J.T. asks from Portland, OR on April 24, 2008
Report a Bully or Not? What's a Mom to Do?
My son is in 5th grade and is a smart, kind (too kind?) but socially inmature boy. He is being repetitively excluded from games. My son stays in a classroom at recess to play chess and board games. The same 11 kids (including his 2 friends) stay in nearly every day, My son is specifically excluded and treated disrespectfully by one ring leader who "organizes" what goes on. The kids who my son considers his friends don't stick up for him. This has been wearing on him and he actually seems depressed! I'm asking for insight and advise on what to do. There is a teacher in the room and its actually his lunch hour... he tolorates the kids being in his room but doesn't want to be bothered and doesn't intervene. My son has asked me NOT to contact the teacher or this ring leader's parents. What can I say, do or teach my son to help him out? I love him and am so so sad to see him hurt and excluded.
J.B. answers from Medford on April 24, 2008
I would talk to the teacher. Not the kid's parents, let the teacher handle the ring leader. If no results, go to the principal.
K.S. answers from Seattle on April 24, 2008
Enroll him in karate. Children are targeted by bullies when they act like victims. (Bullies do not target people who will stand up to them.) Martial arts gives children/people such a tremendous amount of self-confidence, self-respect, and a sense of self-worth. It is VERY empowering to know that, if you need to, you can defend yourself.
I would also work with your son on is social skills. Start with the book Emotional Intelligence (I'm sure you can pick up a used copy at Amazon.com for a few dollars). This book should give you techniques specific to your son's personality.
If the bullying gets physical, you MUST report it. And you should report it to the school in writing. (And be factual and specific - not emotional.) Verbal complaints are easy to dismiss. Written complaints get attention.
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J.M. answers from Portland on April 25, 2008
If you son does not want you to talk to the teacher or the other student's parents, don't. You may want to talk to the principal and or school counselor to get advice and a plan for your son. It is important for you to help your son handle the problem. I have a son with similar issues, and it was the most difficult thing to do, to support and encourage but not step in, but to try to teach him the tools he needs to stand up for himself. Of course the first sign of anything physical or nasty name calling need immediate attention to the school principal. Is there another location your son can go to during recess? Like the library or computer lab? I think talking with the counselor and principal maybe even with your son (if he's willing) to help find a solution your son is comfortable with is a good idea.
1 mom found this helpful
J.M. answers from Seattle on April 24, 2008
From what you're describing, it doesn't sound as though your son is actually being bullied. (You do say that your son is being treated "disrespectfully" but without a better description I really have no idea what this means - kids generally do not treat each other with respect.) It sounds as though he's being ignored . . . and being excluded does hurt. I think there's a pretty good chance that he WILL be bullied if he's not already being bullied because it sounds as though he's a perfect victim. (When you described him as "too kind," I got an image of a child who desperately wants people to like him so he bends over backwards to please people . . . unfortunately this is NOT a way to earn respect.)
Chess is a game played by two people . . . so why isn't one of his friends playing a two-person game with him? It sounds like his friends aren't that great of friends - but I'd also say that it's really not his friends' job to stick up for him if he won't stick up for himself.
I agree with another poster who recommended karate. Your son sounds as though he desperately needs some self-confidence. If I were you, I'd also role play with him things he can do or say when he's being treated badly. Let him know that he is allowed to stand up for himself. And, I would let him know that if anyone hits, kicks, or pushes him he has YOUR permission to hit them back as hard as he can and make certain he knows that he will NOT be in any trouble with you and YOU will make certain he's not in any trouble with the teacher or principal.
1 mom found this helpful
K.O. answers from Eugene on April 25, 2008
I feel this is a growing problem in this selfish world that we live in. I feel for you, your son, and the rest of your family. This is a ruff, but life long problem.
I have four children ranging from 19 - 8. They have all suffered with this problem, and continue to. My 19yr. old is in the Air force, imagine the bulling he has to put up with!
My answer is self confidence and knowing were you stand in life. Know the things that are worth fighting for and the things that are not. Teach your children this, and let them figure out what is important to them. Then take a stand for there beliefs, and let them see that. What I mean is hang out at the school when you can and confront the bully yourself when needed. If you see him doing something wrong, call him on it. If your son see's you doing this, then he will understand how to do it himself.
Good luck and God Bless!
C.G. answers from Portland on April 25, 2008
Keep the lines of communication open by encouraging him to come to you and listening to him when he does. If, at this time, he is asking you not to intervene, don't. This will send the message that you don't think he can handle the situation on his own and that you don't respect his wishes. Try to help him talk through various ways to proceed without telling him what to do. And I recommend the book, Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson.
Let your son know that you are willing and able to act when he thinks it is necessary. He'll appreciate having you in his corner. And good luck. Bullies and bullying in general can be the toughest thing to handle, given boys' natural propensity toward pack mentality (the strongest survive, the weakest get picked on - and loyalty is to the pack, not the individual). Be aware of the situation and in the event you have to intervene, do so only after speaking with your son so he understands why you are making the move without him - because you are concerned about his safety or his grades start slipping, etc.
L.O. answers from Seattle on April 25, 2008
This is so sad. I so wish bullying didn't happen in schools. It's sad for everyone involved.
I would ask for a meeting or conference call between yourself, classroom teacher and the school counselor. I can understand the classroom teacher not really getting involved because it is his one break during the day. As a teacher, I cherished the lunch break! But, if he has chosen to allow the kids to be in the classroom playing chess, he has kind of set himself up to be somewhat on duty. Maybe the school counselor could sit in the chess game a few days a week to monitor and also teach some social skills.
If your son finds out about the meeting or you choose to tell him, I think you can try your best to explain to him that it is your job as a mom to help protect him. Odds are the bully is bullying other kids, too. So, the bully probably wouldn't know that your son had talked about the problem.
I wish you all the best. My heart goes out to you and your son!
H.C. answers from Seattle on April 25, 2008
Hi Jennifer -
My 6th grade son has been bullied and excluded his whole public school career. He does have friends, but they do not stick up for him. I would recommend talking with the counselor and with the principle. Bullying is illegal in Washington and there is a no tolerance policy. I know it is difficult for your son to have you step in for him, but they is your right as a parent. You need to explain this to him. Also, let him know that you will not talk to the child or his parents or his teacher. But let him know you will go behind the scences to make sure that he is safe at school. Let him know it is he is entitled to feel safe at school, just like everyone else. If the staff at the school knows you are going to advocate for your son, they will pay attention. They are liable for this situation. I feel for you and your son and this situation. Maybe letting him see some of the responses, so he knows he is not alone in his problem will help him not be quite so sad. It really broke my heart when my son said to me a couple of months ago "Why won't they just leave me alone?" and I didn't have an answer.
You are doing a great job, hang in there.
E.T. answers from Portland on April 25, 2008
I would talk to your son about going to the principal. I just did that this week with my daughter who is in kindergarten. It did a world of good and the bully got pulled into the office and talked to. I told my daughter that by going to the principal's office we were probably helping out other kids too afraid to speak up about the bully. The boy had thrown a toy at my daughters eye and nicked the area the area round it. So now Aspen feels like she did a good deed for other kids as well as helping protect herself. That teacher in your sons class is being lazy and needs to be talked to. Your son's emotional and physical well being are more important than the guys lunch hour. Good Luck!