Building Hope

“Can I show you my stone?” he said as he pulled a large stone out of his pocket. I I had just taken my 10-year-old son to meet a child psychologist. As he said hello, my sweet boy held the stone in his hand. It had HOPE written in large letters.

The psychologist got down to his level, and said “Tell me about this.” My son explained that he had done well in a maths test and had been offered the opportunity to choose a prize. When he saw the stone, he knew that was right for him, because he said, “I need hope.” He explained that he now carried it round in his pocket, whenever he was at school, or doing other scary things.

My heart broke when I heard him link going to school with other scary things. But that was the truth, and why we were in the room.

Once upon a time, we had a very happy little family. It took us a long time for us to have our children – we needed IVF. But we were lucky enough to have two healthy boys, born 22 months apart. They were easy-going babies who slept through the night and they loved each other dearly – putting their beds next to each other and holding hands as they fell asleep.

Our happy experience changed when the boys started at a new school. Within a short time, my younger son started wilting, looking anxious and much less happy when heading off to school. We sat down and talked and discovered that he had been targeted by another boy who was also new to the school. Day by day the situation got worse, and this is what was happening to our child:

    • He would get shoved in the corridor, several times a day;
    • He would get kicked and punched in his legs and arms, getting bruises all over his body;
    • He was called names like “frog” or accused of being “gay’, also several times a day;
    • Now he isn’t gay, and he is a very good looking boy, but he really began to doubt himself, saying he must be ugly;
    • The attacks escalated …
    • He had a stick held up against his eye in the classroom;
    • This boy put his hands around our son’s neck and attempted to strangle him, telling our boy he was going to “get wasted”;
    • My son had his teeth thrust through the area above his mouth and he had to have plastic surgery on his face, costing thousands of dollars;
    • He started wetting the bed, sometimes several times a night, developed “night terrors” and anxiety attacks so bad he ended up in paediatric emergency;
    • The specialists told us we had to stop the bullying.

The school suggested that my son change the way he walked, and only walk in the playground when he had another friend with him.

Now there is nothing wrong with the way my son walks, but there were a lot of problems in the way the school responded to our son’s experience. Our son was not safe at school. The school leaders were not keeping him safe.

Here we were getting him psychological help – because he had told me that he was so sad going to school that he was thinking about throwing himself in the traffic as he walked down the road to the school.

Something happened for me that day as I introduced him to the psychologist.

I had felt like a failure as a mother because I hadn’t been able to get the school to listen. I had felt disconnected from other mothers as they talked about cake stalls and we supported our son through plastic surgery.

But as I sat outside that consulting room where my son was getting professional help, something changed inside.

I became determined that we were going to get this behaviour to stop.

And I became determined that we were going to do everything in our power to help our gorgeous boy recover.

We changed our approach, and we succeeded.

We learned how to change the way we dealt with the school

We learned how to nurture our son when he got home so he told us what had happened that day. He felt loved and acknowledged before moving on to stuff that wasn’t about bullying.

We learned what questions to ask so we had all the facts we needed to be the strong parents he deserved.

We learned how to use technology, so the school couldn’t deny what had happened or how bad it had felt for him.

We learned that our role was critical – nobody but us would keep and communicate a record of what really happened to our sweet boy with the bullying – both what happened and how he felt. The school certainly wouldn’t, because it wasn’t in the school’s interests to have a record of what they were ignoring.

We learned how to deal with the school, so they couldn’t pick and choose what to respond to, and what to ignore.

When we changed everything changed.

We got the attention of school authorities.

The bully was asked to leave the school.

The bullying stopped.

Our son started smiling again, and enjoying school, and learning again. We had hope again. We got our family back.

The wheel had turned.

And we now know completely how to stop bullying in it’s tracks.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways I can help you stop school bullies:

1. Grab a free copy of our guide

It’s the roadmap to understanding and side-stepping the traps set by schools that prevent you keeping your child safe at school. — Click Here

2. Join our free webinar

Fast paced, free online “crash course’ training. Now you can escape endless waste of time school meetings, stop the bullying of your child, and get your life back. — Click Here

3. Join our Implementation Program and connect with parents who are also stopping the bullying of their child

We’re putting together a new implementation program – working with parents to stop the bullying of their child, fast. If you’d like to work with us to get this problem fixed … — Click Here

The Power of the Great Outdoors

We headed off to Rays to get a new waterproof jacket, and some camping pillows. I was taking my two sons on a camping trip with some friends I had known since high school.

It was going to be cold, bitterly cold, since we are in the middle of winter. Our destination can be harsh, but I’ve camped in the alpine snowline. I know you can be in a cold environment and in the middle of extraordinary scenic beauty, that is memorable and stays with you your whole life.

My sons have been through a torrid few years with school bullying. I want to lay down different memories, positive experiences that are an alternative pathway when they think about their school years. The literature says that experiences, and outdoor experiences in particular, have a profound impact on well-being, and I believe it.

And I am acting on my beliefs, a practice that leads to a more satisfying life.

It took a few hours to get there – it had been a big week and both the boys fell asleep in the back of the car. It was a very peaceful experience getting to the rendezvous point, and when we got there it quickly became extremely busy.

As you would know, there is a lot of things to do when you set up camp, even if you do as much camping as my best friend. But there is a rhythm to the actions, and a sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing everyone and everything come together, in creating a temporary haven for our little group.

Everyone contributed different food, and it smelt great as it sizzled on the barbecue. Spicy sausages, hot satay sauce and chicken skewers, tasty vegetables – we had it all. The boys were particularly thrilled when somebody brought out marshmallows. A final hot drink and we were done.

Kangaroos and wallabies, kookaburras and magpies, wombats and lizards. We saw them all. The air was sharp, and the campsite was full of noises, from people and animals. It was unforgettable – just what I had in mind.

In the morning we could see our breath as we talked and put together another tasty meal. We hiked up the hill and went through some beautiful caves that I had no idea were nearby. The boys teetered on rocks and took it in turns to borrow my camera and take artistic shots. Lots of laughter. Lots of memories.

One of my sons had had a bad experience at a school camp, and both boys have been highly reluctant to participate in school camping activities. I wanted to show them, in a safe way, surrounded by very safe adults, that camping can be beautiful and exhilarating, that being away from home can be stretching, exhausting, and completely worth it.

And I wanted the boys to experience a very masculine activity, surrounded by men, growing up as confident, outgoing, explorative males.

Bullying can be very damaging. Children and their parents can both be affected. As a man, I felt self-doubt and shame when I couldn’t stop the bullying of my sons, and they were badly hurt. Children can come out of bullying feeling much worse about themselves, diminished in their aspirations and in what they are prepared to do.

Outdoor activities such as camping can be an important counterbalance to these fears and doubts. As you use your strength to construct a temporary haven, as you dig, attach, hang and construct, you’re making emotional connections as well as physical. You’re connecting with the sense of what is possible when you’re not under attack.

You’re connecting with the sense of being a healthy growing male nurtured by powerful and kind mentors, parents and other men who know and like you.

The trip was everything that I had hoped for, and more. The boys immediately wanted to go again, and we will do it soon.

My older boy was talking to me a few days ago about building a computer. “I need to ring Gary he said, to talk about whether this model will be powerful enough to do what I want to do.” This is perfect, I thought. I had been following the pathway of Steve Biddulph, who writes powerfully about growing young men, and more recently, about helping girls develop differently. He sees a need for more rituals as children grow, and writes about the benefits of building connections between children and other adults in their family circle. Mentors who can be part of the circle of growth for children.

In deciding to reach out to my friend about whether his proposed computer was going to meet his needs, my son was showing that the camping trip had been powerful.

He’d had a positive camping experience. He had built his connection with my friends. He was continuing with his experiences in building. And he saw my friends as people he could reach out to.

We should never forget the power of the great outdoors, and our childhood friends, as sources of renewal and growth.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways  we can help you stop school bullies:

1. Grab a free copy of my guide

It’s the roadmap to understanding and side-stepping the traps set by schools that prevent you keeping your child safe at school. — Click Here

2. Join our free webinar

Fast paced, free online “crash course’ training. Now you can escape endless waste of time school meetings, stop the bullying of your child, and get your life back. — Click Here

3. Join our Implementation Program and connect with parents who are also stopping the bullying of their child

We’re putting together a new implementation program – working personally with parents to stop the bullying of their child. If you’d like to work with us to get this problem fixed … — Click Here