There are few worse parenting moments than realising your child is being bullied. Leah Smith* and her son got through it with the help of Kidscape.
I picked my little boy Ben* up from school. He was ashen, and said, “Mummy, I’ve just had the worst day of my life.”
He’d only been in school five weeks but he’d been tied up in the playground and bullied for an hour. The boy had tied to him to a seat with a skipping rope. He was only five years old and the experience completely changed his personality. He went from being this lovely, confident, happy-go-lucky little boy to someone that had to have his wits about him. He said to me, “They just wouldn’t let me go; they just kept pushing me over and pinching me.”
Every time I tell people about what happened to Ben in the playground people laugh, at first. He said, “Mummy, I had to walk like a penguin to go and get help” because his ankles were tied up. But the situation was anything but funny.
Ben is sociable and charming and funny and he’d been a really confident boy. But in the playground, he spent the first four years of his school life on his own, in a corner, terrified.
The school just glossed over it; they deemed it “inappropriate play”, which was an understatement, to say the least. We left that school and Ben’s happily in a new school now.
I found out about Kidscape’s ZAP workshops on Google. Kidscape was the first charity in the UK to identify and deal with bullying in schools and they run free workshops for children and parents in London, the Midlands and the north east. We signed up, not knowing how incredible it was going to be.
When we arrived to the session, Ben disappeared off upstairs and I immediately felt comfortable. The people running it just have an incredible gift for putting the children and parents at ease. Off he trotted and all us mums mooched off to go and find a coffee. We all instantly bonded, sitting around with our coffees and sharing our experiences.
The workshop leaders took the children through different techniques – how to be assertive with their voice and body language, how to create an imaginary ‘fog’ or cloud around them to protect them from future bullying – and they all acted out different scenarios with each other, which was great practice.
Now Ben knows what bullying is, he has the tools and he knows what should and shouldn’t be accepted and tolerated. He’s such a happy little boy now.
Kidscape not only supported me but they supported Ben and now he runs around and plays and has a wonderful time in the playground, which is what school should be all about.
*names have been changed
Is your child being bullied? Kidscape runs free ZAP workshops for 9-16 year olds and their parents in London, the Midlands and the north east, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. Find out more here. If your child is aged under nine, you can also contact the Parent Advice Line here.