Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blackmail and threats of suicide among kids

Last year Baby went to the school cafeteria, which is in the school premises, without permission from her teacher. She claims that she didn’t know she had to ask first, and she was worried about what the school would do if they found out. ( yes, the school is rather regimented that way).

“The'll do nothing,” I said. “That event happened last year, and quite frankly I don’t think your teachers have the time or inclination to follow up on something like that.”

Unfortunately, one of Baby’s school mates had her convinced that the incident did matter. She threatened to tell if Baby didn’t play with her, share her lunch, give her money… the list of what she wanted varied depending on her moods.

Sometimes she even threatened Baby for the fun of it- even when she didn’t even want anything in exchange.

I’m sure Baby was her slave for a while, although she never did give her, her lunch or money, and everyday, she agonized about how to deal with the situation.

I suppose Baby was afraid to believe me that she was off the hook. She worried about it, talked about it, repeatedly sought my advice on the matter. Eventually I got sick of the subject, convinced that she wouldn't let go of the situation because she revelled in the drama of it.

“I don't want to hear about this again!" I shouted. "It’s a minor incident, and it happened last year, so no one cares. I don't care that you went to the school cafeteria without permission. I would be angry if it was outside the school premises, but that's not the case. Your teachers are also not going to punish you for a small thing that happened last year. Their report said you did very well in last year, and it's over. They are only interested in how you do this year. And if I were you, I would tell the little blackmailer to go jump into a lake and drown herself.”

“I can’t tell her to kill herself,” Baby said quietly, ignoring my tirade. “She said many times that she wanted to do it, and it will be my fault if I tell her to do it and she does it."

To say I was shocked is to put it mildly. A 10-year old blackmailer who already knows the value of threatening suicide? Or this the child really contemplating suicide?

“Well, maybe you shouldn’t tell her to jump into a lake and drown. But I suggest that you make it clear that you will not let yourself be blackmailed by anyone.”

I explained that blackmailers don't stop - if you give them what they want, they want something else, something more. They never let go.

I also told Baby that if she did something wrong, and someone threatens to tell on her, she should tell me herself what she did to kill the threat. Her school can’t punish her beyond giving her detention unless they talk to me first, I said.

I also explained that no matter how bad the situation is, dealing with my anger and disappointment is still a better proposition than dealing with a blackmailer.

I hope my message got through: a girl’s world is rather rough, and little girls who are receptive to being blackmailed are likely to have an even worse time of it.

I also have to thin about whether I should tell the school and the child's mother of the suicide threat.

I can't take a suicide threat, even a secondhand one, lightly because clearly this child feels that people are not listening to her and she needs something drastic to make them pay attention.

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