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Not all fun and games: Playground bullies will always find new, secret ways to hurt and go on hurting. Adults are no match for them 

There was a small, friendly café among the shops near where we lived when I was growing up. It was called Edward's, it was family-run and my mother liked to go there for coffee and a cake and sometimes for lunch. I liked it but once I had eaten I was bored so I used to ask if I could help. Being a waitress was a glamorous thing to a nine-year-old and I was allowed to bring out plates of toasted tea cakes or iced fancies. The owner's son, Michael, three years older than me, always sulked and scowled at me if he was around when I was "waitressing" but one day, he asked if I would like to go out with him to buy sweets. My mother was quite happy-Michael was older, and sensible about crossing the road. 

But we did not go to the sweet shop. Instead, he pulled me roughly by the wrist into the side door of the café, and into the stock room. He turned on the light, locked the door, and pinned me to the wall. 

"I've got a warning for you," he said. I was mystified and not really frightened because this was someone I knew and I did not fully understand him.

"I don't like the way you behave when you come to the café. You're getting a mite too cocky. I don't like the way you make yourself at home and help at the tables. You don't have any right to do that so I'm telling you not to do it again. If you ever do, there's be trouble. Something bad will happen to you." And to give me a sample of it, he picked up my hand, and gave my wrist a Chinese burn. It hurt. Then he took a matchbox off the shelf, lit one, blew it out and laid the hot end on my arm. It hurt.

"Now you know what else I'm going to say, don't you? If you tell anyone about this, your Mum or your Dad or anyone at school, then I shall find out because I have ways, and it'll be a lot worse than today. Right?"

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Pete Wallbridge
August 29th, 2013
2:08 AM
In thirty years of teaching I found that a lot of bullying came from teachers, &, of course, in the days of corporal punishment bullying was reinforced. However,bullying did not (& does not) exist only in schools & the home. I found it rife in the armed forces & also offices in which I worked.

December 25th, 2012
2:12 PM
Arnold Ward is right. I grew up in the US in the fifties, and was a right old wimp--a first-class target for bullying. But grown-ups were totally in control, and bullying was rare. The closest I ever got to being tormented was once a couple of boys a year older than I chased me on the way home from school. They caught me--but once they saw that I was blubbing, they just laughed and let me go. Bullies naturally step in where there is a vacuum of authority, and in far too many of our schools teachers have very little authority. A survey conducted for the National Union of Teachers by Warwick University found the 5 out of 6 teachers (this includes primary schools and schools in the leafy suburbs) have to deal with threats of pupil-pupil violence. Modern 'behaviour management' theory treats misbehaviour as technocratic rather than a moral problem. Every Child Matters, which is part of an international initiative to empower children, supposedly emphasises 'staying safe'. But in reality, it has the opposite effect: by legitimising children's whims, our educators are eroding the moral foundations of society.

Arnold Ward
December 9th, 2012
10:12 AM
I went to school 40 years ago both in England and abroad, the bullying was worse in England because the adults didn't intervene, whereas at my school abroad bullies were quickly spotted and dealt with. Its something to do with British culture.

Ruth Loshak
December 1st, 2012
12:12 PM
'Arming' all children with ways of dealing with bullying would help. Through role play, improvisation, visualisation - have children explore 'imaginary' situations and act them out, discuss options of how to behave and what to do, rehearse statements and appropriate body language. But of course there are situations, as with Michael in Susan Hill's account, where the power imbalance makes it hard for the victim of unkind behaviour to carry out such strategies, or to tell an adult or friend - as we have all seen so clearly from the Savile case. If children knew from the experience of others that telling an adult about being bullied would be safe, they would be less intimidated. That is why it is so important to speak out about these issues, constantly, not just when the worst cases arise.

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