Report a Bully or Not? What's a Mom to Do?

Updated on November 20, 2010
J.T. asks from Portland, OR
29 answers

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.

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J.B.

answers from Medford on

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.

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L.T.

answers from Seattle on

This broke my heart...I had very similar issues with my daughter.

He probably IS depressed. That's the thing about bullying...it does wear down a person. It also affects self-esteem, academics and long-term, can create all sorts of other social issues and bugaboos in personal relationships.

Thing is, if these kids were beating the snot out of your son, someone would be on it in a heartbeat. There are still too many teachers and administrators (and even parents) who think that if it's not physical, it's not bullying. They are wrong. Exclusion like your son is experiencing is just as powerful as a punch to the head.

Bullying is never confined to one child. The problem needs to be addressed not just for his sake but possibly for the sake of the other kids who may be experiencing this as well.

Talk with his classroom teacher first. He or she may have some insight as to what is going on. Your child has a right to be safe at school, physically and emotionally. If he isn't, you have a right to get someone to do something about that. It may be enough to enlist the help of his teacher (who may in turn be able to point out to the lunch teacher that it's his responsibility to provide guidance for the students in his class, even if he is on his lunch break). If things don't improve, move it up the chain of command.

Back to your son's reluctance...if he isn't ready and able to stand up for himself, he needs support. I suspect he's afraid that it'll just get worse if his mommy steps in. Try and explain to him...in a quiet and neutral moment...that you love him, you want him to succeed and it's your job to help him do that. You can explain to him that there's no rule that says that every kid he meets has to be his friend but he is deserving of respect regardless and if there are people being disrespectful then something must be done about it.

He may be ready to strategize this with you...to talk about things he can try on his own. But you can tell him that this is not an acceptable situation and there are other steps that can and should be taken. Telling him that there are probably other kids suffering at the hands of these bullies may help him realize he's not actually alone in this.

Bless your heart and his, too. Good luck.

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K.S.

answers from Seattle on

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.
Good luck.

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M.W.

answers from Seattle on

Hello J.!

It is so sad to see any child be mistreated. I have to tell you, I would have taken care of this ASAP. As soon as my son told me of another kid being pushy.....bullying.....I would have talked to the teacher and principal.

You should go directly to the school with a letter of all of your concerns. Make a copy for YOUR records and file it away. Make sure that it is professional looking and with a date.

What is happening to your son just sickens me to death! Where are the parents? And why on earth are the teachers just sitting back and not doing a [email protected]#$ thing about it!!!

The school my daughter goes to doesn't tolerate any violence. I am very happy about that.

So yeah!!! Report the bully. His parents need to be informed. There is NO reason for any child be bullied. It sounds like it really has taken a tole on your son.

Maybe those bullies aren't really loved at home. Maybe that's why they are bullies.....Cause they get away with too much [email protected]#& at home and have no type of rules their!!! I have only seen shows on tv where bullies can be so mean AND it can escalate to something very very serious! You need to keep the names of all boys involved, if there are more. I just think you need to stay on top of everything. Ask your son (everyday) how school was. We ask our daughter how school is EVERYDAY!

Take Care!

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J.M.

answers from Portland on

J.,

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.

Good luck

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J.M.

answers from Seattle on

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.

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K.O.

answers from Eugene on

Dear J.,
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!

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A.D.

answers from Portland on

Jennifer,
Report the bully! Things will only get worse until your son is finally assaulted by this boy.
In the schools bullying is not tolerated. If this teacher is whitnessing this going on and not doing anything about it, then they are not a good teacher and need to be reprimanded. Skip your sons teacher and E-mail the principal right away about this situation and ask to remain anonymous. You never know, there might be other kids in the same boat as your son.
The reason his friends don't stick up for him is for fear that the bully will hurt them too.
Protect your son and report the boy to the principal. Also get the counselor involved and report the teacher. If the principal isn't doing anything then contact the district school board and the police. In our school district there are serious consequences for bullying.
Best wishes.

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H.G.

answers from Portland on

You are in a very sticky situation. The school year is almost over but, it is never too late to bullyproof your kids. Loveandlogic.com has a book that specifically deals with this. I would do some research in a library. I would also consider private schools. I can personally reccomend St. Matthews in Hillsboro, Oregon.

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K.B.

answers from Seattle on

I have had a similar situation with my daughter in high school, only it was the teacher who was being the bully and really out of line, on her first day in a new school.

I e-mailed the counselor at the school and explained the situation, I also told him that if the teacher refuses to stop this behavior then I wanted to have a meeting with the counselor,teacher myself and my husband which happens to be a mental health counselor. Hey guess what the problem stopped.

Don't let them bully your son, get the e-mail address and tell your story, if that doesn't work tell the counselor you want a meeting, you, the teacher, the counselor and your husband or someone who can stand up for you.

K.
Mom of 6 and is a foster mom.

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K.G.

answers from Seattle on

I won't share my long story with my son's bully issue but 2 things are for sure. The school needs to know (there could be others getting bullied too or a history with the bully that you are unaware...) and there is a bullying policy for these situations. Steps to follow that your son should be familiar with or reminded.

At home, start talking about assertiveness, what it is, how to communicate that way, examples, role playing if he is willing and lots of love and follow up. Help him build his confidence in communicating with his peers and adults too. HUGE skill to help him entering middle school...

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A.H.

answers from Eugene on

Hi jennifer,
i have an almost 9 yr old son, who had bullies in his class room, and he was the victim. It got so bad that he was scared to go to school. I still enforced that he go, and i even asked him who the kid(s) were and reassured him that i would take care of it by going to his teacher, and that if the teacher didnt do anything i would go to the principal, and if he didnt do anything id go to the school board. He said "ok", so i went and talk to the teacher, who intervened and got the bullying stopped, but i still made the principal well aware of the situation, and since then codie has had no problems with the kids, in fact hes now included in the activities....... That is what i did.....
Good luck....
A.

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S.L.

answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,

Although your son begs you to not report to the teacher, you NEED TO report to someone! Bullying is not tolerated in ANY school and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible!
Talk to the Principal directly in a private meeting WITH the teacher who is supervising in the class room. Too bad if the teacher does not want to be bothered, that is his job. 5th graders are not adults and still need supervision. The hormones that are starting to rage thru them can cause a lot of depression if they are not comfortable going to school because of one child that is treating them poorly. And in defense of the other child...the "bully" may not be totally aware of what harm he is causing.
Get this figured out right away. The school is there for YOUR CHILD....your child is not there for the school!!

Good Luck,

S.

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S.I.

answers from Seattle on

Make no mistake, this IS bullying, and it needs to be dealt with immediately for the bullies' sake as much as for your son's. My 1st grader has had to deal with a much older (6th grade) kid intimidating him. In this case I know the bully's mom and called her first. When the problem continued, I helped my son walk over to their house and talk to the kid with his mother present. I had coached my son on talking to the other kid about how it made him feel and the fact that he was no longer wanting to go to school because of it, and I myself calmly asked the boy to please just leave my son alone. There have been no problems since, but had it continued I would have pursued this to the ends of the earth to stop it. I think your instincts are correct that your son may be feeling depressed over it, and kids DO end up committing suicide over things like this, so it is nothing to mess around with! That teacher should be so ashamed of himself...makes you wonder if he was a bully or the victim of bullying and so just can't deal with it. But if he or the principal refuse to do anything, I say go to higher authorities if need be! Doesn't matter whether there is physical violence or not ~ it's a form of harassment! I hope this is resolved quickly, best of luck!

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N.R.

answers from Portland on

Perhaps you could talk with your school's counseler. Our elementary school's counseler has a regular program with the children on bullying - how to handle it and encourages them to come forward. Her take on this is not to let the kids suffer this alone --- they need skills on how to deal with bullies. Hopefully your school has as good of a counseler as ours, over in Vancouver, WA. (our school district is SO good over here.)

N.

R.S.

answers from Portland on

When I was in 5th grade I was bullied by a small group of girls every day. This was started by one girl who was angry at me. I was small and emotionally young for my age and ended up crying every time. My parents told me stories and tried to get me to stand up to them, however I was not capable of doing that. I didn't have the skill and nothing they could say helped. I begged them not to go to the parents or to get involved. They did go to the parents secretly and never told me. The bullying stopped. It wasn't until middle school that I realized that they had done that, only when a middle school student asked me what was I going to now that my parents weren't there to defend me. I told her to #$%^ off and that was the end of that.
I strongly agree with the people who said to tell. The teacher is wrong not to get involved, by ignoring it he is condoning this behavior and that's wrong. I would go to the principal or the parents of the students. Parents need to deal with their children and help them change, not all parents want to turn a blind eye to this and might not know.
I'm glad now that my parents stopped the behavior. The experience of being teased had a lasting effect on me and I would suggest you help him heal from the experience. Bullies just keep getting meaner and the behavior needs someone mature to step in and stop it before it gets out of control any more.

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C.P.

answers from Seattle on

This happened to my daughter in 4th grade and a friend (boy) for 1st - 5th. Neither child wanted to be embarrassed but both of us moms took it to the school and the parents of the kids. For both kids there was still some harrassment through 8th grade but not from those kids. The parents of the harrassers stopped their kids.

C.

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H.C.

answers from Seattle on

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.
h

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L.O.

answers from Seattle on

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!

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C.G.

answers from Portland on

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.

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J.C.

answers from Spokane on

I'm completely convinced we need to "report" bullies...
perhaps the principal is a place to go not only to name the "organizer" but also the kids standing by watching and not intervening on the behalf of a friend. It starts way too early but each kid needs to be held responsible for their behavior either directly or indirectly on this one so that they don't continue it as they get older, stronger, and more daring with behaviors like it. I have a third grader and 7th grader and believe that we have to teach our kids to stand up as well as we need to stand up for them. It's unacceptable, period.
Good luck, this parenting thing is sure not an easy job!

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J.M.

answers from Portland on

You are your childs only advocate. If you don't stick up for him no one else will. I have found that the schools in Oregon have a no bully policy. Contact the teacher and if that doesn't help then go higher. The principal and then even the school board. I have found that going to the parents does nothing as they are too ready to say boys will be boys, blame it on your child, or just deny that their little angel would do anything. Talk to someone now and make it clear that you want this behavior stopped and stopped now.

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E.T.

answers from Portland on

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!

M.B.

answers from Seattle on

J.,

Speaking as an adult that was bullied as a child, you NEED to step in and do something. The bullying and exclusions will get worse as all the kids get older. You are his first, best advocate; protect him while he is not yet able. Talk to his teacher, talk to the teacher in the room, talk to the principle, keep talking with people until you see positive results.

Trust me, your son will thank you when he's older. Not a day goes by that I don't wish my dad had stepped up to do more to protect me when I was your son's age.

Hope this helps,
Melissa

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B.L.

answers from Jacksonville on

My husband had a painful childhood because he was bullied, including a male PE teacher in junior high. He had very low self esteem as well, which goes hand in hand with being a target of bullies. I wouldn't be too hard on his teacher; you want his help, not resentment from him if he "gets in trouble". He might need the break to keep his sanity, and if he's playing referee the whole time he's not getting a break. He doesn't have to allow the kids to stay in the classroom for recess. He might just give them all the boot, then they'll be on the playground with the same issues. His "friends" might be just as intimidated by the ring leader as your son is, and don't want to become his next target. It's tough in their situation too.

As far as self esteem, real self esteem comes from accomplishing things in life, not from simply being told how special one is. I think my husband would have had a better time of it if he had been put in some sort of activity that was interesting to him. Although, he would have needed a push to stick with it. You might look around your community for classes for kids his age, where he could meet other kids (martial arts, photography, music, pottery, cub/boy scouts, a church group, swim team, etc.) I think kids become targets for bullies a lot of times because their social skills are a little off. Sitting in front of the tv or video games, rather than being outside playing and interacting with other kids, can contribute to poor social skills (my husband did way too much of that). It's really good if he can see you and your husband in social settings, such as having friends over for dinner who have kids of similar ages to your own.

Also, it's very easy to get in the rut of feeling sorry for ones self, instead of looking for someone else who needs a friend and hanging with that person. I read the book "John Rosemond's Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children", and he talked about his son being bullied, I think in high school. John and his wife cried and cried with their son for weeks as he was going through really awful stuff at school. They finally realized that there were no improvements and their son was starting to enjoy all the pity parties at home. They finally told him to make a friend and have something to do on the weekend (besides hang around at home feeling sorry for himself) or they would call around and find him some friends (which would have been embarrassing for him). So, within a couple of weeks he had a friend (and things to do on the weekend), and in a year's time he had more friends than he knew what to do with. I highly recommend the book, by the way.

Best of luck to you! It's so hard to watch our kids go through these struggles, but we definitely want them to learn from them (compassion, social skills, etc).

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P.H.

answers from Washington DC on

This happen to my son also. It won't stop because the parents or older children in the bully's family have created it. Move your son to private school or another school. I am very serious. I did everything I could. Your son is at a very difficult stage in his life. Being accepted by friends for the next 7 years is very important. MOVE YOUR CHILD AWAY FROM THE PROBLEM. My son didn't like being moved but three weeks after he started school somewhere else, he came to me and asked why I hadn't swithced him earlier. Then, two years later the bully encourtered him at a homecoming football game. The bullying happened in the 3rd grade and now they are in the 5th grade. The bully followed him into the bathroom with another boy, teased him and my son walked out. Can you believe it. So I went to the public school and the police department. MOVE YOUR CHILD. I put my house up for sale and I am moving. At any price. There is too many children committing sucide in this day and age. Our children can not handle this type of behavior. Just move him. Please.

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M.B.

answers from Portland on

I would not contact the parents but i would let the school know.Just tell them not to let your son know you called so that he can save face and they will do that. they will most likely observe for a day or so to see what is going on. Good luck

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P.G.

answers from Seattle on

I taught school for 30 years -- all grades. I really liked my "30 minute, uninterupted" lunch -- but when it comes to kids like your son, I was always ready to go to bat for them, no matter what the inconvenience!! Sometimes, that's all it takes: a motivated and caring teacher to get involved in the situation. So, call the teacher, have a conference, and ask for his help in resolving this unhealthy atmosphere. If he doesn't seem interested in helping -- shame on him. He's an embarrassment to the profession. And, then, as a parent, it's your job to raise hell any way you can. The only thing that stops bullying and social assassination is for it to NOT be some quiet, tolerated deal. As you can see, I am passionate about school being a safe and nurturing place for all types of kids. For your son's sake, get involved -- and start with the teacher.

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K.S.

answers from Eugene on

I would report the bully - you can do it in a somewhat indirect manner, so as not to have it appear as though your son told on this boy. My son is 8 now and I have had to talk to the school twice about two different situations with bullies. Once when two older boys were picking on my son: using foul language, names, pushing and tripping. The other was a little girl that would pinch his bottom, grab him and kiss him, would write/draw innapproproiate things about my son and pass them around to other kids. This caused the other boys to tease him relentlessly over this other childs behavior. In both instances, I went to the school couselor first & then the teacher. I asked them to be aware and watch out for these two kids. The boys were caught in the act of tripping my son. The girl was caught passing the naughty notes in class. The school was able to contact the parents without singling out my child as the "tattle tail". In both situations the school had, had other issues with the same kids and was quick to nip things in the bud. Bullies are typically, bullied at home in some way, so they may be crying out for attention, at times I think they are glad to get caught. Also, your school should have an anti-harrassment policy, so these types of isses should not be bruched aside.

As a side note: My son was also becoming depressed and was getting mild anxiety about attending school. Things are better now. Our boys need nurturing and protection at times too, once the bullying stops, he'll be glad you stepped in.

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