Advise on Teaching My Son How to Deal with a Bully

Updated on October 20, 2009
T.J. asks from Vancouver, WA
5 answers

There is a boy in one of my son's classes who has started pushing him, grabbing things from his hand, etc. Nothing too overt yet, but I can see the pattern developing. My dilema is how to teach my son to deal with this. Hitting back just because the other person did it first is not OK, but neither is being a doormat. I am at a loss for the correct middle path. Any suggestions or recommendations of books dealing with this subject? My son is 6 1/2 and the other boy is similar in age. Thanks.

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answers from Seattle on

Hi Terri- Mom of a 7 year old boy here!
This is a really tough one. My son sounds a lot like yours in that he is not very confrontational. He often had children take things from him, hit him, or just plain be mean. It would break my heart, and piss my husband off. My husband is of the thought that if someone is picking on you then you need to pick right back. He grew up in the barrios of Mexico City. I often need to explain to him that things are a little different (read, a LOT) in Mill Creek.
So, here's what we came up with. It may be controversial to some mama's, but OH's what works for us.
First of all, your son needs to have a voice. NOT your voice and NOT the teacher's voice. But his. If he does not like what the other kid is doing than he needs to say, "JOHN, I don't like that you are pushing me. STOP!" If the child continues to do whatever is bothering your son then he has the choice to go somewhere else or deal with it. Here's how we told my son to deal....
1. He tells the offending child that his behavior is not welcome or appreciated.
2. He comes and tells me or a teacher if the child continues to hurt him. I, as the adult, will go to the child and let him know that his behavior is innappropriate.
3. If the child continues to hurt my son then he has my permission to defend himself. If that means he pushes, hits, or grabs back, then that's what happens. My son will not be punished for defending himself. Especially if the other child is going to pick on him.
I am not advocating violence, that's why there is step 1 and 2. But I do not want my child to be bullied. If I continue to tell him to walk away, or I be a doormat...he will ALWAYS be bullied. He needs to be able to defend himself....I will not always be there to fight his battles.
Take it as you will. My son is a great kid, does well in school, has lots of friends, and has never had ANY issue with kids in his class. He also has my permission to defend himself. He has never had to, but if he did, he would not get any grief from me. I don't want my child to be bullied.

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answers from Seattle on

The correct way to deal with bullies is to report them. Teach him to report the bully to the teacher and get involved yourself by going up the chain, if the teacher does not take appropriate action.
You can also suggest that your son's class should take a bullying prevention program. Bullying does not only affect the victim and the perpetrator, the entire class is involved, even if just as bystanders. Many programs address the systemic issues in the group dynamic of the class setting and once the majority of kids reject the bully's conduct, he (and others like him) are more likely to adjust their behavior - without singling one kid out as the tattletale. Most schools have some program they have bought and trained on already and just need to be nudged to implement it.
For your child's sake get involved ASAP and nip this in the bud. And don't take "boys will be boys" for an answer!

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answers from Portland on

Hello T.-

Today I'm a Parent Coach, but I use to be a Nanny, and my school aged charges faced similar issues. I strongly suggest you help your child find a strong voice.

Most bullies bully because they think the other child is scared of him. If your son stood up to the bully and with a strong voice said, "Stop It". I bet that would made a difference.

To help your son find his strong voice roll play situations with your son alternating who is the bully so he can practice and see how it's done. My former charges and I would also talk out situations they faced and brainstorm what to do next time.

You may want to talk to other parents. If other kids are being bullied by this child, talk to the teacher about the child. If your son is the only target, again talk to the teacher and ask her about her observations then ask for her to keep an eye out for trouble. You may also want to suggest her teach an antibullying lesson to the class.

Being bullied, especially at an early age can be hard for children. I wish you the best on this issue-

R. Magby

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answers from Orlando on

Put him in a karate class, they teach great self defense. He can actually defend himself without hitting back.

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answers from Seattle on

This sounds like a good opportunity to teach your son about self worth. Teach him that no matter what the bully does, to hold his head high and act like it does not bother him. Tell him to look the bully in the eyes and with is head held high (aka not looking at the ground)tell him that "what you are doing is not okay with me and you need to stop (or return that to me or whatever)." They bully will likely not expect anything like that and be caught off guard. Hopefully the strong voice will be enough to teach the bully that your son will not tolerate the bullying any longer. If not, it's time to let the teacher know that there's some bullying going on. Make sure your child knows that no matter what the other kids might say to him, to hold his head high and not let them know it bothers him. Just act as if he doesnt care. If they don't get a rise out of him, they won't make fun.

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