Wednesday, November 18, 2015


This week of focus on bullying has really got me thinking.

Am I ever guilty?

And if I am, is it justified by the ends?

I'm sitting at the kitchen table, big mug of tea, the sun's not up, everyone is asleep. Good time to think.


Suppose a foster child crosses a line;  calls me an unacceptable word.

I know his past, I know why he gets angry. I know the harm that's been done to him. 

Nobody previously fought on behalf of him and his heart; he never experienced justice coming to his defence. He is victim of a thousand wrongs, mostly inflicted by the adult heads of the house or older brothers and sisters.

I've been to enough training to know he's not calling me a bad name. 

"A stupid b***h"

He's transferred his anger from his parents to me. He's calling his mother a name. He did it because it somehow made him feel better.

Sitting here in my kitchen I'm full of resolve that next time something like that happens I'll use Plan A; count to ten and say, in a calm and neutral voice;

"I know you don't mean that, please try not to let your anger out in that way"

or change the subject and say;

"Would you like a lolly before tea?'


But it seems wrong, it feels wrong. It feels like I'm chickening out of doing my job, like I'm not showing myself proper respect, not maintaining my essential authority which as head of the house is pretty essential.

So. What am I doing if Plan B comes out;

"That's it mister! You're grounded! No pocket money on Saturday and the wi-fi is off every night for a week!"

 Is that bullying? Well...think about it...

  • I'm doing it because I can (Tick). 
  • My peer group (rest of the family) say he had it coming (Tick).
  • I don't think it's bullying (Tick).
  • He feels bullied (Tick).
  • There's some emotional hurt in me which is coming out in what I'm doing (Tick)
  • My justification is that he's got to fall in line. (Tick) This last one is the complicated one. I tell myself it's all about him behaving as I want, which is what bullies want. Maybe I'm aiming for a noble outcome, but am I going about it hypocritically? Are my sanctions really justifiable inducements to improve behaviour? Or is there an element of retribution?

The answer is easy. Dress my reaction up any way you want, I'm guilty of inflicting inconvenience, theft, even a form of imprisonment. No room for appeal, my word is God. 

I'm doing it partly because it somehow makes me feel a bit better.

There is an element of bullying about Plan B.

If a child of mine used bad words against me I'd be similarly incensed. But a foster child is a different proposition. If I go into heavy mode, I'm transforming myself into another of the big people who used to impose unfairness on him, in their case for no good reason. If nothing else I'm storing up trouble for myself.


We have to suck it up, along with all the other little things we normally call "bad behaviour" and keep an eye out for slow but sure improvement. It always happens in the end, in my experience.

I've found that thinking about fostering during Anti-Bullying Week has been useful, and I'm better for it.

Mind you, next time I'm up to my ears in a pan of boiled dry spaghetti, the school's just rung to say someone didn't show up today, the dog's been ill on the doormat because I didn't let it out when it wanted, my innards are flushed and someone's just called me a bad word; I may have to count to more than ten.

How many is a 'google' again? 


  1. Thank you. I'm thinking of fostering and this is the first fostering blog I've come across (just did a search). It is very, very real. And honest and helpful. I'm not really anonymous, but it's the only way I can get the comment to publish! Helen

    1. Oh right Helen, I'll mention the anonymous thing to the IT people. Come to think of it they read the blog too so they may have an idea how to post as yourself.
      Thanks for your kind comments; yes I try to keep it real, there's no point in BS with fostering, I truly hope it's helpful. And that you keep thinking of fostering.

    2. I expect it's just that I'm not a computer whizz-kid!

    3. Who wants to be a computer whizz-kid anyway?

  2. Ella here - I always enjoy your blog entries.

    "Nobody previously fought on behalf of him and his heart; he never experienced justice coming to his defence." - that is the key part.

    I still feel like that now. And I'm supposed to be grown up now!

  3. We always enjoy your feedback. You've got me thinking about the lasting effects of being in Care, I imagine most people think once a look-after child reaches adulthood they can put most of it behind them, but of course the scars don't go away.
    I had a child who was astute enough to tell me repeatedly that nothing was going to erase thoughts and feelings the child had endured.