The heart-break of witnessing your child being bullied

Today’s guest blog is from author Siobhan Curham, who writes about her own experience as a parent witnessing her child being bullied and about how this inspired her new children’s novel ‘Finding Cherokee Brown’. We have five signed copies of the book to give away. To enter simply leave a comment at the end of this blog post.

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As a parent there are few things as heart-breaking as witnessing your child being bullied.Shiobhan

One thing I always rammed into my son when he was younger (apart from the fact that vegetables are not actually poisonous) was that he must always stand up for anyone being bullied. Several years ago, he started at a new school where he didn’t know anybody. One of the boys in his class was being picked on constantly so my son stood up for him. And so the bullies turned on him.

My partner had just been diagnosed with cancer, so when my son started becoming anxious and withdrawn I instinctively put it down to this. Like most victims of bullying, he felt too ashamed to tell me what was really going on and it was months before I found out the truth.

I was naturally horrified and demanded a meeting with his teacher and year head. I asked for the bullies to be dealt with. I was told that unless they physically assaulted my son – rather than constantly threatening to do so – they couldn’t act. I asked them to move my son to another class. They refused – saying that it might make the problem even worse.

I went away feeling impotent and furious in equal measure. As a mother I felt like a complete failure.

Then, a few days after the meeting, I was in the car with my son. He was talking about how much he was dreading going back to school on Monday and I had a lightbulb moment so powerful I had to pull over.

‘You’re not ever going back,’ I said to him quietly. ‘Ever.’

The look on his face was one I’ll never forget.

‘What, really?’ he said.

‘Really.’

He was my child – not the school’s and I refused to let him be put through any more pain.

I subsequently found out from the council that 80% of the bullying cases in the borough were currently coming from that one particular school. In short, the teachers had lost control.

I home-schooled my son for eight months and then, at the start of the new academic year, he joined a new school. He settled in immediately and had no trouble making a wide group of friends.

I know all of the arguments about bullying being an essential part of growing up – a rite of passage necessary to toughen kids up and a valuable life lesson. A life lesson in what though? That cruelty is something that just has to be accepted? Is this really all that we aspire to as a so-called civilised society?

According to a UK government report, 46% of all young people will be bullied at some point in their life. 38.4% of young people were victims of cyber bullying last year. 28% of young people feel unable to tell anyone and so, suffer alone.

Fired up by this, and what happened to my son, I decided to write a novel for young people Finding Cherokee Brownthat would hopefully inspire them to stand up to bullies. I also wanted to throw a spotlight on the shortcomings of our education system when it comes to bullying. Finding Cherokee Brown was published in March and it has been wonderful hearing from readers saying that it has made a real difference to them.

Some people say that bullying is an inevitable aspect of human nature. My response is that actually love is the only ‘inevitable’ aspect of the human condition. Bullying, like anger, hatred and fear, is only ever learned. And it can be unlearned too – if enough of us say, no more.

My website: www.daretodreamcoaching.blogspot.co.uk

To buy Finding Cherokee Brown: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Cherokee-Brown-Siobhan-Curham/dp/1405260386/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372167040&sr=1-1&keywords=finding+cherokee+brown

See all Netmums bullying content if you need support. 

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We have five signed copies of Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham to giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning a copy simply leave a comment on this blog post and from all comments received by midnight on 31st August 2103 we will pick out five lucky winners. Usual Netmums terms and conditions apply.

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30 Responses to The heart-break of witnessing your child being bullied

  1. Jude Scott says:

    I cannot convey the despair I felt and still feel at finding out my then 6 year son was being bullied for months by an older boy,we were called by the school as he had been kicked in the head by ‘accident’ by the same boy and whilst we were at casualty my son told the doctor who told me.When I spoke to the school about it and I can still remember the the deputy head saying to my son in front of the boy to stay away from him….I don’t know how I walked out of there without losing it.The best decision I ever made was to remove him from the school but how it affected my son is soul destroying and the guilt I feel at not knowing what was happening to my son will never leave me.

    • Sharon says:

      I had to move my son from school due to bullying by two boys and the school denied it as bullying. He had been kicked in the head, dragged on the muddy grass and hardcore playground by his ankle causing scaring on his tummy and damage to his uniform. They just put him in his PE kit and made out it was a little dirty, didn’t realise when I got his uniform out how bad it was. I never felt so sick with guilt in all my life when I told my son he still had to go to school everyday. A few month past of comments my son use to say of being chased round the playground and not leaving him alone. Until one day I get a phone call from the school whilst I was at work saying my son has a nose bleed from an ‘accident’ and could I come down immediately. My son told me who done it and what happen and his teacher told me it would be dealt with. The same two boys pushed my 6 year old son into metal railings, causing a nose bleed (which he’s never had before) and black eyes. Found out that the two boys was suppose to be collected at lunch times but the mothers refused, so the school band them from play at lunchtime for a week, only to find out it lasted 3 days. We had no joy and were not satisified with this. We found another school which was 4 miles away. It was the best thing I ever did. My son is doing a lot better and so far, we have not had one incident in the 12 weeks he’s been there.

  2. Sharon T says:

    How great to hear that your actions resulted in your son finding an escape from bullying. As a parent of pre-school children I find bullying a black cloud over their future, especially reading the Teachers response to your initial complaint.
    How can we stop the bullies when the official response and support is so weak-willed?

  3. katie says:

    There are actually parents out there that would have just listened to the school, instead you stood up for your child in making what can be seen as a hard decision to home school them but for your little one that was by far the best decision. If only more parents had the realization like you that the child in question was their child not the schools .

  4. I agree with you completely that bullying is not an inevitable part of childhood, nor should it be tolerated.

    Well done for taking decisive action to help your son, how disappointing that it came down to you to do it when the school wouldn’t.

  5. This actually bought a tear to my eye! I would do exactly the same, our children look to us for support and if we sit back and let the school decide what they can and cant do what message are we giving to our children! Well done and im so glad that he is now happy in a new school x

  6. Emmaline Higgs says:

    I was bullied severly as a child at primary school and feel that the effects have stayed with me all of my life. I will be 31 this year and still remember dreading going to school everyday, faking illness or making an excuse to leave class just before play so I could hide from the bullies. I think taking your child out of school and home schooling was a truly couragious thing to do. I wish my mother had been able to do the same all those years ago.

  7. Ezinne says:

    I never thought of taking my child out of school as an alternative. I had to go through the harrowing experience of dropping an unhappy child at school, I always turned around with a heavy heart full of pity for the next event she would go through
    Once she came in from school with her shirt ripped and her jumper socked in her own blood. I took it out with the local council. I had been made to feel like I was moaning all along at the school.needless to say she change school the next week. Well done for your decision to home school. Glad he is happy at new school.

  8. Kim says:

    I worry constantly about this happening and I would do exactly the same thing if it happened to my son, he is my child and I’m here I protect him! Fantastic to hear of someone standing up to the school system

  9. Rachel says:

    So good to hear a positive outcome but it is a shame such extreme measures had to be taken. Like Emmaline, I was bullied at school and now in my 40s I too still feel the effects, both physically and mentally. My teachers were useless in dealing with the issue and my parents tried their best but could not shield me from the daily torment. Bullies, you should all be ashamed.

    • Caryn Hasselblad says:

      Hi Rachel, just wondered how you dealt with the bullying – have you ever been for counselling or something like that? I had the same experience as you at school & it affects me to this day. I have very little self confidence & still believe everyone is laughing at me. It’s awful how it can have such an imprint on your mind.

  10. Alex says:

    I too was bullied at school and is worries me that my child may encounter the same issues. The novel sounds like a must read for our kids.

  11. ruby6918 says:

    i wasnt bullied but what a refreshing look at things, we all get bullied at some stage, kids, teens, work, family and its all about learning our own boundaries and how to set them up, bullying in any form is dreadful and its all about education and breaking the cycle, well done, good luck

  12. rosie says:

    Sometimes its not as easy as just removing your child from the school,particularly the older they get and the more serious their GCSE work is.Sometimes its not as easy as removing them when they only have a year or two to go.My son was badly bullied for his final two years of school.Although he has now left school for a year and has a fantastic job and friends – his self esteem and confidence will take years to rebuild.

  13. Sarah says:

    Every year my DS, 10 years old has had to suffer bullying because he as ASD, he’s been kicked, foot prints left on him, bruises, water in his shoes, bags taken, items hid, and not just one child, gangs of 3/4 kids, and guess what the school said, it all due to my sons “traits” they all got a slap on the hand and the next year we are in the same position, school punishment is not hard enough for these bullies, i agree no child should have to be abused.

  14. Raychel says:

    My son is abou to start school is September . Statistically I know there is a good chance that he will encounter , best way round “some” bullying , worst way round I cannot bear to think about it. Anyone with the point of view that is inevitable has either never been unfortunate enough to be a victim .
    Well done for taking a taking a stand and making a decision that will change your child’s life immesurably . How disspointing that the school were so weak .
    Thankyou also for giving me the inspiration to know that if it ever happened to us , we can get through it .
    Best wishes to everyone who going through this

  15. Thank you all so much for your lovely comments. It was a really tough time but as soon as I realised that I wasn’t powerless and could actually take steps to protect my son it was a real eye-opener. Home-schooling was challenging but a lot of fun – and I would say to anyone in a similar position – you aren’t powerless, you don’t have to tolerate it and you can take steps to stop it from happening. As people have said so movingly in these comments, if left unchecked, bullying can have serious long term consequences. I think it’s time that we as parents said, ‘enough’s enough.’ If schools can’t protect our kids from bullying then we have to. Thank you again

  16. sam king says:

    this worries me so much ,i have brought my 5 year old son up to be nice to everyone ,to share ,not to push ,not to say unkind words and he started school last year and i was horrified that i had’nt taught him how to stand up for himself when he is confronted with children who are not so kind and thoughtful ,spoke to teachers on one occasion about him coming home 5 days in a row crying because some child was picking on him and i was made to feel that it was my sons fault for being overly sensitive while the other child who was making mine upset was called a confident child , i feel so sad that i have to toughen him up to deal with these situations and genuinly have’nt a clue where to start 😦

  17. Debbie D says:

    Well done you!

  18. I too am a parent to preschoolers, with my first born starting school in September. Bullying is something that really concerns me and my husband, to the point that he intends to try and become a governor so he’ll have a voice. I’m rubbish at standing up to people (even the nursery staff if I don’t agree with something) so I dread having to deal with anything that might be hurting my baby. I often drop her crying at nursery because she has separation anxiety. I don’t know how I’ll know if she’s happy after I’ve gone, or if it’s more than natural anxiety, once she starts school and there isn’t someone telling me all about her day when I collect her at the end of the day. Makes me wish I had it in me to home school!

  19. I am hearing stories of bulliying every day now and getting afraid. today a woman told me that since my son is big(he looks 6 but he is 3) he will never be bullied. but this made me a bit angry. he is big but he is good, sensitive and I taught him to help the weakest. my husband told me I am crazy, that the only solution is to teach him to smack in the face the first one who is going to bully him. and then they would leave him in peace. what kind of lesson is this?I don’t want to tell him that violence is a tool to be happy at school. Why on earth the school can’t do anything?what about calling the parents of the bullies? what about a fee to be paid?or social services in school?anything putting shame on the bullies ,making them less popular and strong. I feel so angry!

  20. helen says:

    My child has been through this it has been a very painful year .she has become depressed ,anxious and isolated . the school system has failed her I have tried to co operate with them following all their guidelines but we are no further forward .Constantly went to meetings , education welfare officer , stopped them prosecuting us ,the problem was not truancy for the sake of it she was being bullied and the school did not deal with it . I was constantly in touch with the school one department was not telling the other what was happening.On the last day of term they finally gave us some work to do from home I had requested this as an alternative but they insisted she must come back to school I took her to the school one day with a friend and finally the penny dropped with them when they saw how distressed she was . I am dreading September as I do not feel she should go back . We are seeking help from a counsellor for her . I felt helpless as a mother to protect her from what should be a safe happy place for her to go .Would love to home school her but need to find advice on this as new term will be her last year and she is so far behind exams may not be a possibility. My daughter is beautiful ,sensitive and a very caring person and I feel saddened this has happened .

  21. Tracey Harvey says:

    I too dread this day and pray it never happens, its hard to get schools to act. I too was bullied at school.

  22. Alison says:

    We discovered my son was being bullied just before the summer holidays and it has broken our hearts. I agree wholeheartedly that bullying is learned behaviour. Well done tackling this subject.

  23. Adele Roebuck says:

    This is such a sad story to hear (as a parent) but also must have been so nerve-wracking and totally awful for your son. Well done you for doing what you did, you totally did what was right and i applaud you for that. Bullys must never win. Teachers must start to listen and act accordingly.
    Well done you.

  24. Trudi Cherry says:

    As a family we went through this twice, the first time my daughter was heading into year 6 and didn’t want to start somewhere new for just one year. Three years later we were in the same position and again the school were reluctant to act, their attitude seemed to be that it was the victim’s problem for being too ‘sensitive’. Thankfully my younger daughter asked to move schools and is now flourishing at a school where issues are tackled and not ignored. Not only did it affect both my daughters’ self-esteem, but my younger daughter gets severe asthma and the stress exacerbated her condition considerably. All the stress of the last few years has also resulted in me being diagnosed with depression. I wish in hindsight that I had removed both girls several years earlier, but at least they are now both happy and doing well at their current schools.

  25. Caryn Hasselblad says:

    Your story reduced me to tears. I was bullied for 5 years at school & was too ashamed to tell my mother. It was the most horrendous time of my life where I was made to feel like dirt … just for being me. I was quiet & withdrawn so didn’t stand up for myself, which probably made it worse. I now have a 2 year old daughter & it honestly fills me with anger at the thought that anyone would bully her. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be a parent knowing this is happening to your child & you are not able to help. My mother eventually did something about it & moved me to another school but unfortunately the damage has been done & still haunts me to this day.
    I’m glad you caught it in time – nobody should be made to put up with bullying. It is not a natural part of childhood in my opinion & needs to be dealt with!

  26. sarah says:

    my daughter did very well at first school and was a very happy confident little girl until she started secondary school and the bullying started by the age of 13 I had to pull her out of school as the bullying became physical and the school did nothing. after an 18 month fight I managed to get her into a really good school out of the area but she never settled even with all the help from lots of different avenues. it breaks my heart as she is now 16 and school is finished. she did not do any exams it has been a bad few years, she is slowly getting better and has a little job now. But I worry so much as I also have a four year old who starts school this year and I don’t want her to go through what her sister went through x

  27. Emma says:

    Our son was also bullied I didn’t find out until Clearing his bedroom a book he had wrote in bout how much he hates himself don’t think ill ever forget how it felt finding this and can’t Imagen how he must of been feeling to be writing this , I also had meetings at school ect with nothing being resolved (( to me it felt a tho the bullies where protected not my son )) we then decided to change schools , was very lucky to find a school not to far away and started with in days of leaving his previous school not only did it effect my son but we also pulled our other children from that school so they where also effected from the destuption and moving ect leaving there friends it was hard for them but it was for the best I had to do this for them all ,

  28. charlotte says:

    Someone i know , son killed himself becuae of bullies in school and schools not doing enough they are trying to bring out a law called aydenslaw on aydenslaw.org you can sign the petition for a new law of bulling in school becoming a crime please sign !!! We have a real chance at making this happen . Thank you

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