Beware: bullies come in all shapes and sizes!

Within two months of Isobel (now 6) starting at a new preschool last year, she began complaining about a little boy, who I’ll refer to as A, who was mean to her….and we brushed it off.

We told her that A was probably just upset about something and that she should tell him very nicely that she doesn’t want to fight with him, and that she wants to be his friend. When she continued saying that the little boy was pinching her, hubby and I told her to just ignore him or move away from him. We agreed that this was part of growing up and learning to deal with different personalities that she will come across in life. I also approached the school and was told that A was a bit anti-social and they would keep an eye on him and keep him away from Isobel.

Isobel stopped complaining about the little boy for a few months and we thought that all was well. Then at the start of this year, several times a week Isobel began complaining about A again. She said he would pinch her and hit her and that she felt sad for him because he told her that his mum and dad always shout at him and his older brother and hit them. There were even a few occasions when Isobel had a little cry about A being ugly to her and we put it down to oversensitivity and overtiredness after a long day at school.

Otherwise, Isobel was her happy bubbly self, perfect school reports and loads of friends so we thought all was well.

Then one day, as part of our daily chat/debriefing where we ask our two girls how their day was, what made them happy and what made them sad and so on….I asked Isobel, “So, how was your day? What made you happy today?” I expected her to speak about the artwork they had done, the games she had played, the songs she had sung or something equally fun like she usually says.

Isobel answered, “Mama, the best part of my day was that A didn’t hit me today.”

My heart broke. How could we have missed this? Our child was being tormented by a classmate to the point that the highlight of her day was that he didn’t hit her!?

We took for granted that all pre-schoolers are sweet little kids who may sometimes squabble and didn’t realise that bullying can even happen under the watchful care of a teacher in a school with a teacher /child ratio of 1:15.

When I told the school manager the following day what Isobel had said she was concerned and promised to look into it. She told me that they had been trying to deal with A appropriately by giving him time-outs but she had also found out recently that A had been hitting another little boy in the class.

A few days later Isobel asked me why her teacher had asked her if A was hitting her every day and I told her that I had spoken to her teacher because I had listened to her and didn’t want A to hurt her anymore. She didn’t say anything but just smiled and held my hand tightly.

A few weeks later, I realised that Isobel hadn’t complained once about A for a long while and asked her how he was. She just answered matter-of-factly, “Oh, I don’t know, he doesn’t come to our school anymore.”

I am happy that the school took action and fortunately Isobel is her lovely, happy self and she comes home every day with no complaints, apart from the “boys are smelly/silly/naughty” phase she’s going through. And when I ask her what the best part of her day was, she usually says drawing/jumping and the worst part is usually, “I didn’t like those little hot dogs and tomatoes that Mam Anna cooked for us today!”

This article was originally written for Jozikids by Sholain Govender- Bateman in 2014.

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Sholain Govender-Bateman

Sholain Govender-Bateman

Sholain Govender-Bateman – New Media journalism lecturer and editor who worked for newspapers & edited magazines. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, wife to Barry Bateman. Visit her on

4 Responses

  1. These are some of the statistics
    of bulling in our schools
    and streets in the last year : 13 Million children have been bullied in our schools and streets
    280 000 children were physically abused
    3 Million students are Absent each month because they feel unsafe at school
    1 in 4 Teachers feel there is nothing wrong with Bullying
    77 % of students are bullied either verbally , mentally or physically

    At Fight Fit Militia we run an anti Bully class for the children , the feedback from the kids and parents in the class we run show that the classes work with children that were bullied regularly , the bulling has either reduced to almost nothing or it has stopped all together ,We do not teach the children to fight. just to have the confidence to stand up to a bully or even an adult that is hurting them.
    The class is designed to achieve the following : Fitness for the bullied child (as most of the bullied kids are either small or over weight)
    Self defence techniques not only against bullies but any attacker (adult or child)
    Team Building (most bullied children are pushed aside and left out of teams , games and groups
    the classes have shown a great improvement in ADHD and ADD children helping them to focus and express their feelings through a form of mixed martial arts. my own child who has ADHD was also bullied at school and from the time we started him in the classes he has become another person , more responsible ,calmer and he now has a lot of friends and even his teachers have said they cant believe that it is the same child that was in the class 2 months ago
    all it took was the courage to stand up to the bullies (no fighting at all) it has brought him out of his shell and made him want to interact with other children.

    parents do not understand the extent that bullies break our children down and unfortunately we sometimes don't see it until it is to late there are hundreds of cases of suicides reported yearly through out the world of children that are bullied and parents didn't see it or ignored it

    please feel free to contact me if anyone would like more info on the bullying issue or about the classes that we run 0832336878 or on

  2. Thank you for this very helpfull response Bev. Sadly this is a universal problem. It would make a difference if everyone keeps their eyes open and is willing and brave enough to intervene when they see children being victimised in any way. Of course it is never that easy, but often the best outcomes in life have take hard work, courage and determination.

  3. I felt so sad for all the role players in this blog: the children, including A, the parents and the teachers. More and more, as a psychologist I encounter children caught in the cycle or vortex of violence. One person is subjected to violence, takes it out on another, who could either carry the hurt and emotional scars/lessons, or re-enact the aggression. There are so many angry people (including children) in our society. And those who are targets for the venting of anger are often the dearest and most sensitive of children/individuals. It is also amazing how much hurt, anger, fear and pain that children can contain. This makes it very difficult for the caring adults in their immediate environments to identify if a child is being vicitmised in some manner. There is no easy solution and I am so pleased that Isobel was able to find the words to discuss the bullying with her parents and that that she was protected. Some tips for parents and others:

    * Fully and actively listen to your children: with your eyes (observe their non-verbals, their play and interactions with others;, ears (hear the tone and the words, what is said and not said); hearts (be empathic, feel how the child might feel); and minds (think things through, preferably by sharing with someone else so you can can also hear your own descriptions).
    * Develop clear routines, boundaries and discipline such that there is an open, transparent and on-going incorporation of value systems
    * Create family times together – no interfering electronic gadgets, but good times together
    * Create emotional literacy in your children
    * Get angry children the specialised help they need – yes,even in our resource scarce society!

    But most importantly be the best role model you can be, with clear and conscious adherence to value systems of respect, kindness, non-violence and so forth.

    So easy to preach, so difficult for us to enable our children to enjoy the relatively stress-free childhoods that many of us enjoyed. Take care!

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