It's a squabble, not bullying, so get over it

14th March 2008 at 00:00
I sat there for a long time listening to Mrs Woolf (not her real name). I was finding it hard to concentrate because this was another complaint about bullying.

According to her, Carmella had been bullied again. It had been going on for months now and she'd had a "guts full".

I made a few bland comments and wrote down some random words. My heart wasn't in this at all. I had heard it too often. Carmella was not being bullied. Far from it. But I hear this rant far too often these days - everything is bullying. What Mrs Woolf wanted was not action: all she wanted was revenge.

It is just kids disagreeing - nothing more, nothing less. The failure of the kitchen to supply a bacon sandwich is bullying because someone is picking on you. All that happened was that circumstances stopped you from having what you wanted. It happens to us all.

I don't want to hear it any more. What I want is a more complete understanding of human interaction. This is what normally happens between people.

It isn't intimidation. It is not a threat. It is not psychological torture. Usually it is bickering. My own children did it at weekends for a hobby.

Kids are kids and they have a right to be so. And the reasons for their arguments are usually insignificant. But now Carmella refuses to come to school because she said something unkind and her chums turned on her. But it is a row, that's all.

Today there are many new ways in which to argue, with infernal instant messaging and texting. We are at the cutting edge of unkindness and cruelty. But some parents are losing a sense of perspective.

When you start to lose an argument, your first response today is to change the nature of the defeat. It has nothing to do with being outflanked in the cut and thrust of lively debate. No, you were intimidated.

It serves more successfully than anything else to divert valuable resources away from those who really are being bullied, the silent victims. But how many social workers does it take to sort out a squabble over a pencil sharpener? It isn't bullying. It is just an argument.

It is something that hasn't gone your way. And I have to sit and listen to Mrs Woolf while the real victims go home to cry alone.

John Sutton is a psudonym. He teaches in North Wales.

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