Son Being Bullied

Updated on October 01, 2014
C.T. asks from Red River, NM
18 answers

We moved a month ago to the east coast due to my husband's job. We will move back to our NM home in 2 years. Our son who is 10 and in 5th grade seemed to be handling the move fine. He video chats with his best friend some evenings and has made some neighborhood friends. This morning he told me that 2 boys at school have been bullying him for the last 3 weeks. When no adult is looking they stomp on his foot, kick him, punch him, or bend his fingers back. He tells them to stop and tries to stay away from them, but they do it whenever they get a chance. This was very upsetting to me to hear. My son is a sensitive kid who is also very outgoing and at his old school was very well liked. He had a lot of friends. I emailed the teacher this morning telling her about the situation and waited to see if she would do something about it. Well, at noon today I get this long email from her. She had all 3 boys sent to the principal and the 2 boys who were picking on my son got a talking to. They both lied and said they didn't do it or didn't remember doing it and the principal did not believe them. Their parents were called and they were suspended for a month from doing crossing guard duty. This was very upsetting for one of the boys. The counselor came into the classroom and gave the whole class a lesson on their zero tolerance bullying policy at the school and how to treat others. One boy's father said he will talk with his son about it. He wants his son to apologize to my son and to try to be friends. He said his son used to be bullied himself, so it was extra upsetting to hear his son is now doing this. (the teacher relayed this to me in her email). The other boy's parents do not speak much English and she said she is going to need to get a translator. I was very happy with how fast they handled all this. I was amazed they did all this this morning. Then my son gets home from school and it turns out he is extremely upset about all of this. He did not want to get anyone in trouble and now he is sure everyone hates him. One girl called him a tattle-tale. He is sure all the kids are talking about him and everyone thinks he is a traitor. He sobbed and sobbed...his face all red and blotchy. This is just so hard as a parent to see. I tried reassuring him as much as I can. My son feels like his life is ruined and no one will like him at his new school. Ugh. WHY. WHY WHY. If anyone has any kind words of advice, I could use them. Thanks.

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So What Happened?

I agree with what you say, but how can they correct their actions? What could they possibly do now? Once my son got home and I heard his point of view, I realized this was not handled correctly. It almost seems like laying low is the best thing to do now. I am now NOT happy with how they handled it. (After seeing how upset it made my son and how he believes this will make everyone dislike him). The principal told him if ANY kid calls him a snitch or tattle-tale or any retaliation comes of this then to come tell him immediately. Well, the retaliation started yesterday and he was called a tattle-tale. And I guess by body language and whispering or whatever...he believes the other kids all blame him. So, he is asking I tell the principal what that girl said? Now I do not know what to tell him. He needs to be accepted by his peers. He needs friends at his new school! I actually wish I had somehow handled this differently, but I did not realize what would happen after I emailed the teacher.

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answers from Chicago on

What an awful situation.

I think this hilights the flaws in the school's anti bully program.......there needs to be a step 2. Step 1 was addressing the bully behavior, and now step 2 needs to address the scapegoating, the revictimization and the power/control issues associated with bullying. Having the school define and work on how to move on from this situation, get along and set negative feelings aside will benefit the children greatly because that is what happens in real life.

I would ask to meet with the school social worker, psychologist, principal and address it in a less personal way ( to not fuel more negativity) but as a way to improve the program and prevent backlash.

I hope this is making sense. I feel like I am talking in circles, but this issue needs to be addressed as a community because without any guidance it just leaves everyone hanging with these bad feelings. I think it would be more empowering to have a step 2.

Best of luck to you.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Ugh. I'm sorry.
I have an 11 year old and, at that age, the last thing they want to be is a snitch. It goes deep.
BUT, try explaining to him that he did these kids (they get a chance to change) AND their parents (a chance to teach a lesson) a favor.
Explain that you wold want to know if he was ever treating another kid like that so you could put a stop to it immediately.
Explain to him that maybe worse than being known as a tattletale is being known as a bully!
He tried dealing with it on his own. But there ARE times he might need to get an adult involved. Tell him he did the right thing.
Talk about choices and consequences.
Clearly the other boys made poor choices and are dealing with those consequences.

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answers from New Orleans on

My son had the same issue in 5th grade.
He finally asked to have a meeting with his teacher.
She handled the problem with the other boys.
They, and the entire class honestly, knew that he had "told".
He stood his ground and if another student accused him of "tattling" he firmly said he had had enough from the boys and since they would not stop on their own he took it, his words, "to the next level".
You know, once it was all out in the open he and the other boys began to actually get to know one another. And while they never became great friends they became good classmates.

I think the your school handled it just fine. I think you need to now work with your son on standing up and being proud of putting a stop to the other boy's behavior. He has most likely saved another child from being harassed by those boys.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Doing the right thing isn't always doing the easy thing.

Honestly there aren't very many ways to handle a situation like this. You can't allow it to continue, the teacher can't allow it to continue, and your son can't. How else to stop it but to call those kids out and directly instruct them to stop it.

As a school counselor I see this situation all the time, and in the end, it is the only thing that puts a real stop on a bullying situation. They need to be called out swiftly, and harshly. The aftermath will pass. The "day after" remorse that you and your son are feeling is very common. There is often a little bit of fall-out to endure. Sometimes the bullying student will even try to get one more jab in the day after before they button up for good.

I would counsel your son on "owning" the situation. If he get's any more comments on snitching or tattling, he can say "yep. What they were doing was wrong and I needed to get it stopped". Or "that's right, I speak up about stuff that's not right". Build him up. Help him to feel like he got a small injustice thwarted in it's tracks, not just for himself, but for any other kids who may have had to experience something inappropriate at the hands of those particular boys. You can ask the counselor on campus to check in on him and give him a pep talk too. I think if he gets some validation in that regard it may help.

And... I know he has his perception, but I promise you, for every kid who may have uttered the "tattletale" comment, there is another kid in the wings getting some secret satisfaction that a couple of obnoxious kids in their class got what was coming to them.

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answers from Albuquerque on

My daughter had a few instances in 2nd grade where a girl was physically attacking her (clawing at her arm with her nails and breaking the skin, trying to cut the clothing off of her with a pair of scissors, etc.) My daughter didn't want to be a "tattle-tale" and get the girl in trouble. I told her there was a difference between tattling and reporting rule breaking. If someone grabs your pencil, whining to the teacher is that--whining. When another student breaks a SCHOOL rule, that is a much different situation. When it is a school rule, it becomes a safety issue. It is ALWAYS okay to tell a teacher when it is a safety issue. Once we got the distinction clear in her head, she had no problem understanding when it was okay to tell and when it wasn't. I wish your son luck, and I hope this perspective helps.

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answers from Boston on

No, I really think it was handled well. Your son was already feeling iffy, so he is not reacting as you would have hoped. Have the principal or the school counselor (or both) talk to him about how he has shown real leadership skills and courage, and how his willingness to speak up (to you) has definitely helped other kids who are more timid and perhaps being bullied even more. The kid who called him a tattletale is the same sort of bully this program is designed to stop. This girl is part of the problem. The school leaders should tell your son that he is the type of kid they need more of, and that the only way for evil to flourish is for good folks to stand by and do nothing. The other kids - the good ones - are NOT talking about him. There are kids who are nervous because they have seen the consequences - losing crossing duty or whatever - and a loss of classroom time that had to be redirected to disciplinary issues. Kids who are doing bad things are going to be nervous. But good kids who are as reluctant to speak up as your son was are actually going to be very happy that things will go better for them because or your son's bravery. I think that's the way to handle it.

When my child was in first grade, he felt very left out because the teacher did a 3-week unit on Christmas around the world. We are Jewish, and my son felt completely excluded. So did the other Jewish kids as well as the Korean, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and Pakistani kids in the class who were Buddhist, Muslim, and Shinto. It wasn't easy to speak up, and the teacher herself was unkind to the kids of other religions. In 3rd grade, my son found swastikas on some equipment outside the school. He didn't have the words to explain this - he said "there's some bad stuff written on the electric boxes" and stuff like that. I assumed it was the F word and so on - and I tried to just calm him down. He kept bringing it up, and finally he said "It says something bad about Jews." (That's the best he could do without being able to come up with the word "swastika".) So I felt completely awful for not having probed deeper, and I had him take me to the school to show me. Sure enough, the equipment was just covered with swastikas. So I got some good advice from some outside sources, and I marched into the office. The school secretary said, "Oh yes, it's been there for a while. We can't do anything until the end of the year when it can be sandblasted." I told her it was a hate crime and that I was going to the principal and the police. The principal herself called the police, who took pictures and then insisted that maintenance paint over it even if sandblasting had to wait until June. The principal called me to update me on this, and then asked me what else she could do. I told her to talk to my son and tell him that he did the right thing. She did, called me to tell me afterwards, AND she wrote him a personal note saying he was the type of kid she was proud to have, because he stood up for what was right and kept doing so until the adults listened. It changed his life. So this is my long winded way of saying that, if the staff would tell him that he was so helpful in going to his mom and that his mom did the right thing in coming to the school, and that he's the type of kid they want more of, I think it would help enormously in calming him down. I think they are in the school all day and you are not, so having someone besides his mom deal with him will help! Please talk to the counselor or principal and request this when you give up update on how terrible he feels right now.

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answers from Dallas on

He might think his life is ruined, but this will blow over in a few weeks (calling him a tattletale and what not) and the boys will likely never bother him again. Had you not done anything or the school didn't react strongly enough, the bullying could have escalated. You did the right thing by reporting the bullying and the school did the right thing by enacting their stated zero-tolerance policy.

In the meantime, he probably won't believe you when you tell him the backlash is temporary. Offer sympathy and even apologies for how it all turned out, and distraction, distraction, distraction. He can look forward to one thing at home every day (facetime with a friend back home, favorite TV show dvr'ed, trip to someplace cool after school) it will help. I agree with previous posters that any program outside of school where he can meet other kids might help too.

It probably isn't what you want to hear, but I'm thinking you will hear "My life is ruined!" in reaction to something you did as a parent many, many more times in the next few years. :(

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


You did the right thing. I promise.

My eldest son, who is now 14, was bullied from Kindergarten to 4th grade, by the SAME boy. Like your situation, it was always when no adult was looking, and no one would "tattle" on him. How did it start? There was a girl in their kindergarten class who had an accident, the bully started laughing and making fun of her. My son? He stood up - told him to knock it off and proceeded to help the girl. The other kids in the class started doing the "oohh" and "ahh - he told you" and so it started....

What ended it? A teacher FINALLY saw the bully INTENTIONALLY trip my son, which caused him to fall into a wall and give him a concussion. He was suspended from school and made to change classes. The bully told everyone it was my son's fault. The teacher explained, when she overheard kids talking, that it was NOT my son's fault. That what the bully did was wrong and could have seriously injured my son. Like your son, mine thought his world was over and no one would EVER forget and he would be FOREVER known as the was done and over with in a month. People moved on.

It took a few weeks - but all worked out. The bully ended up moving out of the school district. Yes, I spoke face-to-face with the bully's mom. She was clueless. Her son kept talking about how great my son was and how much he liked him...I said WOW...totally surprised...

Your son WILL get through this. I would STRONGLY suggest a martial arts class - it's not just self-defense. People learn more about themselves and how to handle situations.

Please tell your son that you believe in him. That others do as well. He is NOT a traitor, tattler, snitch or anything else. Please feel free to share my son's story with your son. Your son will walk tall into school. He will not be ashamed, as he did nothing wrong.

Good luck!!

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answers from Muncie on

This is the very reason that so many children do not report bullying. The over reaction of some schools can cause backlash and the reporter becomes doubly bullied.

I think your school over reacted. The parents should have been informed, the boys involved should have been dealt with, but the class wide talk and spotlight treatment was not a good idea.

Unfortunately sometimes doing the right thing just royally sucks!

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answers from Portland on

Wow. Just wow. The school handled this very poorly, I'm sorry to say.

Admin who are sensitive to bullying know that you don't ever throw the bullied kid in with the other kids to have some sort of discussion in the principal's office. The school counselor or principal should have talked to your son privately and only then, after they'd heard his side of things, should they have separately approached the other two boys, each on their own. You don't 'out' the kid who is being harmed. You do say things like "it's come to my attention that XYZ is happening. Let's be clear that this won't be tolerated. etc" and talk to the parents as well.

So, it makes absolute sense that your son is devastated.

If this comes up again, my advice would be that you tell the school NOT to handle it this way because they really screwed up. Yes, they should have spoken to the class and reiterated the school's rules, however, it should have been far more subtle and sensitive. These things can be addressed with a minimum of fuss. We had an issue with my son being targeted by another child last year and the admin NEVER had the boys talk to each other about it except as in-the-moment problem solving. Once, they spoke with the assistant principal when an incident was immediately reported to her by the teacher who witnessed it.

All that to say, there's a huge difference between the school making clear rules and putting the kids on warning and what they did, which was to drag your son into the office and tell the boys "this is what he said you did". They put your son in an awful position. I'm so sorry.

My only other words of advice are to consider martial arts for your son. We enrolled our son in a judo class at the suggestion of the school counselor and it has given him a lot of confidence. The school also created a safety plan for our boy so he wasn't ever left alone with the child who was hurting him. The situation resolved soon after. I hope yours does too.

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answers from Chicago on

You absolutely did the right thing by going to the teacher. When it comes to bullying, you cannot sit on your hands and do nothing even if your child begs you to.

He will get over it, and be better of for it.

Hang in there!

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answers from Washington DC on

There is nothing for the school to correct at this point.

With your son, go back to basics, using the same criteria we should use with younger kids. It is not tattling if you are protecting someone from real harm, including yourself.

You tell an adult EVERY time something is happening that will hurt someone. That means that if someone is being touched in any way (your son was) or if there are words said that will lead to real harm (such as vicious rumors spreading) then an adult needs to be involved. Your son was absolutely right to involve adults at home and at school when he was being assaulted. But being called a tattle-tale? Doesn't rise to the level of real harm to him, frankly, though that is hard for him to hear and for you to see.

Yes, it is upsetting and nasty of the kids who are doing it. But have you pointed out to your son that he very likely has saved other kids from being beaten up on by these two thugs? Your son probably was only their latest scapegoat; they surely have bullied, and will bully, other kids, but now they are on the school's radar. He will not get whispers of "good job" from the kids who were already afraid of these bullies, but sadly he will get those whispers of "snitch" from kids who are themselves jerks. He is old enough now to start learning -- and he has to learn it from you -- that doing the right thing can come at a real cost to the person who does it.

Please work to ensure that this does not drive him inside himself and make him clam up from now on whenever anything is wrong at school. That would be a horrible outcome. He may need to see the school counselor a few times -- alone, and confidentially, without the counselor coming to pull him out of class or calling for him over the intercom. The other kids don't need to know if he wants to talk to the counselor. The counselor also should not be grilling him about "who's picking on you for telling about the bullying" -- any discussions between them should simply be about supporting him in his correct choice, and giving him tools to handle the pressure he feels right now.

While the school should not have put him in the same room as the bullies, at least the school took action. It was right to take away the one thing that apparently really hurts the one boy (his role as a school patrol). That was a good call on the school's part. While I agree your son should have been seen separately from the other boys, I would disagree that it was handled badly overall. I'm not sure you understand how often schools do nothing, or do so little that the bullies keep on going.

A close friend's son -- same grade as your own son -- was being badly bullied the first two weeks of this school year, being slapped and punched in the head every single day; thrown into lockers; thrown into music stands; and so on, and the teacher "never saw anything" and only said "He needs to advocate for himself" when the parents vigorously complained. The teacher, principal and school did not call in the bullies and their parents UNTIL the day the mom e-mailed the school district in the morning and took her son to the police station in the afternoon (because that same day, the bullies again punched her son at school). The mom said she was not at the point of filing charges but wanted to be on the record with the police that this was occurring. The mom didn't ask for it, but a cop then went directly to the school that same afternoon and told the school administrators that if things did not stop immediately, he would advise the family to file charges and he planned to visit the families of the bullies.

So your son's school at least reacted -- rather than you having to send a ton of e-mails that get no response (which happened to my friends) and having to involve the cops. By the way, if these boys continue to try to harass your son, DO involve the cops. See if there is a "school resource officer" (that's what they're called here) who goes to schools and handles school issues.

One last thing: You moved very recently. Does your son have some extracurricular activiites yet? I would get him into some fun activities ASAP -- ones that are not affiliated with school! He needs to have friends outside school, who do not attend the same school, and who know him for himself and as a Boy Scout or a soccer player or an actor or artist or computer programmer or whatever his interest is. Find him activities that are based on his interests, so he is not focusing on himself and his troubles at school, but on the fun of the activity. Do not tell him, though that "You need an activity to take your mind off school" or whatever -- that will only make him see the activity as related to his troubles, not as something you're offering that's based on his interests.

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answers from Washington DC on

i feel badly for your son, and also for the school. everyone shrieks and gets up in arms if they don't do enough, and when they react promptly and decisively as they did here, they 'over-reacted' and 'handled it badly.'
while i'm an advocate of homeschooling, i don't think it's best in all cases. but parents are practically forcing society into it. schools cannot always be all things to all kids 100% of the time. this time it seems as if the school came down hard on the bullies, and yet even that isn't 'right' enough for so many folks.
sometimes there aren't any easy answers. your son did the right thing, now it's your job to support and encourage him as he deals with the simple fact that doing the right thing isn't always the easiest thing. one girl called him a tattle-tale, but there are probably 13 quiet kids who are relieved that some bullies got called to the carpet, even if they're not confident enough to speak up. remind your son that he has been the advocate and voice for THOSE kids.
the solution isn't for the school to 'fix' what they did 'wrong.' it's for you to parent your son positively, and turn this situation into a great growing and learning experience.

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answers from Tulsa on

Hi, we moved from Jacksonville, Fl to Tulsa, Ok in June.
My oldest daughter turns 10 next Sunday, her sister is 6.
She has not been bullied, to my knowledge, but I want you to know you did the right thing to report it right away!
He has been going through this for three weeks, I do not think it would work itself out, I honestly believe it would have escalated.
Your son has a right to stand up for himself and you as his mother is his advocate, you did what was right!
Please don't second guess your actions, they, the bullies, made bad choices.
And that little girl who said tattle tale? She was flat out wrong but she is a child.
As a parent you did the right thing, really.
Maybe get your son involved with Boy Scouts or the YMCA or after school clubs, where he is interested, to make some friends.
We framed our move positively for our girls, it's an adventure, we didn't move to ruin their lives but because it was for daddy's job. Your move is only for two years and you get to go back!
It's a growing experience even if it doesn't feel that way now.
Tell him you miss your friends, home, etc., that you're making the most of it too.
Hang in there, mom, don't second guess yourself.
Now go unpack a box, or is it just me!?!

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answers from St. Louis on

Did anyone from the school talk to your son before talking to the boys? This is a huge if but what if what the boys did wasn't that bad, what if your son is just having a hard time getting used to the school? Kids do exaggerate to their parents and he may not have known how far the school would take it.

I only say this because if that happened can you imagine how trapped your son feels right now? I have no idea what to do at this point but just listen to him.

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answers from Beaumont on

You did the right thing. He's having a tough transition but it will get better. This age is horrible to move though. I moved a lot at that age and had very few friends and a hard time adjusting. When you get back to NM try to stay until he graduates. So important. I'm sorry. I know it hurts your heart but it will get better.

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answers from Washington DC on

I would be livid at how the school handled the situation. Their goal when a child is being bullied like this is to protect that child. To have the principal talk to them and specifically discuss the situations with your son would have me going way above the school. That is extremely unprofessional and unsafe for your son.

Last year a girl was so mean to my daughter in art class that I got a call from the VP apologizing and giving me the situation, and a call from the art teacher out of concern for my child. The principal told the bully child she had cameras in the school and could see what she was doing. The teachers were worried for kids safety if this child knew who was telling on her, so they went around that. Not all 5th graders will be naive enough to believe this, but this girl was. My daughter was never in danger of retaliation. The school also had students write notes to the teachers when things were going on. That way again, the girl would not know.

I think YOU took the right steps, but the school fumbled badly. Not only should they not have handled it the way they did, but for you to know what happened to the other kids is in horrible taste too and violates privacy rights. I really hope they can correct their actions so your son isn't miserable.

ETA: I would talk to the school without him. I would tell them they handled it wrong, and tell them they need to fix it. Get the counselor involved to help. Role play with your son. Laying low isn't what *I* would be doing.

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answers from Houston on

You did the right thing. The school did the right thing but handled it poorly. Talk to your son and explain that what happened was not tattling. To me, you and your son are the heroes in this play. You can't tell me that these kids weren't doing this to others because as sure as I'm sitting here they were.

Now, you need to work with your son so he finds his voice. If he hears someone calling him a name I would have him say "no, if I'm being hurt and want it to stop that is not tattling".

Also, martial arts class would help with his confidence. My son went through this and it help so much.

You and your son will get through this. Help him develop the tools he needs to stand on his own two feet.

Its not easy!! Hugs!!

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