Tag Archives: bullying

Kids Can Be Cruel

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

One of the benefits of growing up with siblings is that you have someone to torture, who abuses you right back, in a safe space where you know you are loved.  You learn how to hurt and why you shouldn’t, and you learn how to survive hurt caused by another.

Growing up my baby brother and I were a textbook example.  He was infuriating.  He would mess up my carefully laid out games, clout me with toys, and pretend I’d smacked him just to get me in trouble.  In turn I was a venomous little cow to him.  I would tease him mercilessly about everything from his weight to his stammer, throw his toys out of the window, and kick him as he walked past.  Looking back I’m thoroughly ashamed of the bad behaviour but I also remember how close we were.  How we would play together for hours, have secret sleepovers in each other’s beds, and defend one another passionately against any outsider.

J.J.Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, The Lilly Prospero Series, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit ROakley1

Now, despite living in different countries with completely different lives (he’s a genius scientist working at CERN and living a childfree life of financial security by a vineyard in France, and I’m a mother of three living on an estate attempting to forge a career in the arts) we remain close to this day.

Miss Rose is now growing up with a baby brother, and they have a similar relationship to my brother and I.  Even though Z is just five months younger, they are both the best of friends and the worst of enemies.  Z will kick over her tower of blocks, Rose will snatch toys from his hands.  Rose will shove him away from her Rainbow Dash, Z will throw his Batman at her head.  They regularly declare they aren’t friends and never want to play with the other EVER AGAIN.

They are also best of friends.  Between disputes they will play with one another for hours.  There are currently dinosaurs and My Little Ponies scattered far and wide over the floor whilst they engage in a series of imaginative games that primarily seem to involve tripping up myself and their father, and occasionally screeching ear splitting screams.

They are learning about kids being mean.  They are learning that it isn’t nice, and they are learning how to handle it, and all the time knowing they are loved and they are safe.

Learning about the cruel potential of both yourself and other children is really positive, and it will do them well as they embark on their school careers from September.  But it doesn’t fully arm them against the cruelty of other children, even if it gives them a fairly solid ground to start from.

Miss Rose came out of school this week with blood on her nose.  A little boy had hit her and pushed her down, laughing at her for looking like a boy.  Miss Rose has short hair, sometimes very short though currently it’s at the longest it’s been in years (not quite shoulder length) and doesn’t play with dollies.  She crashes around with footballs and trains, she wears her Spider-Man boots, and she hates clips and ribbons in her hair.  But she also loves tutus, My Little Ponies and nail varnish.  Her lack of restriction to the gendered stereotypes I believe are so damaging is something I have celebrated, and something nobody has given her a negative response to.  Until now.

When she eventually went into details about what happened, her teacher had given me the basics, she seemed embarrassed.  Ashamed.  No matter how much she and Z fight and squabble it hasn’t prepared her for a personal attack about who she is.

The little mermaid next door has Jolene style flaming locks of auburn hair, she is also a sister.  Her mother told me about a little boy’s efforts to taunt her for being “a ginger”.  The little mermaid has a fierce sense of self and, without any hesitation, informed him her hair is red and fabulous.  She was having none of it.  A combination of the sibling dynamic, her mother’s dedication to making her feel good about her uniqueness, and her own personality has made her too tough to crack.  At least when it comes to her looks.  This is something I desperately want to emulate for Miss Rose.

Of course, I can’t protect her from everything.  I can’t stop other children being bullies, I can’t step in the way of every child’s desire to push her (even though if I was able to stalk her around school and throw my body in front of her every time you can guarantee I would be there).  I can’t protect her from life.  Kids can be cruel and she is already being exposed to that, and she has years of enduring school children ahead of her.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, The Lilly Prospero Series, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Ventus

What I can do is make sure she learns from her sibling dynamic with Z.  Make sure I teach her to celebrate the things about her that make her unique.  And hope that her home life full of security and love, where she is told she is absolutely perfect the way she is, both inside and out, gives her a solid enough foundation to get through what’s ahead.

Watching Rose and Z playing together can be both incredibly stressful and absolutely endearing.  They are learning so much about both themselves and how to interact with others, and I am certain it will stand them both in good stead.  We just have to fill in the gaps.  Kids can be cruel, but I hope the way we are raising them will give them the inner strength to handle it.  And if not I’ll throw my body in her way, because I never want to see my little girl with a bloody nose again.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!


Walking The Tightrope

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

There is a fine line we all must walk.  Strict enough whilst gentle enough, firm enough whilst understanding enough, tough enough whilst forgiving enough.  Too strict and your child grows into a cowed, terrified and broken little person who is unable to express themselves and can’t develop properly because everything about them is suppressed.  To soft and you’ve got a child with no concept of boundaries, no idea that certain behaviours aren’t acceptable, no understanding of consequences.

So where’s the balance?

Yesterday Miss Rose pushed us.  She was sad and the sadness made her naughty.  I’ll get to why she was sad later, and why this sadness has made us think hard.

She’s normally easy to take out in public and behaves perfectly, saving her real naughties for when we’re at home, but when she’s feeling under pressure she can erupt very easily.  She’s either a 10 or a 0 on the happiness scale and is capable of swinging wildly between the two.  In the supermarket yesterday she hit 0 and she ran.  She legged it down the aisle screaming whilst I chased her and eventually caught up to her, and grabbed her back.

I need her to be able to express her sadness, her frustration and her anger.  But not in a way that is dangerous.  If she’s sad she can cry, but running away is scary.  Someone could take her.  She could get lost.  She could get hit by a car.  If she runs in the wrong place at the wrong time she could vanish from my life forever and I cannot risk that.  I cannot live with that.  I need her alive and well and here.  So I cannot let her normalise it just because I know she’s struggling right now.

She did it more.  She kept swinging wildly between happy and sad and began running off from us at home.  Ignoring us as we called to her, walking away as we spoke to her.

Then she ran off at the bowling alley.  Just vanished.  Legged it around the corner and out of sight whilst her daddy chased after her and dragged her back.  When it happens it scares me so much I could cry.  I could throw up.  She could disappear. She could be gone.  We got her shoes changed and ready to go and she wouldn’t go.  She kept ignoring us.  I tried to take her hand and she went to run again, wiggling away behind her nanny’s legs and making to run across the room.

He pulled her away before she managed, I shouted.  I told him to pick her up.  She screamed and kicked.  I shouted.  He shouted.  He took her outside, set her down and told her she needed to calm down.

I cried.

I hate it when we shout.  He hates it when we shout.  She hates it when we shout.  She needed stopping.  We’d been successfully balancing the strict/soft line for most of the day and it tipped us.  The fear of losing her, the frustration at her continuing to run, the stress from dealing with her running combined with the boy child kicking off and tiredness from looking after the baby and we just couldn’t take anymore and we shouted our heads off.

The balance slipped.  We got too angry.  We went home and reigned it in and gave her love and cuddles and fun and all was well.  But we did slip.  We went too strict.  Too angry.

She’s in a difficult spell.  She had her power taken by a friend.  She was playing with an older girl who was bossing her around and being mean, and I found out she told Rose she doesn’t like her and hit her.  Rose felt her power had been taken.  That she was a victim.  That she was weak.  She started acting out to regain some sense of power and she unleashed it all on me.  She had the biggest tantrum, screaming and thrashing and she kicked me.  This time I had the balance.  I picked her up and I held her close and she screamed and thrashed but I just hugged her.  I told her I love her and I’m here and I know she hurts.  She calmed down and cried properly this time, cried into my neck and told me she was sorry.  Then we talked.  We talked about how she’s not allowed to hit mummy, how hitting is mean, how she doesn’t want to be the mean girl.  I got it right.

This is how bullies are born.  Bullies are born from being bullied.  Their power is taken, they’re made to feel like weak victims with no control so they seek to get it back.  They’ve been shown cruelty so it becomes normal and they enact it upon others.  Better to be the bully than be bullied.  Rather be cruel than be hurt.  I can’t let that be Rose.  I can’t let Rose fall down that path.  I can’t let the negative treatment she gets from others turn her into someone who treats others badly herself.

She’s not recovered from this encounter yet and it’s still impacting her.  She’s acting out.  We need to achieve this balance now more than ever.

She’s feeling out of control and sad so we need to be gentle enough to make her feel happy and safe and relaxed again.  But we need to be tough enough that she knows where the line is and that she can’t cross it, because if the boundaries suddenly moved that would unsettle her more.  She needs the consistency.  She needs to feel safe within the walls around her, including the metaphorical rules.  If they’re not there she’s exposed and confused and lost.

Walking the tightrope between strict and soft is incredibly hard.  I don’t want her to be a bully but I don’t want her to be so weak she gets walked over.  I want her to respect the rules but not be so cowed that she never questions what she’s told.  I want her to know that she is loved more than life itself, that I hate being angry with her, that when I do get too angry because everything has got too much for me that I’m sorry.

Sometimes I fall off the tightrope.  Sometimes I let her get away with things she shouldn’t, sometimes I get too angry when it’s not necassary.  Sometimes I get it perfectly, and I recognise the cause of her bad behaviour, understand the pain, and course correct her smoothly.  And those days are perfect.  But other days are not perfect and on those days I just need to cry and let it out because dammit I’m trying.  But this is hard.

One foot in front of the other foot.  Keep walking the tightrope.  Keep wobbling.  When you fall, get back on.  Look back and see what obstacle made you fall and be better prepared for it next time.

But always forgive yourself when you fall.  Humans fall.  Parenting is hard.

If it wasn’t hard it would mean we didn’t care.

One foot in front of the other foot.  Keep going.  Keep trying.  Celebrate when you get it back, learn when you get it wrong.


Kids Can Be Cruel

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I admit that I experience of children is pretty limited.  I remember my own childhood with varying degrees of cringe and displeasure, I have been around a few people’s children growing up, but always been happy to avoid it, and I’ve raised Miss Rose from birth and been involved in Z’s life since he was 1.  However, I can say that is my firm belief, limited experience though it may be, that kids can be cruel.  Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that all children have a degree of “bully” in them, and it’s our job as the adults to get them to recognise it and reign it in before it becomes a dominant part of their personalities.

Miss Rose and Z bully one another.  Usually they’re both equally involved in winding one another up and being little horrors, but every so often one is a clear bully of the other.  And they both have their own unique ways of doing it.

Miss Rose is a sneaky bully.  She’s a wind up.  She’ll say things that deliberately upset Z, mock him when he can’t do things, and take things she knows he wants just to piss him off.  For instance, the other night Z was playing Batman by jumping off a chair.  Miss Rose wanted to play so climbed onto the chair after he’d jumped off.  He was not impressed about this so protested but we said they have to take turns.  All fine except he was very upset and Miss Rose crowed about it, relished it.  When she jumped down and he climbed up he refused to jump again, and we pointed out to Miss Rose that he doesn’t have to so to leave him alone, but then noticed his favourite cushion was across the room and he wouldn’t be able to get it without again vacating the chair and leaving it open to Miss Rose.  So she took his cushion and proceeded to parade up and down in front of him with it, cackling away like a monster whilst he howled in desolate despair like he’d just had one of his limbs ripped off by a badger (or some other woodland creature.)

Miss Rose favours sneaky psychological bullying.  She’s not particularly invested, and as soon as we pointed out that what she was doing wasn’t funny and laughing at someone who is sad, even if you think the reasons they are sad are ridiculous, it’s still mean to laugh at their pain.  I asked if she wanted to be a bully and she said no, bullies are mean, then returned the cushion.  But the fact is, in the moment, she loved the fact he was in pain and that she was the cause of it.

Z, on the other hand, is a more physical bully.  He’ll work with intimidation and aggression, and Miss Rose reacts exactly how he wants by freaking out about it.  For instance, yesterday morning they were playing a game with the balls, rolling the football and beach ball across the room back and forth to each other.  After a while Miss Rose decided she didn’t want to play anymore and picked the football up leaving Z with the beach ball.  I said that’s fine, nobody has to play if they don’t want to.  Z shouted at her to throw it to him but she said no, he stamped and shouted, still no, so he ran across the room at her, jumped on her, and held her by the neck whilst she screamed like this time it was her leg having been ripped off by a badger (or again, any woodland creature of your choice.  I do not mean to vilify badgers… I think I watch too much Peter Rabbit.)

I pulled him off her and once he’d calmed down he apologised and acknowledged that hurting someone who doesn’t want to do what we want them to do isn’t okay.  He doesn’t set out to hurt, but lashes out angrily because that’s his own weapon.

Miss Rose will trip him or steal his toys, Z will kick over her building blocks or smack her.  Miss Rose will laugh at him for still being in nappies like a baby, Z will throw things at her face.

Are they doomed to always be little sods who make The Boy and I stress out brains out?  No.  Will they for a while?  Probably, yes.

My baby brother is someone I admire, respect and adore.  He’s lovely.  He’s funny, smart, kind and a huge geek, very successful, and wonderful with the children.  When we were little I hated him.  I was Miss Rose and I was sneaky and I’d laugh at his pain.  I threw all his teddies out of the window onto the road and told him they’d get run over just to upset him whilst he cried.  Evil.  Yet I know, and I knew then, that if they HAD actually been run over I’d have been devastated because I didn’t want him in any real pain.  Miss Rose didn’t want Z to suffer for real when she was taunting him with the pillow, and when we told her it was real pain she stopped.  I was bullying my brother like Rose bullies Z.

And I am pretty awesome as a sister, my brother and I have a great relationship now and bond over everything from sci-fi to the insanity of our family.  Yet he would physically lash out like Z to bully me.  I cannot tell you how often I took a toy to the head or a kick to the leg because he was angry with me.  Indeed, my mum regularly recounts the tale of the plastic golf clubs he walloped me with, was told if he did it again they’d be broken and put in the bin, and promptly he smacked me with them again and they were indeed binned.

Are me and my brother bullies in adulthood?  No.  Did we have that potential bubbling away inside us as children?  Most certainly yes.

So what do we do?  Making them acknowledge the pain they’re causing seems to be the best thing.  Make them understand that hurting people isn’t okay, and be grateful they have one another to work this stuff out on.  Siblings are great this way.  I never sneaky bullied anyone in school, and my brother never beat anyone up in school.  We figured that stuff out on each other in a safe environment surrounded by the people who love us, and on our siblings who we loved and hated in equal measure.  At the end of the day I knew that no matter what he and I did to each other during the day, he was my baby brother and I loved him, and he loved me.  We worked out what was okay young and quickly, and grew into kind and respectful adults.

I know that Miss Rose and Z can get there as long as we address their evil doing with the right attitude.  I know that in time they will have figured all this stuff out and learn to deal with one another’s annoyances in a way that doesn’t result in abuse by badgers.  Getting them to that point is exhausting.  It’s stressful and it’s hard and it leaves us collapsed on the sofa at the end of the day, leaning on one another, and exasperated to the point of disbelief.  We have both aged a decade in the last year and a half, and with number three joining the gang in July it’s only going to get harder!

If Miss Rose and Z grow into adults who love one another as much as me and my brother do then I’ll take this phase with glee, because it’s worth it.

Okay, glee is an exaggeration… But I’ll take it… and I’ll see the upside… eventually.


Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I hated school.  From the first day I went to the last, I loathed it.  It wasn’t so much the lessons, I loved learning (most things at least… maths not so much), and I got on perfectly well with most of my teachers.  I didn’t hate the building, it was much like a standard office block for the most part, and the uniform was perfectly alright as uniforms go.  I hated exams, obviously, and homework was a nuisance, but these were all par for the course.  What I hated, what I dreaded and longed to avoid at all costs, was the other kids.

I learned to survive school by developing a persona.  I became a person I thought I could be to survive and I tried to stick to it.  I pretended to care about things I didn’t, I pretended to like people I didn’t.  I tried to carve myself an identity I could be true to with ease.  It broke me inside.  I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I wanted.  Because I couldn’t stick to it, because I didn’t have anything solid to stick to I drifted between identities and styles, I lost all value and respect for the true me.  I rapidly lost all self worth and allowed myself to be used and treated like dirt because why did it matter?  The true me was gone.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Mummy Blog, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Skitter Photos

It took a long time for me to claw my way out of the psychological damage of living a false life.  It wasn’t just school that led me down that path, it was various outside factors, but school was the prison where those versions of me were all trapped, and it housed the people they were created for.  It’s really only now, more than ten years later, that I feel I actually have conquered those demons.  It wasn’t until my marriage ended that I feel like I truly started.  Until then, on some level, I was certain that I wasn’t worth anything so tried to be what the situation or person needed rather than just living as myself.  It’s a path I still sometimes find myself stumbling awkwardly down, but I am far quicker to pull myself out now.  But old habits die hard, and self esteem is a cruel mistress.

When Miss Rose started nursery school she loved it, she was excited to go every day.  She loved her teachers, she loved her classroom and she loved her activities.  Then it changed and I couldn’t work out why.

The Boy came for drop off for the first time the other day and witnessed it first hand, witnessed her chipper demeanor as we walked into school grounds, played with her in the playground whilst we waited for the other pupils to arrive and the classroom to open.  Then he saw her change as the other kids started to arrive.  Saw her face lose the fun and become anxious, watched her repeatedly try and run away back towards the road and have to be chased and brought back.  Watched her melt down in anguish as we hung her coat on the peg and tried to encourage her into the arms of the lovely waiting teacher.

“Please don’t leave me!” she begs through huge tears and eyes that hold so much fear and sadness that even thinking about it even now, whilst she’s cuddled up next to me watching Ninja Turtles happily, makes me want to cry myself.

It’s the other kids.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Pezibear

Miss Rose is not like the other little girls, and that’s obvious from the moment you see her.  Whilst they have long hair in bobbles, braids and bunches, Miss Rose favours short, spiky hair.  Whilst they have their Frozen and Cinderella bags, Miss Rose carries her Spiderman one.  They talk about Disney Princesses and she talks about Doctor Who.  She’s different.

As well as being different by appearance, she also is a very vulnerable soul in a lof of ways.  She lays it all out.  She’s all in.  She wants to play with everyone and, naively, assumes everyone wants to play with her.  She puts herself in everyone’s business, attaches herself to other kids at soft play or playgroups, and just assumes they’ll want her there.  And sometimes they don’t.  She’ll start “helping” with puzzles or trains or blocks when they don’t want help.  She’ll join in conversations where her input isn’t required.  In short, she’s the kid people quickly learn to avoid because if they don’t she’ll get in their way.

The other kids don’t want to play with her anymore.

This is the first step.  She’s going to learn to change herself, suppress herself, in order to fit in.  She’s going to start seeing herself as less valuable and less wanted the more she changes herself and the more those changes gets her accepted.  The less the real her is wanted the more the fake her will take over.  The more fake her takes over the less she will respect real her.

So what do I do?

To have friends and fit in, which is one of those staples on how to survive school, she’ll need to adapt.  She’ll need to learn that sometimes people don’t want your input, and that not everyone is obligated to spend time with you.  That not all people mesh together in a positive way.  She’s not the child who can naturally be a “happy loner”.  Some children are, and some children will seek solitude, but that’s not Miss Rose.  She’s a social creature in the extreme, and being social requires a degree of adapting to society.  The society of school is tough, and she’ll need to change a fair bit to achieve it, and if she chooses to do that I will respect and understand why, afterall it’s a choice I made myself.  But I’ll be sad, and I’ll need to try and reaffirm how awesome the truth of her is.

I don’t want her to lose the geeky, punky, intensely socialness that makes her who she is, because she’s special and funny and different.  And it’s her.  The truth of her, and that’s beautiful.  But peer pressure is tough and fitting in during school is tougher.

They say it’s easier to build strong children than repair damaged adults, and as an adult still going through repair at the age of 30, I’m inclined to agree.  I figure all I can do is let her get through school however she can, whilst reinforcing at home that I love her for who she is.  I hope she will find a friend or two that love her for who she is so she doesn’t completely abandon her true self, but if she doesn’t I love her for who she is, her daddy loves her for who she is, and so hopefully she will learn to love herself for who she is quickly and before she ends up making the mistakes I made and am still paying for.

I love my little nerd.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!