As a child, I knew going to school was necessary for me to learn and to be able to “work” someday. It was clearly explained to me while I was growing up, mostly by my father. Being a child, however, doesn’t quite give you a wide understanding of the things that you will have to go through to get there.
I started pre-school a little bit late. I was 6 years old then and even though I passed the assessment test for the “prep” level, my parents insisted that I must go through the “kinder” level first to lessen the pressure of learning on my part. They wanted me to be able adjust first with the idea of school and they thought I wasn’t ready yet for the higher level. As it turned out, no amount of preparation could actually get you to that state anyway.
That entire first year in school went by smoothly. I wasn’t excited about the fact I’ll be left in school alone as my parents recalled. Because I was really young then, my memories of school were bits and pieces of both good and bad. One particular thing I clearly remember though, was that right from the start, I was always the target of the bullies in school.
If you don’t know me personally, my mother is Filipina and my father is Indian. I don’t actually look like an Indian except for the fact that when I was young, my everyday hairdo was a simple braid for my long and curly hair. My complexion is fair, I got that from my mom. The height, being tallest in the class is from my dad. At around 6-9 years old, my teeth looked terrible and to top it all off, I was very chubby. Yeah, I wasn’t as appealing compared to the other girls in school. And that was the reason I was the bully’s favorite.
Fast forward to 2nd grade, I grew older and so somehow, everything I was going through already took its toll on me. I started showing signs that I disliked school. I didn’t show any excitement about it and that made every morning difficult, for my mother.
I don’t know why I didn’t tell my parents sooner what I was experiencing in school. Until one day when a group of boys from my class intentionally threw my lunch and tore my lunch box apart. In my attempt to stop them, I got hurt when one of them kicked me. A lot of students saw what happened and immediately called the attention of the teacher who wasn’t in the room when it happened. The teacher called my mom and informed her of the incident and it was just then when I told them the truth.
Everyday as I went to school, my classmates (boys) would call me names, trip me while walking, pull my braid, steal my things, and a lot more. Being a child at that time, who had been treated the same way for a while, I honestly thought what they were doing to me was normal. If not for that incident, my parents would not have known the truth about my experiences in school.
One more incident took place months after that. A boy from my class brought a pellet gun and he shot me right at my chin with it. Thank God he did not hit me in the eye and though it hurt so bad, it did not leave any permanent damage. And this was the first time I personally told my mom about a particular bullying incident.
As a mother now to my baby girl, thinking about what happened to me breaks my heart twice harder. I couldn’t for the life of me ever imagine for her to be treated that way. I now understand what my mom could have felt at that time and why she did all that she could to protect me and my memories of childhood.
After months of probation and deliberation, two of these bullies eventually got expelled from school because of other numerous incidents that involved them. But even though they weren’t in school anymore, it did not lessen my anxiety about the idea of going to school in any way.
Because of all the bullying, I developed an intense feeling of insecurity. I avoided playing with other kids except for some of my closest girl friends. I also had anxiety attacks wherein my tummy would get so upset on the way to school and sometimes I’d develop a fever out of nowhere. This was a serious concern for my parents and so whenever I showed signs that I wasn’t well, they wouldn’t force me to go to school anymore.
You see, communication is very important. It’s very common among children not to inform parents about certain things when they think that it is normal. Always make sure you talk to your child about what specifically happens in school. Ask them questions in detail to be able to know how they are doing. You also have to watch out for signs. If your child isn’t showing any interest in school, ask them and investigate why.
These simple things may make or break your child’s character. And honestly, it is one of the main reasons why we are leaning towards homeschooling our Matilda. I’m very thankful that no matter how rough those circumstances were to me, at least I somehow ended up to be a normal, happy person. But even though I turned out fine, that doesn’t mean it left no emotional scar in my childhood. Of course, it did! I can still remember the hate I felt towards every one of those bullies. In my mind, I wished bad things to happen to them and I grew up holding grudges against them. It was only when I came to know the Lord, through his mercy and grace, that I was able to forgive all of them.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32 NLT)
Knowing the formative years are very crucial, I cannot depend on the school or a teacher for that matter, to lead my child into Christlikeness. That responsibility is mine and I have to own it. As her mother, she was entrusted to me by God for a reason. A reason that only a Christian parent will understand. This involves leading her to follow Christ and for her to do the same when she’s already of age. We want her character molded in a place where circumstances are within our control. And we (Joey and I) consider the home to be a safe place where I can monitor what she learns, how she does things, and everything else in between. I want to be able to personally guide her in the process of building her own personality, and not to be dictated by how other children perceive who she is. I want myself to set a good example for her and not for her to copy someone who doesn’t have any set of values – just like the bullies present in school.
I may be paranoid and my reasons may be invalid but if you were bullied like me, I’m sure you wouldn’t want your child to experience the same. And one way for me to prevent that is to home school her instead. Yes, I know, bullying is inevitable and it can happen absolutely anywhere, even in play areas and the like. All I want is to lessen the possibility since the school is a place wherein children interact with one another on a daily basis, and the chances of it happening there, are far greater. Plus, the effects based on their interaction without you around, are much more critical too.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying sending your child to a regular school is wrong. Of course it’s absolutely okay. It’s just that, you, as the parent should be responsible enough to make sure your child goes to a school which gives importance to your child’s inward orientation. Sure, they will learn well in this particular school knowing all the students who have graduated turned out successful. But, think about their heart. Where is Jesus in their lives? Was the school able to instill important life lessons such as having a personal relationship with God? Is the school as aggressive in building the child’s character and not just feeding them with curriculum lessons? Evaluate the school, the teachers and the students. You have to know where they stand. After all, you’ll leave your child with these people who will greatly influence their life. Wouldn’t you want to know who they will learn from and what they will contribute to the development of their character?
When you look at schooling this way, it is only then you will understand its gravity. Whatever your decision might be, it is best to consider what will work for your family. What works for us might not work for you and vice versa. Just make sure you have prayed and asked God for guidance in making the right decisions such as choosing the right school for you child.
In the event however, that your child is already being bullied, here are some tips I thought to share with you:
1. Try your best to keep your cool and go to the school immediately and talk to the proper authorities about it. Never, ever confront the bully or his parents. Note: “Anti-Bullying Act of 2012”
2. Request a guidance counselor to monitor your child’s behavior at school. A weekly meeting may help your child gain his/her self-esteem back.
3. Enroll your child in a sport that would enhance his skill in self-defense like Taekwondo or Muay Thai. (Note: Teach them to defend themselves and NOT to fight back!)
4. Encourage your child to communicate with you about his daily activities in school.
5. Explain the importance of forgiveness and that it is God’s command for him to do so. Pray with your child that God will grant you wisdom in understanding the heart of the bully. Doing this will allow him/her to be able to have peace in his heart.
- Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
6. Set a good example to your child by showing proper attitude against people who mistreat you. How your child responds is usually how they see it from their parents. Make sure you are being a role-model at all times, even when things don’t go your way.
- “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:38, 39 NLT)
7. Consider the benefits of homeschooling, both for you and your child.
My parents wanted the best for me that’s why they sent me to that particular school. The only mistake they made was that they trusted the school too much and they forgot to scrutinize how they value the formation of their student’s character.
The bullying was a depressing chapter of my life but I learned a lot from it. One is to extend my patience further and another is to have an understanding and forgiving heart towards difficult people. Part of who I am now is because of all the experiences I encountered in the past and I will be forever grateful for it.
Were you bullied as a child? Or do you have a child who is being bullied in school? What actions did you take? How did it affect your child? Let’s talk about it and let me know how I can pray for you!