Family Life Personal

And you thought bullies only attack the weak?

Your might be the last to find out what your child is going through in school

This post is about bullying. More specifically, about being bullied in school, and how it can impact on a child and his family in ways that might not have been foreseen.

It’s about how the ripples in the serene waters of a sunny childhood can turn out to be Jaws. Or the nightmare on calm street that stalks every parent’s dreams.

There are the loved ones who would protect the target from this abuse but they couldn’t be there when the bully lunged out from the depths and bared his jagged teeth. Again.

In this particular Off-Hollywood tale, our protagonist did not want to take on the bully.

For complicated reasons, he chose to suffer the slings and arrows of a thousand petty humiliations rather than tell his parents, siblings, teacher, coach or anyone who might have protected him.

And heaven forbid he might squeal on the bully’s audience.

His parents only found out eventually through their boy’s desperate lashing out, after the dam burst and a fierce, pent-up anger came surging through. Unstoppable.

Tears of rage and ugly, spittle-flecked words through bared teeth that were really a cry for help. One that would not have even been heard if the horrible outburst had been taken at face value. As it was initially.

But the words died down and his mother held the spent little fury to her as he buried his face in the cushion she offered him, and the real tears eventually fell and a real story came burbling out.

A story that filled her and the angry, lumbering father with horror, with rage, with resentment, and left them with a feeling of having failed their boy.

The child being bullied was mine. Ours. But it could be yours.

For obvious reasons I cannot, and will not, divulge too much.

This was a shock. A lunge from the depths. A jolt to our complacency.

Think about this, for starters:

Bullies don’t just take on the puny, made-to-be-victim dweebs.

Anyone can be got at if the bully finds the right buttons. The right vulnerabilities. And presses home this sniffed-out advantage.

Even our boy, a talented footballer, notable not just for his skill and eye for a deft pass, but for his tenacity and fearless tackling and putting his body on the line defending. A warrior, some might say.

I would.

But the trouble is he has not had the easiest time of it socially.

For all sorts of reasons, he has never found that one buddy we all aspire to when we are young, and this has become conflated with feelings of not being popular, of not fitting it, and who the hell wants to fit in any way… a whole defensive structure built to defend his vulnerability.

Built on a foundation of self-doubt, of self-denigration. A soft heart in a warrior’s body.

Even knowing this about our boy has only emerged over a long time, from picking through the meagre bones of reluctant half-disclosures. Information seized in rare, short-lived bursts of revelation. Dusted and added to the assemblage of other precious fragments for forensic analysis.

An ongoing, painstaking archaeological dig.

Delving where we can, when we can, until we hit the hard rock of his defences: derisive as he tells us how anyone can be popular, if you just do the cool things, say the right things … hang out with the cool people …

Scorning our advice to make a bigger effort to connect with the kids in his class.

He won’t do that, no way.

His won’t buy the easy starter pack for friendship, or fitting in.

That’s why he has kept his beautiful, silky blond hair long, despite all the calls of “faggot”, “tranny” and “gay boy” he says he hears all the time.

Heroic, really, we both feel.

But, you see, he doesn’t put himself out now either. Doesn’t put out feelers towards deeper, more meaningful relationships. An emotional stalemate has ensued.

There are plenty of people he talks with … we see him gabbling away with his team-mates after training, and boy can be babble away for hours online playing Fortnite, with guys he will walk right on by in the school playground.

What is also galling is the story of the extent of our son’s bullying experience came out after the horrendous shouting crisis at home I wrote about last week.

He was absolutely horrible to me, and to my shame, I initially responded in kind. It was later that the bullying scenario emerged.

And it all started to make more sense, the locked away joy, the hard to reach emotion — except the anger one. The one that hates scrutiny, or follow up questions about school, and how is he settling in, and all that prying, meddling busy-body stuff. Going apeshit if you push too far.

Until all that remains is a shadowed self that flinches in the true light of possible relationships.

This is also about how we are all vulnerable, we can all be bullied, no matter how fierce or brave, or spirited.

Indeed, maybe the most frightening aspect of it all, these very positive qualities can actually work to keep the bullying going. Hoisted by one’s own defiance or fortitude. Until the walls eventually crumble.

The person being bullied can show the most amazing resilience and spirit to endure this treatment, can take what’s being dished out and keep coming back, keep on living and laughing and, maybe, loving.

The person surviving this torment of the heart and soul, can learn to compartmentalise it, push it to one side and even live a life, doing many enjoyable things.

Until they snap. Can’t take it anymore. What parents don’t fear that happening?

Just one instance will be enough to show what our boy has sucked up. And never revealed until his outburst days later.

Two weeks ago he hurt the outside of his foot — playing football, of course — and he couldn’t walk on it. His mom got him a pair of crutches and so he hobbled down the corridors in school, struggled with doors, and stoic as you like, got on with it. It would be only for a few days.

But Jaws was there, circling, waiting. A crowd had gathered on the shore of the school corridor.

The bully, silent, swishes up behind our boy, who is on is crutches, and knees him in the back of one thigh. Gives him a dead leg.

Oh, how the minnow audience laughed.

He’s so popular, this guy, see?

This is what emerges when we talk to O about it.

This guy is “so popular, like you wouldn’t believe,” he tells us.

So ultimately, our boy would not be tackling the bully, so popular in O’s eyes, but taking on the forces of his own perceived lack of popularity. A no-win scenario.

We have told the school, of course, and all this will be dealt with. It’s an excellent school, and there are procedures.

But what if this is only Jaws 1?

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77 comments on “And you thought bullies only attack the weak?

  1. Bullying is horrible, which ever form it is carried out #globalblogging@_karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sure is Karen

    Like

  3. Seán Mac Aoire

    Doing that to a child on crutches ffs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. viewfromthebeachchair

    This makes my blood boil!!! A bully is nothing more than a small person on the inside! WE have all had that feeling of being the target. This kid sucks plain and simple!!! #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i feel for your son – i’ve been there. i feel for you and your wife. i’ve also been there. great post!

    Like

  6. I am so sorry your son had to endure such bullying. It sounds like he is truly his own person, which is rare for people his age. I was a teacher for many years and can attest to the fact that it is not only the nerds who are bullied, anyone could be a target. I hope your boy’s school takes the proper steps to discipline this bully.

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    • Thanks Laurie …. he is his own man … just such a shame he has to endure this crap, almost because of his character. But I trust the school will deal with it. They also have a policy that bystanders aren’t just bystanders, they are actively involved in such incidents by witnessing and doing nothing

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Bullies are cowards who pick on others to mask their own inadequacies. I hope the school takes appropriate action and the bully’s true colours are revealed. That layer of popularity he enjoys will disappear if they do it right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh they will Clive … it’s a good school, with a very sound principal. So glad we caught it … it’s amazing how so often kids won’t share this stuff with adults

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s good that you did and that you have a school you can rely on to take it seriously. I think it’s a very complex issue for kids to deal with: a combination of anger at their treatment, a sense of guilt and/or inadequacy about ‘allowing’ it to happen to them, plus a sense of betrayal that authority (school, parents) haven’t somehow miraculously noticed and done something about it. Hopefully things will improve now that it’s in the open.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Daydreamer mum

    Sorry to her you’ve all been through this . It’s so easy to blame hormones and grumpy teens when they lash out , so glad you got to the bottom of it and I hope that it’s dealt with swiftly

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s underway Kelly. He’s a happier boy this week … even if he has a persistent footy injury!!

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  10. I was bullied all my secondary school life and it affected me bad, so I was prepared when my daughter got bullied and like you won’t delve into much, however it hit the family hard! Just gotta be there for our kids

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You do … sorry to hear you had to endure this. It really is the most awful situation, especially when you are so young and vulnerable. But it is a good school and they will deal with it correctly. Thanks for sharing

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  12. Be glad you found out and watch closely. What I don’t get, it’s such an effort to be mean to someone. YOu could just ignore them if you didn’t like them. I fail to understand how people can be bothered to be such jerks. #Dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s almost always about power

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  14. Oh no, how awful – kneeing him while he’s injured!! I feel for poor O and you as parents and I hope the school act swiftly and effectively. It just breaks your heart that it takes so long for them to tell you. #tweensteensbeyond

    Liked by 1 person

  15. cookehogan

    Great post Enda, you had me at the shark, but the topic is one close to my heart – with three out of my four girls having experienced it in varying degrees. The nastiness of the playground and mobile phones really is the stuff of nightmares and endless heartache.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you Fiona … you walk along those jolly school corridors and you have no idea what lurks beneath sometimes. If it surfaces at least we can tackle it … just glad it did. Thanks for your insight and for sharing this post on

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  17. What a horrid thing to be going through. I was bullied but didn’t have parents to turn to, mine were too busy. All I know is he’ll be better for having you both knowing. #BloggerClubUK

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    • Thanks Briony. He is better off, and we are confident it will be dealt with correctly. His feelings around popularity and fitting in are a longer term project, but we have made a start to something. Thanks for your comment

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  18. I am so sorry that your family is going through this! I really hope that school can offer good advice and support and that the whole situation improves very quickly. #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Catie … the whole thing is in motion now in the school, and I believe they will deal well with it. I’m just glad it’s out there and I just see our boy is in better form.

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  19. The bully is jealous of your son, no matter how ‘popular’ he is. He has to bully to mask his own inadequacies. Your son won’t see this right now though. I hope it is all dealt with properly #ABloggingGoodTime

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  20. Edna sadly I have been here myself with my youngest and am always saddened to hear of another bullying story – it is almost like it is a rite of passage. There is such a culture in school of not snaking on others even if you are the victim of something like this that makes me mad, because it is the family that suffers as a result, oblivious to the reality of what is going on with their child. However whether by some divine miracle or not it does come out and with the right love and support from family and intervention by the school it can be sorted. That was my experience anyway and I really hope the same will be true in your situation. Wishing you all the best and hope your son stays strong! #TweensTeensBeyond

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    • Hi Jo. It is quite something that thing of not wanting to be seen as squealing on anyone. It runs deep. However, the school where our boy goes explained to us they stress to the kids that anyone providing an audience for a bullying scenario is treated as being part of the episode – they cannot plead innocence, as the school policy is to treat them as being party to it all, if they don’t intervene, or report. In any event we are just so pleased that we finally got the story out of our boy, so we could take the necessary steps. Thank you for yours lovely supportive words

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  21. I’m so sorry that poor O has had to endure this, it’s good that he has told you about it now and I do hope the school deal with it swiftly. Sadly bullies come in all shapes and sizes and appear everywhere. My girl’s were bullied and the school dealt with it swiftly. My older girl still gets teased but she has an amazing support system at school so she’s getting by just fine. But I had to take my Little Man out of school when he ended up in A&E because of the school bullies. Telling is the only thing that helps, yet so many children won’t tell for fear of things getting worse.

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    • They do come in all shapes … and few immune. Yes, telling vital but so often hard t o bring about. Hope your Little Man is doing okay.

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  22. Kids can be so horrid to each other can’t they? It’s the ‘banter Vs bullying’ Debate we’ve had quite recently in our house but kicking a kids crutch? Ffs what does this kid think about when he does that? Nothing possibly or he’s probably only thinking about how many laughs he will get and make himself more popular. The sad thing is that it’s the bully who is lacking in empathy or other social skills so he/she has to lash out or try to control a situation by being nasty. Your son? He sounds amazing and I hope he has a better week. #thatfridaylinky

    Liked by 1 person

  23. He didn’t hit him on the crutches, it was on the leg. Our boy is a great kid, and it’s just galling he should have to deal with this sort of crap. He is doing better, but still settling in and dealing wit issues of perceived popularity and all that. Work in progress!

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  24. Oh Enda, that is a story and a half. So well written. Thank goodness we haven’t had to deal with anything like this. I am, nonetheless, half-expecting something like this at some point. I went through it to a greater or lesser degree. Thankfully, schools seem to take this kind of thing very seriously these days. I hope it is dealt with and swiftly.

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    • Hi John. You are right about the proactive attutude of schools nowadays. Our kids’ school is really on the ball. Pity it has to come to this – as if young kids hadn’t enough to go through in adolescence! At least we found out: so many kids just suffer through, or just suffer. Hope you enjoyed your TV appearance! Thanks John

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  25. Everyone has a vulnerability and once it is exposed, bullies seize the opportunity to make themselves feel better by putting others down. I hope your situation is under control now. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  26. An absolute nightmare. He shouldn’t have to endure this and I feel for you all. A parent’s nightmare too as we can only do so much. I hope the school policy turns thing in his favour and there is no Jaws 2. #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • No one should have to Millie. The school have it in hand. Reassuring to know that at least. You’re right we can only do so much .. we just have to bevas alert as we can, even proactive if it is required. Jaws hasn’t struck since!

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  27. What a horrible thing to have to go through. Our oldest is in a similar situation. He has friends but not a gang as such. He’s academic rather than sporty, so he occasionally gets teased by the ‘cool’ kids. And he is one of only a handful of Year 6 kids not playing Fortnite – to his credit, he doesn’t complain about the fact we won’t let him do it. Kids are inherently cruel and Isaac (like me) isn’t the most confident of people. He copes okay on the whole, but every now and then it all comes out. It does seem to be thankfully quite mild and occasional – but something we’re keeping an eye on. We’re grateful that he’s quite open about such things and doesn’t bottle it up too much. #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not easy to negotiate all this, is it? Part of our boy’s thing is this self-perceived lack of popularity, but we have been told he hangs out with a number of kids who consider him a friend! But he sees the cool ones that he wants to befriend as unavailable. He is afraid to put himself out there. The bullying was mixed up with all this popularity stuff, and we are just glad it has come out, and is being dealt with. I can imagine the balancing act your Isaac has to do, wanting to fit in, but, like you, he will come in time to appreciate that being his own man is more important, and vital to his wellbeing. And he will find a way of being strong enough in himself to be taken on his own merits. And find his tribe. Whatever size it is. And it sounds like he inherently knows this and will be fine

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  28. Bullying ignites a rage in me that I struggle to keep a lid on. It’s one of my biggest fears as my little boy goes through school. I just hope he has the courage and lack of pride to come to us if it ever happens to him. I hope everything gets sorted for your boy and that there isn’t a sequel in the future. Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales, do come back next week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Every parent’s big fear Jaki! Often the hardest thing is letting the right people know. Our boy has done this, but it wasn’t easy to get him to do so. Thanks for reading and commenting

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  29. As always brilliantly written enda one of children went though this in high school and hid it for a long time thankfully we sorted it in the end. But it’s a horrible experience for all of us Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is just too horrible to think about our ds going through stuff like this, and feeling they can’t tell anyone, Nige. Thankfully we are also in the process of sorting this one out. Thanks for commenting and “see” you next week!

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  30. Horrible to do that absolutely, I just which I could shake then but no one listens, breaks your heart. My son has been builded and took all my strength not to go bat shit crazy at them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the primal desire to attack the perpetrators is strong, but we have left it in the hands of the school, and they have dealt very well with it all. Hope your son is doing okay

      Liked by 1 person

  31. #thesatsesh a sad read. This is my number two reason why i dislike the human population, the creation of ABBA and their music is my first. Kids are cruel, adults sneakier at it but just as vile. I hope it concludes in a positive way that means your son is resilient or better for experiencing the contrast. Best of luck

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, this beats the worst (or best!) that Abba can throw at the world, Hands down. We always knew our boy was resilient, we just didn’t know how much that resilience was being tested. Some kids are cruel, and some adults. We have to believe there are more good ones than bad ones, or that the good outweighs the bad in our own characters. Thanks for your words and kind regards

      Liked by 1 person

  32. I’m so sorry Enda, this all sounds horrible for your boy, and in turn of course for you as parents, too. I’m glad he’s got his football and the teammates there, and I hope his foot is healing okay. Can’t believe that scumbag kicked your boy when on crutches, how mean! Also makes me wonder what is wrong with that kid (the bully)? He must have some serious issues himself… Trouble at home, maybe?? Really hoping it all gets better for your boy. Hugs x #MixItUp

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  33. Yes it really was incredibly mean … in all truth, I might have had some sympathy with the perpetrator, but when I heard what had been going on for some time, I lost interest. So what if he has reasons, he is taking it out on my boy, and who knows who else. The school is dealing with it, and just so glad we know now. Thank you for your comments and kind thoughts

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  34. Amazing piece Enda and sorry to hear what he’s been going through – you’ve obviously all felt it deeply. For all every school claims to have bullying sorted, I don’t feel they always like to address it, or even accept it’s happening – it’s so often put down to ‘friendship conflicts’. I was bullied in primary school and it did affect me quite deeply, so it’s always upsetting to realise not that much has changed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really cuts so deeply Beth and we can only deal with instances when we uncover them. We have to be so vigilant. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

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  35. I’m so sorry that your son endured this kind of torture at school. Your son is so brave and I’m glad that this was brought to the attention of the school and hopefully it will be sorted. In most cases, the actual bully also has issues of his/her own and I hope that help will be extended there so that some rehabilitation can happen #triumphanttales

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  36. I have dealt with some bulling issues with my youngest for the past 3 years and each time i made sure the school did something about it. Even if it meant yelling at them or threatening legal action, which I had to resort to twice. But it got heard and the school did something about it but during all of this is what my son went through and how he dealt with it. He handled it like a champ and it made him stronger and more resilient. For a while there it also made him stand offish with the other kids but he has made a small group of really good friends and I have watched my boy become his own little warrior. Thanks for sharing. responding late to #mixitupmonday from last week

    Liked by 1 person

    • oops, I meant #GlobalBlogging

      Liked by 1 person

    • What an ordeal for you … and it is so good that he has found good friends. Sounds like a great kid, who has had to put up with a lot, and he was bound to be cautious with others as result. But I am certainly a firm believer in quality over quantity when it comes to friends. Thanks for your terrific comment

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Oh Enda, this is such a sad story but one that is all too common unfortunately. I really hope you can get to the bottom of this, I’m glad to hear your son’s school is supportive. You write so beautifully, your words really paint a picture of how you feel. #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  38. What, what, what! No. This is terrible Enda. Really awful. My heart goes out to your son and your family. No one should ever have to endure treatment like this. Ever. Bullying is not a rite of passage. Physical bullying too?! No wonder he was ready to explode. Being able to stay true to yourself and not change is indeed such strength of character- but to do that under the pressure of a bully too… words escape me. I suspect it’s the bully who’s worrying about popularity. Seem to me he’s built up a minion fan base… fuelled by fear. Thank goodness the school is dealing with this so well. Sending cake and support from the #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Hi Annette. You are right, no one, child or adult, should have to endure this. But bullies are in all walks of life, look at the president of the USA, FFS! Sometimes I think we, as a species, should shake ourselves and take a hard look at what we have let happen by voting out of selfish concerns, and for people we know deep down are not people who truly represent the good bits of us, the caring, decent parts of us. Thanks for the cake and support!

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  40. mackenzieglanville

    It is what all us parents dread and pray that our child is never bullied or will ever bully. It breaks my heart for you and your family, I obviously don’t know you, but from your writing that I read, you are such an intelligent and caring parent and I feel your son is so blessed to have you in his corner, raising him and helping him through. It’s just so sad and senseless. I really don’t understand how kids just stand by, watch, laugh even and don’t say anything. My girlfriends and I were the so called popular girls in high school and we always stood up against any bullying, never accepted our boyfriends being arseholes. High school is such a tough time and it can be hard to see that it ends and life goes on to be so much bigger and brighter. I am glad you are speaking out!

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Hi Mackenzie. Thanks for taking the trouble to replay do thoughtfully. Unfortunately, it’s not just that bullying is a universal phenomenon, we also have to consider both the damage done by being part of the “audience”, and also how it’s not always just “them out there” who are the bullies; we must make sure our own internal bully does not escape and treat others in our care, especially, unkindly. Our school has informed us they have a strong policy that those observing acts of bullying are promoting them if they don’t report, or intervene. So witnesses to the incident with our boy were interviewed too, This impressed us. So this case is being dealt with, and we hope our son will also be helped to integrate better in his school, which was at least part of the problem for him. He is a great kid, empathic and decent, so he will not see any of those wonderful qualities compromised. We know well he is his own man.

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  42. Lucy At Home

    Poor O! It’s one of those situations that you just dread happening, as a parent – we want to be there for for our kids and protect them, but the older they get, the less we’re able to do so. I’m glad he was finally able to tell you and I hope that the school deal with it effectively now and that the emotional impact is short-lived #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Yes, Lucy it really was important that he told us … but also as you said, it is impossible for us to protect them in every instance, in every situation, so there is always that worry. A job for life, this parenting lark! Thank you for joining in.

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  44. Dave - Dad's Turn

    What a little s@#t. Sorry, hope the kid is dealt with properly. That must be really difficult to go through, especially as your kid, but also for you as parent. All your instincts are to protect them and you can for so many years, but there’s just so little you can do in a situation like this, especially if they don’t talk. Hope this turns out well, but it will always get better. After the nasty phase, people start treating each other better. Things will get easier for your son

    Like

    • Yes dave, it is not easy … even though the school are doing their best, our boy is still anxious around the whole thing, and it is a work in progress. This is real life after all! Thank you for your thoughts. Appreciated.

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  45. A subject close to many of our hearts unfortunately Enda. We had a recent experience of this with my daughter in Year 7 just before the summer break. Our first experience with girls and a bolt out of the blue. I found it quite alarming (and sad) that young people are capable of carrying out such pre-meditated and calculated attacks. Like you, and the many others here, we were grateful that our daughter shared. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise for our daughter. I know for boys it is very different in terms of the ‘cool kids’ and fitting in. I did have this conversation with my daughter as ‘cool kids’ are often referred to. I asked what is a ‘cool kid’ and why do you think you aren’t cool? I find it interesting how they all seem to benchmark themselves against this perceived status. I have no enlightenment on that – other than it just is. Although quite often the cool gang seem to be the ones in trouble – perhaps it is that reason that causes their peers to feel deferential. If only they could all fast forward to our age and embrace their inner geek. I do feel for you all and your son and I hope that this resolves itself soon. The crutch incident was quite sickening to read. Thank you for sharing with us here at #tweensteensbeyond

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    • Hi Nicky. It really is awful to see what kids are capable on the negative side of things. On one level, I do think it can be connected to the lack of development in the empathy towards others side of things … which comes around when they become less self-obsessed and snugger in their skins … and those that do maintain bullying ways are underdeveloped socially … maybe like a certain Donald Trump. Not a lot of consolation when your kid is on the receiving end of this lack of empathy. But there can also be diffculties dealing with the parents of those kids who do mean things to their peers, and those parents not being able to countenance criticism of their offspring, as it seems to hit them in a narcissistic place that brooks no criticism. Or something. Thanks for taking the time to comment Nicky

      Liked by 1 person

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