Wednesday 6 February 2013

The hardest post I have ever written...

This post is number 2169 plus I have written numerous guest posts over the years, this was by far the hardest write but I did it because I want you to help.

A parental nightmare. This is one of the things I have been dreading the most, living in Japan where bullying is widespread and having a kid that doesn't fit in the same mold as everyone else, I have been worrying that this will happen somewhere along the line.

So, yesterday Ebi-kun gets home from school, not super happy but not in such a bad mood either. He has a drink and snack and gets started on his homework. The doorbell goes and at the door were 3 moms, one of which I kind of know, she speaks English and her boy and Ebi-kun have played football together in the past.

She explains that one of the other moms was driving home and saw 2 boys hitting and kicking Ebi-kun plus there were other kids nearby but no-one was stopping to help. She stopped the car and shouted at the boys to stop, they didn't do so immediately because they were so involved in what they were doing.

The mom was concerned about Ebi-kun, so she asked around to find out who he was and where he lived and enlisted the help of her neighbour (the English speaking mom). We asked Ebi-kun about it but he sort of shrugged it off and said it was nothing, he was OK. I could see the moms were really concerned and obviously she thought it was serious if she had taken the time to track us down plus she wanted to report it to the school.

So, the moms left and I talked to Ebi-kun, the 2 boys concerned are in his class, and apparently it happens quite often, in his words "I have sort of got used to it", as he was saying it my heart was breaking.

I called my husband, he wanted to talk to the mom, so we went to find her. She came back round to our house and spoke at length with my husband (on the phone), turns out her son had been bullied too so she was extra concerned. She then talked to Ebi-kun, she ended up in tears telling him that it is not OK and that it has to stop before something really bad happens, gives him a big hug. I am standing there trying to stop myself from bursting into tears, half of me wants to take him inside and never let him out again, the other half wants to go and show the bullies what it is like being on the receiving end, which I know isn't the answer but that is how I felt.

Next, my husband called the school and talks to sensei, he says that he will go round to the bullies homes and talk with them now. Ebi-kun then admits that he is worried about the bullies getting in trouble because they might do something bad to him. Sensei also wanted to know who the other kids were but Ebi-kun didn't know, so there is a lot of calls back and forth. 

Finishes with a call to the house from sensei, who talks to Ebi-kun, telling him that the bullies will apologise the next day. I'm not sure what will happen next, sensei will probably call or write in the diary what happened and what has been done about it. There has been a recent spate of reports here about bullying and kids committing suicide so I feel like the school will be taking it seriously.

Ebi-kun is the kind of kid who doesn't get into fights, he doesn't hit people because he gets worried he will hurt them so this kind of situation really worries me. We have found an Aikido class, so we are going on Sunday to try it out at the very least he will be able to defend himself.

This brings me to a request, you may have already seen this or a variation of it, the crumpled paper bullying lesson, it has done the rounds on facebook a few times. 

How many of you thought "That is a neat way to teach about bullying"? 
But did you then showed your kids, did you teach them?

If not, please do it today.

Please take the 4 minutes to show them the video and a few minutes to talk it through. Those 10 minutes could make a huge difference to a little kid like Ebi-kun. If that mom hadn't seen what was going on, and who knows how many other have and turned a blind eye, I might have been writing this with a far worse tale to tell.

If your child is being bullied they need to know that it is not OK, that they don't have to put up with it and that they need to tell someone.

If your child sees someone being bullied, they need to know that it is their job to step up and take some responsibility, to step in and stop it or at the very least, tell someone.

If your child is the one doing the bullying, they need to understand the amount of damage they are doing, that it is not OK and that the physical scars may heal but the person they have bullied will be damaged for a long time, if not forever.

Normally I ask you to leave a comment, today I want you to share the crumpled paper lesson with your kids and share the post with anyone you know who has kids, at least then the 74 tissues and tears on the keyboard will not have been wasted.

*** Here is the follow up update ***


  1. I am so sorry to read this - it's something that we had to deal with in a minor way, nothing as bad as kicking and hitting. I am so glad that the mother did stop and shout at the kids, and did take the time to find out who Ebi-kun was and then find a way of getting in contact with you. I think that the kids will have gotten a big shock from a grown up stopping the car and yelling at them. Hopefully it will make them realise how wrong their actions were.

    Like you I feel like going round to the bullies houses and giving them a taste of their own medicine, but that obviously is not on. I WOULD however expect a personal visit from the bullies and their parents with apologies and a promise that it won't happen again - this is normal in Japan and it would be weird if it didn't happen. We have had two visits like this and we had to go round once when one of our sons jumped off a swing at its highest point and smashed his feet into the face of a girl playing nearby.... At least it wasn't an apology for bullying but just utter stupidity! Don't let them get away without doing this because it IS expected here.

    Also let the school know that you are prepared to escalate this past teacher/kid conferences if it doesn't stop. Your next stop would be the board of education, but I am very hopeful that as it's lower grade elementary and the kids are yet not very insightful as to how their actions really feel, it will stop if they get a bit of guidance. I certainly do hope so and I want to send Ebi and you a big hug from me.


    1. Thank you Vicky, so far the school have been really good but I wouldn't hesitate to take it further if need be.

  2. Thank you for sharing you experience with all of us. You are absolutely correct, I watched the video and didn't follow up and show my children. I will show them the video in the morning. Thank you for the valuable reminder. I hope you little one is sounds like you did a great job handling the situation. Peace to you and your family.

    1. Thank you Jen, I too had done the same thing, watched the video but not shown my son, it is a powerful lesson, one that even little ones can understand.

  3. Jo, I am so sorry to hear you and Ebi are going through this. Thank God for that lady, I got tears in my eyes reading how she hugged your son and told him that behaviour is not acceptable. This act from a stranger will go a long way in showing him that there are good people in the world. I just keep thinking Thank God someone like her witnessed it and went to such lengths to let you know. Please God this is the start of the end. Aikido will be great not only for Ebi's confidence, but also to give him something outside of school; a separate circle of friends and sempai.

    Thank you for sharing and promoting that video.


  4. Hugs Jo. Sorry a bit inadequate, thinking of you.

  5. Oh my goodness this is heartbreaking and an awful situation for all of you to be in... Especially your little guy. So good for that helpful parent, she deserves an award. I so understand your pain and your cry against it... We had a spate of bullying a couple of years back and I am so glad that I did something about it, because the more I looked into the topic the more alarmed I became. I blogged about bullying way back then... you might find something helpful:

    1. Thank you se7en, there are some great tips in that post. I fall into the 'just deck them' camp! and that is how I dealt with bullies as a kid, Ebi-kun is in the other camp.

  6. Oh, Jo, I am so sorry that you, and especially Ebi-kun, are having to go through this. I have no words of wisdom, because, as far as I know, my kids have never been bullied and I pray to God that they never are, but as parents of bicultural children, the fear of it happening is always at the back of our minds, isn't it? Ebi-kun certainly had a guardian angel in the form of that lovely lady who put a stop to it. I find it so puzzling that children as young as that can even think to do what that Mum described, and just so, so sad. I do hope that the school stays on top of the situation and that the bullies learn a valuable lesson. Hugs, Clare

    1. cheers Clare, I am hoping that this is the end...

  7. So much love to you all. I am really very happy that Ebikun has some amazing advocated, not just you and your husband, but also the teacher and those brave mothers. Sticking your neck out for someone in Japan is not the done thing, so good for them.

    1. you are right there, I am so thankful to the mother that came forward.

  8. Hope the school works towards a good resolution here. It sounds like you already have a great support base and the lengths that mum went to stopping the bullying and tracking you down and even bringing her own interpreter really buoy me up that maybe there's hope after all!

    I am a bit leery of the Japanese style of bringing the perpetrator over with his/ her parents to say sorry and hand over cookies as I feel it is summed up best in that video- saying sorry doesn't fix it, sorry is an INCREDIBLY overused word here and I feel that the burden is on the victim who is forced to accept the sorry and then 'get over it'. Amy's teacher has a method I like better- the kids have to write letters that are vetted by the teacher before being exchanged. I feel that the letter takes longer to compose than a 'sorry' and they are instructed to write how they feel, why they felt that way and what they want from the other person in the future. Not perfect but it's a start!

    I'm not sure how much you and your DH know about aikido but if you have any questions about the styles or learning or anything at all let me know as my DH has done it for years and is the sports-shonen (city run HUGELY subsidised sports program- worth looking into!) aikido sensei here. I'd love to think I could help out a tiny bit if possible.

    1. I hate the forced 'gomen' situation too, I do like the letter writing idea, as you say, it sinks home better.

      DH & I did go to aikido, for about a month, then I found out I was preggers and we had to stop. We have moved city since but I think the place we are going on Sunday is the same one. DH found another place that does it but it looks like one of those all or nothing kind of clubs, we think it would be better to start off somewhere more relaxed, where we can go once a week for now - of course if he really gets into it then we can look at moving to the hung-ho club :) I know there are different 'sects' (not the right word, I am sure), I have no idea what the one we are going to is.

      Have your girls ever been? or plan to join?

  9. We go to the big Matsumoto martial arts festival each year and watch K and his adults group do a demonstration. K's speciality is rolling so he is always the 'uke' receiver and Meg has been put off by seeing daddy getting 'knocked down' by older/ smaller people and is flat not interested. Amy can start from April (it starts from grade 2 here) and is interested in going for a trial but way more into dance than martial arts at the moment. Plenty of time yet, hey? :)

    Sounds like you have found somewhere that will suit you guys and that's great. I really like traditional martial arts classes for their teachings on self control, confidence and respect as well as knowing your body and what it can do and why and all the other physical aspects of it all.

    1. Poor K-san, always been taken by the old guy hey? :)

      Yes, there are several reason for choosing Aikido other than the obvious, I think it suits Ebi-kun's personality and it fits with our ideals too. Staying calm and self control are really important too - you never know when you will need those skills - and living in earthquake country, could be anytime!

  10. OMG, I am not the best with reading blogs at the moment (still working on my shop basically all the time) so I missed this.
    When I read it today - I cried!
    I can so so so relate. I was bullied as a child and I for sure can say, yes, it never really goes away. I am not suffering today, of course not. I am quite a happy person. :-) But it shapes you. Often people that have not experienced that have NO idea what this is like.
    Someone really close to me told me once that "we all got our share of being laughed at at school" - and this comment just made me so sad. Of course we all get laughed at at some point. But being the target of people acting out for years ... that is just not the same thing.
    And today - I have to admit I am very scared that my daughter at some point will be bullied. I have to admit that I chose her school not because I think that school teaches better stuff but because the teachers take more care in looking out how the kids interact, how they behave, are they respectful or mean ... that sort of thing. I could not bare the thought that she might end up in a school where she is bullied - and no one cares, noone is there to help her or protect her.
    Because I think that is a BIG lesson to teach our kids. Yes, there might be tough parts. You might get laughed at, even hit. But the way all others around reacht teach that child so much more than the person bulliying! The person who bullies, is just one person. But everyone looking away - that is a whole different story! That teaches children that noone cares.

    You are an AWESOME mother for how you reacted! I will remember your post and if one day I am in a similar situation I hope I will do what you did!!!
    And I will show that video to my kids - even though they do not speak English. I will translate. :-)
    I find it so important that kids - or people in general - learn that you have to behave respectful to others and you have to take responsibility for what you do to others!

    Thanks so much for having the courage to post this!
    I know that I probably would not.

    Big hug,


    1. Sorry it made you cry Ursula! I do hope that every person who has read this takes something away and talks to their children about bullying. I know we will never stamp it out but if we can prevent it from happening to just one kid, it is a job well done.

  11. Thank you for sharing about Ebi-kun and the bullying situation. It tears at my heart, it really does. I keep coming back to why humans always have to alienate and attack whatever or whomever is different among us. It's a sad statement.

    I will share the video with my 10-year-old son right now. I appreciate you coming out with this.


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