she said those things to me. How do you help a child see that what they are saying affects those around them and try to teach them a better way to express themselves?
My daughter is not a yeller. She doesn't get in other people's faces and shout mean things at them or physically attack people. She doesn't intentionally do things to hurt others. She's actually very kind.
The boys and the girls at school call her names that shouldn't even exist. They tell her she's ugly, that her face is like a pancake smothered in poop. They call her every bad name in the book -- the f word, the b word, the wh* word and more. They tell her she has a big nose and that she has no friends. They throw dodgeballs against the ball wall at school and sing the infamous line "Brittany, Bitch" from the ever popular Will I Am song. Then they look at her and giggle. She's told me that girls will stand a foot away from her face and yell at her as loud as they can. They have created a "We hate Brittany" club. They steer away from her in class, at recess, at lunch. They ostracize her again and again, and she becomes the brunt of their jokes.
Because of the constant badgering and name calling, she can't seem to truly enjoy herself at school. She tells me that sometimes she will hide in the girls' bathroom stalls just to avoid the others. She will walk the school grounds at lunch alone or help out in the art room at recess to stay away from the rest of the kids.
At the previous school, parents would tell their kids not to talk to Brittany. They would tell their kids they weren't allowed to play with her in or out of school. The kids would come to school and tell Brittany what their parents thought about her. One girl took her basketball jersey and hid it at the high school in the girls' locker room so she couldn't play at the games.
I need to figure out a solution for Brittany. Again, I realize that Brittany isn't innocent in all of this. I know that to some extent she's probably responsible for some of this treatment. However, two wrongs do not make a right. I need to find a way to allow my daughter the opportunity to be the person she is without having to experience constant badgering and bullying.
So here I am, hoping that somebody out their will understand my situation and hold the key to solving my daughter's problem. If you can help me, please do. I am not sure where to go from here -- other than home school.... And I'm not sure that will make anything better either.
All children behave poorly towards their peers at some point. And while kids usually know when they are on the receiving end of hurtful behaviour, they're not always clear about when they might be acting inappropriately themselves. This is a crucial point for us all to remember as we are called upon to navigate and respond to our own children's school and playground scuffles.
Bullying is a widespread and lethal problem. We have our work cut out for us in terms of how to solve it. Nicole F. ( and many other families who face similar struggles) is desperate for help. She needs to know she is not alone. She needs answers and understanding.
Please lend a hand if you can. Working together we can help prevent future bullying-related tragedies.