Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mean Kids

My school days were all about innocent fun and everlasting friendships. I could not wait to go to school every day to meet my friends. My friends put up with my idiosyncrasies and bad humour. They helped me with my homework. They shared their food and class notes.They supported me when I went through any crisis.

My daughter however disagrees with me. According to her, school is full of mean boys and meaner girls. Kids take every opportunity to pull down each other in her school. They wilfully hurt and spread rumours about each other. They kick, slap, punch and call each other names.

There are days when she comes back from school in tears just because she has been insulted. Her friends sometimes do not invite her to their birthdays and gleefully inform her that she has been deliberately left out.  Once, a girl walked out of my daughter's birthday simply because the food served was not to her liking. ( I had served aloo parathas instead of pizzas)  Just a few days ago, she cried the whole afternoon because some girls called her gay as she did not have a boy friend.

My daughter is now in tenth grade. She goes to a prestigious school in Mumbai that figured in the top ten schools of Mumbai recently. The boys and girls are all above average students. They come from supposedly good families. I have met the parents of her class mates, they all seem rather nice. Then how come these kids find such inexplicable delight in ruining some one's art work or taunting some body's hair style or making fun of some one's body? My daughter is not like other 15 year olds. She finds it difficult to make friends. She finds it difficult to fit in. Therefore she has been a natural target for bullies on more than one occasions.

She is not the only one. There are many more like her who are bullied every day. The teachers complain about lack of discipline at every student-teacher meet I have attended. The kids write cuss words with permanent ink on the class room walls. They disrupt lectures. They bunk classes.Sadly, they are not even in high school. What will happen when these children enter India's work force? Will they carry this behaviour to work place?

 The innocence that I expect from a 15 year old has vanished. These days, kids say "Screw you, bitch/man" and show each other the middle finger all the time. They use the F word like some punctuation mark in their sentences. They call each other ugly names and mean them too.They are often cruel to their class mates Is it a big city phenomenon? Because I often get the same response when I talk to my friends from Delhi, or Bangalore.

My daughter identifies more with the characters of Glee than with the eternal friendship of Jai and Veeru of Sholay. She thinks school is all about peer pressure and politics. She thinks childhood is a phase she has to quickly grow out of as it is very cruel.

I am devastated to know from her that school is no longer fun. It is apparently, a jungle out there.


Rachna said...

My son used to and still suffers from bullies. He would be in tears very often. I have been counseling him for years. I guess, we can not do much about other kids. We have to teach our kids to be tough. It really is a dog-eat-dog world out there. The only thing you can teach your girl is to ignore and forget or lash back at the really mean kind. That is important for her self esteem, in my opinion.

dr.antony said...

We are watching a total shift of culture.We are unknowingly influenced by a culture,which ,they think is superior,but has proved to be a miserable failure. When western societies have started respecting Indian traditions and culture,and look towards us for peace and comfort, we are trying to imitate their failure.
Children are easily influenced by what they see in television.They grow up watching American cartoons and movies.Teen age sex and pregnancies are not unusual there.They don't respect teachers the way we do.For that matter,they don't respect any thing,even their own parents.
The problem is worse in the so called hi class schools which are attended by children of well to do families.They imitate the slang and language,which they think is superior.
We,parents are partly to be blamed.We fail to impart proper training at crucial times,and bring up children,the way we later despise.We are secretly happy when our children talk English stylishly,probably because we couldn't do that.
So,who is at fault?

Sandhya said...

I know that the children are not innocent anymore, Aparna. My son used to say, 'if you watch the way our classmates use words when they fight, you will try to change my school', when I scolded him for using the word 'dog shit' when he was fighting with his brother. This was some 15 years back.

We cannot stop them from watching TV and that too, English programmes. Films, whether it is Tamil, Hindi or English, are full of pelvic thrust dances or double meaning lyrics or dialogues. Talking about sex has become very common.

The only thing, we parents can do is to boost our children's self confidence by making them feel that they can fight back and that is the only way to survive. Yes, we cannot afford to have innocent children, Aparna or they will suffer.

My relative's son who is in 9th std. watches Desperate housewives with his mother and his classmates also watch, it seems - this relative is in the UK, but I think our households also will become like this soon.

Unknown said...

I can so empathize with your daughter's plight Aparnadi since I was myself bullied in school for being "too creative".

The only way to deal with this problem is identification and boosting up the morale of our kids. As kids, we faced corporal punishment atleast we believe that today's kids don't face that but I think they do of a different kind.

Nupur said...

Have no first hand experience of schools these days but I can very well imagine all that you'v mentioned...only one thing that I could say is-No,it's not about metro or big's everywhere...teenagers converting themselves to rebels and using F word and all that stuff as a fashion statement is commonly seen everywhere now a days !

Sigh ! We sure were innocent in our times..when school was a place where we always always wanted to go..without missing it a day !

Ugich Konitari said...

I am almost a generation before you, but there was even some element of what you describe, in my school (a well known, highly regarded girl's school in Pune), when I attended. Today this is the case almost in every school.

My daughter faced a lot of this stuff, because of her dark complexion and I suspect, because some folks in her class realized she was an adopted child. (We will ignore the existence of insensitive parents)

I had realized right from her primary school days that it was going to be a self-esteem problem. And so when we found she had a talent for swimming, we put her into a regular coaching schedule. It helps if in the eyes of your classmates, you excel at something and that is publicly acknowledged in the school. It also gave my child immense confidence, to handle senseless comments from the boys and girls in her class, who were actually jealous.

Having said all this, I think we as parents have to be very involved and in touch with their school activities, who the friends are, the language they use etc. Most of those who go to these expensive schools, have parents who have very little time and lots of money to throw. And so you have that girl walking out because you made parathas. Good riddance, really.

Maybe when your daughter does her +2 , she can change schools or something, where the student profile is different and more diverse. I have seen what you describe , as a very typical thing in these so called prestigious schools. I have nieces and nephews in the US who were once visited by their cousins who attend a very very hi-fi school in South Mumbai. My niece and nephew have been brought up differently. The visiting kids showed such bad attitude even to their own parents, and used such objectionable language, that my relative in th US, their host, had to have a talk with them.....

I think your daughter will emerge as a strong minded girl, with her feet firmly on the ground, having faced this stuff in school. You are giving her something most other parents dont and cant : lots of attention and time .....

I wish her great success .

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Haddock said...

Bullying has become the order of the day in most of the schools now a days.

ZB said...

Reading this makes me sad, as i too have a daughter who would be to school in few years from now.

But i had a fun filled school days, like you. And i do relate to the change in the kids behavior and attitude.I have cousins who are 10-15 years ahead of their school years.

I feel you got to make your girl understand that there is no use crying or feeling hurt. Make her stronger to face the world. Avoid bullies as mates.

I was an extremely shy kid until about 7th STD, and was very very bad ( infact pathetic would be more suited)in studies. I remember scoring 0 in my 6th STD half yearly science paper and i was bullied. and the bullies included my science teacher too.While going home that day, i decided that i would show my teacher what i was really capable of. And i scored 94 in final exam, which made my entire class wonder stuck.

This is a wonderful opportunity for your daughter to realize the true ways of the world. Cheers. TC.Had a wondeful time reading this..:)

Vivek S Patwardhan said...

I understand the feelings - because I too was bullied at school. It happens everywhere, but a prolonged experience is certainly not okay.

I agree with Ugich Konitari. There is no substitute to involvement with school activities.

Hopefully your daughter will emerge stronger from this experience.


Kavita Saharia said...

I blame it on parents because i feel that a happy child at home would never be mean to others outside.It is so frustrating to see your child suffer because of these bullies .May be what we need is a parent's support group so that the school authorities are compelled to take actions against such bullies(not harsh ones because they are kids,but at least make them realize what they do is not right).

Aparna said...

@ Rachna, I can teach her to lash back, but my apprehension is what if she learns that only aggressive behaviour works in the process?

@ Dr. Antony,I certainly agree with you, I feel to a large extent we as parents are to be blamed by this shift.

@Sandhya, we are imitating the west in every aspect. The kids in my school know the names of each and every American singers but can not differentiate between Hariharan and Shankar Mahadevan. I think it is sad.

@Akshay, corporal punishment may have been banned from school but there are lot of ways a school can punish the students which are equally demeaning. There are teachers who bully too, and my daughter has faced even that.

Scribbler, I do see this defiance attitude in most teens these days. Most schools do not have the right role models or teachers students can look up to. There are ways of dealing with aggressive teenagers, unfortunately most teachers do not have a clue.

Ugich Konitari, thank you.
I have already decided to change her school once she is out of this class. I would want to put her in a school where she can have a different set of friends. I never went to a fancy school. Neither did my husband. I see no reason why she can not have a sound education in a regular, not so upmarket institution.
It is heartening to read about your daughter. My daughter is an average student, but she writes extremely well. Though she is part of her school editorial team, not many of her class mates (may be perhaps even us) give her enough credit for that.
I hope I can instill in her the confidence that she deserves to have.

@ Vivek, I do try to involv myself in my daughter's activities, (may be a bit too much if you ask my daughter) but you will agree that as kids grow, it becomes a little difficult to keep track of every thing. Most part of the day she is out, either attending school or attending coaching classes. How do I know what goes in there all the time?

@ Kavita, I often wonder why kids are unhappy these days. We did not have even one-fourth of what they have and we were so happy.

@ Haddock, yes, it has.

@ZB, if you want my advice then put your daughter in an ordinary school with a good teacher student ratio. Most upmarket schools in India have uppity teachers and students. The kids do nothing but to flaunt their money there.


Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan said...

honestly felt sad reading this... my school days were some of the best times of my life, esp 10th grade et al.. it was the time of strengthening of the bonds of friendship, that have lasted decades after we've parted ways..
i also have to say the attitude u described of kids leaving cos they didnt like the food and deliberately not inviting someone to party and THEN TEASING HER.. this is horrible stuff.. i seriously dont think this is a matter to push aside and say "what can i do?" definitely those kids parents need to be told of their child's attitude and whether thats what they want their child to be known for in society..

Anonymous said...

It's so sad to read about what's happening in her school. My son is just like Ishita, who doesn't make friends easily and hence at times finds himself alone during playtime. But I was genuinely surprised when I talked about this to his class teacher. She has been observing my son and told me the main reason why boys in his class didn't play with him was because my boy was way advanced than them and who preferred to talk about planets and continents rather than what a 1st grader usually talked about :(. Needless to say that got me all hyper. Now the teacher has made special arrangement for him to play with boys who share his same interests and I see a happy, jumping boy now a days.

I have no idea if our Indian kids are aping the western culture or not. But Bullying here is considered a serious crime and many schools do take strict actions.

Kavita Saharia said...

Aparna ,kids are not happy because parents don't give them what they need the most - attention and time . .The lack of which is compensated with toys,gadgets ,thick pocket money,expensive cloths.

Unknown said...

School environment is so bad nowadays? I am scared to think what's gonna happen when my kids start going to school! brrr..

Ritu said...

Times are changing, its a tough mean world out there. Its fast, slick and hard. Its not the world our childhood was spent in. Kids reflect this world and they need to have survival skills for this world too. The bullying, the non-conformist attitude are all actually dress rehearsal for the time they enter the real world. I feel for your daughter, but she must learn to survive

The Holy Lama said...

It's sad to see the noveau English speaking population's love for the cuss words. Kids as young as 7 or 8 use it and elders if around, don't care to correct them.Adjustment levels are dipping ever low. The kids can't bother to hear out an explanation as to why something didn't go according to the plans.
Media too is not hhelping the situation. We need to given the tender teenager maximum support when he/she is bullied or ostracized by peer group. Once they survive this phase, they come out stronger.

RGB said...

Oh, very true! What kind of a future generation are we grooming? In our days, we've heard of dog-eat-dog world and now we're seeing one! I fail to understand the point of it all. The cultural shift, the attitude, the value system...all becoming progressively worse. It's become a mean materialistic world, hasn't it?! My daughter won't dare to use bad words or bully anyone (at least not until now), because she has been taught that it is bad to do so. Why can't all parents take a little extra effort to teach some basic things to their kids and not encourage them when they're brash, speak like adults, watch adult programmes and such?

UmaS said...

Oh dear...this is the second post on bullying I've read today. And it makes me sad. Very sad, as I totally understand the feelings of ur daughter....My daughter too went thru all these - the non-recognition by the peers.
I agree with Suranga, on the fact teaching the children to excel in some field, will give them confidence and give them a better image among others.
I am glad to know that ur daughter writes very well. Let her keep writing more. :)
Give her lot of support, when she is in tears and give her confidence, by telling that those kids dont matter at all in the long run.
And I hate those kids who use bad language and the middle finger and all....but I told my children to ignore them all...not to accept their friend request on fb - ignore their survival, sometimes.
I wish ur daughter all the very best for her new school and to making good friends for life. :)

vicious said...

school is fun only if u cn mke frnds nd mix up ...bullies hve lwys been there nd they will b dere in diff forms my be hs 2 b strong enuf 2 shove pst them

The Panorama said...

Aparna, I so understand you and your daughter.
Here is some advice:
- Have a good talk with your daughter. Explain it to her that the girls being mean to her are the ones who have a problem.
- Have a talk with the teacher. If that doesn't work. Write a written complaint to the principle.
- Arrange activities for your daughter and invite all the girls, including the bullies.

- Create happy memories for your daughter.
But do something. Puberty is a painful time, and it can be pure hell if you are bullied.

My son was also bullied but he was much younger. It took sometime before things got better( it helped that the bully left school).

But most of all it helped that I built his self esteem and self confidence up.

Good luck!! Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

Aparna, that was heart breaking to read. Your daughter is going through so much.

While agreeing with everything the others have said about boosting her confidence, surely, the school has some responsibility in ensuring that children are not bullied. Surely they could talk to the parents of these badly behaved children.

You know, reading all this makes me wonder about coming back to India. We had a small bullying' sort of incident in my daughter's school, and the teachers were so very helpful - extremely nice and they ensured that everything was sorted out.

I am sure you will be able to get her into a school which she will love and which will allow her to blossom.

walk2write said...

I guess we were fortunate enough to live in small towns while our kids were growing up. There was still some bullying going on, but the bullies were kept in check by the majority of the kids who stood up to them and defended their friends. I was shy too and awkward while growing up and endured some painful teasing but nothing compared to what goes on today. I hope your daughter finds a friend or two that she can team up with against the nasty kids. Is she involved in any extracurricular activities like sports or music lessons where she can find some peer support?

BK Chowla, said...

Well, doesn't that happen to us in daily social life?Dont we come across bullies in our friends circle?It just the character of a person and his/her upbringing.

Aparna said...

@ Pythoroshan what do I tell the kids' parents? That their kids are rude? I've considered doing that but in that case my girl will be even more traumatised by her friends.

@ Sakshi, when she was small, I used to interfere and talk to the teachers regularly but as she has grown, I've tried not to say too much. She has to ultimately fight her own battles. The problem is a lot of times as parents we do not understand when to speak out and when to let our kids handle their own problems.

@ Kavita, yes the parents do not seem to bother about their own kids these days. Sad.

@ Purnima, you still have a long way to go!!

@ Ritu, mean world, mean kids...i guess she has to understand and toughen up.

@ Holy Lama, I sometimes wonder whether this is happening in metros or all around the country.

@ RGB,the parents don't seem to understand that the kids are going haywire, and sometimes the kids do not listen to the parents. The schools do not is a vicious cycle.

Arooj said...

time has changed.....may be the children are still very innocent....yet the quality of that innocence has changed because of the mobiles,computers,internet,70 to 170 TV channels and bulk of DVDs.

Aparna said...

@ UmaS, thank you for your wishes. I hope when she grows up a bit more, she will realise these kids and their offers of friendship do not mean anything at all.

@ Vicious, yes you are right, having the right friends at school can change everything.

@ Panorama, thank you. A lot of parents have written in to let me know how to handle the situation here. Makes me wish I had blogged about it earlier. Having a support group of like minded parents help a lot.

@ Wordsndreamz, she will have to stay in this school for another few months till she finishes her boards. Hopefully the next school will be better.

@ Walk2write My daughter had a lot of extra curricular activities at school like dancing, swimming, basket ball etc. She is also a member of the editorial team.
I really think bringing up a child in a smaller town is better. Metros are bad for children. Some of them tend to get lost in big cities.

@ BK Chowla, you are right, there are bullies every where. One has to learn how to deal with them.

@ Heavenly muse, the kids these days are different from us, they are technologically savvy, but in the process have lost the simplicity we possessed.

Mr Happy said...

feel sad for today's generation,

don't know what kind of teaching these days teacher gives to kids, and parents too.....

Anonymous said...

A really sad experience for your daughter, Aparna. Yes, helping her excel in some field is good advice, but perhaps difficult to impliment in the tenth grade when chidren are so burdened with studying.

I am sure she will find good friends when she changes schools next year.

My daughter was in this same situation one year in high school, because she would not 'suck up' to a girl in her class who was extremely popular. The other girls dared not go against this girl and be friends with her.

Kids nowadays have less empathy for others, I think. Perhaps because they are conditioned that they are entitled to everything they want, and have no responsibility towards others.

A New Beginning said...

Thats very true..Education has a new name now..materialism...

Kavi said...

I cant imagine all what goes on in class these days !

Gay because of no boy-friend is just incredible ! Things are changing. The most important question, perhaps, is are we ready !?!

if not, what do we do ? now ?

Nona said...

Hazing to this extent! It is disturbing!

pradipwritenow said...

Changing school may not solve the problem. Everywhere this problem exsists. Myself suffered most in this kind of thing. I found out a solution that worked. All these are very nice wause my parents shhen they are alone. I went to the house of one of them. We talked for long and he became my friend. I did it with everyone like them and the response was overwhelming. I did one compromise i posed as if i enjoyed all their fun but I can not do it myself because my parents may either commit suicide or I shall be kicked out. Later on in my IIT days I did the same trick and it worked. I was there with them with all their mischiefs, drinking and smoking but never did any of their practices. Aparna it may work talk to your daughter.

Ayesha said...

I think you are right in being concerned.

Fancy schools and elitist communities tend to have the biggest jerks around.

I think we need to teach our children more tolerance and less aggression.

Its a tough world out there and they need to be prepared but they also need to know the choice between right and wrong.

More importantly not every child is tough or can learn to be.

My love and prayers for your little one.

Ire said...

I hated school too. I can totally feel the dilemma your daughter faces. Junior colleges these days [according to my younger cousin] is a mess too. No one is innocent and its all about fitting in...but where?

Suchismita said...

Life is more difficult for kids these days. We had less to worry about. They are more materially aware and comparisons of possessions and staus are constant.The presssure is very tough to handle.

Anonymous said...

Well,I would give them at least this much, they are frank and open about their feelings. Its way better than bitching behind your back! I remember that most about school.But of course, the good girls to bad girls ratio was higher on the good girls side before!

Rajesh said...

The innocence is lost. It is not for the kids easy any more.

Onkar said...

It's a matter of concern, but there are no easy answers. You can't but send your children to school, but you have to worry all the time.

Aparna said...

Mr Happy,

Manju Joglekar,

New Beginning,


Pradeep Biswas,


Nikita Bannerjee,





Thank you for your advice, comments and suggestions. I am happy I got such a quality feed back on this topic. God bless you all.

ani_aset said...

this is such a relevant post and i promptly shared it on twitter too..i went through all the comments on this post and loved what Ugich Konitari had to say on this..i strongly agree that if one can engage a child in some kind of activity it will bring about that discipline that character of belonging to a team and being friends..we did not face such issues in school..but towards the end (12th standard) we had started experiencing this concept of trying to fit in..there is enough peer pressure out there and children if not given adequate care and attention may end up doing things (teenage pregnancy,drugs).

r2mum said...

your post touched a chord. my son has been going thru something similar. he is in 8th std in aschool in mid-mumbai and everyday i wait for him to come home w/ trepidation. he gets hit/punched/bullied by someone most days. and i feel so helpless! once when a boy punched him in the stomach i did call up the mom and the kid has stayed away ( i warned her that this kind of masti cd cause grievous injury) but he did tell my son "aukad mein reh" the foll day. like you said the f word is commonly used.
my son feels peer pressure and wants to belong. guess his attempts are rebuffed by meanness like this. when i tried telling him he cant call boys like these friends and that he was bette off w/o friends than friends like these, he said "do you want me to have no friends?" sigggh! i was a quiet child too and when i cd not "fit" into cliques i retired to my books. much later in life, postgraduation i came into my own to make dear friends. guess my son is not like me...also he sees his younger sibling be the center of attraction and very popular and struggles with self-esteem!
but the horridness which is more a norm now than it was when i was in school 30+ years ago is definitely scary...and yes the teachers are also helpless...thats even more terrifying!