By Lisa Norton, Mother

Almost every morning, Benjamin, my 10-year old, would whine and complain about going to school.  He would often shout, “I hate school!”, but I just assumed it was because he didn’t want to get out of bed.  It was not until the end of the school year that Benjamin told me why he dreaded going to class. He told me about a boy in his class, “Tyler,” who would frequently tease him.  Besides lots of name-calling, Tyler would tell the other classmates not to be friends with Benjamin. On one particular day, Tyler notified the class that he would not attend a birthday party if Benjamin was invited as well.  As far as I know, Tyler never became physical with Benjamin, but the ongoing cruelty really affected Benjamin.

Once Benjamin told me about the bullying, I was filled with a mixture of emotions, ranging from anger to sadness to guilt.  I sent an email to the principal and requested that the 2 boys are not placed in the same class in 5th grade. Unfortunately, I do not feel that there was much of a resolution.

I often think back to my childhood and have very fond memories of elementary school.  For me, bullying didn’t start until middle school and we really didn’t talk about it, either at home or in school.  So, now I am left with a multitude of questions. How do we, as parents, prevent bullying? How do we teach our children to handle bullying?  What is the school’s responsibility? And, I can go on and on.

I want my boys to be as prepared as possible to handle difficult situations.  I want them to understand that it is OK to walk away. It is OK to ask an adult for help.  And, in my opinion, it is OK to defend yourself (without violence). We have also discussed that it is NOT OK to be a “bystander” to someone else who is being bullied.

My heart aches for all of the kids who are bullied, especially the ones who suffer in silence.  I think that we, as parents, need to open the lines of communication very early on with our children.  I also think that we need to engage our schools more. We should inquire about anti-bullying programs and school policies regarding bullying. Through this experience, I have learned that I need to ask more questions, both of my son and of the school.  I am hopeful that 5th grade will be a better year for Benjamin.