How many times have we heard this from our kids? How many times have we dismissed it? I know I have, especially when I’d heard it from one of my sons, who had been relentlessly bullied for almost three years. How could he say I was the best mum ever? Why would he think that? How could he think that? Had he not seen my failings, the times I had cried myself to sleep, wondering if I could have done more and why I was unable to stop it? Sure, I had spoken to the teachers and even escalated it to the headteacher, but still for a time, it persisted. I had failed my child; I had been unable to protect him and now here he was saying I was the best mum ever, making me feel, if anything a million times worse.
So, one evening as I tucked my son into bed, I asked him “Why do you say I’m the best mum ever, when I couldn’t stop the bullying?” My eight-year-old son’s answer left me speechless. “Mummy there are lots of bad things that go on in the world and we can’t stop them all, but as long as we do our best to try, that’s all we can do, and I know you tried your hardest”.
As the conversation continued, my son explained that when he first told me he was being bullied, his biggest worry was whether I would believe him, but I had believed him. He hoped I would explain as best I could, why it was happening and I had done that too. Lastly, he hoped I would agree it was not his fault, something I had also done. “See mummy, you are the best mum ever, you did lots for me, without even realising” he said. Kissing him goodnight, I walked away seeing things very differently.
In my son’s eyes, I had not let him down at all, quite the opposite, I had given him everything he had needed, my love, my understanding and my unwavering support.
As mums, we tend to focus on what we perceive as failings, never acknowledging our victories, no matter how small. I always thought that unless I could make the bullying stop, I had let him down, but my son knew there was no magic wand to make that happen. The expectations from him were based on having my unconditional love, my continued support and for me to do the best I could to defend him and fight his corner.
As mums, we should never underestimate the impact we are having on our children’s lives, we are their safety net, their source of inspiration, their everything. We may not always be able to make the bullying stop, but if we make our children understand that we will always be there no matter what and that we will always do our best for them, we will have given them the greatest gift ever.
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY
My tips for parents who suspect their child is being bullied:
1) Remember, you know your child better than anyone, if you think something is wrong, don’t
ignore your gut feeling and have a chat with him/her.
2) Ensure your child knows there will be no judgement or blame and that you just want to help.
3) If your child is reluctant to open up, give them space, but make sure they know that there
are lots of people they can turn to, teachers, trusted friends, siblings, grandparents and
bullying help lines. You may even just leave a notepad by their bedside, in case they would
sooner write their worries down than speak to you face to face.
When your child tells you they are being bullied:
1) Tell them you believe them and that it’s not their fault.
2) Reassure them they are not alone and you’ll tackle it together. Make a plan of how you will
tackle this and who you’ll talk to, ensuring your child is involved, as it will give them some
sense of control over the situation.
3) If the bullying is happening in school, try to get them more involved in out-of-school
activities to boost their self-confidence and to make new friends.
4) Ensure you allocate time every day to chat, but ensure you don’t focus solely on the bullying, try to find some positives to the day too. In my case, this allowed my son to realise that although the bullying was a part of his life at that time, it wasn’t the only thing in his life.
5) Lastly, remember children do not understand the passing of time. It is important to try to get them to understand that this phase in their life will pass and that it will not always be like
this. That doesn’t mean belittling the bullying, it means reassuring them they have a bright
future at the end of this road, where they will go on to achieve amazing things.
The tips above are some of the things I tried, so are only suggestions. Every child is different and what works for one may not work for another. You may need to try several different approaches, until something works, but never give up hope.