Archive for February 5th, 2009

Is bullying ever useful?

February 5, 2009

I wrote this almost six years ago.

I wrote this yesterday.

Time’s a funny old bird: her gnarly hands massage pain and anger and disappointment away. But I pinned emotions wont to fade to a page, captured memories prone to escape with words. I read them again. And they still sting.


Bullying is a horrible thing. Bullying that is so calculating, so persistent that it leaves its small victims sleepless at night so that their eyes seem wider for the creeping shadows beneath them.

But. But.

I will always be sorry my son endured such unhappiness.

But I cannot be sorry that it was a catalyst for change.

It re-routed my son’s school career; it’s been a much more rewarding one as a consequence.

I didn’t sit down then, back then, with a pen and a sheet of paper and list what possible good could come out of the emotional fallout that attends a case of bullying so bad children have to be relocated.

It evolved gently over time so that I was able to pick each unexpected bonus from the wreckage and hold it in my hands.

He is, as a result of what happened to him, without question, a happier kid. He might even be a better kid. He says, ‘we all learned a lesson’. He learned what constitutes strength and what makes a person weak. He learned bad things happen to good people. And he learned, and this is the best bit, that you can get over it. Come out the other side and feel the sun on your skin. Psychologist Dr Helene Guldberg acknowledges, to some outrage, that children can learn from bad experiences

And me? What did I learn?

Then, back then, I thought there was some formula to raising and educating children. I thought I needed to do it the way my parents had done it, or the way my peers were doing it.

Conforming is often easier. Somebody’s already made all the rules.

But the action of flouting the experts, the teachers, most of my friends and plucking my son out of a school that wasn’t working for him to send him to one that ultimately did – and brilliantly – liberated in me some latent bloody minded unconventional streak.

And left me with the self belief to do things differently. Sometimes.

It’s why, for example, Hat goes to school in the ether, whilst sitting at a desk in an Outpost despite criticism from friends. It’s why I supported my son’s decision not to take up a place at a sixth form college. And it’s why, on my way to a snow bound England to consider two schools for my elder daughter I will watch her face carefully and I will ask, what do you think?

But it could be such an opportunity for her, friends urge. Perhaps. But opportunities are quite wasted unless children are happy and have the attendant confidence to exploit them.