Bullying: To dob or not to dob

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

So my son is being bullied.

He just started Prep this year. Apart from some issues relating to separation anxiety he has been doing exceptionally well, better than I could have hoped for and I am so proud of him.

I didn’t see the signs. In retrospect perhaps I should have, but I guess I prefer to see the world through rose coloured glasses. I made excuses, maybe they’re just boys playing rough I thought. I should have realised when he wanted to buy things for this boy that he didn’t even seem to like. It was my husband’s perseverance and questioning that made it clear. Last week he pushed him up against the wall. This week he hit him with sticks till he had red scratch marks on his back, they were small and will heal soon, but I fear the mental scars wont be as forgiving.

Up until now it had been my husband who had mainly done the questioning. It had been very persistant, very much like a parent questions a child, and I felt for him. It reminded me of all the times my parents would question me about my friends when they would upset me. And years later, long after the incident in question was well forgotten, my mum would still be askings “isn’t she the one who did so and so to you”. Mums….gotta love them. She could never forget when her child was hurt. Now the tables have turned, and I am the mum, and I will never be able to forget my baby hurting. But I will also never forget her reactions, and how it caused me to think twice before going to her again. I wanted to make sure that our son didn’t feel that way.

Last night after we read our bedtime book together I put the book under the covers and lay down next to him. I made sure he was comfortable, and started casually asking him about school. I asked him about how he was enjoying it, about what he liked…then I prodded “tell me about this boy”. So he started to tell me, and as he began his demeanor changed. He suddenly became tense and anxious. “He hurts me”, he told me. I asked him how often this happens, he seemed to suggest it happened fairly often, perhaps everyday. I asked him where his friends were when it happened, he answered half crying “They are there, they wont help me or anything”…my heart broke. I tried to explain to him that they probably didn’t want to intervene as they may have been afraid they’d be next, but how do you make a five year old understand. Then I asked him “If he hurts you, why did you want to buy him an ice-cream”. He said “I thought maybe that if I bought him something that he would be my friend and stop hurting me”. As a parent you never want to see your child hurt. My instinct was to wrap my arms around him, shelter him and never let him hurt again. However, I realised that the best thing to do was to try to equip him with the ability to deal with these situations. I know I cant shelter him for ever, but when they’re five its hard. I had to explain to him the concept of friendship, and that friends can not be bought. Its funny, a few months ago he was a pre-schooler who didnt have a worry in the world. Now he’s having to learn lessons that many adults still dont get. I guess my little boy is growing up, and maybe he is helping me to grow as a mother with him.

So now that we have established that he is being bullied the dilemma becomes how to deal with the situation. My first instinct is to let his teacher know, she can keep an eye on the situation and perhaps offer advice. My husband really dislikes this idea and thinks of it as dobbing. I should probably explain here for the benefit of non-Australian readers that the term dob means to inform the teacher (or person in authority) of a particular act, also known as “telling on” somebody. In the end we agreed that we would tell our son to tell this boy that what he is doing is “haram” or forbidden, and that Allah doesn’t like it when we hurt others. I was happy with this, an islamic reminder is a good first step. I suggested that if he didn’t stop it he could go play close to the teacher on yard-duty, he liked this idea and even thought that maybe he could keep yelling “HARAM!! HARAM!!” to the boy till the teacher heard. On the way to school I also suggested that he make dua or a supplication, asking Allah to help him. I explained to him again that only Allah has all power over everything, and whenever he wants something to happen the first thing he should do is ask Allah. Then we went over our plan again and we were ready…

…or at least we thought we were. Lets just say things didn’t go according to plan. Apparently our son tried to apply a pre-emptive strike. He says he hit the boy with sticks as he had done to him yesterday, and apparently the boy responded by saying “i’m still going to hurt you”. We never encouraged this, but to be honest I don’t really mind that he did it. Bullies tend to pick on easy targets, and unfortunately our son appears to be that easy target. He is a sweet boy, nice and gentle. He’s not aggressive, not rough, and although I never thought of it before I can now see how he is an easy target. I felt a little guilty, maybe I had somehow raised him to be prone to bullies, all those times i told him not to hit other kids, to share and give up his toys etc. Logically I know this is not correct, I raised my son to have manners, to care for others’ feelings, and to not hurt others. Unfortunately not all children are raised like this, and perhaps nice gentle boys are not equipped to deal with these types. So what do you do, do you raise your child to be sweet, gentle and caring, knowing that he may become a target…or do you allow them to be one of them?? I hate that I even have to ask myself this question…we should never let bullies compromise our ways! Not on any level.

So without admonishing him for what he did, we made it clear that he shouldn’t be seeking this boy out to hurt him. We never encouraged him to fight back in retaliation, but at the same time we didn’t want to tell him not to. He seems a bit more confident in dealing with him now, and I hope that the matter will be resolved. Should it persevere there is still the question on how to deal with it…to dob or not to dob. Insha’allah (God willing) its a question we won’t need to revisit.

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7 responses to “Bullying: To dob or not to dob

  1. Hi there. I just wrote a post in my blog on this topic as well this morning,…and let me just say,… I can relate to you. I was just thinking this morning as to how I never imagined being a mum would be challenging in this way… I wish you and your family the best,…

    If you get a chance, please do read my post too >>> http://spillay.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/sometimes-it-is-the-small-picture-that-matters-most/

  2. spillay: thank-you 🙂 Yes it is more challenging than I imagined, but with the challenges comes reward…and I think its a learning experience for all of us, both child and parents. Thanks for the link, I will have a look now.

    As an update the plan hasn’t been working, so I’m off to have a talk to his teacher this afternoon.

  3. I agree with all your comments. I wish you and your family well!!

  4. It is a tough situation to resolve! I think you handled it well, and I hope in the future that you will never need worry about it again.

  5. Insha’allah, I spoke to the teacher and I know she has spoken to his mother, so insha’allah that is the end of it.

  6. as salamu ‘alaykum

    Subhana’Allah! I understand this boy too well. My parents didn’t take much notice of what went on with me, and if they did they simply thought the solution was for me to go tell the teacher. I wish my parents had taught me to speak up and stand up for myself. I have too many bad memories because I allowed the bullying to continue for so long. I suppose I was an easy target as well because I was quiet, kind, and to myself.

    I still wonder to this day why I was the one they bullied, but I know that our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the best example in dealing with others. He didn’t always face the best situations, yet he still made the best of them by treating those who hurt him with kindness. But it is hard to teach our children what to do because we want them to learn to strike a balance between still being kind to people that treat them bad but without losing their sanity or confidence, and without losing their right to be treated with respect.

    But, for what your son did, an eye for an eye. The kid did it and your son has the right to give it back. So good for him. Insha’Allah this will teach the other boy a lesson, too.

  7. Umm Laith: Wa alaikum assalam, yes thats the hard part, finding the balance. And as a parent how to guide your child to be balanced in their reactions. Insha’allah he gets there.

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