My Child Was Bullied
On a recent Friday I picked Meron up from school. As he saw me, the tears started streaming down his face. As soon as we were in the car he started sobbing. Despite much coaxing, he refused to tell me what was wrong. I was obviously very concerned. This was not like him at all.
I emailed his teachers who were equally surprised and had no clue as to what had led to his tears. Over the weekend he kept crying. Finally, he told me that “something had happened at school involving another kid” but could not tell me who had upset him or what this person had done to him because it would be considered lashon hara -speaking badly of another person. I was torn between my admiration for the sensitivity of my 10 year old that even in his distress he did not want to contravene the commandment not speak badly of another person and on the other hand, my maternal desire to help him through a situation that was clearly outside of the realm of what he was able to cope with. Finally, I suggested he could confide in the guidance counselor. The sensitivity of the 5th grade guidance counselor and a few words from his wise 5th grade Rebbe who explained to the class that under some circumstances, the rules of lashon hara do not apply allowed for a resolution of the situation
Meron was being bullied by a class mate. This kid was copying his work, pressuring him for test answers and threatening him that he would not be included in the ball games during recess if he did not comply. Meron’s world has always been black and white – pressure to lie or cheat created a tremendous amount of stress at the same time he was very concerned about the isolation of recess politics. His biggest concern was that his Rebbe might be disappointed in him if the Rebbe found out that he had shared his test answers.
I related this story to a friend who is a Jewish studies teacher at another school and he pointed out that its scary that a 5th grader felt so much pressure to achieve that he would resort to cheating. It raises questions on our academic system and our expectations on our children.
With the recent school shooting tragedies, we as parents are desperately searching for answers to questions that are impossible to answer. The factors leading to these horrible events are multi factorial to be sure but all too often, there is a theme of bullying in the narrative and I guess that we develop a hyper-vigilance to the possibility of bullying. In this particularly situation, Meron’s parents, teachers and school came together very quickly to resolve the situation and I would say that Meron even learned some good coping skills and resilience through the experience.
Life is tough and is not fair and the sooner we can teach our children to cope with stress and become resilient, the better. The balance between providing a nurturing environment and helping our kids learn to fly by themselves is a delicate and deeply individual one.
I would argue that it is one of the important parts of the Art of Parenting
Originally published: January 13, 2013
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