October 20, 2010,
K.S. asks from Saint Paul, MN on October 19, 2010
School Bully -- Does This Approach Seem OK?
My kindergartner has been dealing with a bully. We already made 1 call to his teacher and she remarked that she had been about to call us to notify us that D was being physically picked on and to tell us the steps she had already taken to stop it.
A little background. My son D is on the small side. In fact, turned 5 in August. But he is academcially and emotionally ahead of his peers. Maybe because he is just wired that way and maybe because he has an older brother to mimic. Whatever the case...He remains pretty dismissive about the bullying. Simply shrugs his shoulders and reports that "Sometimes I play with L and he doesn't hit me and sometimes I play with him and he does". But I wonder how much more patient he can be and so I want to reach out to the teacher again. The latest incident was a head butt that left a goose egg on Ds head and required a trip to the nurse and a dose of Tylenol. BUT....! I don't want to over-react or be "that annoying parent".
What do you say Mamas? Can you give this email a read through before I press "Send" and let me know if it comes across as too pushy or hysterical? Thanks!
I heard from D that he is still being bullied by L. The latest incident (from what I could gather from D's telling which admittedly could be missing critical information), occurred on 10/18/10 during lunch. D told us that L head-butted him and that he was hurt enough to request a visit with the school nurse. He also said he was unable to go back and finish lunch.
Can you confirm what has been going on lately? D was pretty dismissive about the bullying at first but he (and his worried parents! = ) may not be OK with it for much longer. Despite being one of the smaller kindergartners, D is pretty patient and "tough" and confident in himself and so I think for now he is OK. But I would like to work on a plan to provide D with tools to avoid L or defend himself (not physically...but emotionally) from being a target for bullying. I worry that other kids might assume because L can bully D, that they can too.
I am certain that the district has an anti-bullying policy that can be leveraged to address this situation and am happy to let you work your magic. Just keep us in the loop and let us know how we can help support whatever your approach might be. My husband has said he would be willing to speak to L's mother about the situation when he sees her at SACC. But if you think that would not be a good idea at this time, please let me know.
For the record, my older son has also been impacted by L's inappropriate physical acting out at SACC and has witnessed L doing it to others.
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So What Happened?™
Thanks for all your help. It really helped to hear how the tone sounded to others. *Sigh* The day I sent the email and made the follow-up call, I find out the teacher was about to report to me that L had bit my son. Seriously? Biting? She confirmed (again) that D’s telling the truth when he says he is not instigating the behavior…That it is not boys-will-be-boys stuff. Anyhoooo…A teacher-principal call with the parent is scheduled for today and D’s teacher said she’d get back to me with the results, their plans, etc. later today. I have been really happy with the school’s response so far.
1.) Used the “just call” suggestion but also sent the email because I want to have a paper trail in case this escalates.
2.) I took out the references to D being dismissive or OK for now. Turns out I got an immediate and concerned response from the school...So I probably could've left it in.
3.) The steps that had already been taken to address L’s physical and verbal acting out included making sure he didn’t sit at D’s table, making sure they were no longer “line buddies”. And making sure they didn’t sit together at lunch. Obviously, this isn't working.
4.) It was really important to me to set an understanding tone because as much as I want to protect my son, there is also a small part of me that knows that a 5-6 year old bully is not malicious or psychotic. The bully very likely has academic, family, and perhaps psychological problems. My mother’s heart wants L to get help – Not to just be punished.
5.) Turns out…This child has required intense school-to-parent intervention since the first week of school. However, the mother is as it was delicately phrased to me “overwhelmed”. It is a comfort (small comfort) that several resources at the school have him (and his mother) on their radar.
6.) My son read an entire Dr Seuss book to us last night. Whatever is going wrong re: bullying….So much is clearly going really well for D! Not only academically…D’s heart must be made of gold because he said to me, “You know what mom? L doesn’t have any friends and he can’t read. He is having a tough time. He’s not a baddie but I can’t be friends with him until he stops hitting me.”
J.P. answers from Boise on October 19, 2010
This definitely isn't too pushy or hysterical. I would almost say it is a bit too calm. I don't know the relationship that you have with the teacher, and you don't mention what the plan is, or what punishments L has received or the involvement of his parents, so maybe this has all been dealt with, but I would be much more upset by this. I would demand that something be done about this NOW, that it has gone on too long, and that it needs to stop immediately. His parents need to know what is going on and it needs to be addressed at all levels.
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M.P. answers from Portland on October 19, 2010
I would talk directly with the teacher and not send an e-mail. You need more info. Writing takes too long and can be very confusing.
You didn't say what the teacher has already done. Knowing that would be helpful in making suggestions for what else, if anything, could be done.
It does sound to me that your son is handling the situation appropriately and in a manner that is satisfactory to him. If he doesn't feel bullied then step back and wait to see how this progresses. Do not create a bully by giving him and the other boy a label. Boys are often rough and do not intend to harm each other. Children can get angry instantly and get over it just as quickly. Impulse control is limited at this age.
It may be this boy needs to learn more socially accepted ways of handling his emotions. At 5 this behavior is common. Sounds like the teacher is on top of it. Calling the boy a bully does not change his behavior and in fact is likely to slow down his learning. The term bully is so emotionally charged, I would expect his parents to take offense and react in anger instead of co-operation.
Focus on improving the situation instead of labeling it. Five year olds are just beginning to learn how to treat each other. Your son is way head of the game. Good for him and you for providing the environment for him to learn self-confidence.
You describe your son as being patient, tough, and confident. This is all you could ask for in defense of bullies. Please relax, trust your son and his teacher.
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K.P. answers from New York on October 19, 2010
Honest feedback on the email (as a school administrator)- it's wordy and it will just get skimmed. I would email the teacher and request a face-to-face meeting to discuss the situation of which she is already well aware. I would ask that the principal be part of the meeting as well.
When you meet with them keep the mindset that they are likely very aware of this child and most likely know ALOT of info that they cannot share with you. Share with them your specific concerns (not a list of dates and events) and ask them what specifically is being done to address the situation and what you can do at home to reinforce the message.
After the meeting, follow up with a summary email that clearly states the specifics and "who-does-what". Make sure that you outline the chain of communication, should another episode occur.
In the meantime, speak with your son and find out how he feels about the whole situation (or have his older brother chat with him). Technically, if your son isn't intimidated by the child, it's not "bullying". I know, I know... it is bullying but your son may not perceive it that way. I would have a chat with your son about what you expect him to do which could include that he's not to play with this child unless there is an adult around.
I would also tell your son that if the child comes after him and there are no adults around, hit him as hard as he can in the stomach. Yes folks, this is what I used to tell my students when I was working as a psychologist. FIRST "use your words"- yell for an adult and walk away. If that doesn't work, hit the kid- hard. It won't likely happen again. If this kid's a problem, the principal probably won't overly punish your child.
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S.S. answers from Omaha on October 20, 2010
this is such a huge touchy subject- I have been on both sides of this, and it sucks either way. My son is now 10 and the daycare that keeps him after school specifically will tell me- he's not doing anything wrong, but...Younger kids will go home and say Andrew is mean, because Andrew won't play with them, the parents come back at the day care wanting to know who the bully is being mean to their kid, so they have to come to me incase it gets reported to the state, it's just craziness. And my son was picked on when he was younger- I prefer picked on rather than bullied. They are two totally different things- and in kindergarten- I would imagine bullying isn't the proper term. I would be willing to bet that this other kid has older siblings who pick on him at home- so this is what he knows how to do. My brother picked on me and me on my sister- but we didn't carry that behavior out of the house- some kids just don't know the boundary or difference. I tend to think if it's not bothering your kid, then it's really nothing to stress over
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D.B. answers from Charlotte on October 19, 2010
K., I would leave out the part in the letter about your son being dismissive. I would also leave out the part about your husband talking to the mother.
What you need to put in the letter is that you EXPECT the SCHOOL to talk to L's parents and that you expect the bullying to stop. Your letter is far too nebulous from an outsider's point of view about the child doing the bullying, as if it is YOUR son's job to learn how to deal with bullying, or the school's job to teach him how to deal with the bullying. It's the school's job to stop the bully, pure and simple. Tell them you want to know that they have called the parents in for a meeting.
You don't have to be so sugar-sweet nice in your letter. It doesn't actually help you with this, I promise. Be too nice, and the bullying will continue. Be respectful but let them know you want results, and you'll get farther, quicker, with the school. (The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and your son will stop getting goose-egg bumps on his head.) Btw, your letter should actively describe the injuries this boy has visited upon your son. (Again, what you said is too nebulous.)
Hope this helps,
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M.A. answers from Orlando on October 19, 2010
I agree with the other poster about taking out the dismissive part, I also think that you should take out the part about not being ok with it much longer. Let them know that you are not ok with it & never will be. It needs to stop yesterday. I'm also not sure that your husband should say anything by himself. Maybe you could have a meeting with the principle with all involved.
I wish you all the best with this. No child should have to go through this.
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S.T. answers from New York on October 19, 2010
Call & write. Don't put the school or teachers on the defense since this bully child is probably already noticed as a problem. Your job is to protect your kids. Tell the teacher you think you need to make the principal aware since this seems bigger than just the classroom. Then later in the day call the principal. This give the teacher some time to advise the principal before you call. This is your child and you need to protect him. Once you finish the conversation with the principal tell him you're going to follow up with an email to summarize the conversation. REgardless of whether your son needs tools to deal ith bullies - this child who is the bully needs to be addresses ASAP. This child is being bullied somewhere else in his life, maybe at home by a step father, or mom's boyfriend, or an older kid in the neighborhood. Your job is to protect your son. go mamma!
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S.W. answers from Minneapolis on October 20, 2010
Your letter needs to only document facts - what you saw and what you heard, and the dates. No extra words. No assumptions that "so I think for now he is OK". Then BE PUSHY! Go talk with the teacher and then the principal. Get the written policy from the school and insist that it is followed to the letter. This is your chance to teach your children how to deal with bullies, and that is directly and immediately!
(Your son visited the school nurse and they didn't inform you of the details?? I would be very concerned about how school policies are followed.)
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S.H. answers from Honolulu on October 19, 2010
1) this is unacceptable.... that the Bully is continuing this behavior
2) It is the school's responsibility... to deal with it...
3) Your Priority... is your child... and making sure he is not bullied
4) it does not matter that your son is 'dismissive' about it... he is young... a child needs the PARENTAL help, to stop it. If this happened in an office among adults at work... it would not be tolerated... and you would do something about it...
5) it is not your child's response to it, that dictates what should be done... because... BULLYING... is just NOT appropriate... no matter what... so stop it.
6) You document everything, and write letters... and follow-up.
7) That Bully's parents... ALSO has to be dealt with, by the school... and they need to do things which will correct the child... and the whole scenario...
8) The TEACHER, is also responsible for following up... AND talking the entire class, about PROPER behavior and saying that Bullying is NOT ALLOWED, and that there will be consequences for it.
That is what ALL my daughter's Teachers did... whenever there was a Bully in class.
9) At the same time, you parent your child... and teach him right and wrong... that ANY Bullying, is wrong.. and that he tell you and the Teacher... right away. You teach your child, how to handle Bullying... this is your role for your child at home...
10) Again, it does not matter... how "patient"/confident/tough your son is about it all... because, "Bullying" is simply WRONG... and your son, needs to KNOW... what wrong behavior is... and that it is not allowed.
Teach him to not play with Bullies, to speak up and say "STOP... ", to Tell the Teacher, to go and play with someone else... and to speak up with any wrongdoing...
11) you also teach him... what a 'friend' is... that friends do NOT do things like this... and if someone is doing that to them... then he needs to tell you... and that child is not a friend... or can harm him. That ANYTIME another child or adult harms him... this is simply WRONG etc.
The show 20/20, last week had an episode on Bullying... and they said it is EPIDEMIC in the United States... and it is a really big problem... among kids, of all ages. So.. you TEACH your child about it... and REPORT it to the school... and DEMAND they properly, handle it and the Bullying kid.
Your son was already head-butted by that Bully... I would not tolerate this any longer. I would DEMAND the school do something about it...
My Daughter, was bullied before... in Preschool and in 1st Grade. I did NOT tolerate it nor just sit back and say "oh well.. my daughter is dismissive about it.... " etc. No... my daughter KNEW it was wrong, she told me and the Teacher.. and I dealt with it swiftly and right away... and they reprimanded the child... who it turned out, was a chronic Bully... and to other kids. The school, needed parents like me... who gave them proof and in writing...and FORMALLY complained... so that they could then deal with that child and her parents.
So... you NEED to do something about it.
all the best,
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