The Scars of Child Bullying Can be Worse than Physical Ones

My kids were not spared from child bullying in school. It was almost never physical. For my daughter, it consisted of snide remarks, teasing, name-calling, being ignored. For my son, the manifestations were more visible. There was one instance when he was “playfully punched” in the tummy by a classmate who teased him no end. And he’d return from recess with his pencils broken in half or find things missing from his desk. It came to the point where I had to make a special request for the bully boy not to be sectioned with my son the next school year.

For a mother to be witness to these things, I felt almost helpless except to continue calling the schools’ attention to these incidents. But I knew that my kids, even if they were not showing too much on the outside, were crying on the inside and suffering this kind of humiliation day in and day out during schooldays. And knowing that, I wanted to cry along with them.

In recent years, this problem has been addressed by the schools they went to as small kids and I am happy that they have actually made it a school policy that bullying is a serious offense. I feel it is very important for every child to know that the school refuses to condone this kind of behavior and that teachers and school officials are their allies and would actually do something to anyone who tries to bully them. By making bullying a school offense, the school is arming every student with a voice to speak out if he is bullied in any way.

But even if they are now all grown, I know that those childhood incidents have left scars on my kids that will take time to heal. I know….because when I was growing up, I had a taste of hurt too. I always was the youngest (and one of the smallest) in my class since I entered Grade 1 at an earlier age than my classmates. I remember what it felt like to be told I was too young to be included in “more adult-ish conversations” of classmates which at that time revolved around childhood crushes and boys. I still remember conversations they’d have that would stop as soon as I came near them. It was not bullying at all because they never called me names but that subtle exclusion from a group did hurt then. Can you imagine how much more hurtful it is to be called names outright by a peer? Or be subjected to forms of condemnation or derision by someone much older who is supposed to be respected – a parent, an adult, anyone with authority?

Whoever made this up — “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” — probably never experienced bullying or verbal abuse. Or maybe that person was himself/herself THE bully. Because it isn’t true. Words CAN hurt. And they leave lasting scars. Physical scars remain visible long after the hurt but you can function normally even with them. Emotional scars are so much more difficult to heal because they continue hurting the victim long after the bullying or abuse has gone. It affects a child’s self-esteem and can even affect how he/she deals with people and family in the future.

It is so important for us to protect the children.  All forms of abuse, particularly verbal abuse which is hidden from the rest of the world, cuts across all classes of society, even among the wealthy.

We need to raise a future generation of children free from any stigma of abuse if we are to have a generation of confident, hopeful, self-respecting citizens with their values in the right place. The only way to curb abuse is to recognize it for what it is. We cannot stop something if we don’t recognize it as a problem in the first place. So, while I have no answers at the moment as to how to go about ensuring that all children are raised totally free of abuse, I do know that firstly, we must know WHEN to recognize it as such. And this where our child protection laws, child-governing government agencies, and citizens equipped with the right knowledge skills come in.

I created this post for the Blog & Twitter Carnival: Child Abuse Prevention.

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3 thoughts on “The Scars of Child Bullying Can be Worse than Physical Ones

  1. Good post. Thanks for this.

    Yes, words can hurt. If it is bad and lasts long enough, the scars never really go away. One way to arm ourselves and help our children would be to make this everybody’s problem. What I mean is, if a bully is breaking my kids pencils or anything else, I would send his parents a bill. If my kids get bullied to an extreme, I would threaten the school with a negligent supervision suit. Those are extreme examples, but if people realize that it’s not just the kid or parent’s problem, maybe we can create a greater sense of urgency about the issue. Just a thought.

  2. My 4th grader gets picked on and ignored terribly. We have had conversations with the school counselor and the answer is always “have your child use brave-talk and ask the other kids to please stop”….you can imagine how well that worked. We have asked that next year our child be kept separate from 3 certain students, but we attend a small school and everyone (parents, faculty, administration) is either related to each other, neighbors, or country clubbers, how do we take action?

    @Catie – Some counselors just do not know how to counsel when it comes to bullying. They are the ones who need to intervene since they are part of the school and it is not for a parent to accost the bully kid unless extreme circumstances force us to. In your shoes, I would bring the issue higher than the counselor in hopes that your school recognizes that bullying is a social ill and they should address this as an institution and not turn a blind eye to it. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m a bit worried since my son shows strong feminine qualities and he might get bullied in school … I hope he won’t and I wanna make sure that he can stand up for himself. I hope the school he has will not tolerate such things. You’ve given me something to ask the school later when I pay tuition. Thanks!

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