B.W. asks from Gonzales, LA on September 01, 2008
Negative Outlook on School Because of Mean Kids
We have our 13 year old staying with us for this school year for the first time. He has said he hates school and would rather work in a factory than go to school. I asked what about school it is he hates and he told me the teachers that yell and the kids that torment others. He said he was friends with a girl from his previous school who tried to commit suicide because the kids at school would not leave her along despite her attempts to get help and stand up for herself. I raise my 9 and 4 year old to be strong within themselves, not take things personal from other kids and to choose friends that make good choices. My 9 year old has let some negative things said from his peers at school affect his self esteem and I am trying to help him learn skills needed to know what his peers say isn't truth. How does a parent raise a child that is creative and a unique thinker, to survive what other kids can and potentially put them through in school. Is it confidence and self esteem that keeps the kids from picking on someone even though one might be artistic and a little eccentric?
Thanks a bunch!!!
R.W. answers from Portland on September 02, 2008
I agree that bulling tends to target kids with low self esteem. I would first address that issue before making the dramatic leap to homeschooling. Even if you homeschool, and do not address the self esteem issues, I think they would catch up to the child later in life. I would also suggest martial arts. I have known children that this has really helped with.
Good luck to you. My heart goes out to any child being bullied. We have a child with down syndrome, and I often think about this. It is heart breaking.
M.P. answers from Portland on September 01, 2008
Unfortunately being bullied is all too commone these days. I think the main reason bullies bully is that they lack self esteem. They are afraid of anyone different then themselves.
My granddaughter's school had a series of classes on what to do to prevent or stop bullying. I wasn't able to attend.
I agree that the parent of the one being bullied needs to stand up for the kid when the kid isn't able to stop it themselves. This means going to the school, talking with the teacher, principal, and/or counselor if there is one. If possible arrange to talk with the parents of the bully. You may not get help from the parents. Instead you'll better understand why their kid is a bully.
My daughter graduated with a young man who has since become a scientist. He very much looked and acted like a nerd. He was painfully shy with most of his peers. I don't know if he was bullied. He never said. My daughter became his friend.
My daughter is outgoing and one who stands up for herself and others. Your sons should look for this sort of person to be their friend. My daughter met him in one of the high school clubs.
I suggest trying to encourage your boys to become active in activities in which they're interested. This way they can develop their own self-esteem as well as meet other kids with the same interests as themselves.
Help them to focus on making good friends instead of trying to defend themselves to the bullies. I do believe that the bullies are in the minority and they choose to pick on kids who are not only different but who are also shy and show that they're upset when bullied.
My daughter was having difficulty with a boy in middle school who was a bully. Her Dad said that the next time he tries to pick a physical fight to slug him right back. I'm not, in general, in favor of physical force. However this worked for my daughter. She did get a suspension because the school had the policy that in a fight both would be suspended. She was angry because she was suspended until she went back to school and this boy no longer baited her.
Her situation was a boy who was a physical bully. The verbal ones she had already learned to handle by either not responding (i.e. act as if she didn't hear them) or responded with a confident statement such as "so what." She did get into some verbal fights but she is very strong willed and wouldn't bend for anyone.
I doubt that a verbal argument benefits anyone. I would suggest that the best approach would to walk away in a confident manner. "Fake it until you make it."
Having friends and being involved in fun activities makes the bullying seem less serious.
If and when the bullying does become serious such as making threats or wanting to physically fight I recommend that both you and your son go to the principal and tell them what is happening.
At my granddaughter's school they had several 6th grade bullies on the playground. The counselor organized active games such as basketball and a teacher was assigned to the part of the playground on which the 6th graders played. I am a recess volunteer and saw that keeping the kids active cut back the opportunities to bully.
I realize that my granddaughter's school has always stressed respect. It was my daughter's school too. Not all schools have been able to act in such a manner that the majority of the kids respect the teachers. Or are in neighborhoods where parents also respect the school. This might not work at your son's school. I suggest that you volunteer at the school and keep in contact with your son's teachers so that you do know what is going on. You show your sons how to be assertive and not aggressive.
This may be difficult for you, depending on your personality and experience. Perhaps you could get together with other mothers so that you have support. I don't know if the PTA would be helpful. PTAs are sometimes more focused on being their own social group instead of recognizing that all parents have something to contribute. You can check it out.
There are some good books on bullying. You may find that reading one of those would be helpful in showing you how to help your sons.
I think that building self-esteem is the key to ending bullying. That is not so easy to obtain. I have read some parenting books that told of ways to help build your child's self-esteem.
I wish you well in doing this. Confidence is not easily learned either. I have frequently "faked it until I made it." I started out as a shy woman when I joined the Sheriff's office. No one would believe it now.
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D.D. answers from Seattle on September 02, 2008
I've known parents that homeschooled for the reason you are dictating. I know other parents who moved the child out of one school into another with great results. I recommend moving your child into another classroom or even another school. My son was terribly picked on in one instance, and I told him, "don't worry, we're moving in a few months". It was that awful school also here in Everett. But this one is much better.
Sometimes it's just that class or those kids in that class. One bad apple in the class can spoil the whole bunch and cause the whole class to pick on the poor kid! If changing schools is not a possibility, maybe you can have him change classes. It's horrible for the child getting picked on. Don't underestimate how bad it is. 7th grade is the WORST! I don't konw what it is about that grade where they get really horrible. I was picked on horribly in the 7th Grade. Lucky for me, we moved after a few months and didn't have a problem after that. Usually if you let the teacher and principal know, they can step in and help. But if not, change schools. This is a great time to do it.
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J.W. answers from Seattle on September 02, 2008
Your 13 yr old is facing a double whammy, he's going through puberty and he's in a new school with a whole new set of people, expectations, culture, etc. So, when he gets home after the first day, take a look at his school handbook with him. Read the rules, see who the counselors are, what the expectations are for dress and what clubs and activities are available. Because he's in middle school he should have at least one elective, an art class, music, industrial arts, foreign language are possibilities. These are classes where he can express his passion, his interests. A great place to meet kids who have similar likes. Encourage him to get to know the other students in those classes. Kids can be mean, they know no boundaries, but that's where it's important to have a good line of communication between him and his teachers and counselor. Go to open house, you'll meet the parents of those 'other' kids and you an get a good read on things as well. You'll have an opportunity to introduce yourself to all of his teachers so you can make those calls or e-mails when you have concerns. As far as his friend wanting to commit suicide, we never know what triggers that to happen in kids. It's never just one thing. There have been deaths of students over they years my kids have been in school. Again, the counselors do a fantastic job of working with all the kids at school when this happens, letters go home to parents, additional counseling is available. If your son knows of someone who is contemplating suicide encourage him to go tell a teacher or a counselor. Be a friend to the person, this is a cry for help not a statement of good-bye. Explain that to him. Hearing things that are contrary to one's belief system, damaging to our self-esteem, just down right mean is hard, but it's part of growing up, it's not right, but it happens, it's not fair, but no where in the rule book does it say life is fair. When you get to be an adult, you need to have acquired the skills to deal with this 'stuff' and you don't have parents to protect or comfort you so close at hand. So guide your kids, enforce their sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth. At the same time, remember that they're kids as well, and we don't know all they do or say when they're out of sight, we hope that they treat others the way they would want to be treated, remind them of that. Two wrongs don't make a right. I think as our kids grow, we grow as well. All of their life events become ours, only enhanced in emotion and the thoughts of potential consequence. Celebrate the joy of each day, the new found knowledge, friends, the exploration of the unknown. I learned so much more about life after I became a parent than any school or college could begin to teach me.
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M.B. answers from Seattle on September 01, 2008
I don't know for your kids, but I was picked on from 4th grade until I graduated high school because I was the new kid and because I was different. The summer between 3rd and 4th grade my dad and I moved to a different county and I had to go to a new school.
At that time I was a total tomboy with super short (think nearly buzz cut) hair and I'd only wear sweats to school. This was all by my choice. I was the scape goat for everything at recess when younger. I remember being hit in the face with a playground ball, getting a bloody nose, and hear the laughter of all the kids around because I was crying. I remember being ganged up on and run off of both tether ball and four square because I learned how to beat everybody. I have few, if any, fond memories of school.
That being said don't give the advice of being like a duck and letting the insults and taunting roll off your back. Please don't give the advice about sticks and stones either. Please take your kids seriously when they say that Little Joey is being mean and they don't like him. Please stand up for your kids when they need you and say, even indirectly, that they are being bullied. Even if they say that they don't want you to interfere you are the Mamma Bear and need to protect your little ones. They will thank you for it some day. To this day I still have low self esteem issues and a whole lot of other problems from the years of being bullied.
Children today are vicious and just plain cruel. They go for the jugular and don't care about who gets hurt or in the way anymore.
Hope this helps,
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C.C. answers from Eugene on September 02, 2008
Is homeschooling an option for you? This is one of the many reasons why I chose to homeschool my son. Kids these days are way worse then they ever were even when I was in school. The bullies are not intimidated by parents or teachers. I have a friend with a then 10 year old son who is a bit overweight and nerdy looking. A kid came right up to him while he was standing next to his mom and started heckling him about being fat. The bully looked right at the mom like "what are you gonna do about it" and walked off. The principal said he couldn't do anything about it. What is this world coming to?
If your 13 year old is saying he's being bullied or tormented, why make him stay in a situation that is going to harm his self-esteem and self-worth? Would you want to be forced to go somewhere where you are mistreated and made to feel less than human? We all know the answer is no! As adults we would remove ourselves from a situation like that either by talking to a boss or quitting our job or staying away from wherever that situation would come up! People argue that we can't shelter our kids from the world but isn't that our jobs as parents? To keep them away from harm, both physical and mental!
Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I just ultimately urge that you listen to your son because things he's going through right now are going to shape the man he is to become!
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D.H. answers from Bellingham on September 02, 2008
Homeschooling is your answer. It's the only way to protect your children from all the rotten stuff that kids so freely release at the public schools now a days and quite frankly, it's those situations and kids that change our kids for who they are meant to be. There is so much the goes on at the public schools today that kids don't tell their parents (did you tell your parents all the went on either?). It's a very scary place for kids now a days and the so-called authorities of the schools don't have any authority over it anymore or the kids and there are many blind eyes turned because of it... it's kids like ours who are being taught to have character, self-control and stand up for what is right that completely suffer. Keeping them at home not only keeps them from all the garbage, but also allows you to watch your children learn, grow and become who they are meant to be. Sorry for the strong opinion....I get a little worked-up when I hear of innocent kids having such hard times at the public schools - it breaks my heart.
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R.R. answers from Seattle on September 02, 2008
Your situation is serious, no doubt about that. You may have to try a couple of different things before you reach a solution. You could try changing schools, but I think the bullying thing is pretty rampant. From a dealing with it at home perspective, I would advise you to take the child seriously. I agree with the other poster who said telling a kid to let it roll of his back won't help. I think that is true. Sometimes, your child just wants you to understand. A simple response is: that is terrible, you had a horrible day, those kids are jerks. These are just simple expressions of empathy that will help your child know you understand. If your child is shy, creative and eccentric, that may come off to the other kids that he is rejecting them - and that is why you see retaliation. Have him experiment with just being overly friendly, compliementary, interested in others. You may be surprised in the results. In the end, try to keep in mind that this kind of experience will make your child stronger. It is such a pity to see kids who are sheltered all of their lives and then simply cannot function in the real world as adults.
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H.P. answers from Seattle on September 03, 2008
Have you ever thought about homeschooling? He is right that it is a zoo in most public schools, especially at his age and he might shine academically if he were allowed to do a computer curricula, enter an alternative school that catered to individual plans with education, etc. I would look into any other environment that could make his life more positive. He is sending you clear warning signs that he is going to be entering the serious trouble zone very quickly if you don't, especially mentioning a friend who attempted suicide. If you have any questions about any of these options, you may contact me. I am a homeschooling Mother of 9 and nearly 4 year old daughters.