Bullying in Elementary School
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Bullying in Elementary School
My confident, outgoing, socially-adept, and friendly
5-year-old son just had his first day at Cal Explorers camp.
He has been so excited about it and I've been excited
because I felt he would be in good hands. But today he told
me he had a bad day and that he was teased quite a bit by
the older kids. One episode in particular involved an older
boy calling my son a name and then mocking his
talkativeness. It seems that there were a few other
episodes of teasing by older kids (all in one day), but I'm
having trouble getting my son to talk about specifics.
What should I do? I don't want to overreact, but I've been
slow to react previously (re: an abusive teacher at a
preschool) and then regretted it. How can I coach my son to
protect himself from or ignore teasing? And is it too soon
to talk to the camp counselors, or should I give it a few
days? (Of course, by the time I get a response the camps
session will be nearly over.) Just trying to figure this
out. Kindergarten is around the corner.
As someone affiliated with a summer camp and a mother of 2
elementary-age campers, I'd encourage you to talk to the
counselors as soon as you know about a problem. Be
non-confrontational but honest about your concerns. It's
hard for the counselors to see and monitor every interaction
in a group of kids, and they'd appreciate knowing about your
experiences and concerns so they can make adjustments and
recommendations, maybe make sure your kid is hooked up with
a buddy his own age, and keep an extra eye on the kids
involved in the bullying.
Name calling and mocking is never acceptable and you
should speak with both the counselors and director of the
camp immediately. They can't help the situation if they
don't know it is happening. Get it on their radar as soon
as it happens and follow-up with your son and the
counselors to ensure it stops. If you can't visit them in
person you should let them know you would like to hear a
response by the next day.
Hope this helps
I also have a very outgoing, talkative son and I do believe
he is teased a bit on occasion. Two thoughts come to mind:
First: I think it's important to help your son find language
that he can use to curb the bullying (''When you say that, it
upsets me. Please stop calling me names''). Polite directives
will hopefully give him confidence. Second: I do NOT think
it's inappropriate to talk to the counselors. It is their
job to insure everyone is safe, both physically and
emotionally. There are times when it's unclear who said
what, etc. However, bullying is brutal. I'm lucky in that my
son goes to a school that has a VERY strong no-bullying
policy. I encourage him to work things out himself. Follow
your instincts. Doing both may allow him to practice
protecting himself esp if counselors are aware of the
situation. Good luck.
Darn, my 5 year old son is there as well this week and
next, so I wish we could buddy them up. Mine's not so
shy, but is generally pretty fun to hang out w/so that
might help. I would definitely speak to his counselors.
They need to know so they can pay closer attention and
protect the little ones. They really want the kids to have
fun, so they'll want to know. Hopefully he'll make some
friends and they can all watch out for each other and
avoid the mean kids. This is a good opportunity to talk
w/your son about how he's going to run into kids who
aren't nice and how to handle it. My 8 yr. old is at the
Blue Camp and they seem to be encouraging them w/points
towards prizes at the end for their group when they are
nice and/or do what they're supposed to. Not sure if
they're doing the same w/the little ones. Good luck, don't
be shy about speaking up, and hang in there!
Immediately talk to the counselors in charge about the bullying. Give it
one more day. if things are not different and/or if your child no longer
wants to go, keep him home. He's a sensitive boy. At five some children
(especially) boys, may still not be ready for Kindergarten. My son wasn't
ready, so after almost half a year with him being miserable in school, we
removed him. He started kindergarten again at age 6. It turned out to be
a good choice. He managed to make up for lost time graduating HS a half
I would not wait. Bullying will get worse if you don't
address it immediately. Show your son that you are his
champion and that you won't let this happen to him. Hold
the camp and the counselors accountable for his safety and
He's not old enough to worry about how his parent's
intervening might make him look weak.
Also, your son needs to hold strong and show the kids that
what they are doing is NOT affecting him (even if it is).
People have power only if we give them that power. Your son
needs to keep his power. (Perhaps too much for a 5 year old
but it's worth a shot).
Finally, he has a right to defend himself. If the other
kids do something he should tell the counselor. If the
counselor does nothing then he should take action.
One person's perspective.
Best of luck.
stop bullying at camp
As soon as your child tells you of any teasing/bullying,
follow up IMMEDIATELY with counselors, teachers, etc. If the
people that are watching your son don't know, then they
can't watch for it, find out the whole story, do something
So many scenarios - e.g. a counselor may well have seen it
and talked to the other kid separately; the bully may pick
on others; the counselors do have a big job and bullies are
sneaky so the staff WANTS to know and WANTS to fix it... You
HAVE to help both your child and the staff by speaking up
You don't have to storm in there with accusations and
shouting, nor do you downplay it and apologize. You approach
them calmly, with concern. ''This is what my child
experienced. I thought you'd like to know.''
By doing that you are teaching your child that you are there
to help, that others want to help, that there is no shame in
asking for help, that it's important to speak up and not
wait it out.
Mom of Two
I am so sorry to hear about this. My son attended the Cal
Explorer Camp last session and is attending this session
as well. He is right around the age of your child and
hasn't brought up bullying. In fact, he absolutely loves
it, so I am wondering if these are somewhat isolated
incidents or a couple of kids in particular rather than
part of the culture of the place. I think that you should
specifically talk to the leaders of his group and alert
them to the situation. They will probably do some group
discussions about bullying and teasing and reiterate that
this behavior is not ok. Unfortunately this is something
that you are going to have to deal with a lot in the
coming years - at camp, school, even among friends. The
more we talk about it, the more we empower the kids to
speak up for themselves and to speak up for each other
when they see it happening. Don't wait to bring it up.
Cal Explorer camper mom
Talk to the counselors NOW. It is their job to make sure
every camper feels safe and as happy as possible. They need
to intervene and talk to these older kids, explaining that
making fun of others, bullying, teasing, etc. is unacceptable
Talk to the counselors immediately. That is their job.
Your child is very young, and if older kids are picking on
him, he probably doesn't have the skills yet to deal with
the bullying of older kids. If you allow this go on much
longer, it will be to the detriment of your child. The
counselors may not even be aware that it's happening, so
you need to tell them.
I'm sorry that this happened to your son. I would
definitely try to reach people at the camp and bring it up.
They should be paying attention and tuned in to this sort
of thing and do their best to nip it in the bud. I would
also talk it over with your in a matter of fact way. Of
course, you do want him to tell you what happened and you
want to be sympathetic but not make too big of a deal out of
it either. I could go on and on about ideas for how to talk
to your son about it, but my most useful suggestion is that
you sign your kid up for a Kidpower workshop. Check it out
online -- these wonderful workshops will help your kid be
physically and emotionally safe and give you all kinds of
strategies for coping with the big bad world. Good luck.
I believe the best course when this happens, at ANY camp, is to find an
opportunity the next day to speak with the on-site coordinator, and if need be
the overall director. Try to have the discussion initially without your child
present. Talk with the coordinator/director about how they typically address
such issues. They will have a plan if they have experience. The
coordinator/director will then (after you leave) take it up with the group
counselor. Let the coordinator know that you'd like to follow up with them
the next day. If you have to take a bit of time off at the beginning or end f
your work day (if you have a job) then do so. It will be worth addressing the
Specifically about Cal Camp (including Explorer Camp), I have found it to be
extremely well run and have found the management and staff to be quite
responsive. When we needed a special accommodation for my kid (that I did
not foresee) I wrote a note, spoke with an onsite director, and the matter was
handled quite well.
My son has been going to Cal camp for 5 years and occasionally problems like
this have cropped up. I have found the staff to be extremely receptive and
helpful every time I've had any sort of problem. I usually just stop by the
office on my way in, or when I'm picking up my kid, and I speak with
whomever is there in the office. They have either solved my problem
immediately or connected me with another staff person who did. They are
used to handling these kinds of things and I think they do a really good job of
making sure that every kid has a good experience at camp.
With my son, I can't always tell exactly what the problem is based on what he
tells me. He never remembers anyone's name or any details about the
situation. He will say something like ''there's a mean kid in my soccer class.''
But I've learned that even though he is vague, if I can tell it's bothering him,
there is usually something behind it. When I've talked to a counselor, they've
known right away who or what is causing the problem, and they've fixed the
problem. So I really recommend speaking up right away!
love Blue Camp
I can't tell you what you should do in regards to coaching
your son how to best deal with a bully, I'm not a parent
and I will leave that advice up to someone who knows more.
I am however a Summer Day Camp Director. As a Camp
Director I personally take bullying VERY seriously,
especially when it is an older child bullying a younger
child. My hope would be that you talk to the Camp Director
the next morning during drop-off. I personally would
recommend talking to the Director rather than the
Counselor. If you talk to the Camp Director the Director
can watch the interactions of the bully and your child.
The Director may be able to see interactions that the
Counselor does not (such as meal times and bathroom times
when all the children are together). Bully can quickly
escalate, I hope that you talked to the Camp Staff and had
them help with the issue.
This is a topic we talk with parents about at camp quite
often. As the camp director at Explorer Camp, I want to
share with you what we typically tell parents who come to
us with this concern.
First of all, we want children to be
able to tell their parents when they are feeling teased.
Whether it is playful antics that have been misinterprted
or intentionally unkind words being said, your child is
expressing himself and sharing that he is upset and that
is important. No child wants to go to a camp where they
feel made fun of.
The next step is to talk with your child
about the problem so it can be identified and understood.
It sounds like he is able to tell you exactly what was
happening so the next step is to help him problem solve.
Ask him who he thinks he can go to at camp to help him
with this. Listen to see if he names his group leader or
another staff member. In a camp or school setting he will
start to learn that there are other adults that can help
him. If he doesn't identify someone, you may need to
Then, if he is willing, go with him to the
camp office and talk to the person he feels is best able
to help him. We like to get the camper involved when they
are ready so they see they have some power in problem
solving. Often, parents let us know in advance so we can
have the staff prepared for the discussion. If he is not
yet ready for that level then absolutely you should talk
with the camp. We always want to know as soon as possible
when a camper does not feel safe at camp. We work to teach
campers life skills which include: identifying a problem,
possible solutions, and how to select the best solution
and evaluate the effectiveness (Stop, Plot, Go, So).
Intervening on your son's behalf teaches him he can go to
you with a problem and also be part of the solution by
working with the camp staff to develop skills when another
child is not being kind or friendly. We love to have
parents who want to be part of our process and we always
want to know as soon as possible. At school or camp the
teachers and staff are there to work with you. If you are
hearing that someone is being unkind, mentioning it to the
teacher or staff can alert them to a potential problem. Of
course children do need to learn to work out their
differences but the adults around them are there to
facilitate and support the problem solving, not to solve
it for them. You may feel like telling the camp or school
will prevent your son from learning to problem-solve on
his own, but I think including the adults gives them
insight into your child's perceptions of what is going on
around him and will ultimately prove a richer learning
Were this my child, I would alert the camp director(s), immediately, esp. given
what we now about the immediate and long-term effects of bullying. I urge you
to go above the counselors because very often, no matter how well-intended the
counselor, they are usually teens whose own radar and psychological problem-
solving is not fully developed.
A camp director worth his/her salt will have zero tolerance for bullying and
include your child in the problem-solving part of the bullying. But please lose
your self-consciousness and get someone of authority involved. It's important to
communicate to your son that he merits being treated only well.
Good luck to you and your son.
UPDATE -- I wrote the original post about my son's
experience of being teased at Cal Explorer Camp. The morning
after writing that post, I spoke with the camp counselor.
She was very responsive and assured me that they wanted to
hear when there were cases of teasing. I don't know what she
did, but I do know that my son has not mentioned any other
problems and he loves it at the camp. Thank you for all of
your support. I will definitely be less hesitant to speak
up in the future.
I have a 2nd grader going to 3rd in the fall. this year he's
started to get teased by some of the other kids in his
school. I think it's likely to get worse before it gets
better for him. He takes things personally sometimes when
his friends don't mean to be mean, but also a few older kids
have started teasing him (and others) repeatedly. He doesn't
talk with me a lot about it but if I ask the right questions
I can get him to open up sometimes. He's small for his age,
very smart and likes being smart. he's not good at the
sports they play at school but takes gymnastics and is good
at that and likes to ride his bike and play frisbee. He is
basically a sweet kid but slightly immature and says he
feels like he is ''different'' and sometimes lonely. He gets
plenty of sympathy from his dad and I as we were both teased
at various times in our school year (older than grade
school, though) and I think this has been a comfort to him.
We have done kid-power workshops and he says at school he
either walks away or tries to laugh it off as we have told
him is best do, to not encourage escalation. But these
strategies don't help him feel better about himself.
What else can we do for him? are there books he can read to
get some perspective on the teasing or to deal with it when
it happens? other resources?
mom of a tease-ee
Hi - I'm so sorry that this is happening to your child. The
school year is winding down now, so he'll get a break this
summer. But you should be pro-active about it next year and
talk to both his teacher and the principal and get it to
STOP. Also, if it's not too late to reach out to his
teacher this year, talk to him or her and see if the teacher
has any insight into how to make it better next year. There
is always the chance that your child has a role in the
teasing that you're not aware of (he's a big goof ball at
school or he's grown to want the negative attention. It
happens. . .) and the more information you have, the more
helpful you can be to your child. So, whatever your child's
role, work on that end of it. And if the kids are just
being mean and looking for someone to pick on, get the
adults involved next year and make it clear you want it to
STOP. You want the adults paying attention both in and
outside the classroom and having zero tolerance for mean
teasing. Also, keep telling your kid things like, ''Well,
you're a great kid. Now you have more information about
these other kids. Sometimes other kids choose to do bad
things.'' Pump him up, in other words. Good luck.
mean people suck
If this is continued teasing by the same kids then you
need to address the teasers. Yes, most kids get teased at
some point, and we do best if we ignore it and don't feed
teh fire by showing our upset....ideally....
But in the long run it's the teasers who need to know that
it's not acceptable. It's summer vacation now so hopefully
your child wont' see the teasers for a while...see what
happens in the fall. I'd go to the teachers first and then
next to the parents, or try talking to the kids
directly...in a non threatening ''nice'' way ie:''why are you
saying these things? How do you think it makes him feel?
How would you feel if someone said that to you?'' etc.
I was teased endlessly when I was a kid because I had
really dark hair on my arms (girl). My parents told me to
ignore it. They never went to the teacher or talked to the
kids or their parents. I endured this teasing for years
till I got out of that school. Your child needs you to go
to bat for him and go directly to the source.
former teased schoolgirl
This is so hard. This is an age when many boys become more
''sporty'' at recess and that leaves the less sporty boys feeling very 'out
of it'. I'm sorry that teasing has accompanied this. For actual teasing,
you should enlist your child's teacher and the school principal for
help. Teasing incidents at my child's (public) school are treated
seriously and quickly by school staff and in my experience can be
squashed quite quickly at this age. In terms of him finding a place
and a group of kids or a friend, that is another issue you should
address. Schools can help by setting up other things for kids to do at
recess. This can be harder in tough budget times, but having the
library open at lunch recess, having a computer room or chess club or
other lunchtime activities that are less sporty can help kids who are
less so find a home. On your end, helping him connect with other
boys or kids in his school will help.
Also, I find these things can change -- your kid's interests may
change. Now my son is entering fifth grade and ironically, he is
getting more sporty just as some of the more sporty boys are
becoming less so -- and they are finding themselves in a nice middle
called ''Tag'' -- basically, they play tag instead of football or kickball
at recess and it seems easier for kids to join in this game who don't
feel so sporty.
Hang in there and keep working at it -- little things can help and
things do change.
My son is a tall, good-natured, and athletic boy who likes school and
has many friends. Last year, there was a boy in his kindergarten
class who was problematic and well known among all the parents to be a
bully. My son had problems with this child occasionally, but I tried
to be cordial to the parents when they - rarely - showed up for school
events. However, their son was obnoxious enough that I specifically
requested they be placed in separate classrooms this year, which they
were. Last week this boy put a jump rope around my son's neck at
recess. I was livid and so furious when my son told me that I got
choked up when I left a message for the principal to call me at home
immediately. I met with the principal the next morning who was
alternately condescending (assuring me that their is a child like this
boy in every grade) and sympathetic (she acknowledged that she would
be upset if her child were treated in a similar manner by a
classmate). She did call both parents (they are not together) and
visited the first grade classrooms to discuss safe jump rope use with
the children. The school policy does not allow for suspension of
children younger than 9.
The parents have not approached me to apologize or assure me that they
have disciplined their son. The principal, who I believe does not
have a high opinion of the parents, felt no good would come of
approaching them. I've informed my son's teacher that: a). this is
not my son's first negative interaction with this child and he is
somewhat afraid of this boy, b). my husband and I have told our son to
stay away from this boy at recess and in the lunch room, and c), we
would appreciate any further advice she could offer. His teacher said
she would: a). inform the lunch/recess monitors of the situation, and
b). talk to the bullying child herself.
My husband and I told our son that we want him to stay away from this
boy, but if he must defend himself he doesn't have to worry about the
repercussions. We've told him to get a teacher, aide or the principal
immediately if this boy bothers him in any way. So far, he is staying
away from this kid (they do have some mutual friends) and playing with
other children at recess.
I may observe recess this week. Should I take any other actions to
protect my child? I am still furious with this kid and his clueless
parents when I think about what happened.
I would recommend looking into KidPower.org - this is an non-profit
organization that teaches self protection skills in a non-threatening and no
based class. It is a one time class that is taught in Berkeley and all over
Area. Once you and your child take this class you will have the self
that your child will know how to take care of himself in a very positive and
confident manner. Bullying and how to handle it is part of the class. Once my
son took this class with me, I felt so much calmer and I didn't worry because I
knew he could take care of himself. We did the class several years in a row
even took the Full Power class which teaches how to protect yourself and your
children if you should be attacked while you are together. It is a great
organization founded by a Mom!!
When my daughter was in first grade (OUSD), she was choked against a chain
link fence by another first grade girl (one hand around her neck, the other
covering her nose and mouth while pushing her forcefully against the fence).
Later my child & I and her classroom teacher were threatened by the girl's
grandmother. We documented incidents in letters to the principal.
Personally, I would not be satisfied with your principal's response. Choking
a serious situation. In my daughter's case, the principal designated a person
to keep the girl under observation at recess or the child spent recess inside
under supervision. (The girl had physically dominated other children, too. We
were told that the child could not be expelled or suspended but the principal
was creating a paper trail that could lead to appropriate action.)
The first grade teachers for my daughter and this child worked to keep them
apart at transitions and lunch. We (parents/teacher/principal) gave my
daughter training on how to stay safe at recess. At the end of the year, we
requested in writing that our daughter would not be placed in a second grade
class with this child.
Read the student conduct policy for your district. Was it followed?
Document everything. Send a letter to the principal describing the incident,
detailing the principal's response (as I understand from our conversation on
XYZ date, you will be doing XYZ because) and if needed include concern that
you aren't confident your child is safe at school.
Talk to your child's teacher about how the school handles these types of
incidents and what she/he recommends to keep your child safe.
The principal and teachers satisfied us. But if not, we would have continued
with the following:
If the school did not follow District conduct policy, write the principal (copy
the District Superintendent) and ask for a written explanation of why not.
Keep saying that you're concerned your child is not safe.
Find out which District Administrator is responsible for student conduct &
safety. Send copies of your documentation. Discuss what should/could be
done in your child's case. Document this conversation by letter. Always
express concern if you don't think your child will be safe at school and ask
further steps to keep your child safe.
If you get action that satisfies you, make sure everyone you've contacted is
thanked in writing.
Been there, too
Sounds like the school is responding appropriately, but
maybe you are not. Why should the parents apologize to you?
And what does the fact that his parents attend school
functions rarely have to do with anything? Sounds like you
and the other parents labeled this 5 YEAR OLD very early on.
I'd stay away from you too. What more are you planning on
doing? Getting a lawyer or something?
To answer the question in your title, yes, I think the
school is making an adequate response. Everything that the
teacher and principal said sounds like they are being
realistic and responsive to the incident that occurred.
I think what you need to focus on right now is you and your
reaction (your 'fury'). It sounds like you are so spooked by
what you think could have happened with the jump-rope that
you could potentially create a further issue for your son.
Please remember that the boy you are so furious about is a
child like your son. As much as you look down on his
parents, he is not a monster. You can not force your way of
resolution onto another family even if you feel it is
reasonable or the obvious thing to do (i.e. approach you to
assure you of disciplining.)
I think you have done plenty to prepare your child in the
event of another incident. It is now time for you to take a
deep breath and let him be a first grader. I know it seems
hard, but he will be at the school for years to come.
Another thought is maybe you should send him to Kidpower.
I can sympathize about the distress you are feeling and also
the anger. Seeing our children being bullied and physically
hurt is probably one of the hardest things to experience as
a parent. I think you have responded appropriately by
involving the principal, the teachers, and trying to reach
out to this other boy's parents. I do want to offer another
perspective. I am a psychologist who works with children
who have conduct problems and with their parents. It sounds
like your son and this other boy are 6 or 7 years old. This
is still very very young. While your fury at this child is
understandable, he's also just a little boy. Many children
that I work with also display some of these same
inappropriate behaviors--bullying, aggression, teasing,
etc... Particularly at this young age, I think it's
important to try to have compassion for these children (as
well as for their victims). It is never okay for one child
to hurt another, and school's should absolutely be vigilant
about protecting students. However, the bully also needs
help, and likely his parents do too. Frequently the parents
of the children I work with are very worried and concerned
about their child's inappropriate behavior--they are also
embarrassed, and often do not have good solutions about how
to help their child behavior more appropriately. This can
come across as not-caring or as being uninvolved. Bullies
are often rejected by other children in the class (which is
understandable--who would want to play with a bully?), but
that perpetuates their bullying behavior. The best school
solution for bullying is to have programs that help support
victims to stand up for themselves, but also that help
incorporate the bully back into the social scene in a
supportive way. As an individual parent that may be hard
for you to do, but if there are ways to help reach out to
this child and his family it may be possible to prevent this
bully from turning into a much more serious problem as he
I am sorry your son has had negative encounters with
this ''obnoxious'' child. It sounds like you are really
judgmental about this kid (''his parents are not
together'' ''they have not called us to apologize'' ) Here is
what I wish for you. Compassion toward this child and his
family. (something bigger might be at play --serious
illness, drug/alcohol problems, etc.) There could also be
cultural or socio-economic differences where it is not in
their mindset to ''call and apologize.'' When we were
growing up there were mean kids and nice kids. My parents
and 99% of the other parents did not call the principal in
tears nor did they march down to the school for a meeting
or to watch me at recess. (that is called helicopter
parenting) They simply told us to avoid the bad kids and
protect ourselves if/when needed. Plain and simple. Please
please give your child some room to work this out--he does
not need you standing over him at recess. Our job is to
teach our kids how to navigate through life and this is
one of those times where he will figure it out if given
some room to do so.
As a first grade teacher and a parent, I can tell you the
school responded according to what's acceptable.
Honestly, your post made me cringe.
The children are in the FIRST grade. The boy didn't try to
kill your child purposely. That you are still so angry at
the child is unreasonable. He's 6 years old. From your
story, he appears to have issues with respecting personal
space and impulse control... but he's not awful. His teacher
will work with him, and hopefully his parents work with him
as much as they can. You don't need to go and observe recess
and get any further involved. What are you going to do?
Chase the kid around the playground telling him to stay away
from your kid? Or are you going to write down everything and
report it to the school admin and demand retribution?
As for the parents not approaching you - you said yourself
that the parents are split up, are rarely seen at school.
You don't know what happened in their home. Perhaps they DID
talk to their son, or punished him in ways you can't
imagine... Why do you want them to kowtow to you? SO you can
get personal gratification that you are a better parent than
It's great that you have focused your attention with your
child on teaching him to stick up for himself by telling a
teacher or by just plain old sticking up for himself... but
LET IT GO! The way you are carrying on, you're kind of
turning into a bully yourself.
Holy Helicopter parenting!
We learned a thing or two about bullying this year in my
daughter's kindergarten classroom. There was a real loose
cannon who was all over his classmates -- unprovoked
hitting, kicking, spitting, name-calling. He kicked his
teacher and at one point even kicked the principal! What I
found out was that, as a parent, I don't have the right to
ask for anything to be done to or about the offending child.
However, I did request that a 5-foot rule be implemented and
that all adults who had responsibility for my child were to
be informed that this boy was to stay 5 feet away at ALL
times, that the parents of the bully were to be informed of
this policy in writing, that at least one parent was to be
informed in-person by the principal, and that the principal
would also oversee a conversation with the child and his
parent(s) explaining that he was to stay away from my kid.
The principal agreed to this request. It was no guarantee,
but it made our stance very clear to everyone involved that
this boy was not to lay a hand on my child again.
Fortunately, the boy ended up changing schools, but I
believe the onus is on the school to ensure every child's
safety so ask for whatever you need to make sure YOUR child
is safe. The bully should be the school's problem, not yours.
While I understand your concern about your son's safety
completely, I am wondering if you might be able to look at
this from the other parents' point of view. Having a child
with behavior issues is scary and frustrating, often
overwhelming for any parent. It is not always the way it
seems, and is often not just a ''discipline issue.'' If you
can find how to contact the parent, you might ask how it
would be best to handle it. Have a meeting with the two
children? Talk about mistakes and how to treat each other
safely and with respect? Try not to come down too hard on
the ''bully'' because generally, kids do not want to do the
wrong thing, and if they do, find out the reason. Does this
kid realize what the alternatives are for getting what he
wants? He may have some social skills learning issues that
need to be attended to.
From the other side and it's tough.
It seems clear that the school is responding adequately, but
that you are just (understandably) still mad about the whole
incident and are looking for somewhere to focus that anger.
The principle called you back, had you in, listened to you
(and, BTW, I don't see mentioning how common this is as
being condescending), called both parents, and spoke in
class about jump rope safety. The teacher agreed to talk to
the lunch staff and the boy. What more do you want? They
can't control whether the parents call you. You can call the
parents, but don't be surprised if you don't get a
satisfactory response. The school can't control that either.
You've done the right thing, and only thing really, by
telling the school and especially by getting your son to
understand what he needs to do to take care of himself.
I am not belittling your fear. Ropes, or anything, around
necks are no joke, and I have been adamant about instilling
that in my son since he was a toddler. But, it is not
uncommon for kids not fully to understand the seriousness. I
had two kids over the other day and saw one put a rope
around the other's neck to help pull her on the swing.
Yikes! There was nothing bullying about it, they were both
having fun, but it goes to show that kids will do these
incredibly dumb things because they just don't know.
I think this is one of those cases where you just have to be
upset and then take care of your son in the ways you have
done. There's nothing more to do. I mean, what would you
suggest - ostracize the kid? Kick him out of school? Jail
him? What would make you happy? He's six years old - how
much punishment do you need to assuage your anger at this
first-grader? His parents may be losers (which is just more
bad luck for him). Don't look for satisfaction there. Your
son is learning self-reliance, which can be the silver
Last year, in 1st grade, my son put a jumprope around a
girl's neck, scaring her. My son might have been playing
doggy (which they were doing at home, though nothing tied
around the body) and/or he might have been intimidating her.
In general, he's not mean, but he's very bossy, willful,
and skillful at intimidation. He needs help and he's
getting help at home and at school.
Since you've been advised that the parents aren't receptive,
here's what our school has done. 1) Son was put into a
school-based anger management group. 2) School counselor
observed him in class and spoke with teacher to assess
behavior. 3) After another (minor) incident, he was
assigned to organized play at recess times, for greater
supervision and structure. Everything they've done has been
geared to support his socialization and success.
I would hate to see the bully victimized rather than his
behavior addressed, because it's very likely he's acting out
of feelings he doesn't know how to deal with (shame, rage,
terror) that may be caused by abuse/trauma somewhere in his
-- Parent who empathizes with both children
I think you have approached this well so far. Here is my
- Do not contact the parents outside of school as that may
set up a dynamic that will go no where and may make your
home or phone or email a target.
- Keep checking in with your son about how his day went, if
he was nice to everyone and if kids were nice to him. Don't
make a big deal over this one kid (by asking every day about
the kid) so your son will be spared form obsessing on him if
your son is ready to move on.
- Keep telling your son to go tell an adult ASAP if he sees
this child bullying another child or if he experiences
- Be at school at least once a week while your son's teacher
or a lunch aide is there so you can casually check in to see
how things are going in the classroom and on the playground.
This allows you to keep tabs on progress with the bullying
issue without seeming to be focused just on that one kid.
- When you are volunteering, be objective and keep your eyes
on all the kids.
Do not target that one kid who bullies.
But if you see him bullying another child, get another
adult's attention if possible, so that more than one of you
is witness to it. Do not focus just on that child or you
will be seen as taking retribution out on him. Do not
over-react and get yourself in trouble. Do not do anything
that gets you barred from volunteering atyour son's school.
That would be worse. Focus on telling the kids ''what we do
at school is _____.'' where possible and not, ''DON'T _____ !''
unless it is an urgent safety matter. If something happens
on the playground that you experience, tell one of the staff
and write up an account of it, if possible. Again, be
objective, and your observations will carry far more weight.
It is good you are looking out for your kid and giving hi
skills to deal with challenges now.
Your principal is, unfortunately, right; there is a bully
(maybe more than 1 ) in every grade, every year. I teach
elementary school and find this true. I think that you did
what you could. Everyone involved acted appropriately
(except the bully). I think you can confront the parents
if you want to, you have every right to do so, but it
probably won't get you too far, but it might make you
feel better. All too often kids act the way they act
because of how they were brought up; so the parent won't
be surprised at their child's behavior nor will they
probably think it has anything to do with them.
You asked your child to stay away, the best advice. Your
child, throughout his life, will meet bullys of all sorts,
this is but one lesson in how to deal with them.
I would say, let it go.
an OUSD teacher
Based on your description, it seems to me that the school is
responding adequately to what happened. I would say that if
something similar happens again, you have grounds to talk to
the principal again, ask to meet with the other parents,
etc. But based on the tone of your letter, I would like to
pass along the advice that you need to chill out a bit.
Once our kids get to school, stuff like this happens (and is
not always as clear cut as it seems when our own darling
child is telling us what happened). We won't always like
the other kids at school, or their parents, or agree with
how they parent. However, speaking as a parent with a few
more years of kids in school under her belt than a first
grader, I think you need to trust a bit more in your son's
and the school's ability to work this out.
Been here, done this. You and your husband need to contact the PARENTS
immediately-in no uncertain terms you say YOUR KID CANNOT TOUCH MY KID-
choking isn't really a mild issue??Then you need to speak to the
in front of another adult-his teacher. with your son in tow so there is NO
mistake you need to tell this BULLY-stay away from my son-you are not allowed
to touch him. Two of my four sons have been bullied-2 different countries and
12 years apart. Both time the principals tried the ''boys will be boys
don't have sons who are bullies and I'm not trying to raise them to be like
so I don't let them act out or be victimized by children with limited impulse
control. Your husband might need to caLL THE DAD-men do better with other
men...according to my husband and often he has resolved these issues much
faster by way of the father.
mom of five
I feel very upset just reading your submission. The
principal's response seems very inadequate to me. I would
contact the District Superintendent:
1. There should be a school-wide intervention re: bullying.
There is good curriculum for this. The principal should
really be on top of the school climate and there are some
very good programs for this.
2. I am also worried about the bully. What has happened to
this child? Does this child have some mental health issues?
The school psychologist should meet with the child.
My grandson was in 5th grade last year in Orinda and was
being stigmatized and bullied. His parents really got
involved and kept meeting with the principal until she
realized how serious the problem was.
I am a retired teacher. Here are a couple of links:
Hi, I'm really sorry that your son has had to deal with this. That said, it
like the school has responded adequately. They called the parents, they
visited the classroom, I assume they called the ''jumprope'' boy into the
and gave him some consequences. The best thing for you to do is to make
sure every incident is ''on record'' so that they can take action later if the
behavior continues. To get the kid evaluated or expelled, there must be a
record of this behavior.
I noticed you continually make reference to the parents not being together
and not showing up at school events. I think you should really try hard not
make judgements about people because of their marital status. Single parents
have more trouble coming to school events and that doesn't necessarily mean
they are bad parents. Frankly, the best parents in the world could have a kid
with poor impulse control who might act this way, so lets try to give other
parents a break.
As the mother of boys, I also want to say that putting a jumprope around
someone's neck is NOT OK. But it is within the range of normal. Meaning, any
boy I know (if he was all hyped up and having a poor impulse control moment)
might do this. They should be punished and taught not to. but I guess I am
trying to say that it doesn't make this kid a monster. I know its hard to see
from that perspective when its your kid getting the rope, but if this is his
infraction, I agree with the principal that he shouldn't be suspended or
expelled. Now if this behavior continues, action along these lines should be
NOTE FROM MODERATOR: A number of people responded to last
week's posts by expressing shock at the responses received. About
half the people were shocked by the posts going one way and the other
half were shocked by the others. So... I am editing out the expressions of shock
(it just inflames an already very sensitive issue) and just communicating
the additional advice that was sent. Thanks for understanding!
I disagree with many of the responses people offered to you about your child's
encounter with a classroom bully. I agree with the suggestions that you contact the
District or even the Board. Of course the ''bully'' has problems and hopefully his
parents or the school will be sure he gets the help he needs before he grows
into a violent person. But as a mother, of course your first priority is to protect
your child. Go the distance on this and be sure your child is safe.
Best of luck to you.
I disagree with some of the answers you received. I
didn't think you were being judgmental of this child when
i read your post, but rather at his parents.
I don't care who his parents are and what their situation
is. They are still his parents and expecting them to do
the right thing is completely appropriate. I completely
understand that it's a bad situation for them too and i
don't think their child should be made into a monster.
However, if they don't contact you at least through the
school, then their son will never learn to do the right
thing. We all mess u pand have issues and we would all do
better to learn to deal with them.
At my son's school, in the rare occasion this has
happened, the teacher and principal meet with each parents
separately then everyone together. This not only helps
calm things down between the parents but more imporantly
it shows both kids, that there is something good that can
come out of a situation like this.
Conflict resolution is an important part of being an adult
and you doesn't get magically learned at 18. If iwere you
i would insist on a meeting, not to judge or yell at his
parents, but to help figure out a solution.
If raising kids takes a village, you really have to
involve the whole village!
I had to gently chime in about one of the replies given in
the last newsletter about the ''bully''. One poster said to
talk to the child in front of his teacher or another adult.
Sorry, but you can in no way do that at school. ALL children
need to feel safe at school, and a mad mother hen coming in
and talking to this child, whether in front of an adult or
not, is totally unacceptable. That's the
don't be a bully yourself
I read your post and the responses to it and think that you
got some great advice. My only bit of advice would be to
avoid confronting the child. Getting in his face and telling
him anything is going to make you look bad and probably
won't help. Quite frankly, you will end up looking like a
bully. I generally more concerned about parents who are
loose cannons and/or helicopters than I am about kids trying
to figure everything out.
I agree with posters advocating empathy for the aggressor as well as the victim.
The solution will be more successful if approached that way, and this boy is so
little, he can certainly still learn new ways of behaving.
I disagree with some of the other posters, however. I remember
being quite unhappy at times when adult supervision was inadequate. I didn't
know how to solve these kinds of big social problems on my own and they just
got worse and worse. I always felt better on the occasions when my single mom
had the time to help me out.
Just because our parents were less involved and we lived through it doesn't
mean it was the best way to grow up. I mean, infant car seats are good
innovations, too. Not all cultural change is bad!
Your post kind of rang a bell with me because when I was
your son's age, a boy in my class (I'm a girl) also put a
jump rope around my neck. I think he was trying to ''lasso''
me or control me in some way. I took it as nothing less than
an attempt to strangle me and got VERY upset. Which brings
me to the second reason your post caught my eye... your post
says a lot about how upset YOU are but does not mention at
all what your son's reaction was. How did he feel about it?
What did he do? I don't recall telling my parents when that
kid put the jump rope around my neck. I do recall actively
disliking him for the rest of the school year, and I do
recall experimenting with a variety of ways of dealing with
him, ranging from ignoring him to making fun of his stupid
clothes to kicking him in the nuts on the playground. In
hindsight, I think that was really healthy. I think it was a
part of growing up and learning how to relate to others,
which is what elementary school is all about.
I think you did the right thing by informing his principal
and teacher - it makes sense to keep an eye on the situation
and make sure it doesn't turn into a pattern of bullying and
intimidation. But I don't think there's much more you and/or
the school can or should be doing. And I'm sure you want
your son to develop into a healthy, strong person who is
comfortable negotiating with others and capable of dealing
with hard situations. How is he going to learn to do that if
you don't let him? It sounds like you have discussed with
him the various ways he might react next time - great! Now
stand back and trust him to handle his own life a little bit.
Also, give yourself a break! You sound like you're stewing
about a bunch of things you can't control - like whether and
how this other kid's parents punish him. I know it's hard,
but let go of that, if you can. Take yourself out for ice
Kids can handle more than we think they can
One of our daughters was assaulted on the playground; it was
1st grade, the boys were suspended for a day. Yet, two
weeks later they were selected as ''student of the month.'' I
was livid with the principal and the teacher and honestly
wished that I had called the police dept to file a report
because I think the system failed those boys as well as my
daughter. About a year later, I learned that 6 months
before my daughter's assault, the school had experienced a
similar yet even more profound event (5th grader sexually
assaulting a 1st grade in the bathroom) and had failed to
mom of 4
kind of a crummy few months for the 10 year old 5th grader;
she's been drifting away from her little peer group but has
some other friends as well. This original core group has
gone from being passive to actively excluding her; her
attitude is one of 'i want to be nice to everybody, but
they aren't my friends anymore' and she has deepened some
of her previous more casual friendships. The little core
group has responded, with varying degrees of success, by
trying to co-opt these newer friends, eg, ''if you are
friends with her (my daughter), you can't be friends with
us'', making life lonesome for my daughter.
she is managing with surprising dignity, and enjoys the
friendships she has outside of school, classes, etc and
really likes her teacher this year who seems to be
oblivious to the whole thing. Any suggestions for how i can
support her in this difficult time?
i'd like to poison their peanut butter
I'm so sorry that this is happening to your daughter. I
have many suggestions. One is to check out the website
called ''Teaching Tolerance.'' They have many good resources
and materials on bullying. The other is to talk to your
child's teacher about this issue! The school should be
involved in supporting your child. But when you go in to
talk to the teacher, go in with an open mind so that you can
learn what -- if any - part your child has in the dynamics.
Is it simply a case of the mean girls randomly deciding to
exclude her? Or, is there something about her behavior that
makes it hard for her to fit in? Which of course, does NOT
justify the other girls being unkind in any way, but is
still an important part of the puzzle. Are you close to the
parents of any of the girls who are the ''queen bees'' in all
of this? If so, you might be able to talk to them about
this problem. Lastly, since we can't control what other
children do and can only hope to guide and support our own
children the best that we can, I often tell my son (when
kids are unkind --or worse), ''Well, now you have more
information about so-and-so'' and I talk to him about whether
he still wants to consider so-and-so his friend or not. But
in the end, I really think that the teacher and the school
should be involved. It's not ''Lord of the Flies'' out there
and this nonsense that ''kids will be kids'' is just that -
nonsense. The kids depend on grown-ups to guide them and
help them learn to be kind, considerate, polite people. The
kids who might have the tendency to be bullies or purposely
exclude other kids need support to! They need to be taught
that such behavior isn't right! And the kids who know the
behavior isn't right but don't have the courage to stand up
to the ''queen bee'' (or alpha male or bully) need support to!
They often feel pained and conflicted and need to be
supported by the school community so that they feel they can
say, ''No, actually so-and-so CAN sit at our lunch table'' or
whatever. Good luck and I hope you get the support from
your school community that you deserve and that the
situation gets better for your daughter.
Talk to your daughter and ask what she wants. She sounds
ok with it all, and everything will change next year in
middle school. Talk to the teacher and ask her to keep an
eye on it too. At 5th grade you also have to be a little
bit conscious of how your kid will react, so I'd
definitely make sure she's on board with things. You are
LUCKY that she takes things in stride and has other
friends and doesn't seem to care much. I'd advise you to
talk to the parents, except that: 1) it might humiliate
your daughter and 2) parents don't always react the way
you think. My (younger) daughter went through a similar,
though less extensive and less direct episode this past
year, and I have to say that while I''d never want her to
go through that again, she has gained much in maturity and
insight, and she's learning how to take care of herself.
Remember that you cannot change the behavior of other
people, particularly people who are unkind--and generally
they don't believe they are being unkind. If your
daughter is a good friend to these other new friends, you
probably don't have to worry so much about them getting
sucked away by what is possibily the ''in'' crowd. And
really, you want your daughter to have good, reasonable,
kind friends who support her, not somebody who will go
away at the drop of a hat. It's a good age to learn to
toss the friends that are lousy. ANd it's a good time to
develop your daughter's self-esteem by realizing that
those kids are not worth her time--and it's not about
problems with your daughter, it's about social deficits on
the part of the bullies. To the extent that these bully
kids are really excluding others, there will be other
(good) parents who know what the score is. Befriend those
kids, and let the bullies figure out over the next few
years that their lack of social skills won't serve them
well. Rent ''13 going on 30'' and talk to your daughter
Gosh I can't tell you how frequently I hear about this!
My friend is just pulling out of a terrible year
and has some great insite (and hindsite) DONT POISON THE
PEANUT BUTTER! Funny thing is, her daughter didn't notice
it as much as she (mama) did, cause she felt it from the
other mothers too. I think what worked best, was she found
one girl to be a best buddy and organized all kinds of
awesome adventures for just the two of them. Star Belly
Sneeches are unimportant. (remember them at the highschool
reunion? Still sneeching) We also made a point as adults
to include her and play with her. What has happened is she
(the girl) is delightful, unspoiled and great with adults.
All things pass, and they are watching us, so don't talk
down about anyone, rather make you and your daughter's life
glamorous and worthwhile. Thank God your daughter is not an
excluder. That means she will be a great woman
Good things to you. RR
Please, poison their peanut butter! Okay, maybe not, but
this happened to me at that age. I was so traumatized in the
end that it took until college to recover. If I have.
What would have helped me? A supportive and aware parent,
like yourself (good on you! And on your daughter for being
so strong and mature!) and changing schools.
On the other hand, this happened to a friend who had loving
parents, and she just laughed when the girls in her grade
behaved like harpies, sending her hate notes, and never felt
as miserable as I did...
Good luck! I hope we hear how it goes.
1. Enroll your kid in a local kidpower class.
www.kidpower.org. They frequently have classes in
Berkeley. Works wonders!!!
2. Every group has a leader. Who is the leader in this
case? If this is a group known to you, you most likely
know the parents. Talk with them about the exclusion thing
and manipulating your daughter's new friends. If you are
not comfortable with that idea, invite the leader via her
mom to a playdate at your house or to a fun joint activity
you monitor (Great America, Ardenwood Harvest Festival,
ferry ride to SF and walk Pier 39). Nothing like bonding
with your enemy! If you are not comfortable with that,
talk to the teacher and have a conference with your
daughter, the leader and both parents and talk this out,
stressing that this is not okay. This meeting could also
be facilitated by the school counselor.
When does bad manners in 1st grade girls cross the line
into bullying or relational aggression? My 6-yo 1st
grader (whom adults say is friendly and likable) is
reporting interactions such as (a) being intentionally
ignored, (b) being called a ''cry-baby'', (c) being allowed
to play only if she assumes an assigned role, (d) being
told to ''go away'' or get to the back of the line, and (e)
being deliberately told that she was not invited to a
birthday party. These behaviors are coming from girls she
considers ''friends''. It's a small school, so friendship
opportunities are limited, and my daughter is unhappy that
she has no friends (in her words.)
What can I do to help my daughter, who is somewhat shy and
sensitive to begin with? We've tried playdates, birthday
party invitations, park meetups, etc., but the situation
hasn't improved, and she has not received many reciprocal
What can the school do to help my daughter and make it a
safer, happier place in general? For various reasons, we
don't want to change schools, and the teacher, at least,
seems willing to work with us.
Thanks for any ideas.
Don't Know What to Do
Your school could be doing a lot to counteract this,
particularly when the children involved are so young.
Experts have developed school-wide programs to help reduce
this kind of behavior. You should contact a child
development specialist for advice. I recommend Dr. Lane Tanner.
What you are describing is bullying. And, at this young
age, I don't think that you are doing your child any favors
to let her stay in that environment. She is in first grade.
Girls only get nastier further along in school.
So, specific techniques...kill with kindess and attract
flies with honey. Everyone's favorite topic is 'yours
truly.' So, work with her on conversation and interest.
My younger is on her way to getting elected prom-queen. She
is five. She has that interesting and interested
personality. She loves to draw people out -- her questions
are not very sophisticated, but she always wants to know how
many siblings a child has, what their grandmother's name
is...and she compliments up the wazoo...every conversation
starts with how much she likes some article of clothing or
piece of jewelry that another person is wearing. She will
literally stop someone in the street to tell them how
beautiful they are or ask about how they do their hair...
In contrast, my elder (7) is reserved. She doesn't have a
best friend, though has many with whom she is friendly.
But, I am much more watchful of her. She is a dear and kind
person, but I am afraid that she will get pushed around or
bullied in the future. It happened in kindergarten. The
good news is that the bully was my best-friends daughter, so
we were able to have an awful and uncomfortable conversation
without recrimination. There were a few tense months, but
we got through it and our daughters two-years on are very
supportive of each other, though not best friends.
My 5-year-old son is a high-energy, very verbal and outgoing
kid. He likes to be physical, wrestle, play sports, etc. The
style of play can involve a lot of chasing and wrestling,
but it's not out of control and the kids with whom he plays
know the limits - with one exception. I'll call him X. X
regularly instigates both physical roughness against kids
who DO NOT want to play rough, and verbal meanness and
belittling talk towards some children. Unfortunately, our
son reveres this child and considers him his best friend. X
speaks with authority about all possible topics, and our son
believes every word. Lately X has been encouraging our son
to engage in rough or disrespectful behavior towards others.
Moreover, when X is mean to him (deciding that they're not
friends that day, telling him he's stupid, etc.) his
feelings get very hurt. This occurs on a regular basis. I
ask him why he would want to be friends with someone who
isn't kind to him, and I encourage him to play with others -
but to no avail. He values this child's opinions above all
else, wants to like the same things, wear the same clothes,
etc. It eats me up inside when I hear him say that tomorrow
he can't wait to somehow be X's friend again. We have had
after-school play dates with lots of children, but other
moms have told me that when those children try to play with
our son at school, X gets between them and prevents it. I am
deeply worried about this, and at a loss as to how to best
help my son. We want him to respect others, to be able to
stand up and object when he sees that something isn't right,
and also to respect himself, to have the self-esteem to not
want someone who doesn't treat him with kindness. Should I
be worried that this is setting an example for future
relationships? I feel like I should be able to do more to
help him with this, but I don't know what to do.
aren't humans interesting? It's fascinating to watch the
playground and see little CEO's, Lawyers and Marketing
Mavens. Bullies are attractive because they are powerful.
Look around and see if you can't find a little organic
farmer, veterinarian or musician, make friends with that
kid's mom and make that little guy a friend of convenience.
I think it does matter alot. My son is eighteen (sigh) and
the playground bullies are still that way. RR
Dear Worried Mom, Let me first say well done for sighting
this situation and deciding to do something about it! The
late pre-school and early elementary years are when children
learn how to be friends, and what to expect from peer
relationships. You've made a good start by arranging
playdates with other kids and widening your son's social
circle. It seems to me that you need to have a couple
conversations: first, with your son. Maybe you've started
this already, but your son needs to know that X's behaviour
is not how friends act, that friends don't make each other
feel bad, and they don't try to keep each other from playing
with other kids. Secondly, you need to speak to X's mother
or father. X is not too old to change his behavior with some
parental (and maybe professional) intervention. There's
something at the root of his behavior, and his parents need
to find out what it is and address it. They won't be doing X
any favors by letting him continue this behavior. You may
also want to talk to your son's teacher or principal about
this situation, since much of it takes place at school. I
spent several early childhood years playing with a ''best
friend''who wasn't very nice to me (though with girls this
manifested itself differently);i never said anything about
it to my parents, since they were good friends with her
parents, but it's shaped many of my social insecurities to
this day. You have the power of knowledge, and I applaud you
for taking this first step to act on it.
Wishing you the best.
You say that X interferes at school. Have you talked to
the teacher and asked for their assistance in this (e.g.,
when the teacher sees X interfering, then go over and
redirect X firmly). Perhaps you can also continue the
conversations with your son about why you don't think X is
a very good friend to him and to other children, and you
can say no more playdates with X, thus limiting your son's
contact with X to only school. It will be summer soon, so
that would put an end to that, at least for a bit.
I am also wondering if there is something going on with X
(recent parental divorce/other traumatic event). Have you
talked to X about this behavior? Perhaps if you told X
that if X wants to play with your son, then that behavior
will not be tolerated, that might get your somewhere; at
the least, your son will see you modeling behavior that
you would like him to grow into.
I feel for your situation and hope that you find a solution. My advice would be
to let the school know about your concerns and request that the boys be placed
in separate classes next year. Many school are planning classes for next year at
this time, so it is the best time to let them know about your concerns. I've found
that student's friends are often determined by the class.
I know your situation from experience...
My heart goes out to you and I know how painful it is to see
your son in this relationship. We're in a similar situation
with our son, although I'll admit our son's ''best friend''
engages in verbal manipulation more than physical violence
and doesn't seem to be as much of a bully as your son's
''best friend.'' (Although I've learned from school that he's
slugged my son a couple of times when he's been mad at him.)
I agonized over this relationship as I saw the gulf widen
between my perception of it and my son's perception of it. I
wondered if I was imagining things to be worse than they
were. It wasn't until teachers recommended complete
separation after school hours and noted that my son seemed
to be trying to escape the relationship, and then subsequent
remarks from parents about the other child cordoning off my
son from other kids and even spontaneous remarks from other
kids being ''mean'' to my son that I decided to separate them
as much as possible.
Here's what we do: First, I never belittle the other child
to my son and definitely don't try to make the other child
appear like someone to be shunned.
Second, we no longer have playdates. I did try talking to
the other child's parent after he slugged my son and chased
him around the afterschool classroom (!) but to little
benefit as he is apparently a different person around his
parents than when they're not around. And understandably,
even the most empathetic parent is going to have trouble
hearing their child is engaging in antisocial behavior. They
might not even recognize that what appears to be benign
behavior, such as apparent great affection toward or
devotion to your son, can quickly turn to bullying and
manipulative isolation. So try talking to the parents, but
don't assume they'll hear your side (easily).
I did suggest to the other parent that each of our sons
develops new friendships and we're working actively at this.
(And my understanding is the other family is doing the
same.) I'd really recommend being proactive about this as
other kids were already getting the ''message'' from the other
child that my son was someone they weren't ''allowed'' to play
with. That alone gave me pangs of sadness for my son, who is
very gregarious. So dilute the impact of the bully's control
of your son by making contact yourself with other parents
who live nearby and getting to know other kids. If you can
afford it, find an after-school class outside your school
catchment area for your son. Encourage friendships with
girls as well as boys. Show your son what constructive,
nurturing friendships are like.
Finally, we also put our collective foot down on any
exclusionary behavior from our son with any child, such as
declaring so-and-so is not our friend or making statements
to other kids like ''we don't like so-and-so, do we?'' We
reminded our son that this behavior is not nice, that it
hurts people's feelings and that it does not nurture
friendships, even with collaborators. This behavior was
unfortunately somewhat familiar to him from preschool, and
it does seem like something much younger kids gravitate
toward to solve conflicts or express their frustration. This
unfortunately means they do still spend time together on
that schoolyard but I feel insisting they are separated
completely would be worse.
You are doing absolutely the right thing by reaching out for
advice and I really hope this helps. I'm so sorry you're
going through this. Please know that it will take effort on
your part to guide your son to better relationships. You are
among his best role models. Hopefully you'll get a lot of
helpful responses. (And if any replies are of the ''toughen
up and leave him alone'' variety, ignore them!)
Feel your pain
Could your child develop a new social environment either
by changing his existing environment or by leaving if
change is not possible? Have you spoken with a teacher
about the dynamics and your feelings about the
child's influence on your son? What is the school's
policy on bullying? Please consider: your
son may not truly like the child but just may be
trying to adapt to a situation where this boy has
too much power and being a smart kid he would want
to 'tend and befriend' rather than becoming a target
himself. I am having a similar situation at my
daughter's school and was livid that the teacher
pretty much allowed bullying because he was friends
with the child's mother and because the director
thought kids should be left on their own socially.
They need loving guidance to help them feel safe
and learn to navigate social relationships in my opinion so we just
got a refund for next year. My daughter was defending
this child and calling her a friend because she wants
everyone to get along. The child was constantly in her
face in a friendly or unfriendly way (depending on the day and
her mood) but even her friendly mode is aggressive so I observed
the kid and am trying to teach my daugther to ask for space and
assert herself. If leaving isn't an option look into starting an
antibullying program with other parents. Your response is a healthy
one and good luck nipping this in the bud.
I need some advice. My daughter is in first grade
and one of her classmates seems to bully her. I
have volunteered in in the classroom on several oocasions
and have noted that the girl does seem to try to push my
daughters buttons. she also does not stop when I point
out her behavior At first I though she was just a ''brat''
but after further observation I have found the little girl
is a bully. she is also afraid of catching a disease, she
is fearful of germs and afraid she can get sick by
thinking about it, washes her hands several times a day
and seems to get easily upset if she doesn't get her way. I
wonder if all of this is related. I tried talking to the
mom who became very defensive. The 6 yr old is a twin and
her sister is not a bully or germ phobic, she has plenty
of friends. I do not want to be an alarmist but.... How
do I talk with the mom? I have talked with the teacher who
acknowledges there are issues but what can she do? I think
I may be seeing things that a parent will try to ignore
and I maight be the same if it were my child but.... is
there a way to help or should I just forget about it call
the kid a brat and make sure that my child doesn't
interact with her?
You are not specific about the type of bullying behavior
that you say this girl inflicts on your daughter, or its
impact, so it's hard to say what you should do. I would
suggest, however, that you adopt a more compassionate
attitude towards this first grader who seems to be
struggling with phobias and other problems. Calling her a
''brat'' (even if you don't use that word publicly) is not
If I were you, I would not try to approach the girl's mother
again, but work with the teacher to find solutions.
Teachers can have an impact on bullying behavior. You can
also talk with your daughter about ways she can deal with
it. There are probably good web sites and books on the topic.
Please, ASAP, write-out your concerns (expressed as your
experience and your worries), and send your information to
the school teacher, school councilor, school administrators,
AND school district right away.
It is very likely that this mom has not figured-out what to
do to help her troubled child. It is possible that this
troubled child needs psychiatric counseling, medical
intervention, or other help. The sooner effective help is
provided to this troubled child, the more likely this child
will have a happier life.
More important: Whatever problems this troubled child may
have, your job is to protect your child NOW before your
child is also in need of psychiatric counseling.
Mother of a child who was bullied
I'm not clear what behavior is causing you to label this girl
a "bully," other than your observation that the girl "knows how
to push [your] daughter's buttons." I'm pretty sure your daughter
knows how to push other kids' buttons, too. That's normal
among kids this age.
You can't make the environment around your daughter an annoyance-
free zone, nor should you try to. There are going to be irritating
people everywhere she goes, for the rest of her life. I would work
on helping your daughter deal with people who bother her rather
than trying to "fix" them for her. This little girl can be an
important part of your child's learning process. Please try to
look at it that way.
I think talking to the teacher is good, which you've done...
And, most importantly, teach your daughter. This will not be
the first ''bully'' she encounters, unfortunately. Look into
Kidpower, etc. Bullies identify their prey for a reason,
and my sense from your post is that you are intervening a
lot. I respect that you are protecting your daughter but
give her the tools. Also, I'm very anti-labeling, and while
the other girl may have some issues, etc... be sensitive to
judgment and labeling. Their family may have some tough
stuff going on, etc.
teach your daughter
I generally don't like it when members post their non-pro
medical diagnoses, but here I am about to do it! What
you're describing are classic OCD symptoms. That DOESN'T
mean that's what's going on with this child, but I have a
child who exhibited very similar behavior and is being
successfully treated for OCD.
So kind of you to notice and be concerned... However,
unless you know that child's parents well, I would suggest
you not talk to the mom about it. (Unless you can think of
a really non-threatening way to approach the parent?) It
is a very sensitive issue, and many parents get hyper-
protective (obviously!) about their kids, and may react
defensively, feeling that they are being judged as
parents, etc. Or they might just be scared, and having a
hard time facing a potential problem.
The teacher, I think, IS an appropriate person to share
her observations with the parents - not make ''guesses''
about what ''It'' is, but to just describe the child's
behaviors, how they affect the child (as well as other
children) in the classroom, and to express her concern for
the child's well-being. She could ask the parents if her
descriptions match what they see at home, if they'd like
the school to recommend a counselor, or if she can support
them in some other way. I'm not sure if it would be
appropriate or not to ask about or suggest a Dr's
involvement. (I'm trying to think how I'd've felt... I was
the proactive one in our case; the teachers were too
inexperienced to recognize a problem, and the other
parents just thought our kid was ''the bad kid.''
A good child therapist, an excellent child psychiatrist,
some (seriously monitored) medication, a better school and
one year later, my child is a different, MUCH happier kid!
(And we are MUCH happier parents!) I hope this kid (and
parents) get the help it sounds like they (MAY! need.
I realize that you probably have the best interests of this
girl at heart, but I think that it may be best to keep your
opinions to yourself. Just chalk it up as a child that you
aren't going to like.
Honestly, if I were this little girl's Mom -- and I say
this, knowing that you mean well -- I would have little to
no interest in your opinions on my child and your perception
of their problems. Would you go up to the parent of a
significantly autistic child and tell the parent that the
child can't talk? Well, you may be dealing with a similar
issue here. This child could have integration issues
(frequently mistaken by well meaning parents at 'bullying'),
she may have OCD (the germ phobia was the way my own
grandmother's mental illnesses, including OCD, manifested
itself)...I am sure that Mother has a pretty good idea that
her child is different and is probably working on these issues.
The best piece of advice that I ever got was, 'don't judge
another mother and her children, because you don't know what
they are going through and the Mom is probably doing the
best that she can.
just another Mom
This is a delicate situation. Of course I don't have enough information to
really know what is going on, but I strongly suspect that this child's
aggressive behaviors are related to her anxiety. I am sorry for your
daughter's experience, but it is this other child's well being that sounds really
concerning. Unfortunately, raising the issue again with the mother will
probably not be helpful, UNLESS she gives you an opening. For example, if
she expresses concern that her daughter doesn't have friends or is getting
into trouble at school, then you might, empathically, suggest she talk to a
child psychologist or social worker. The other alternative is to talk to the
teacher again. If the child is disrupting the classroom or having social
problems at school, the teacher certainly has a reason or even an obligation
to discuss the problem with the mother.
No need to expose your daughter to this girl, but please try to remember that
this young child may very well not be a brat, but instead a very anxious child
who needs help learning to manage her emotions.
Does anyone have any input on what they consider
appropriate physical behavior in school? I'm concerned over
the basic safety of my child while he's in the care of his
school. My child has been kicked, hit, choked, shoved, and
bonked in the head. This is not a bully situation, just
that my child seems to be on the receiving end of wild
behavior, of which happens both in and out of the
Are there any other parents out there that have concerns
about the safety of their children during school hours? I'm
interested in hearing from other parents and what you all
consider appropriate (normal) physical behavior at school.
Please don't suggest I talk to the school, as I have. And
they would like me to believe that all this is ''normal''
My oldest child seemed to be an ''incident-magnet'' as well. At first, I was
worried that he was being bullied (and in some instances he was) but then I
came to see it as an issue concerning the playground supervision.
Yes, some (a lot) of physicality is normal kid behavior. Rough-housing is
going to happen. But our kids shouldn't be coming home as bruised and
battered as they often do. At our particular school, I have observed the
recess times and noticed that the staff is often engaged in personal
conversation, coffee-drinking, ''on-break'' action... failing to realize (in my
opinion) that they are supposed to be ''ON''... perhaps more ''on'' than at any
other time of day.
Many parents at our school have noticed this. Many of us have suggested
that they increase the number of staff supervising recess times. The school
has continued to tell all of us that it is all ''normal'' and that the school has at
least as many staff supervising as all of the other schools in the area.
So I don't have an answer for you. I am pretty much letting you know that the
situation is the same in other places... at least one other place! It does seem
to come in waves, which is probably developmental.
Best of luck to you and your child.
My fifth grade daughter is complaining about bullying. She has always had a lot
of friends and still does although she is not interested in the hanging out and
chatting girls do. She still prefers to run and play. She is strong academically
and physically and doesn't have a shy or quiet personality. There is another
girl in her school that somehow seems to feel the need to assert her dominance
in their grade and the way she is choosing to do it is by getting a gang of
kids, a mix of boys and girls, to target my daughter. She has been ribbing her
and just generally goading her and being snide. My daughter has been holding it
together at school but she doesn't know what to make of it or how to deal with
it. She doesn't feel like her teacher is equipped to be helpful and, frankly, in
this case I agree. She is sad. From what I know of this girl's parents I don't
want to call them. They seem like the bullying type themselves. Very strong,
sort of overly confident types. My daughter has tried just telling this girl to
cut it out. She has attempted to say things like ''good job'' at P.E. She doesn't
want to back down but I see how eaten up she is. I know bullying is a part of
these years but it is new to us and we aren't sure how to help her.
Confused Mama & want to help
I really don't know the answer to your question, but I have my own personal
perspective, which is something you could try (I'd love to know if it works).
When I was in 5th grade, I, too, bullied some girls. I also was bullied
myself. I bullied because I felt very insecure about being liked, and I
thought this would gain me friends (bonding against a common, easy target).
It's really awful, I know, but it's not I really was thinking about it. Only
in retrospect can I see. Anyway, if the girl I was bullying would have
confronted me directly, and in private, and told me how it hurt her and upset
her I would not have been able to continue. In fact, it would have shamed me
and made me respect her. I think what makes it possible for girls to bully is
to objectify the target. I never really let myself think about how I was
affecting the other person or I would not have been able to do it. So, for
example, your daugher could ask the other if she'd be willing to talk with her
for a few minutes after school, or whenever (I think it would be easier if it
were not during school). Then she could say, ''I realize what you are doing is
fun for you, but it's actually really upsetting me and hurting my feelings and
making it difficult for me at school. Can you please stop?'' I think then it
would put the bullying girl in a position of having to respond and it would be
awkward and difficult for her. But she'd have to face herself and the person
she's hurting. After that, she may stop. But if the situation continues, then
I would suggest putting your child into a new school where she can get some
relief and a new start. Empowering her to deal with it directly i think is the
My daughter is in 6th grade now and has experienced some bullying from both boys
and girls over the last few years, but never anything with a group organized to
target her. Also,we have been fortunate enough to have teachers that could
respond effectively. It sound like you are giving your daughter excellent
coaching and like she has good skills herself.
My advice would be to go the the principal, if the teacher cannot help. A
friend of mine in a similar situation took this course with much success. You
can try to finesse it a little so the teacher's feathers are not ruffled, and
ask the principal's assistance in this. But I think getting an on-site adult
involved that will be effective is key. Kids really benefit from adult allies
in these situations. What always helped my girl most was knowing that she had
someone in authority on her side and that the school explicitly took a position
that bullying is just not okay. She felt supported hearing this message
clearly, even if the other child did not recant and/or stop immediately.
Also, are there any other parents you could talk with so that maybe you could go
into the principal with another parent or two and make it a class wide agenda
item to tackle the bullying problem in your class. Ideally the goal would be to
cultivate a shared and consistent message that BULLYING IS NOT OKAY.
Lastly, keep an open heart toward the child who is doing this. It never helps
to close your heart, esp. to a kid who is troubled. To my mind, she must have
something hurting inside or hurtful stuff would not be coming out of her. She
is worse off than your girl in many ways, because by being hurtful to others she
is doing damage to herself that will be hard to repair.
I hope this helps. These things are not easy. You and your girl have my best
I was devastated in 5th grade when my daughter was bullied. There was no help
from the teachers or for that matter the principal of the school. So I planned
lots of activities outside our school district--lots of opportunities for my
daughter to be successful elsewhere. Sometime in middle school my daughter
found a great group of girls with similar interests. They were not
the ''popular'' girls--I call those "popular" girls ''excluders''. Then in high
school the ring leader bully with the difficult mom--sounds similar to the girl
and the parents you mentioned in your post--anyway, the girl that was so mean
to my girl--the mean girl had a drug overdose! After a trip to the hospital in
an ambulance, the girl is ''fine'', but I realize now, what I didn't then--is
that it really wasn't the other girl deciding not to be friends with my
daughter--it was my daughter realizing that this girl and her friends were into
something that my daughter didn't want to be a part of. So by pulling away, my
daughter was bullied. I'm not even sure my kid consciously knew that she was
pulling away. It was a dreadful time. BUT!!! Thank God my daughter did not
hang with this group. I'm so very happy that she has her friends with values
similar to ours and is doing really well in school. That is another thing that
we emphasized with our daughter was to concentrate on her studies. When she
separated from the bullies in 5th grade her grades improved and her confidence
did as well. It wasn't as easy as all this sounds. Starting in middle
school, my daughter became progressively happier. I hope that when your
daughter is in high school that you'll be able to answer a post with an upbeat
message as well. I hope this helps give a different perspective.
Dear Confused Mama & want to help,
Bullying is a MAJOR problem which can cause a mess of trouble even later in your
daughter's life. I know- I was one of those kids who always got beat up.
I would address the problem head on. Find out who and call a meeting with the
principle, teacher(s), and parents of the child. It doesn't matter if the parent
of the other child believes what is going on. This can spiral out of control
VERY fast and if you don't take the bull by horns someone will get very hurt.
It's not only for the sake of your daughter but also for the girl who is bulling
your daughter. She needs to know that is not acceptable at all under any
circumstances. I understand the teacher and the other child's parents may not be
helpful but your daughter has the right to get an education in a SAFE
environment. Your daughter deserves fighting - even if you have to call the head
of the school- go up the latter until you get a resolution.
Bullying should NOT be apart of childhood school years. This is a myth!!!!
You don't have to shove a person into a locker just to make a point.
Get your hands on the policy of the school. It has to have something in there
about such things. If it doesn't get a ''No Bully'' policy enacted in the school
with appropriate consequences. In the end... zero action means the adults in the
situation are enabling the bullying to continue.
The two sites included are very good for advice. I worked at the Attorney
General's for a program called ''Safe from the Start'' we addressed bullying and
other types of school crimes. Please email me if you want more information.
Immediately enroll your daughter in a local Kidpower class. Please google for
their contact info. Very effective! Great techniques! Also talk to the
classroom teacher about it. Having these other parents called in for a
conference with the teacher and maybe you and maybe or not with both kids can
be very effective too. If the teacher/prinicipal sends the message that
bullying is not okay, it doesn't matter what these ''strong, over-confident''
parents think. They have to digest the teacher's/principal's message and
adjust their kid accordingly, if they don't want to see their daughter in
detention. Kidpower will teach your child how to be no fun for a bully to
tease. You and your kid may want to take a look at the general culture of this
school and see if your daughter fits in with the general crowd - the way she
dresses and the way she communicates. I am not in favor of conforming kids to
a norm, but I am a mother of a 7th grade girl who is very observant about what
is going on and very keen in navigating herself. She is with a nice open group
of friends and stays away from cliques, however, has good individual
communication to members of cliques. She attended Kidpower at age 4 and age 9
and has never been bullied.
As a former 5th grade teacher, I know exactly the dynamic you are talking about. It's true that even
though we, as teachers, are aware that things are going on, sometimes we are not able to do anything
directly unless we witness something personally. The bullies in my class were the girls, and all kinds of
studies and research has been done on girl bullies. They absolutely operate differently than boy bullies.
The girls are less likely to outright threaten their victims - Instead they will recruit other girls to help
torment, they may text message or use the internet, or any number of less direct acts of surreptitious
violence. It's true that everyone wants to be on the ''correct'' side of a girl bully, so sadly they are more
often than not very popular. That popularity can be the most hurtful and confusing part for the victims,
but it sounds like already your daughter is also trying to get on the bully's good side by complimenting
the girl during P.E. The dynamic of bully-equals-popular seems to peak in middle school, but starts to
wane when the girls are about 16 or 17. By then, girls start to grow weary of kissing up to a mean
person, and the bully will either need to change or will find herself eating lunch alone. My advice is to
keep encouraging your daughter to develop strong group identity among her similarly athletic friends.
Get her involved in lots of after-school and extra-curricular activities that will keep her among a group
dynamic that is healthy and designed to encourage success, not meanness. Don't hesitate to inform
your child's teacher what is happening, but know that sometimes the interventions from grown-ups
can make the situation worse.
I guess this is just the age for mean girl traits to show themselves. I have a
daughter in 5th grade also, and have heard similar stories from a couple of her
friends' parents. Fortunately, so far my child has managed to stay out of the
drama. But if it did happen to her and she was unable to deal with it and needed
help, I would not be above approaching the child myself. I might even invite her
over for a playdate, take them out for ice cream, and have a chat. Chances are,
from what I understand about bullies, she has no idea the effect her actions are
having. Kids just operate without thinking. This would certainly cause her to
think about it in the future. I would keep the conversation very amicable and
not blaming; just a, ''So, I've been hearing that (hurtful actions) have been
happening. I was kind of surprised to hear about it, so I'd like to know what
you think is going on.'' Then even if she denies any involvement, I'd have the
opportunity to let her know that it is an issue that has been bothering not only
my daughter, but our whole family. I might even throw in an anecdote about
another situation where a bully's parents were contacted and even school
officials were involved, because it is a very serious thing.
You've got to stop this for your daughter's sake, or she will suffer
emotionally and have very low self-esteem. 5th grade for my daughter was the
worst year ever. She is now a senior in high school and doing great, but she
suffered a lot because of her 5th grade experience. You do need to address it
with the teacher, and then the school principal. In my case, it was another
girl's mother that was interfering. Her daughter was an only child, and this
mother wanted to make sure she had this one girl as a friend all to herself.
This mother constantly ''volunteered'' at school, and her motive was to monitor
her daughter all the time and make sure her daughter had a friend. This mother
was telling my daughter directly that her daughter and this other girl did not
want to be her friend. She even had the nerve to call me directly and tell me
that my daughter was not leaving her daughter and this other girl alone, when
all she was doing was being on the same playground, she had no choice, she had
to be there. I went through all avenues and finally as a last resort called
this mother up and told her to stay the hell away from my daughter. I took it
up with the school and they drastically limited the amount of time this mother
got to spend at the school.
Another time (another daughter) my daughter was being verbally abused at
school and I just went in to ''observe'' in the classroom and just gave a few
very stern looks to the two boys doing it, and it stopped, never said anything
to the boys, but they got the message that I was looking out for my daughter.
I have three daughters and believe me these issues come up regularly. You
have to stick up for your daughter. My oldest is in college now and all three
of my daughters are strong and have good self-esteem.
I don't believe that bullying should be accepted as a ''phase they go through'' at
any age. The reason I have come to believe that parents and teachers should be
very proactive about this is that when I was in middle school, one of my
classmates who was bullied mercilessly committed a serious crime in response to
the psychological torture and was subsequently incarcerated. In other words,
his youth was ruined and others were hurt in the process. It doesn't sound as
if your daughter is anywhere near that kind of state; she has parents who love
and support her, for one thing, and my classmate didn't. But it is an
unsupportable situation that is cancerous and should be addressed openly. Have
your daughter list the incidents, preferably with dates and locations and
participants. Give the list to the teacher and the principal. Call the other
girl's parents and tell them exactly how it is. If I were the parent, I would
definitely want to know. If they try to shine you on about how this is normal
behavior or you and your daughter are too sensitive, just tell them: bullying is
poisonous and it hurts everyone involved.
mother opposed to bullying
I teach fifth grade and have found these resources useful.
The Skin I'm In By Sharon G. Flake is an amazing book and might be a good read aloud for the class if your
daughter's teacher is open to the idea. Either way, I'd read it with her.
Steps to Respect is a great anti-bullying school program that I've used. It teaches real life skills about
to make friends and stand up for yourself. You might want to talk to the teacher and then the principal to
find out if they are open to purchasing the program. It has helped my students and has given me the
tools that I need to deal with bullying.
You may be interested in checking out the current American
Girls video ''Chrissa Stands Strong.'' They have it on DVD,
but you can also find it on You Tube:
I ran into it while making a purchase, and I watched the
first couple of segments before moving on, but it looked
pretty good so far. If nothing else, you coudl watch it with
your daughter and have a discussion about what you think
about how the main character (Chrissa) responded to the
bullying. I haven't been closely observing 5th grade
behavior for a while, but the examples in the movie seemed a
little unbelievable to me (i.e., it just started from
nowhere and was just plain mean-most of what I have observed
comes from someplace more understandable if still
regrettable or reprehensible, and this girl with a close
family doesn't think to talk to them about it, but I guess
that's necessary to set up the problem that needs to be
solved). But maybe that's more true to life and I'm just
unaware of it. I got bullied a bit as a 7th grader, and it
inadvertently taught me that my bully was chicken (I showed
up at the place where she told me she would beat me up, and
I was the only one there.) I also didn't intervene as a
4th/5th grader when some kids were bullying another girl
--she wasn't a very nice kid, which adds a little complexity
to the equation (not that I'm proud that I didn't know how
to step in)--and since some of the ''bullying'' I've observed
has also involved the kid who thinks he or she is ''bullied''
actually bullying other kids, it's worth checking out your
own child's culpability. Supposedly the Chrissa movie also
deals with standing up for other kids too. (I think you can
also get the DVD directly from American girl, rather than
watching it in 9 or 10 segments of 10 minutes each.)
There is an article on slate.com, ''Bullies. They can be stopped but it takes a
village'' by Alan E. Kazdin and Carlo Rotella. You can go that website & search
for it if you would like to read it. I lost your original post, so I'm not sure if it is
on point with your question, but it is a thoughtful article with possibly some
good ideas--I read it a few months ago, I can't completely remember all the
advice it had. I hope it helps!
Either my child is being bullied or it's normal boy stuff, with
my son being very sensitive (which he is). I'm not sure how to
decide. My son is in 2nd grade, tall, somewhat awkward, and highly
social and empathetic. He cries easily. Probably an easy kid to
bully. He gets on well with most of the kids in his class. This year,
there's been a kid I'll call Bob in my son's circle of friends. Bob
is at least a head shorter than my son, and highly athletic. Lately
I've been hearing an awful lot about Bob. About half the time Bob is
a friend. But the other half of the time there is some kind of
Earlier this year my son gave Bob a couple of small toys, because Bob
wanted them. I didn't mind that, but shortly after that I began to
hear stories about Bob making fun of my son. We bought a couple of
''cool'' cartoon T-shirts. My son was really excited about them, but
the first time he wore one, Bob made fun of it, and the shirts have
been in the drawer, unworn, since. Lately my son's lunch has been
coming home, uneaten, because Bob thinks it's yucky and announces it
to the whole table. This is stuff my son loves and specifically asks
for. I don't care so much that my son doesn't eat, but it bothers me
that he kowtows to this kid, and I don't even think that will solve
the problem. My son says he tries not to sit by Bob, but that Bob
specifically comes and sits by him.
Last night my son started crying, and told me that Bob had been
''accidentally'' bumping into him and hitting him in the crotch. He
says it's not hard enough to really hurt, but that Bob does it on
purpose, that Bob thinks it's funny, and that it really bothers my
son. I'm pretty sure I actually saw this happen once, after school,
when I was picking my son up from his aftercare program -- so I don't
think my son is making it all up. Apparently, all of this happens at
times when his teacher (very competent) is not around -- the
lunchroom, the playground, waiting in line.
My son does not want to tell his teacher about it (and doesn't want me
to) because he's afraid he'd get Bob in big trouble, and then the rest
of his friends wouldn't like him because he tattled on Bob.
My husband thinks we should just ride out the year (about a month now)
and see what happens next year. But I'm worried about just leaving
it. I've been seeing stress symptoms in my son: headaches,
after-dinner meltdowns, clinginess.
Please have a conference with the teacher and share all the
details you have included here. You say the teacher is very
competent so she/he will know how to assess this and know what to
do. Regardless of the other child's role, you need to make sure
your son learns how to set boundaries and not feel like a victim.
Please HAVE THE PARENTS ADVISED of what ''Bob'' is doing to your
son. Everything sounds like bullying but what is a huge red
flag is the ''crotch'' touching. Don't just stand there, do
nothing, and let your child continue to be abused. STOP
WATCHING AND DO SOMETHING AND SPEAK UP FOR YOUR SON. The parents
of this boy must be made aware of what their son is doing to
your child. Write a detailed letter to the director of your
school with a cc copy to the parents and request a face to face
meeting, if you have to...IMMEDIATELY!!! I'm a mother of three
sons. Please, don't let your child get traumatized. Boys are
rough and so are girls but I don't recall any of my children
ever advising me of a situation as serious as what this
boy ''Bob'' is doing to your son. No, what your husband is
suggesting of ''riding'' it out until the end of the year is NOT
OKAY. That your boy is not eating, not wearing his favorite
shirts and basically LOSING HIS IDENTITY to this ''Bob'' kid are
big indicators that there are serious problems and he's so
young! Unbelievable! Please stand up for your son and speak
up. Yeah, children are mean when adults aren't paying attn and
get away with this stuff...but speak up so that the adults are
aware and perhaps the parents of this ''Bob'' will seek help for
their son. Please stop letting your son be a victim. He'll
resent you one day for not sticking up for him. If he's telling
you all of these details, in his heart he must want you to do
something for him. Don't let this go on any longer...please.
I'm heart broken just thinking about all of the abuse your son
is receiving on a daily basis. Poor thing.
Putting myself in your shoes, I would talk to the teacher, ask
to meet with Bob's parents. What Bob is doing is unacceptable
and most likely your son isn't the only ''victim'' of Bob. By
teaching your son to stand up for himself and not allow Bob to
continue his behanvior will be a life long lesson. Your son
needs to work out the issue with Bob with you at his side. You
wouldn't want him to ride out other conflicts that he will
encounter during his life. So this is a good opportunity to
show him how to resolve conflicts.
If your son's main concern is how he will look amongst
his ''friends'', you should tell him that his friends most likely
have been ''bullied'' by Bob and most likely would like to have
it stopped too. And if his friends stop being his friend for
tattling on Bob, then they are not really friends to have
anyhow. If your son is not being respected by the so-called
friends then it's time to find some who will respect his
feelings and thoughts.
Bullies need to be confronted.
Yes, your son is being bullied. Kids cannot deal with bullying on
their own -- they need adult help. Please read _The Bully, the
Bullied, and the Bystander_ and talk to your son's teacher right
away. Do not let this continue for an entire month!
Bullying can leave lifetime scars. (I know from personal
experience.) Your son needs help now, and he needs to know his
parents will stand behind him and do whatever it takes to relieve
this situation. There have been many studies on the harmful
effects of bullying, and most schools are instituting formal
programs to deal with it. If your school doesn't, you should take
your child out of that school.
Today, I would be far better off if my parents had taken me out
of school and the bullying situation, even if I sat at home all
those years and learned nothing. Please tell the teachers now and
make sure they take action, even if your son is so terrified of
''Bob'' that he is unwilling to ask for help. This really matters,
and will make a difference in the rest of your son's life.
I really feel for your son. I was bullied in middle school, and
it scarred me deeply, and I still after all these years
fantasize what would have happened if I just fought back. My
parents sent me to Karate, but it never really helped, I felt
that if I actually used it I would get punished.
I never got the support, well, the words I wanted to hear from
my parents. I wanted to hear: ''Go get 'em son. Don't take that
guff from them. Fight back.'' I tried everything else, talking
it out, ignoring it, talking to teachers. But I never fought
back. I became a magnet for bullying.
I think you should pursue all avenues before telling your son
to defend himself, but if after trying everything else, your
son should warn his nemesis, and if it continues, fight back.
Fight back hard. This kid is NOT your son's friend. Bullies
usually give up when their target refuses to take it anymore.
Your son might get more hurt if he fights back. But if he
learns to take it and suffer through it, he will not only be
hurt physically, it will scar him emotionally for a long, long
I turned out pretty much OK, I have a great family, job, etc
etc. But when I see a kid getting bullied, even if it's on a TV
show or movie, it really hurts. I feel it all over again, and
it makes me sick.
Wishing I had fought back
To me that sounds like pretty clear bullying. I'm not an expert
on this age group, since my only son is younger, but it sounds to
me as if your son needs your help. Second graders are still
awfully young and impressionable, and they don't have the life
skills to be able to handle something like this on their own. I
was a shy, sensitive girl who came in for a lot of this kind of
garbage, and I would advise you to intervene quickly before your
son internalizes a negative view of himself. It's so easy to
believe the bullier and think that the problem is that there's
something wrong with you.
I can understand your son not wanting to be seen by his friends
as a tattletale -- I felt the same way -- so you'll need to
navigate this carefully to be sensitive of those feelings. A
reasonable first step is probably to talk to the teacher and ask
if she can keep her eyes open for these kinds of problem
behaviors, letting her know that your son doesn't want to be seen
as a tattletale. As for your husband's idea of letting things
blow over since there's just a month of school left, to me that
makes sense only if Bob is not going to be in the class again
I respectfully disagree with your husband that you should ''ride
it out.'' Doing so just confirms that what Bob is doing is okay.
It's not. If it were me I'd tell my son that while I respected
his wishes, the teacher needed to be told because what Bob is
doing is absolutely not okay, and against the rules of the
school. Bob should not be allowed to get away with bullying.
This is especially true for the physical abuse, which Bob is
inflicting on your son. For the verbal abuse, I'd also help
coach my son on what to say. I find that sometimes acting out a
situation in advance helps kids to feel more powerful. Even if a
kid isn't bullied, someone is going to say something mean, or
insensitive to him or her. My son also had the lunch issue -
kids would say, ''what are you eating, it looks like dirt!'' We
talked it over and came up with the idea that we would make it
sound as gross as possible, ''Actually it is dirt. And mold.''
My son's ability to turn the situation around and not get bugged
seemed to stop the comments. This is a process though, and
something to work on. For the immediate time being, you need to
absolutely stop the physical abuse.
Fed up with bullies
''Possible'' bullying? This is bullying and not acceptable.
Call ''Bob's'' mom ASAP. Get the teacher, teacher's aid,
playground teacher, and any relevant parents involved to stop
this. It's not that all the adults and kids will talk about it
together, but the adults around should be on alert and confront
Bob when they see things happening. The teacher can also talk
to Bob privately about it - then it's between just them. You
are his advocate and these are the ways I've dealt with this
problem in the past with a bully in my daughter's class. BTW,
it didn't get better by itself, it got worse, and with adults
involved, they missed 70% of the behaviors and it was an all-
school-year effort. One excellent effect of it was that the
bully's mother (a really nice person) would hear it immediately
from the parents of kids being bullied. It became talked about
in class in general, then any kids doing these things were
called on it. (Unfortunately, the kids themselves would never
stand up for each other even if they hated the bully!) Good
I can assure you that the behavior you describe is bullying. I
don't agree with your husband that waiting out the year without
saying something is the best approach. Your son's worry that
he will be viewed as a snitch is a typical worry, but I'll bet
there will be other children who will be very relieved that
Bob's bullying will be addressed. Some children may identifiy
with the aggressor or find watching the bullying behavior
exciting, but it's more likely that many of them are feeling
uncomfortable, unsafe, guilty and anxious that this cruel
behavior goes unchecked.
In this situation, your son is suffering with no protection at
school. If the adminstration (teacher and principal) are made
aware of this situation and take effective action, you will be
helping your son as well as this child's other present and
future victims. It is possible that some type of intervention
could also be of help to the bully himself, as he may be being
victimized outside of the school setting or have some
emotional/psychiatric problems which are going unaddressed.
Another point is that your son needs to know that you and his
father will try to protect him. He's only in second grade. Of
course you don't want to make a federal case out of every
hangnail, but he is not able to handle this effectively on his
own and you also don't want him to learn the lesson that he
shouldn't ask for help or that asking for help doesn't help.
Children generalize and they won't always generalize in the
ways that make sense to adults.
The fact that your son is sensitive and cries easily may have
made him an appealing target for the bully in this situation
b/c it helps the bully feel powerful and effective, but it
doesn't change the fact that your son legitimately needs
assistance from the adults in this situation. It doesn't make
the other child's behavior less bully-like. Best of luck to you
and your family in resolving this unpleasant situation.
I'd say yes your son is being bullied, and no it is not OK. It is a part of childhood,
but it is your job to support your kid and give him skills to deal with it.
The first thing you should do is tell the teacher. Also explain that your son is
scared because he feels there will be reprocusions for telling. I also think while you
are telling the teacher that you request your son isn't in the same class with this
child next year. Even if you don't tell the teacher about the bullying (but I hope you
do,) request a different class than this child. Teachers deal with this stuff all the
time, they know what they are doing.
The power the bully has is that he gets away with it. I think your son's friends would
be happy if the bully would stop too, but are also scared that they will be the next
target. There are a bunch of books on Amazon about bullying. You can roll play
with your child different tactics, and these skills will help your child the rest of his
life. It will give him self confidence too. Telling isn't the only option. He can make
it into a joke. He can yell ''stop bumping into my crotch, ASSHOLE!'' Sorry, at this
age I would use the swear word, but you get my drift. He can walk away. He can
say ''That's mean'' or ''I like eating seaweed, what do you have in your lunch?'' or
''You are a bully''. Explain to your kid also that no one gets to touch his private parts
but him, a doctor with your consent or a parent with his consent.
A really good book for girl bullying (it's a picture book for kids) is Secret Bully.
Although I have both a boy and a girl, my son hasn't needed this coaching yet. Most
kids need the coaching. He is a good kid even if he is sensitive. Please don't let
your child feel like he is a victum. The bullying gets much worse in the older
grades. Personally I would want to know if my kid was bullying another kid, but
from my obervations, most parents don't want to hear it. I guess I'm rather
passionate about this.
Hope this helps even a little
I was so bothered by your post I had to respond. First of all,
I am a first grade teacher, and your son is DEFINITELY BEING
BULLIED!!! It is not okay. ''Bob'' is manipulative and cruel.
Your son is seeking his attention and approval, and Bob knows
this. It is amazing what kids this age are capable of. I am
not saying that Bob is necessarily all bad, but he is bad for
your son. I have a similar dynamic in my current class:
the ''cool'' kid that many want to be around, but is a very bad
influence on others. You must notify the school. There are
ways the teachers can help change the tone of the class without
picking out certain indivuals, but we don't always know all the
details. The bigger problem is that there will always
be ''Bob's'' in life. You must work on your son and his self
esteem. Teach him how to use his words - loudly if necessary.
Find something he enjoys or excels in and foster it. Physical
activities really are good for kids - karate, swimming, soccer,
etc. Or music, dance, whatever. Try your best to surround him
with good influences. Unfortunately, kids do get meaner as
they get older, (of course not all kids, not even most!) and
he needs to be prepared to deal with it. He also needs to
learn to choose good, real, true friends. My heart goes out to
you. Good luck!
You should talk to the teacher, discreetly, and express your
fear of retaliation towards your son. The competent teacher has
ways of dealing with this without saying ''Bob, So and So's
tattled on you to his mom and dad and me and now you are in
trouble.'' The school lunch supervisors can be told to be more
attentive to this kid and act when he does something again.
Maybe for summer you should line up some activities with nice
kids and no Bob?
I am a second grade teacher. You should definitely tell the
teacher. As a competent teacher she will try to take care of
it. Things like this don't get resolved by just ignoring it
because the bully will just keep picking on him. When I am told
of a specific problem I deal with it and it usually gets
resolved. The bully will hopefully feel bad because his teacher
knows what he is doing. In second grade the kids usually don't
want to look bad to the teacher and will probably stop doing
it. The teacher wants and needs to know. If the other friends
are good kids they will probably be relieved that this
situation is over because it makes them uncomfortable too. One
never knows who will be the next one to be bullied. Next time,
tell the teacher sooner. If it doesn't get resolved ASAP tell
the teacher again. Sometimes we teachers need to hear about it
a second time too!
I am very sorry for your son. Please do not let this slide even
though there is only one month of school left. Your son needs
to know that his school is a safe place to be and that means
action. He is reacting the way that many bullied children
do--they often believe it is their fault when it is not.
Explain to your son that you have to take action--if not just for
him but for others in his classroom. If the boy who is being
mean sees he can get away with it, then he will be mean to other
kids and not just your son.
Practice scenarios with your son to help him respond t bullying.
He can say ''Stop that! I don't like it,'' or whatever will work
for him, including walking away. My son ended up using humor
because that worked with his personality and the bullying stopped
that year. There are loads of websites that give suggestions.
Meet with his teacher and document what was said and what the
next steps are. The way my son's teacher handled it was to talk
about bullying generally as a first step without naming names.
That helped enormously.
Please do not let the teacher have the two boys meet to ''talk it
out''. Studies show that bully/victim meetings are not effective.
The power is all one-sided.
No more bullying
Regarding your post about possible bullying, please contact the
teacher immediately. These things must be stopped as soon as
they appear. Tell your son that any kind of hitting or teasing
is not allowed and if Bob won't stop when asked, then the adults
must intervene. Your son must tell the teacher whenever it
happens as it is not allowed at school at all. Yes Bob needs to
be ''told on'' and ''in trouble'' as he is doing something wrong.
I recently went through this with a younger boy. He was not
telling the teacher when hit or kicked by another child. Every
time it happened I talked to the teacher and finally requested a
plan for how the school would stop the bullying. You need to
bring it to the teacher's attention until the school deals with
I also attended a ''KidPower'' workshop with my son and we liked
it very much. It was very helpful with providing assertive
techniques for young children to deal with bullying.
Don't sit back and let this happen - contact the school
immediately. Bullying is not OK - and it is not OK for your son
to be feeling bad about himself.
Wish there were no bullies....
I think, you know the answer.
Trust your instincts, yes; your son is being bullied.
ItC",b"s not ok to tell a child that his lunch or clothes choices
are yucky. ItC",b"s not ok for your son to go through school like
DonC",b"t give a chance for this 2nd grader ''Bob'' to become a thug
in 5th grade. Talk to the teacher as soon as possible, if there
is something your teacher can do, now is the time while the
boys are still small!!!
You need to teach your son to recognize this behavior as
unacceptable in school or playground, and itC",b"s really both his
and your responsibility to report this to teacher and BobC",b"s
After all, you want to have a smart confident and assertive
I have been in your shoes and urge you to act on this right
away. I would go immediately to the teacher and tell her that
your son is very stressed out about this and is showing it
physically. I would expect the teacher to have a plan and I
would also urge you to call Bob's parents. Some people may say
not to but in my case, it was the right thing to do. It didn't
really stop the offending kid's behavior but it put the parents
on alert and it also was the only way they found out what was
happening -- the school never involved them otherwise. I would
spend some time at school if you can observing the interactions
on the playground, classroom, etc. I would also keep a dialog
going with your kid about it and teach him to tell on Bob when
Bob does this stuff. Explain the difference between tattling
and speaking up for yourself. Don't just ''ride out'' the year--
Bob needs to be talked to to put an end to the bullying
behavior--it's not helpful to either your son or Bob if it just
gets ignored by the school and you. I also think telling your
son that you talked to the teacher is important...let him know
you are standing up for him. Good luck.
I think that what is important is the effect the bullying has
on the child -- ie it doesn't matter whether what the other
kids are doing to your child is defined as bullying or as
normal. If it is seriously affecting your child, you need to
get your child out of there.
A number of other respondents said that one should go to the
director of the school if the teacher isn't responding. That is
true, but in our experience, it doesn't really matter what the
administration says about bullying when they talk to parents.
In the end it's all up to the individual teacher to create a
culture in the classroom.
My son was bullied quite badly during his kindergarten year at
Park Day School in Oakland (bitten while standing in line at
the water fountain, kicked while waiting in line to go into
class, etc). When I asked his teacher about what was going on,
his teacher told me, ''This is kindergarten. This is first
grade.'' She did not expect anything different. The
administration was much more optimistic, but they did not act.
I noticed that another poster mentioned that their child was
bullied during his kindergarten year at Park Day, and that they
left the school, as we also did. My only regret is that we did
not leave immediately. All a child needs at that age is to be
safe. Forget the hopes and dreams you brought to the school,
and place your kid somewhere where he feels safe.
My 7 year old son plays outside in the neighborhood with 3 other
boys aged 5, 6, and 11. He recently told me the 4 of them
planned to ring the doorbell and then run away at the house of a
neighbor. My son backed out of doing this prank at the last
minute so the 10 year old held his arms up and told the 5 & 6
year olds to hit him in the stomach, which they did repeatedly.
After this my son kept playing with the boys and then later
blamed the episode on the younger kids saying that the 11 year
old (whom he worships) was 'just joking' and didn't mean to hurt
him. The 11 year old has had some behavior problems at school
and his parents are in denial/ ineffective disciplinarians. The
parents of the other boys are much more 'hands off' than I am
and let their kids roam unsupervised.
I am not sure what to do about this situation. My son always
wants to play outside with the other boys and idolizes the 11
year old. I spoke privately to both the 11 year old and the 6
year old about their bullying behavior but have not told their
parents mostly because they would become upset with me and then
nothing would really change. I did tell the older boy that I'd
tell his father if it happened again. When the kids play near me
I am constantly intervening and stopping behaviors such as
poking each other with long sticks, teasing, destroying toys,
and other aggressive play. Of course this just drives the group
into someone else's yard. It is hard to set limits for my
child on where he can go since the other boys are free to roam
where they please. I've praised my son for paying attention to
how comfortable he feels doing something and told him that he
should leave if the boys are doing something he is not
comfortable with. He is very peer oriented (not very
independent) and I know this will be very hard for him. I also
signed us up for a Kidpower class. I'd like my son to
understand that the boy he is idolizing is manipulating him and
creating competition/exclusion in the group by playing him off
against the other boys. We've talked about the dynamic but
playing with this older boy is just so exciting for my son that
he doesn't care. So now do I just let my son get beat up and
figure this out for himself? Is my talking to the kids and then
not going to their parents sending a wierd message to the boys?
Any advice on how to handle this?
thanks for your opinion
I'm so glad you had the insight to seek advice on this issue.
Take your son completely out of this situation. He is too
young to manage it on his own. This older child is a terrible,
abusive influence. Do not let your son play with the kids in
the interest of ''working it out'' or ''learning from
experience.'' He clearly needs more guidance and doesn't have
the emotional maturity to separate from this situation on his
own. That's where you come in. He needs protection. And the
older boy's parents should be notified. Their son is an
agressive, abusive bully who's behavior should not go
unchecked. And those little guys shouldn't be allowed to play
with him either. But ultimately of course your main concern is
your son's well-being. This may be hard on everyone at first
and will require intervention: an after-school activity, a new
sport, but something needs to take your son out of this
situation before it escalates, before he gets hurt or starts
modeling hurtful behavior. Do it right away.
Will not get better on its own
Just let them play. You are totally over-parenting not
only your child, but the others as well. Why is''roaming as they
please'' a bad thing? It doesn't really sound like the ''hitting in
the stomach'' was actually hitting in the stomach. If it was, he
probably would have run home crying. Did you check for red marks
or bruises? Kids play like this alot. Boy energy is at times
aggressive. No one deserves to be bullied, but labeling kids is
dangerous. (Labeling parents too.)
Please tell the parents of the boys what their children are
doing. Yes, you are sending the boys a mixed message by
sayinga and doing two different things. If you want your son
to step up to the plate and behave like a man, you need to step
up to the plate and act like an empowered woman and SPEAK UP
and tell the parents of these boys what their kids are doing.
If they do something and implicate your child, you will be
legally responsible for their actions. Please don't do this to
your son or to yourself. And, no, IT'S NOT OKAY FOR YOUR CHILD
TO GET BEAT UP BY THESE monsters. If he still chooses to hang
out with them, then it's out of your control and he'll face the
consequences, but, please, tell the parents. They need to
know!! Do something.
mom of boys
I don't care what the other parents do, those
children should be supervised while playing outside, especially
if you have one child with behavioral concerns. Also, don't let
those children beat up on your child. As a parent you are there
to protect your child; fending for himself will come later when
you have less control over his activities.
Boys are weird, aren't they? Have you read 'Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha
Ha?'' I definitely think you're on the right track, teaching your
son to remember to be responsible for his OWN actions, whatever
other people are doing. Personally, I think you've potentially
got a great opportunity because you have a neighborhood, and
you're there and recognizing what's going on. Banning the bully
will just make him more attractive. My daughter also commented
on how much more exciting it was hanging out with a dysfunctional
nasty group of girls than one where they were always nice to each
other. She called the nice girls ''boring''. It's worth
remembering that bullying is also usually at least as damaging to
the kids that do it as to the ones it's done to. Bullies are
almost always bigger than the kids they torment. They often have
no idea how to read expressions of others properly, so they don't
respond to signs of distress. And if no-one teaches them they
won't learn. You could set up attractive activities to keep them
busy in your territory (eg wooden construction, plant a garden,
games, baking, take them places etc) and give them the
supervision you mentioned (the supervision their parents aren't
giving them). Running around with sticks isn't always bad - only
when someone is getting hurt. You being there gives your son and
the others lots of opportunities to know what's right and wrong.
Give them chances to see how cooperation and communication are
helpful and dissension and competition isn't. Point it out when
they do cooperate, point out when they're helping one another,
point out how that's what a big guy does. If possible, get an
adult big guy to set an example. Or if that doesn't work, you can
find an activity (a sport, music lessons, playdates etc) that
takes your son away from home at the key times.
People surprise me all the time by reacting better than I expect.
You might be right that the 11yo's parents won't do anything
about the problem, but it's not fair that you don't even give
them the opportunity to know or address this issue in their
family. You also don't know what's going on inside of them when
they seem to be in denial with you. Maybe they're
embarrassed/defensive, but it bothers them, and finding out their
son restrained your child and encouraged others to pummel him
would be just the thing that makes them finally do something.
Next, no. Don't let kids beat on your son. He's 7. He may not be
able to fully grasp that he's being manipulated. He may be angry
with you for taking away his hero, but he really should be
playing with his peers. 11 and 7 are vastly different, especially
if the 11yo pulls power trips, gets kids into mischief they
wouldn't otherwise get into, and importantly, is violent with
them. I would not let the 11yo play with my child again.
Many people say ''boys will be boys''. I say it's time to stop
colluding with minor acts of violence, thus saying they're okay.
It's time to set limits. Stop worrying about neighbors being
upset with you and instead, protect your kid; that's your job.
I am familiar with your plight. It is an awkward situation. I
noticed another post about neighbor kids with constant head
lice and a few responses about parents banishing those kids
from contact with their kids. Along the same lines I have heard
that your children's peers are more critical to their
developement than their home environments and families. If that
is so you need to decide whether the neighbor boy is the best
influence on your son. We have been through a few similar
events with our daughter. The first time we waited for her to
figure out her new friend wasn't the best choice. It was a
painful year of watching cautiously from the sidelines.
Eventually she figured it out and moved on to better choices.
More recently a much worse child pulled her into a tractor beam
and the intense manipulative pressure caused several kids to be
endangered as the result of our daughter being pressured to do
things completely out of charactor for her. This time I just
told her she could no longer have contact with this child that
caused her to do things that endangered herself and others.
Your situation is tough because you live so close and there
aren't nearby options. I suggest finding a club or activity
away from the neighborhood so your son has other things to do
alot of the time and thus his time with neighborhood kids is
reduced. I think you need to separate the two for now. Doesn't
sound like the healthiest combination with the age differences.
Of all of the many factors involved in choosing a kindergarten
for my daughter, one of the most surprising to me is the fact
that parents complain about teasing, bullying, mean girls, etc.
far more often at private schools than at public (on websites,
etc.), especially at these wonderfully progressive small schools
than speak to respect for all, etc.! Is it just that
a school's small size makes it a bit intense, especially for girls?
As a product of large public schools myself, I am attracted to
the small class sizes of private schools, etc., but wonder if the
negatives of being stuck in the same class with the same mean
girls for 6 years outweighs the benefits. Obviously, teasing and
great educational opportunities occur in both public and private
settings, and I would just love to hear your experiences with
this issue, public or private.
In response to yr question about private vs. public mean
girls: I respectfully disagree that this happens more in
private than in public schools. It happens in both. It
depends on the private school you select and how they answer
the questions you ask about how they deal with this issue. We
found the public school (5 years ago) had a difficult time
dealing with social issues at all and the private school, being
a self-selecting community, was much easier. The private
school itself is out of the loop concerning this epidemic but
the parents seem to be on top if it and willing to work on the
issue as best they can; the public school parents were in
denial -- girls will be girls. A lot is dependent on the
classroom teacher and their own skill in dealing with social
issues. I encourage you to ask the questions at ANY school in
which you are interested. Good luck.
You hit it! We have had three girls go through kindergarten, and two went
school (a very NICE private school, one that embraces everyone, talks a lot
community, and so on). Our experience is that the kids are, in general, a
in public schools. Although our private school classrooms were very small,
were also very limiting, not very many friends to chose from, and little
teachers to address early on the bullying or just mean behavior of kids.
After our third daughter went through kindergarten, we switched to public
been thrilled! Kindness and inclusion are discussed daily (not just when a
arises), and the kids really are part of a community of caring and
There is also huge diversity in public, and my girls are learning to accept
all kinds of people.
If I could do it over again, I would never choose private over public.
would choose public, and if any problems arose or if it was not a good fit,
then switch to private. I feel that I did my girls a huge
socially, and morally--by sending them to a rich private school that in the
a huge disappointment.
Happy public school family!
I can't speak to ''mean girls'' in public school. My fourth grade daughter
in El Cerrito. There are approximately 24 girls in each
has been some turnover each year - natural attrition and the like do to job
etc - so there has been fresh faces to add to the mix each year. Also, in
6th grade a
whole additional class is added in. This allows for choices of friends.
Regarding the social mix - Prospect Sierra places a big emphasis on social
kindness, respect, compassion, problem solving, open-mindedness and
community. The teachers and staff have always been willing and able to get
on an individual, grade or school level to work on any issues that may come
have found the parent body to be interested, active and involved in the
dynamic - all in a good way. The kids learn methods of problem solving and
interaction. It is even woven into the academic part of the curriculum.
fourth graders, for example, will read the writing of younger kids and give
and suggestions on their work - learning to give positive examples and
So...our experience has not been one of ''mean girls'' at all. It is not to
say that social
issues, typical for the age, have not arisen. It just doesn't seem out of
and, in fact, there are the resources and willingness on part of the larger
community to work with the kids about positive social interaction. Public
likely to have a broader range of kids and different types of issues but I
hesitant to say that one, public or private, is likely to vary that much.
4th grade mom
There's more choice of kids in public schools, which generally we have found
to be a
good thing, and because there is more than 1 class, the kids are mixed up
year. So you aren't stuck in your place in the totem pole. We went to an
preschool & Oakland hills public school. We found overall the kids in the
we went to were nicer. Maybe because their parents were relaxed enough to
them to public school. But on the other hand, if there is a problem with a
kid in public
school, the kid is staying at the school. Private schools probably have a
of behavior issues.
It's possible that because parents pay (and donate) large sums
of money to their childrens' private school, the teachers
and/or administrators at private schools feel less comfortable
dealing with teasing, bullying and mean girls (for fear of
alienating the aggressors' parents). Our child is in
kindergarten at a public school and the one bullying incident
we're aware of resulted in a call from the principal, a
conference with the parents, and a puppet show on the general
issue in the class. In other words, it's just not tolerated
(and we are VERY pleased). Bullying and teasing are real
problems and awful for children, so I encourage you to make
sure the school you choose takes it seriously.
happy kid, happy momma
We left a private school in Oakland for precisely the
reason you speak of: there were five kids who had been allowed
to tease and bully my child all year, and with only 30 kids in
the grade there was no way one could get away from them even
with new classroom placements the following year. We had
friends at a large private school that has four grades per
class, and their child, who had been badly teased, was able to
be placed for the next school year in a different class than
all the kids who were bothering him. We heard that the problem
was essentially resolved in this manner. In that sense, bigger
is better, though the schools in question were both private.
I heard from many friends with kids in public school (in
North Berkeley and Piedmont) that the physical bullying that
was tolerated in my child's progressive private school would
never have been allowed to continue in their schools; letters
would be sent home, the principal would be meeting with
families, etc. We were at a progressive private school that
has received a lot of attention for its program of peace and
mindfulness in the classroom. The teacher who runs that program
is amazing, but the kids were unbelievably cruel. While I think
public schools often feel more accountable in terms of
bullying, and are more ready to use traditional techniques to
curb it, it's not really a question of private versus public;
it's more whether the individual school responds swiftly and
effectively to incidents that come to their attention.
As the mother of an 8 year old girl, whether you choose public
or private, make sure there are at least two classes per grade,
and that several classes and grades are together at recess and
lunch. That way the kids have more kids to choose to play with
when the drama gets too intense (which it will, especially for
girls). Also, try to find non-school friends for your child
through outside sports and classes.
-- public school mom
I have kids at
St. Paul's Episcopal School
in Oakland. There
are two sections of each grade, each with small class sizes.
Each year the students are ''shuffled'' so that the constituency
of each class is different from year to year. You are
never ''stuck'' in the same class with the same kids. My kids
have made new friends from year to year, or become better
friends with kids they haven't had in the same class recently.
In addition, there is a new group of students that are admitted
in the 6th grade that infuses the middle school with new energy
and that has been a tremendous experience for my new 6th grader.
The school has a very strict policy against bullying or teasing
of any kind. Students often work together in groups on
different projects and the teachers are in tentional in mixing
up students over time (eg in seating arrangements) and in
projects to achieve a cohesive student body in each class.
They have to rely on each other to get performances and
projects done so they are more focused on getting along than
their differences. I can see from my kids that they appreciate
the strengths that each student brings to the class and
appreciate them. I encourage you to explore St. Paul's where
respect and citizenship guides everyone, in addition to its
excellent academics, spirituality and nationally recognized
service learning program.
All schools, public and private, will have kids that tease and
bully, or at least try to. That's normal behavior for kids to
experiment with at that age. So no school is going to be
completely free of it. Anyone who tells you something different
hasn't got their eyes and ears open. What you want to look for
is a school that not only talks about their policies regarding
negative behavior, but really acts on them as well.
When you're touring the schools, ask what kind of training the
staff and volunteers have had regarding intervention. Ask
exactly how the children are taught to care for each other. Ask
for specific examples of real incidents and how they were dealt
with at the time. Speak directly with the principal/director.
Spend time watching the kids on the playgrounds.
As a parent of a boy in a small Berkeley public school, I can
tell you that when an incident occurs, it's dealt with as
instantly as is possible. Messages come home from the principal
and the teachers, the offending child/ren write apology notes,
it's discussed [in general terms, so as to better work on
solutions] at the weekly community meeting, in the newsletter and
in the PTA meetings... things are taken very seriously. It
does seem to help that the school is small, as most of the kids
and families know each other. [just last community meeting, in fact,
four 5th graders were called up and applauded by the whole school
because they stood up for a classmate who was being teased.]
From my perspective as a parent who is frequently at the school,
that kind of attitude sends a very important message to kids and
families - that not only is negative behavior not going to be
tolerated, it's also totally uncool.
Well, the mean girls show up in public school too -- my son had a LOT of
kindergarten with a specific set of girls making fun of his handwriting and
(to the point that he told me ''Mom, everyone at this school thinks I am
sometimes I do too''). However, in first and second grade this was never a
I think there were two factors involved -- one was the specific combination
Since this public school has 60 kids in each grade getting rotated
between three teachers per grade, this particular combo has not occurred
Second, and I believe more important, is to what degree the teacher is on
classroom dynamics, and willing to step in before there's a big problem.
kindergarten teacher wasn't; the other teachers have been.
Based on my experience thus far, the most important factor in a small
experience is the specific teacher-kid-class interaction. More important
public/private, school API, curriculum, whatever. My biggest problem with
smaller private schools is that you only have one teacher per grade. If
doesn't work for your kid, there isn't much you can do at that point.
My 6-year old son was bullied at a private school in North
Oakland throughout his kindergarten year. He was kicked, hit
and bitten, but what I think is even more damaging is that
there was a group of kids in his class that said incredibly
mean things in order to exclude him. We are switching schools,
but what I'm worried about is that he has really lost his trust
and confidence in new social situations. Since the end of
school, there's been a pretty miraculous change in his mood and
he's begun to recover his old optimism, excitement and
confidence, but I've noticed that in new social situations the
wounds are really apparent. He no longer has his old confidence
and friendliness, and sometimes he withdraws or puts up his
defenses because he no longer assumes good intentions when kids
Has anyone else had experience in helping a kid recover from
bullying? What was best to help them recover confidence in the
world and in their physical environment? Are there certain
kinds of activities that help? What could help a child who has
been through this as they go through a transition to a new
school? I'd be grateful for any advice.
I'm so sorry to hear that your son suffered so much. Let me
tell you what happened when our son experienced bullying at a
summer camp. My son is not a typical victim, proof that
bullying can happen to anyone. The minute he got off the bus
from camp, I could tell something was terribly wrong. No one
talked to him. He didn't smile. In the car he broke down and
cried. I was heartbroken. I know, it really hurts when your
child is hurt.
What did we do? Over the course of a YEAR, we talked about it
once in a while. We talked about bullying in general, sometimes
in particular. It was a great lesson in the sense that it made
him appreciate how damaging bullying can be. He didn't want to
go back to the camp. At all.
However, at the end of June, he started to say he wanted to go
to the SAME camp. When I asked him why: he said he wanted to
try it again. Face his fears. You see, we had talked so much
about things to do, say, ways to get help, etc., that although
it took a year, he was finally ready to try again.
It may be a little too soon for your son. I definitely
encourage you to keep on talking about it. Keep it low key but
don't forget about it. You have all summer - take his pulse
every so often and when school starts, maybe he'll have learned
and thought enough about it to be less fearful - altho' again,
as I said, it might be too soon (what's summer break 2 months?)
so keep a close watch at school - maybe even see if you can
take off time when school starts so you can be readily
available, like be a room mother for the first week, something
like that. Good luck@!
I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to your son. I was
bullied as a child, and I'm sorry to say that I never
recovered. I still have periods of intense self-doubt that can
be triggered by various events. However, my parents denied the
bullying and refused to take me out of school. So you are
already doing something right by removing your son from the
I would definitely promise him that in the future you will
immediately remove him from school or any situation where there
is bullying. For me, the worst horror was that there was no
escape. Let him know you love him, and especially, that you
agree that bullying is bad and that you will protect him. He
needs to know you are on his side. If he has that, he will be
able to weather this situation and grow stronger again.
Research I have read shows that children this young cannot
resolve bullying on their own -- adult intervention is needed.
Please don't tell him he needs to ''toughen up'' or ''get used to
Confront the parents of the bullies and the teachers. Your
child has a right to a nurturing environment to grow up in.
Homeschool if necessary.
We had a similar situation in the public school only it lasted
more than one year--he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress
disorder as a result. He has worked with a therapist at west
coast children in El Cerrito for several years and also with a
great but pricey specialist, Dr. Joan Lovett in Berkeley who did
EMDR--a cognitive therapy with him with AMAZING results. I
strongly suggest getting your child help immediately --good luck
I'm sorry! Same thing for my son. Advice...(1) mention the history to
teacher and ask her to help your son make friends, (2) keep in touch with
teacher--it is okay to give the teacher information she may not have, like
if there is
bullying (3) if possible, classes (or perhaps church or temple). I've
found the college
students who teach swimming are positive, for example. (4) if you have
friends or know some children who are nice, see if you can have them over.
general thing is, have fun stuff to look forward to and where he can
until it smooths out at school. (5) Let him move on and forget about it
if he wants,
or talk about it if he wants. Now that we are past it, my son is much
independent and is happy to ignore kids who act mean.
My 2nd grader son has always been a borderline ''highly sensitive
child''. He is highly self-critical, gets frustrated easily,
almost always howls with pain over the slightest scratch.
Increasingly he's been telling me of how his best friend since
infancy has been ganging up with other pals in his group against
him, name calling and provoking my son until he cries or screams
in fury and then laughing at him.
I've witnessed a few incidents, and it is disturbing.
It's especially troubling since this behavior is frighteningly
similar to my own playground experiences. I therefore know that
the only advice my parents ever gave me - ''Just ignore them'' is
near impossible. I know adults who have trouble ''just ignoring''
comments from peers, so what chance does a child have? It's a
very difficult thing to learn, and it doesn't happen overnight.
Their behavior also clearly classifies as bullying.
So, a few questions:
1) Where does one start in getting these kids to recognize their
behavior and stop it? I do like the kids, and have good
relationsips with the parents, which makes it harder to tell them
something troubling about their children.
2) How can I help my son? One has to ''toughen up'' to cope in life
in general, but I don't want him to think he's wrong in his
feelings of frustration, sadness, disappointment that his best
friend would do this to him. What's a realistic ''tool'' he can
learn easily to help him cope, to help him learn to ignore
3) Does a group of friends always have to follow a certain
dynamic? Do kids naturally look for the weak one to victimize,
belittle, make themselves feel superior? Is this just human
nature and the way kids work things out? Is there always the
alpha dog looking to stay on top?
Any advice, books, articles, sources greatly appreciated
It's pretty obvious that the bullies have learned that they can make
your son cry. To immature children this may seem like a game almost-
getting your son to break down. I would advise you to talk to your son
and see if he can understand that the kids are actually trying to get
him to cry.What they say to acheive this is not the truth. If all else
fails, talk to the parents discreetly. Then, they can work on changing
the behaviors of their children. This will usually work.......
Redwood City mom
My heart goes out to you it is a tough situation. But it can be
resolved in a way that helps everyone.
1. Read the book 'The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander by
Barbara Coloroso. This book is wonderful at addressing
complicated issues. Not to mention both sides of the bully coin.
(For girl bullying it would be The Odd Girl Out Book.)
2. Make an appointment with the school principal. They should have a
school policy that addresses what bullying is and what steps are taken
when it happens. There should be a solution for this problem. (They
should contact the parents of the children who are bullying once it is
observed. That way the parents can help and are made aware of the
situation. Their child will have consequences if it continues, from the
classroom to the
We chose not to go directly to the parents as we thought that was best
handled through the school. We also set up a lot of play dates for our
child with different kids so that he was not isolated by the bully.
Talk to your son about how he feels. What words or behavior he can use
when it happens. And to go to an adult. It is never ok to be bullied. (I
would keep my past stuff out of it as it may be too much for him and
colors the issue. )
Talk to the teacher every day to see how it goes. Tell him/her any of
your concerns, feedback from your child. But take it to the top. Make
sure the yard duty knows of the situation. Do a drive by to monitor the
recess yourself. Report any concerns back to the principal and the
teacher. Stay involved and proactive. I would also add that its good not
to let your child hear too mcuh about how you feel about it. (Talking to
friends on the phone, etc).
We just keep talking about everything including how the kids 'play'
Don't accept Bullying
Fortunately, society is coming around to seeing what bullying really is
- not a ''rite of passage'', but a negative behavior, like physical
hitting. You did not say whether this was happening in school, but your
best chance of changing the situation would be through the school, which
should and probably does have a policy on bullying (many have no
tolerance policies). The other advantage of the school is that many
people can be pulled in and the parents of the bully cannot ignore the
situation. If this is happening in the neighborhood, maybe if you can
discretely videotape a situation and show it to the parents involved.
It would be hard to ignore an outright bullying situation, but they may
blame it on someone elses kid. Do you know who the ringleader is? That
may be the best place to start.
It is hard to sit by, but it's also hard to know when to let them learn
In 3rd grade, my son's friends suddenly seemed to play very rough and
nasty. Lots of insulting each other, and my son is (of course)
sensitive, and had a hard time. I really had to coach him in how to
deal. He and I did a lot of role-playing, where I would say, ''Okay now,
I'm ''BOB'', and I just said you're a stupid dork!!! Then he would say,
''Oh Bob, you're NOT a stupid dork, don't be so hard on yourself!'', or
''Oh Bob, I love you too'', or something non-escalating. It seemed to
work a bit. MC
I am so sorry to hear you son is being bullied. My daughter went thru
the same experience at the same age - she was also a perfect target
because she was smart enough to know she was being teased and the
bullies could count on her breaking down.
One thing that helped her very much was a social skills group where she
could learn to pick people who would not make her feel bad about herself
and practice skills like humor, which can defuse bullying. But having
said that, I feel very strongly it is the school's responsibility to
stop the bullying - whether is is by providing more supervision,
including supervised activiites at recess, calling the parents of the
bullies, or enacting consequences for observers - some (but not all
bullying) is performed for an audience and if there is no audience the
motivation for bullying is not there.
The school can also attempt to provide an atmosphere in which caring
behavior is modeled by adults and rewarded publically for children. In
this culture we don't condone adults behaving this way toward each other
so it should be equally unacceptable for children to be bullied
Kidpower! You and your son will learn a lot from enrolling in one of
We went many years ago, and the things that really helped my sensitive
son when out on the untamed playground during lunch and recess:
1. Move away from those who are bothering you.
2. If that is not effective, in a loud firm voice say Stop it or Leave
me alone, or some such thing. My son and I roleplayed this, and he
needed coaching on saying it loudly enough. I saw him use this skill
one time, first mumbling ''stop it'' with no effect, then saying it
loudly and his classmate that was pestering him, did move away.
3. Get help from an adult.
I like these guidelines because it gives the young child concrete things
to do, and recognizes that they may need assistance j
This would not be tolerated at my son's school, not even for a minute.
Talk to the teacher, and if that doesn't work, move up the chain of
command. It is NOT acceptable.
Amazingly, just yesterday, my 2nd grade son told me about some boys
bullying his best friend all recess long. Sputtering mad, I am trying to
figure out how to effectively wise them up.
I got sucked into doing mean things with a gang of girls when I was in
grade school. Fortunately, the victim cried and told me how hurt she was
so I could know how she felt and not only stop, but I became something
of a hero in my junior high.
Standing up against kids who thought that it is cool to hurt people. I
actually fought some too!
As a big ole mom, I'm not sure what to do....turns out my son'd friend
doesn't tell or cry. Then, when someone steps in, he says it's Ok. He
wants everyone to like him...??....he is so sweet. My boy doesn't know
why he ''isn't brave'' and has been temped, he said, to join in.
I am going to try going there at recess and stepping in. As someone who
did this, I am certain that the ''bullies'' have no idea. I have noticed
in life that most humor is at someone's expence. Learning to have fun
with out hurting others is a skill we all need to learn. AND it is not
easy Hopping Mad
I am hoping to get some advice that will help me support my 6
year old son and the problem he is having with a classmate
friend who is a bully.
I finally connected the dots with my sons complaints to me about
a classmate and was amazed to see such a pattern. My son told me
how the boy would pick fights with other kids who wanted to play
with him. He told my son he would tell the teacher if he did
not play with him ( my son thought he would get in trouble!) And
this boy would poke and push my son through the day.
I spoke with his teacher to keep her up on it. The feedback I
got was that they knew the other boy was a problem but that they
were working on it. Now, in a summer class they have, together,
things accelerated where this boy is always grabbing at my son
and even poked him in his privates.
I have spoken to his teacher and to the principal. They have
since been seperated them in class. (When my son would move away
this boy would move back in) The princiapal has advised me to
contact the superintendent of the district and make sure they
are in seperate classes next year. (Something my son has also
I have seen the listings for Kidpower, and I am wondering if
anyone else has additional suggestions for dvds? Books?
What I find additionally disturbing and confusing is that my son
still likes to play with this boy at recess. He says that he is
nice then. My son plays with other kids and seems to be well
liked. He is very outgoing and funloving. We are having alot of
conversations about choices and choosing to play with someone
who hurts you, who does not listen to you. I don't want to
forbid it because I worry that that will make him want to play
with him more. I have suggested he play with other kids at
recess. We are in the middle of this struggle so I would love
some solid advice
It seems you are doing all the right things, except perhaps knowingly placing your son in a
summer class with this bully.
My son also wants to play with a neighbor bully, and I've struggled with the same issues,
and it has taken some time to recognize the subtleties of behavior by both the bully and my
son, which is similar to your son. The problem with bullies is that they recognize that
their behavior is revered by other children as being stronger or more grownup. So if they
are confronted with a strong-willed child who says no! to being bullied (e.g., my older son)
the bully (my neighbor) will solicit the child (my older son) as a partner in bullying
another (their younger brothers) as a form of play. It's hard for the non-bullying kid to
recognize the difference between fraternity, play and bullying. I would suggest then to do
whatever you can to limit interaction between your son and this bully. It will keep your son
out of trouble and save him and others a lot of grief. You can't monitor your son's school
yard play. But you could, for example, make a point of not inviting just one kid - the
bully - to a special summer party you host for your son's friends, sending the strong
message to your son that having this one 'friend' around isn't required to have fun
It sounds like you're doing what you can to protect your child from the bully, and you
should continue to monitor the situation.
However, if your son still wants to play with him at recess when he is being ''nice'', I
wouldn't push him not to, other than to tell him that it's okay if he doesn't want to. I say
this because one of the reasons bullies are bullies is because they are often insecure, feel
awkward, often lonely, and find that the only way they can get attention from someone else
is to be mean. If your son does what you want, i.e. stay away from the bully, he may find an
increase in the bullying. However, if he really wants to stay away from the kid, you need to
make sure he is safe from him. That might mean you show up an recess time yourself and
monitor the situation. For the record, I would not hesitate one second from talking to the
bully myself, and tell him that you will not tolerate him bullying your son. You might find,
as I did once upon a time, that this approach works. The school won't like it, though, and
neither will the bully's parents.
Also, continue to talk to your son and make sure he's feeling okay about everything on a
daily basis, as I'm sure you are doing. The more he feels protected by you, the better he
can protect himself.
Our child currently goes to Franklin Elementary in Oakland. The
bullying there is absolutely terrible. The playgrounds are
undersupervised.(Large portions of the campus are completely
unsupervised, others have a few children and even fewer adults
functioning as ''yard duties'') My first-grader has been targeted
both by specific bullies who apparently had a problem with him
personally (pushed off of the slide repeatedly, harassed for
liking ''girl stuff,'' hit, verbally harassed in general) and by
random children (for example, one morning two kids he'd never met
before jumped him on his way into the school breakfast and stole
his backpack, taking his food out and throwing it around and
Since a year's worth of fighting with the principal and the
school district has done nothing (they don't have the funding for
much supervision and the school has not been responsive)
we are looking for a new school. There are good reviews of
many Oakland and Berkeley public schools on the website, but I
would like to see more, and more recent ones, and particularly
ones focusing on bullying.
As I remember from elementary school, the school can have as many
clubs and events and resources and innovative teachers as it
wants, but if the students are harassing each other the
elementary school experience will still be hell. So I would love
to hear from parents about how their children's schools deal with
conflict. Has your child been bullied? Does the school have a
conflict management program for the kids? Does the teacher have a
good way to deal with it, or seem to notice at all? What about
the administration? Is your school remarkably free of bullying?
Does it refuse to tolerate bullying? What do people there to do
create a safe environment for the kids, and what specifically
does or doesn't make it seem safe to you?
While we are mainly looking at Oakland public schools, I am
interested in any public or private school anywhere - even if we
can't send our kid there, it's good to know (for example) that
there is a school that has been effective in creating a
bully-free environment in which all children are respected (the
Mills College Children's School comes to mind) or which doesn't
care at all (like ours).
I should add that his first-grade teacher at Franklin, Ms. Wong,
is a great teacher and has taught the whole class a tremendous
amount and really cares about all of the kids and their families
- it's the school itself that's the problem in our case. Any help
would be greatly appreciated.
I haven't heard of any bullying in our neighborhood public school
(Harding in El Cerrito) but it's impossible to tell if it never
goes on. I know that the principal and teachers seem to have a
strong commitment to violence prevention, safety, conflict
resolution, and each family is asked to sign an anti-bullying
I have heard good things about two programs that might be helpful
for you and/or other schools, both private and public:
(1) the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theature Program called
''P.E.A.C.E. Signs''. This program is free but you have to sign on
for the entire package and students, parents, teachers, and the
principal are expected to participate. Several schools in the W.
County District have used it with good results. The workshops and
classroom curriculum focuses on bullying and self-esteem for
elementary kids and coping with peer pressure for middle
schoolers. The workshop leaders offer practical suggestions and
role play to help kids deal with problems at school. If you would
like to know more, contact Alicia at Kaiser, 510-987-2223.
(2) KidPower is an excellent program but there is a fee. Children
can take workshops on their own, they also offer school
assemblies and have a comprehensive violence prevention
curriculum. They have a website: http://www.kidpower.org/index.html
I hope that's helpful.
Had to respond to your message:
''...it's good to know (for example) that
there is a school that has been effective in creating a
bully-free environment in which all children are respected (the
Mills College Children's School comes to mind) or which doesn't
care at all (like ours).''
Unfortunately, the Mills College Children's School is NOT a
bully-free environment. In our experience, children with
differences are also NOT respected there. The staff had a very
negative attitude about our child, as he was shy and not very
sociable, tending to play alone. When our child was attacked
by another student at the school, the head teacher took a very
nonchalant attitude and the director tried to deny it had
occurred, even though we witnessed it! So it is possible that
your public school is not much different from the Mills school
as far as bullying goes.
My suggestion is to look into martial arts, like Aikido for
your son. Classes are offered to children as young as 3.
Bullies are everywhere, and we encounter them throughout life.
I adamantly agree that adults must intervene to stop bullying
and teach children that bullying is wrong, but no matter how
much you try to protect your children, there will still be
Another parent intolerant of bullying
As for private schools, check out Aurora in Oakland,
www.auroraschool.org. Our daughter goes there and Aurora
places a big emphasis on developing community and treating each
other kindly and with respect. It also is wonderful
academically, but that is a whole other story! Good luck in
finding a better situation for your child. By the way,
financial aid is available.
Undersupervised recess is unacceptable and dangerous.
If you decide to stay for the great teachers at your school --
I recommend working with other concerned parents (and a teacher willing to
assist in training you) and organize more parents to take shifts to monitor the
school yard, equip them with loud whistles and/or perhaps a blow horn. Have
teachers in the older grades bestow the honor of yard monitor to responsible
students to partner with the parents.
This topic was my greatest concern when I was researching schools for my son.
My child now goes to Paden School in Alameda, where bullies are not tolerated.
The school embodies/practices an educational ethic called ''Lifelong Guidelines
and Lifeskills'' that is integrated into the curriculum. The lifelong guidelines
for the faculty and the children: trustworthiness, truthfulness, active listening,
no put downs, and personal best. Defined by lifeskills: caring, common sense,
cooperation, courage, curiosity, effort, flexibility, friendship, initiative,
organization, patience, perseverance, problem-solving, responsibility, and
sense of humor.
These core ideals are reflected in the daily interaction at all levels from the
principal, the office and support staff, the teachers, the children, and their
parents. So there is a feeling of mutual respect and community throughout the
This model should not and must not be unique to the schools in Alameda.
Since the reach of this network is broad, I would hope that educators/
administrators have a system to reach each other to support and discuss what
It was a few postings ago, but I am still thinking about the message
from the parent of the bullied child at Franklin in Oakland. I would
like to recommend ''East Bay Conservation Corps Charter School''. My
child (a kindergarten-age boy) will be going there in the fall (unless
he gets into another public school that's a lot closer to us, and I
want to emphasize that proximity is the only reason we'd not go to
EBCCC). EBCCC is in the Oakland district at Alcatraz and San Pablo.
No, the neighborhood is not the greatest but the teachers and the
principal are incredible. From what little I've seen they are also
very conscientious about supervising the playgrounds. First of all
there are two separate and distinct playgrounds, one for younger kids,
one for older. They are small, which if you want close supervision is
a good thing. One day when I arrived unnanounced I found the principal
and the teacher circling the older kids' playground-- literally like
hawks, on opposite sides, walking around and around making sure
everyone was having a good time. We also recently attended a Literacy
Night event there and was impressed by the respectful behavior of the
older kids. One even took my little boy on a tour of the school. I
work with a parent whose child goes to Franklin and he, too, tells me
bullying there is a problem. You are NOT the only one. His daughter
(who is 7) is getting targeted. PLEASE trust yourself and do NOT let
your kid attend one more year in this kind of environment. There are
LOTS of other schools out there-- even public ones like EBCCC. I think
if you meet the principal you will be impressed. It's not a great
neighborhood but the school seems to be doing all the right stuff. And
she won't blow you off like the teacher at Franklin.
I just wanted to follow up on a prior posting in response to your
concern about bullying in schools. One person recommended Aurora
School as being intollerant of bullying. I've had just the opposite
experience during the 4 years my child attended the school. Despite a
good job of ''talking the talk'', we found many of the staff, and the
to be much too tolerant of
bullying and teasing of several children in the school and really
ineffective in dealing with issues that came up and
completely ineffectual in dealing with bullying and teasing and often
seemed to blame parents. The school recently implemented a ''Positive
Discipline'' curriculum, but teachers and staff didn't really seem to
understand it or have coherent plans to implement it on a day to day
basis. It's approach is to do roll playing and things like that if a
child is bullied, and not to implement direct consequences that affect
the bully. That approach has not really worked in our view. Aurora
is a very permissive school-- OK for some kinds of kids, but not a
safe environment in our experience. We know too many kids in addition
to our own who had real problems there with bullying that was not
effectively addressed by the staff.
I am seeking advice about how to handle my five year old son
being bullied at his private school. Since the first week of
school, this bully has hit, kicked, bit, spit at or tried to
push my son off of playstructures EVERY SINGLE DAY. I began
leaving daily messages for the teacher which led to her and I
having a meeting. The outcome was working on getting my son to
tell her or another adult when this is happening and verbalizing
his hurt to the bully. Yesterday, (six weeks later)I called
another meeting, this time with the teacher and other mom. The
other mom suggested that her child was being excluded as a cause
of his daily physical violence to my son. I do not know whether
or not my son and his best friend exclude this bully, but a)
even if they do, it is propbably because they don't want to be
punched while playing and b) there is no excuse for being hit
everyday, period. Today, my child was punched again. Am I
expecting to much, or should the school be more agressive in
stoping this behavior? Or if not, should I tell my son to punch
him back? Any expertise/past experiences or techniques are
Boy, does your son's situations bring back painful memories. I
was bullied almost on a daily basis by two neighborhood boys
(and I'm a girl!) for about 5 years I think. They'd pick on me,
kick me, and make mean racial remarks at me all the time. The
school didn't do squat. I think part of it was that the
teachers were overworked and also had a hard time thinking that
the ''all american boys next door'' could do something like that
unprovoked. Even when it happened in front of them, the school
was very ''hands off''.
In our case, speaking with the parents did nothing, if only
fanned the flames. My mom was a strong advocate of fighting
back, even if I got two kicks, at least I got one back. So I
did. But, being a little girl (ages 6-10 I think), it didn't do
However, here is what DID work (now I warn you, this is playing
a little ''dirty'', but desparate times...). My mom has a vicious
tongue and can really make someone feel small if she wants to.
She normally doesn't use this, because honestly words can hurt
more than punches. But I remember one time she was telling me
her honest thoughts about the boys and I listened carefully as
she made these funny, yet cutting remarks. The next time they
bullied me (they'd do it to impress their stupid friends), I
ripped into them, unleashing the cutting words of a 40 year
old. I've never seen such power before. The boys nearly started
crying. They weren't smart enough to think of a comeback and
with each mean phrase (no cussing, just pointing out
insecurities like one was fat, the other short, etc) I felt less
like a victim.
I can honestly say that the bulling stopped from then on.
Occassionally there was something, but it was minor and I had my
ammo to fight back.
Now, as your son is only in KG, this may be too harsh a remedy.
I would suggest another approach is to say that you will sue the
school if they do not protect your son. You can document the
incidents and probably have a good case against the school and
the bully's parents. You can probably get an attorney to draft
something for you. With the recent 'zero tolerance' of bullying
(esp. with school violence) I think you can go that route too.
stopped being picked on
What a frustrating situation! I think the bully's mom touched on
something -- that something must be causing her son's behavior.
I am not suggesting that your son is to blame, but that something
is going on with the 'bully' that is causing him to act out.
Problems at home? Not adjusting well to kindergarten? The
teacher and the parent should be working together to find the
root of the problem and help the little boy learn that hitting is
not okay and how to express his feelings with words. And, remind
your son that he does need to tell a teacher right away if
something happens so that they can address the situation.
Perhaps explain to your son that this little boy is sad and
confused - not mean - and could use a friend. (I hate to think
that a 5 yr old is a true bully.) If you feel that you're not
getting the appropriate response from the teacher, I'd go to the
director of the school -- maybe they need to have more adult
supervision on the playground during recess.
I am really interested in seeing the responses to this one! I
have a son who's almost 3 and I often wonder what I would do in
these circumstances. Without having any experience with this, I
think you've tried the right approach so far and should pursue
engaging the other parent and school some more. My gut feeling
was to tell you to have your son hit him back since talking to
the other parent has not worked so far - HOWEVER, we are
dealing with little 5 year-olds (who are not totally
understanding of social norms). I don't know what your son has
said about whether he excludes this child or not. I think the
school should be forced to step in and give the other parents
some sort of ultimatum to work things out with their kid. At the!
same time (I know this sounds really off the wall)if you did not
find the other parent to be a vicious barracuda, maybe you could
engage her and her son further and arrange a playdate with this
other kid (with you supervising of course!)
Having raised a son and never tolerated his being bullied, this
is my advice: DO NOT keep sending your son to school if he is
going to be hurt and/or tormented by this other child. Demand
that the school act immediately and punitively, i.e. kick that
other kid OUT, or get his parents to deal with the problem right
away. There is nothing worse than being a small child and be
forced to go to school knowing you're going to get beat up. It's
so scary! I think the school's approach is okay, except that it
isn't working. Obviously the parents are defensive, so stop
wasting your time discussing the problem with them. They're
probably modeling some kind of behavior at home that their son is
acting out on, anyway! Your son needs to know you will protect
him, at all costs, and it shouldn't always be his burden to run
and tattle everytime that nasty brat hurts him -- someone needs
to be looking out for HIM. And I'm sure you're paying a pretty
price to have your kid bitten, punched and kicked. Surely the
school has some culpability in this, and they need to act fast.
If your son continues to have this happen to him, he's not going
to be very eager to continue going to school, and in the end
result, if this isn't stopped, you'll have a kid with problems
that he never deserved.
To be fair, this other child obviously has issues; you don't know
what he witnesses at home, and it's sad that he feels he needs to
bully others. He's probably lonely and frightened and needs help,
not isolation. Unfortunately for him, that is NOT your problem,
nor should you and especially your son have to condone his behavior.
Also bear in mind that if this problem isn't dealt with, this
bully could well grow up and be a larger, more dangerous bully to
your son and to others. It needs to stop NOW, and it is the
school's responsibility and that boys parents responsibility to
do something about it. Your son should not be his punching bag,
and it is avoidable!
Make the school do their job, or put your son in a different
school, and don't put up with this for even one more day. Your
child is depending on you.
Good luck, I'm outraged on your behalf.
I have done a little research last summer on how to deal with
bullying and here is what I came up with. Since your child is
the one being bullied, he's the one who should come up with a
solution with your help. The best thing to do is to have him
practice responses with you until he feels confident enough to
do it on his own. Since the bullying happens every day he should
have a pretty good idea of how it will happen. Body language is
very important. Standing straight, looking in the eyes, maybe
putting his hand out as a stop sign and then convincingly saying
the words he came up with. Tell the teacher about his routine so
she can keep an eye on him. Definitely no violence so be
You are right to be concerned. Your child has a right to feel
safe at school. The school should not tolerate bullying. This
sounds like unusually persistent bullying for this age, though--
does the school doubt that it is happening the way your child
says? If it is happening for this long, I assume other adults
have observed it. What consequences have followed for the
bully?-- Is the bully sent home for the day, or does the bully
have any loss of privileges, such as recess or ''free choice''
time, or restrictions on where the bully can play, or extra
supervision? If the school does nothing to the bully, over
weeks and weeks, it sends your child a message that adults will
not help, and safety is not really important to the school.
You probably will need to give your child some extra listening
time and cuddling time-- keeping in mind that your child should
not think that he or she has to report being beaten up to get
cuddling and listening time.
This is a time for you to be an active advocate. As a practical
matter, can you observe an entire school day, without hovering
or intervening, to see what the group dynamics are? (For
instance, is the bully part of a group your child wants to play
with, or doing the same activity your child wants to do? Is
this an issue of unprovoked bullying or an issue of kids not
knowing how to resolve disputes?) Can you make an arrangement
with an older friend or neighbor child to stick with your child
as ''protection''? Can your child stay with a group of his or her
own friends for protection? Can your child avoid locations
where the bully hangs out? Can your child eat lunch in the
classroom or under the eye of a supervising teacher until the
bully changes? Is the bully a child with impulse control or
special needs who needs closer adult supervision on the play
yard? Hitting is two-year-old behavior, but some children have
to work harder on controlling their behavior than others.
Each situation is different and needs flexible thinking. Best
This is a tuffy but, I have the most solid solution.
I've had first hand experience with this situation...and it
First, you need to make time to drop by school during
recess or outdoor play time. Don't tell your son you're
coming and make special arrangements with the teacher.
This way, you can watch for yourself how the process
begins and ends. If the teacher isn't compliant, then go
straight to the principal.
If things go the way you expected, what YOU need to do is to
approach the bully and TELL him to stop. Be firm and
motherly at the same time. One fair warning is all he needs.
Especially since he wasn't expecting you. From that point
on, he'll never know if you're waiting in the sidelines.
Say something like this: ''Hey, __________, I'm so-and-so's
mom, and he tells me that you've been hitting and punching
him. Is this true? Because I talked to your mom and she told
me that if you hit my son again that she and I will have to
have a BIG talk. So, i'm telling you RIGHT NOW, don't EVER
hit MY kid again.''
Even though you had a talk already with his mom, it
shouldn't matter. It just means that you will actually have to
have yet another BIG talk with his mom.
Also, just so this isn't completely bias, try to weasle some
info out of your son first as to whether or not he's instigating
these situations, by himself or with a companion. There
could be some things he's not telling you. Like the mean
things he says or verbal teasing.
That 'bully' could also be defending himself the only way he
Your child should not be hit in school every day. You are not
expecting too much to ask for action from the school, which has
known about the problem for weeks now. Since you have met with
the teacher twice now, without results, it is time to go to the
But no, don't tell your child to hit back. I am sure this is
against the school policies, and may just escalate the problem.
another kindergarten parent
My daughter is 7 (a second grader). Lately I found out she is having a very
negative relationship with one of her classmate. Heartbreaking to find out my
daughter has been called as "a loser" for this whole school year, and she often
gets threatened to give away her snack and lunch "goodies." Her classmate
threatened her by shouting very loud into her ears. My daughter describes
her ears popped as when we drive up the hills. She was asking me how to
escape from her classmate during her recess and lunch time. I had a
successful conference with my daughter's teacher yesterday. We will all
work on the problems and my daughter's social skills.
After we got home yesterday, my daughter and I did a lot of talking.
I asked her to tell me everything which is bothering her at school.
She started to cry hysterically. She said it is too gross to tell,
then she tried to write instead. This same classmate is giving my
daughter information about sex. This includes this girl wants to have
sex with an eight year old classmate, and she reports her mother's sex
life... My daughter said she made her promise not to tell, and she is
afraid now something bad will happen to her. This is an ordeal for
me, I am conservative and from East Asia. My husband thinks this is
common in this culture. My daughter is the youngest at her grade, she
was exposed to this unpleasant experiences when she was only 6. I
can't describe my deep pain and I feel very sorry to my daughter. I
do not know what to do about this, shall I talk to the teacher on this
issue? Shall I talk to her friend's mom (I only met her once on the
first day of school last Fall)? Am I over reacting?
No, you are not overreacting! The other child's behavior is utterly
unacceptable and beyond "normal" childhood teasing. It sounds as if
the other child has some serious problems which she is taking out on
your daughter. Yes, you should talk with the teacher, both so that the
teacher can protect your daughter and get help for the other child.
In terms of helping your daughter, keep listening to her and tell her
you are going to do something about it, she is not bad, and it is not
her fault. I would seek out a compassionate counselor or therapist,
preferably one familiar with your culture so that your entire family
can feel understood. This has been a traumatic experience for all of
you. I hope others will respond with specific referrals for you.
Dear parent of 7 year old daughter:
I sympathize with you and your family during this grotesque ordeal.
This is however an opportunity for you to show unrelenting support and
strength to your daughter. I think the "abusive" child need
counseling and she can't get it unless perhaps the parents are aware
of what is happening. Perhaps you approach the teacher and principal
first, and then have a meeting 3-way with the other parents. If you
approach the parents as wanting to help their child and not
necessarily wanting to punish her, the parents will be less defensive
and more apt to be open to suggestions such as counseling for the
child. I think the parents as well as the "abusive" child need
counseling together. Good luck to you... I empathize with your
daughter's pain. 6 or 7 is way to young to be exposed to sexual
discussions. I know of a close friend who is traumatized to this day
because he was exposed to explicit sexual books/games/theater when he
was under 10 years old. Your daughter is lucky to have a concerned
and perceptive mother like you who has caught this early.
To the mother of the child who was being abused by her schoolmate: You
are not overreacting. Go to the teacher and tell her what you wrote,
emphasizing your daughter's fears about being "found out" having told
you about the sexual matters. No child should have to deal with this
kind of thing. The classmate sounds disturbed and this should be
brought to the school's and her parents' attention. Do not try to
work it out with the other parent. That's the school's job.
This is a serious enough matter that you could tell the teacher you
want a joint conference with her and the principal. If you aren't
satisfied that they have taken effective steps to protect your
daughter, ask them to guarantee that she and this other child will be
in different classes next fall. You may have to consider changing
schools if you don't feel confident that your daughter's current
school is taking this seriously and will protect her.
Taking strong and effective steps to protect your daughter from this
abuse will probably reassure her that you will keep her safe, and this
experience will become less disturbing to her. However, you might
consider counseling for her if, over the summer, she seems anxious or
I'm sorry this happened to your daughter. Abuse this severe by a
schoolmate is not common, although it does happen occasionally. You
are doing the right things, and that, in itself, will help your
daughter deal with it.
As someone who's worked as a school psychologist, here's my two cents:
When I read about this girl who is tormenting your daughter, I see
warning signs that she may have been a victim of sexual abuse or at
least exposed to information inappropriate for someone her age. You
might consider consulting with the school's psychologist (he or she
may only work at the school a few hours or days a week) about the
situation. He or she may feel it's warranted to investigate this
girl's sexualized behavior and aggression a little further to rule out
sexual abuse. At the very least, the psychologist may be able to give
you some suggestions for how you might help your daughter cope with
what's been going on. Given what you described, I am surprised the
teacher felt the problem was simply with your daughter's social
skills. Am I understanding correctly? Is this teacher aware of the
aggression and bullying the other girl is displaying? I tend to side
with you and not your husband. I think this girl's behavior is not
normal and is probably an indication that she is angry about something
and feels very badly about herself. As for talking to her mother,
what would you hope for? I doubt that the mother would be able to
quickly and simply put an end to the daughter's behavior. If your
goal would be to alert the mother, then I'd say it's a fine idea to
talk to her, but be prepared for her to get defensive and possibly
very angry with you. But again, I wonder why the teacher hasn't
called home about the girl's behavior already when it sounds so
blatantly disruptive. For many reasons, sometimes children do tell
stories, so you might want to make sure what your daughter says is
going on is really accurate. If you talk to the teacher, I would work
with her on ways to get your daughter to tell her when the girl is
bothering her rather than suffering with it by herself. Most
importantly, I don't think you are overreacting.
It is good that you helped your daughter to open up to you about the
things going on at school that are bothering her. Most definitely
talk to your daughter's teacher, and tell the teacher everything your
daughter has told you since the last conference. Teachers are
required by law to report any suspicions of child abuse, and it sounds
like the classmate may be in an abusive situation in her life outside
of school. Let the teacher, as a professional, handle this situation.
Insist that the school protect your daughter from this other child.
Teachers and schools must protect children or they can be subject to
law suits. Reassure your child that she did the right thing by
telling you about this situation, and that you are there to listen to
and protect her. Ask the teacher's advice on what more you can do, as
a parent, to help your daughter.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse happens in all societies. Some societies
hide it better than others, but it is a prevalent problem world-wide.
Best wishes and good job. You are doing the right thing and you are a
To the parent whose 8 year old daughter is being harrassed by a fellow
classmate--no, you are not overreacting. I would go to the teacher
immediately and report what your daughter told you about the girl
wanting to be sexual with another kid, talking about her mom's sex
life, etc. In addition to protecting your own daughter, this other
child might need protection also. Any 8 year old who is talking this
explicitly and inappropriately about sex is troubled; very possibly
something is going on in her home life, including some form of sexual
abuse. The teacher needs to know all this and make some decisions on
how to proceed. I *would not* go to the child's mother, as she may
become defensive, or may be in some way contributing to her child's
If I were you I would also go to the school principal and discuss how
the issue of respect is handled at the school, as well as talk about
yard supervision issues. Are there enough teachers out in the yard
during recess and lunch? Obviously they can't catch everything, but
their presence in larger versus smalller numbers makes it less likely
for kids to act out. Also, request that your daughter and the other
girl be placed in different classes next year.
I don't know if you or your husband have time to "hang out" or
volunteer at the school, or if there's a way to seek out the help of
the PTA to organize more volunteers in the school yard and bathrooms.
Increased parental presence is helpful and most schools really
How wonderful that your daughter trusted you enough to confide in you.
Good luck with all this.
I felt sick reading your description of what has happened to your
daughter. This is not accetable behavior in any culture. There
should be absolutely zero tolerance for this behavior at your
Yes, talk with your daughter's teacher. She must know what is
happening. The teacher must talk with this other girl's mother. If
the teacher is unresponsive (though I doubt he/she will be), then go
to the principal.
Threats from the other girl should not prevent you from ending your
daughter's abuse. The school is responsible for ensuring that your
daughter is safe and free from fear. If they cannot ensure that, I
would look to transfer your child.
My heart goes out to you. This is a pain that no one should have to
My daughter, now 10, is also the lowest on the pecking order in her
4th grade class. She also gets called names and is the brunt of
jokes, though this has never progressed to outright violence as in
your case. Her father and I (both raised in different Western
countries) were both teased as children, and it is agonizing for us to
watch her struggle with the same issues.
First and foremost, however, I urge you to question the teacher's
approach. Working with your daughter to "improve her social skills"
gives your daughter the message that SHE is at fault. Even if it
works --which in my personal experience it does not-- what message
does this send her, and what damage will it do long term? I would try
instead to find for her and support relationships in which others
accept and like her for what she is (we're moving schools and looking
for new out-of-school activities to widen her circle of potential
Secondly, please consider approaching the principal of your school
about the safety of your daughter and others at her school. It is
highly unlikely that your daughter and the harasser are the only ones
being impacted. It will also show your daughter that you support her
--the most positive moment in our daughter's situation came when we
broke a lifetime's conditioning and told her her teacher had made a
The sexual content of the harassment is a new one for me too, and it
has also come up with my daughter. She is the smallest in a class
where the largest girls are already starting to develop. I'm very
grateful that she had already had a facts-of-life talk with me. But
perhaps this is another global issue best discussed with the school
Good luck. And never miss an opportunity to tell your daughter how
wonderful she is!
You should definitely talk to the teacher and possibly the school principal. The teacher needs to
know this is going on to protect your child and to help the other child, who may be being sexually
abused. This is not normal in the USA, and is not considered ok behavior for children that age.
Depending on the exact behavior/harassment, it may be illegal as well. Your
daughter will greatly benefit from your concern, and all of the children in her class will benefit
from your bringing it up with the teacher.
To the mother of the child being harrassed at school...
This situation sounds horrible and I feel so sorry for you and your
daughter. What is really horrifying is that this has been going on at
school and no adult seems to have noticed it. Why are children talking
about such things and acting in such a horrible way? Please tell your
husband that this is NOT normal in our culture and it is totally
unacceptable. I have been a teacher, my aunt is a teacher, my sister
in law is a teacher and a very close friend is a teacher. I have never
heard any stories like this and my friend teaches in a very rough part
of Los Angeles. Schools that tolerate this are not good schools.
My first impulse would be to remove my child immediately. Although you
may find it initially helpful to talk to the teacher and the other
parents, this kind of behavior is typically entrenched in an
individual school. You will not change their oversight policy and
standards overnight and by the time you have any impact at all, it
will be too late for your daughter. Also, you will probably find that
this will make you very unpopular. Parents don't like to think of
their kids as "troublemakers" and will most likely blame you for being
a nosy mother.
Find a better school. Pay for it. Drive her there. Meet ahead of time
with the teachers. Sit in on a class and observe at recess. This is
the least we can do for our children.
Good luck to you.
Your husband is mistaken--the behavior you describe is not culturally
acceptable in the U.S. in any school, public or private. Whether to
contact the child's parents depends on whether you think they are
likely to take effective action to stop the problem. Frankly, I doubt
that will happen; this child is seriously out of control and her home
life sounds problematic at best.
You must speak to the principal of the school immediately and demand
that this be stopped. No principal I've seen in the Berkeley schools
would tolerate it. The sexual comments could well be construed as
sexual harassment which is prohibited by state and federal law as well
as BUSD policy. The other behavior is scary and threatening to your
child and also intolerable. DO NOT stop with the conversation with
the teacher you've already had. Put the administration on notice and
insist that positive, tangible action be taken. You will be doing
your child and all of her classmates a great favor.
In regards to the mother who's daughter revealed to her that a
playmate was telling her daughter about sexual things. No this is not
the way things are done in this country. This playmate is in danger
and you should run not walk to the school authorities and report
exactly what this child has said. She is being sexualized at a very
young age and in an inappropriate matter. This is NOT appropriate
behavior in this country or ANY country for a grade school child. She
is possibly observing some type of sexual behavior in her personal
life or perhaps being taken advantage of herself. As a trained rape
crisis counselor and certified child abuse reporter I am extremely
concerned about this classmate!
Now on a calmer note, how upsetting for both you and your daughter.
Depending on your cultural beliefs now that the "cat is out of the
bag" so to speak it would be important for you to have a calm
conversation with your child about sex and reassuring her that
although it is not for children that things of a sexual nature are not
gross. She will likely have many questions and concerns over time. I
wish I had a better response regarding playground picking in general
or name calling although I do know that the papers had reported that
Berkeley School District passed a rule that any bullying had to be
dealt with through a series of meetings with the "bully" and parents
which included some sensitivity training about how the other person
might feel and what the child was hoping to accomplish through the
name calling and bullying (sometimes it is as simple as wanting to be
noticed or included), but the child needs to be guided into the
realization of the reasons for her actions and their effects on
Personally prior to this new rule I had such a terrible problem with
my children (including my son being propositioned on the plalyground
by a girl) that I chose to home school my children. The funny thing is
that people always worry that they aren't being socialized. Who needs
socialization like that?!!!!
I'd like to address this question as a KIDPOWER instructor, but please
realize that this venue is limited and the information regarding
personal safety and bullies is extensive. Please contact me directly
if you would like more information.
First of all, give yourself a pat on the back for noticing something
wrong and for asking your child for information in a way that gave her
the opportunity to tell you a lot of really tough things. Your own
feelings about her experiences make a lot of sense; our child's pain
causes us pain. When they tell us difficult things, though, and SEE
that it causes us pain, everything gets even more painful because they
don't want to hurt us. As the years go by, children who discover that
their life experiences are actually traumatic for their parents will
actually STOP TELLING adults about problems because they don't want to
hurt them. It sounds like you have other supportive adults to share
your upset feelings with, and I hope you're able to make time to do
that with them so that you are in the best position to help your
So, of course your child needs validation that this behavior is all
unacceptable, and of course she needs you to show that you care --
DEEPLY -- about her well-being. What she really needs, though, is
your support in dealing with this situation. She needs your support,
your insight, and your coaching. She needs ideas and a safe place to
practice those ideas with people she trusts (like her parents, in her
home). She needs to feel that you believe in her ability to take
charge and that you will back her up if she ever embarasses,
inconveniences, or offends ANYONE in her legitimate efforts to protect
her safety. "Take charge," by the way, does not mean "stop" or "win."
It literally means taking action instead of waiting for someone else
to start and finish whatever uncomfortable or hurtful thing they're
Children appreciate knowing that there are some things they CAN'T do,
and they appreciate adults recognizing these truths -- which, by the
way, are true regardless of our culture or political leanings:
1. There are people in your class/school/neighborhood who do things
we don't like.
2. We cannot make those people disappear.
3. "Bullies," for lack of a better word, have problems that make them
unhappy, and they feel a little bit less unhappy when they bully. We
cannot solve the bully's problems.
4. While we cannot control what other people say or do, we CAN
control how we react to them.
Your daughter does not have control over what this other child says.
However, she CAN take charge of her reaction to hurtful or upsetting
words. We teach children the "garbage can" which is impossible to
convey accurately here but is a skill that helps them recognize
hurtful words for what they are and how to keep themselves from being
hurt by them. You may have some other good ideas to build her skill
in that area.
A bully wants someone to react. Sometimes they want someone who will
cry; sometimes they want a fight; sometimes they want someone to feel
scared of them. If you can get more information from outside sources
as to what the bullying child is getting from your daughter
(i.e. tears, expressions of shock) then you will be even more prepared
to help your daughter take charge of her responses.
Regarding the "made me promise not to tell" part: This is actually
quite stressful for children, and much of that stress can be reduced
with basic family rules on boundaries. Our third boundary principle
is "Nothing that bothers me should ever have to be a secret." In
addition, we even teach children that lying can be a great choice
there: "I won't tell IF you stop." (By the way, a person at this point
in boundary setting has already been pushed REALLY far; boundary
setting skills are powerful beginning far before this point). For
your daughter, try going back to her and telling her THAT SHE HANDLED
A DIFFICULT SITUATION REALLY WELL by promising not to tell, and then
telling. That can help build her belief in her ability to take charge
of situations that affect her safety or emotional well-being.
Yes, honesty and keeping promises are important. However, our
children are safest when they know that their safety is more important
than anyone's embarassment, inconvenience, or offense, and that it's
OK to lie or break a promise when it's about their safety AS LONG AS
they go to an adult as soon as they can and tell/get help.
As I mentioned before, the body of information on this topic is quite
large, and I cannot hope to do it justice here. However, I hope these
idea fragments will give you a chance to see this difficult situation
from a perspective you might not have tried yet. Keep in mind that
your daughter will, quite likely, NOT try anything she is TOLD to do;
children in a situation where they need to make choices that affect
their emotional or physical safety are more likely to do not what they
have been told but what they have PRACTICED. Please consider signing
her up for an age-appropriate self protection class like the ones we
teach at KIDPOWER
Obviously, during all of this, there's the adult/school element: Most
importantly is the issue of the other child's sexually explicit
language and/or behavior. Any time children are using sexually
explicit language or behavior, there's a risk of abuse, either that
the individual acting out is being abused or that the individual is
abusing other kids. When adults see or hear about this behavior, it's
crucial that they inform the appropriate school personnel so that the
school or counselors can check it out in further detail. Also at the
adult/school level: Is bullying taken seriously? When children report
problems, do they see concrete, effective action that addresses their
problems? What proactive steps are adults taking to maintain/preserve
physical and emotional safety? Your daughter, facing this child
daily, cannot wait for this problem to be solved on a systematic
level, which is why the individual-level skills are crucial.
You sound like a loving, involved mom. You HAVE the power to help
your daughter with this, and you CAN take steps to help your daughter
keep herself safe. YOU CAN DO IT!!
Erika Leonard Holmes, East Bay Program Coordinator
Your daughter's classmate is disturbed. This is NOT common in this
culture," and it is not acceptable behavior. I urge you to get your
daughter into counseling for this abuse (possibly the whole family, as
such counseling often works better with everyone present), so she can
see it is not her fault, that she didn't "deserve it for being a
loser" or whatever other nonsense they are leveling at her.
Definitely report the behavior to the school (the shouting constitutes
physical abuse), and talk to the parent of the other girl (who clearly
needs counseling as well). This is not OK, and you are not
Our first grade daughter is caught in a girl triangle. Her "best"
friend has her own best friend, all of whom are in the same class. This
girl teases my daughter so hard it borders on torment. The teasing girl
is constantly putting down and excluding my daughter from play. Some of
this I have heard and seen myself, others I get second hand. Today my
daughter told me that the teasing girl was trying to convince her friend
not to come to a Holloween party at our house to which they have both
been invited and (my daughter reported that) she said something to the
effect, "I wish that we could kill her (my daughter)." Well, if that
didn't just ignite my maternal instict! I am not sure what to do. The
teasing girl's mother is often scolding her for not being nice, so I am
afraid that if I go to her, she might yell at her daughter who would
then take it out on my daughter all over again. My daughter often goes
to bed in tears telling me about what happened on the playground. Up
until now, we have focused on how she can cope with this teasing, but I
am feeling like it is getting more intense. Does anyone out there have
any word of advice on dealing with girl bullys or a teasing
Have you talked with the mother of the girl in the middle? Perhaps
involving her might help the situation. Her child may be feeling very
uncomfortable with all this, and may be looking for strategies to deal
with it. My son was in the middle of a triangle like this in 1st
grade--child A trying to get him to cut off a friendship with child B, for
whom my son was one of his only friends. Child B responding by telling my
son he wanted him on his "gang" and that he had to choose. Even though
child A really started the problems, child B turned out to be the bigger
problem for my child. I turned to school resources--first the school's
parttime counselor, who was pretty worthless for this situation, and then
his first grade teacher, who had them talk it out in her "talking-it-over"
chairs. (Child B was in a different class, so the teacher hadn't observed
any of this. I sent her a description of the conversations, as reported
by my son, at which point she took action--it was successful). What you
describe sounds pretty extreme. I wouldn't hesitate to talk with the
teacher or with the mom of the one in the middle. It was only 2 years
later that I discovered that child A's mom knew nothing about the whole
situation--had never heard of child B! I probably should have talked to
her at the time, but didn't want to sound like I was criticizing her child
(and my son was STRONGLY opposed to this). Child B's parents didn't speak
English, so that wasn't an option for me to consider.
Regarding the girl who was being teased by her "best" friend and her
friend. Since this is occurring at school, the mother can request a
conference with the teacher (or just talk to her informally after
school) and tell the teacher what's going on. It is the school's
responsibility to address this situation, and they should take it seriously,
especially since one of the girls talked about "killing" the other girl. She
doesn't mean it literally, but it is the sort of thing that children
need to learn they cannot say. If the mother doesn't get help from the
teacher, she should go to the principal.
Your daughter needs to find another best friend! This would not be
happening if your daughter's "best friend" was not open to it or even
actively encouraging it by playing the girls off against each other.
It's really hard to see your child suffer, but they really need to learn
the skills to deal with these situations. Maybe this girl will never be
her friend. Maybe she doesn't want to be her friend. Maybe she's not a
very nice girl.
My son was in a situation where he and his best friend were very close
and another child was jealous of the relationship and kept trying to be
a part of the group. The other child's mother had talks with the teacher
and each of our children trying to force them to play with her son
instead of trying to find out why they didn't want to (there were some
very legitimate reasons). The teacher also talked with our children and
asked them to include this boy. I tell you, the situation went from no
so good to really bad. I have always taught my son that I would not
choose his friends and suddenly several people were trying to choose his
friends for him (in a very different way than I had expected) and both
children resented this. The 'excluded' boy saw that 'telling' got his
mother and the teacher involved and used it extensively, or at least the
threat to tell, to get the children to do what he wanted them to do.
This did not win him any friendships and he found himself very quickly
isolated in his class. After reproaching my son for "alleged" (and
witnessed by me) teasing the boy I found out from his friends that my
son had been reapeatedly teased by this boy first. So I guess what I'm
trying to say is, be careful of your interference. Much as it hurts to
see your child suffer (as this boy I'm talking about genuinely
suffered), theirs is rarely the whole story.
I think our children need to grow up understanding and accepting that
not everybody will like them and that's ok, and that they will not be
invited to every birthday party and that's ok, nothing to feel bad
about. Good luck with your daughter.
Ask the teacher to intervine. She could do any of the following:
* Talk with the three girls involved;
* Have a general discussion with the class about issues of including
* Help your daughter to foster friendships with other children.
I would also encourage you to help your daughter make other friends, as
this group is mostly able to get under her skin because she cares so much
about them and it is obvious that she does.
I wasn't clear which girl was doing the most teasing. Would it be any
help to talk to the parents of the other girl?
I need help with this asap please! My daughter (6 yrs)
and 'gifted'--has been put in a mixed class of 1st and 2nd
graders which was fine until a 2nd grader she liked started to
bully her and treat her very badly. My daughter is as big/tall
competent as 2nd graders and can read at a 3rd grad level. The
2nd grader in question, a girl, doesn't like being with 1st
graders and she is making my daughter suffer for it. She has
knocked her off the monkey bars in the air, whispered with
bigger kids in front of her at recess and said ''i wish i could
knock her off. '' (She daren't as I told never to do it again.)
However, when I mentioned it to the teacher, she merely
said, ''sounds like they need to work on their relationship.''
And that was the end of the discussion. We only found out this
weekend how much more has been going on and our daughter did
not want to get out of bed on Saturday. She has become
extremely agitated and despondent and we are very concerned.
The 2nd grader looks away from her whenever she says hello, and
she pulls her pencil from her hand everyday. Our daughter is
very social but this situation is compomising her confidence
and ability to socialize with other new kids she's meeting.
While sitting next to this 2nd grader in class, she is being
completely ignored and given sullen looks if looked at at all.
The 2nd grader talks with the other kids at the table. Our
daughter is a gentle an diplomatic soul who has never hurt
anyone. How can we handle this professionally? And how can we
get this unhappy 2nd grader to change her behaviour? ?This is
having a profound effect on our daughter, and she suddenly
can't hold up the strong front anymore. Her sibling who has the
same name as the 2nd grader is now suffering as a result as
her older sister has become so unhappy.
A really great book on the subject of girl bullying and social
aggression is called Odd Girl Out (I can't remember the author,
but it's at Amazon.) I actually haven't been able to finish it
because it is really difficult to read when you have a girl (I
was getting too depressed). It addresses the issue of how
corrosive that kind of behavior can be to girls, and talks about
why that kind of social aggression exists and is so different in
girls relationships with each other, as opposed to boys, and
some ways to deal with it. Good luck, this is the hardest part
of being a parent.
In addition to the advice in the archives, I would just add
that it may be helpful to check the library for age-appropriate
children's books on bullying.
My heart really hurt when I read about your daughter being
bullied. If this were my daughter, and I do have a daughter, I
would write what amounts to a ''demand'' letter to the school
principal--CCing it to the teacher and an attorney (even a
fictitious attorney's name will serve). In the letter, I would
outline the problem and guide! the powers-that-be about what you
want done about it, immediately! I would say that the bullying
has become intolerable, eroding your child's
self-esteem/performance, etc. and you expect a meeting with the
principal, teacher, and the child's parent(s) by a specified
date. I would also mention that while you would like this to be
resolved on a ''local'', non-legal level, you will not hesitate to
invoke legal counsel if the school does not address this
satisfactorily. You might remind the school that if an adult
were bullying another adult this would be downright illegal and
things like restraining orders would be instituted. Regarding
involving an attorney: you would be amazed what a letter on
letterhead stationary from an attorney can accomplish. Amazed.
Finally, if you have to pay an attorney you can likely get your
legal fees (an hour of consultation time/an hour of drafting and
sending the letter) back in small claims court. If you get to
the intersection of an attorney's letter, be sure to have a copy
sent to the school district as well.
Maybe my suggestion feels drastic, but my instinct is to do
whatever will alleviate your child's sufferi
Zero Tolerance for Bullying
My 7 year old boy has had to deal with some similar issues since
Kindergarten. While his situations are more about teasing from
multiple other children, I have learned some things. This type
of situation involves a three-prong solution - you, your
daughter and the school. No first grader should have to solve
this situation on her own. While their are techniques to teach
your daughter - humor, ignore, get help from peers - currently,
in my opinion, she should be taught to ask for help and,
possibly, to avoid the other girl. I tell my son that it is not
tattling but really asking for assistance in the situation,
something he had been reluctant to do in the past - I've even
related it to how we as adults enlist others to help us with our
goals. The school/teachers need to be available to help her,
but, also talk to and/or discipline the other girl, seat your
daughter away from the bully, watch closely when the two are
interacting, etc. One other thing that we have done, once, is
invite the child that my son was having most difficulty with to
a supervised playdate - it seemed to help somewhat. It
certainly didn't make anything worse. I try to remind myself
that at this age all the children are trying to find their
place, etc. These are just some ideas, I hope it helps. You
might want to look at the book ''What to do when kids are mean to
your child'' by Elin McCoy.
My heart goes out to you. It is very hard to watch a child
going through friend or peer abuse. I agree with many of the
previous comments including reading the book ''Odd Girl Out'' by
Rachel Simmons. As depressing as it may be, the author theorizes
why girl bullying/teasing/cliques happen and why schools and
parents are reluctant to get involved. For example,it is not
unusual that the the aggressor child is a nice kid - could just
be learned behavior from previously being the recipient or just
is someone going through hard times. It was also enlightening
to find that this situation happens to many girls (either as the
aggressor, recipient or both) at some point(s) in their life
starting as young as 7. Unfortunately, it can be a long road to
a solution. In my daughter's situation, her teacher was
useless, it took months to understand the problem and then too
many more months to get her public school to recognize the
issues and get involved. By then, the school year was almost
over and the school did not want to invest much time or
resources to find a solution. What did help was getting my
daughter's former teachers and school aide involved. They
either helped by getting the staff to listen, or talking with
the girls (individually or with my daughter). Unfortunately, it
was further complicated by the fact that some of adults/parents
thought its just something that all girls do and your child just
has to learn to handle it. Talking to parents was unproductive
because they either felt threatened or were in denial. Now
with that said, there are things which eventually helped. Your
first step should be to talk to the teacher. If that teacher is
reluctant (as in our case), enlist help from your daughter's 1st
and K teachers. You could also request a Student Study Team
assessment from the school to come up with strategies. If the
bullying happens outside of the class, enlist help from those
teachers/aides who monitor recess and lunch. Also, encourage
your child to enlarge her circle of friends by getting her
involved in Sports or other after-school classes (either on or
off campus)that have group projects. Personally, I feel that
parents should be putting pressure on schools to form ongoing
friendship groups or conflict resolution groups that are
assisted by trained counsellors (but that's another
discussion). Lastly, there are counselors, although not many,
that work with girls to give them strategies to deal with
bullying. In my daughter's situation, we used many of the above
suggestions and after a year she worked through the problem.
What also helped was moving my daughter to a school that
believes children need to learn to treat each other with respect
as well as learning academics. Good luck and hang in there!!!
If you can stand one more response to the question of girl
bullying at school, and what to do, I would like to add a bit of
insight gleaned from our experience.
My daughter was singled out for some totally unacceptable
treatment (shunning) by the ringleader of her childhood friends
in the fourth grade at our former Berkeley public elementary
school. The teacher was very skillful at addressing social
issues, and spent time working with the kids involved. The
ringleader then turned her attention to being rude to the
teacher. The principal got involved. Before the semester was
over, the superintendent had removed the perpetrator from our
school and reassigned her. That seemed to be the only thing
that would work. The bully didn't attend school for the rest of
the year, and her parents threatened the BUSD with a racial
discrimination lawsuit, so the superintendent at that time
re-enrolled the bully at our school. Lots of parents got phone
calls from the (new) principal about this, but surprisingly, we
did not. I learned about this reassignment from a friend the week
before school started. I began calling other schools, and found
a wonderful independent school where there is a culture of
kindness and respect and certainly nothing along the lines of
what our daughter experienced would be accepted for a nanosecond.
I heard that at the beginning of this year, the old cohort of
bully and her friends had started a ''Hate Club'' at their middle
school. I feel very sorry for those poor, unfortunate children.
Sometimes you can help to change the kids who are causing damange
in our children's lives, and sometimes you can't. If you find
you can't, I think the best thing to do is to find an environment
where your child *is* treated well, with the respect and
appreciation every child deserves. To ignore the abuse sends a
message to your child that it doesn't matter how they're being
treated, or that it can't be helped. Best of luck to you. This
problem does seem to be fairly pervasive, but it's one we should
Sign me a much happier anonymous mom
Help! Over the last few weeks I have discovered that my son has been
routinely harassed by a group of boys (lead primarily by one kid) at
school. He is in a very small, mixed age classroom, environment. The
"alpha-male" of the class is two years older than my son and whenever
the teacher is not looking insults my child. He has made up a nickname
that refers to my son's penis and masturbation. All the older boys
follow this kid's lead, refer to him by that name and target him for all
sorts of other put-downs. Even his "friends" in class support the bully,
I think in order to protect themselves from becoming a target of the
bully and the older boys. Even out of school, most of the other kids no
longer want to play with my boy. He has become a liability as a playmate.
My son had been a pretty well adjusted kid, with a good sense of self
esteem. Since school began his behavior at home and at school has
greatly deteriorated and he has become hostile and defiant. His posture
has changed dramatically and he is beginning to develop a negative body
image. He reacts angrily to the kids at school when they demean him and
this seems to only empower the bullies even more.
When brought to the attention of his teacher, she was shocked that any
of this activity was going on in her classroom. When we identified the
top bully she was even more shocked and replied "but he is the sweetest
boy in the class".
I will meet with the head of school next week and fill her in on what is
going on. I will continue to monitor and discuss the issue with his
teacher now she has become aware of the situation. I have tried to help
my son find words that he can use to disarm the bullies, and to help him
understand that by showing anger, he rewards their behavior.
My questions are--Should I have a meeting with the bully's parents to
inform them of their son's behavior? Should I meet directly with the
bully, inform him that I, his teachers, and the head of school know what
is going on and find his behavior totally unacceptable? Or, should I let
the head of school take charge of the situation? (I don't think his
teacher can repair things at this point.) What steps can be taken to
alter a bully's behavior?
Most importantly--What can parents do to repair his sense of self worth?
Since his peers have defined him as the class dweeb, how can I, or his
dad help him recover?
My heart is breaking to see my son suffer like this.
My son too has struggled with this situation, although in an environment
where the teachers and parents seem more plugged into the situation. One
suggestion that has helped us is to set up outside play dates with kids
involved in the situation, which could even include the bully. Sometimes
this helps the kids to develop stronger bonds and new ways of interacting
while not under the social pressure of the school environment.
Unfortunately, my son' s best friend started siding with the bully. We
found that talking with the friend and his mom, and having a playdate, made
him more aware of this and helped him to stop always siding with the bully.
I've also tried to develop more communication with my son's teachers,
although it's hard to keep my own feelings of protection for my son out of
those interactions and to keep an open mind. When you talk with other
adults involved, sometimes you learn things that you don't expect. One
thing I learned from talking with my son's teacher, after having alerted
her to my concerns, is that my son was teasing and taunting the bully as a
strategy of rekindling his own power in the situation. We then had to work
with my son to learn how to stand up for himself without picking fights
(he's only 6 and these are pretty sophisticated social skills). I also
wanted to note that, two months ago, Mothering magazine did a whole series
of articles on bullying. They give a reading list of books on the subject.
It's definately a problem that is endemic and needs to be addressed by
parents in cooperation with teachers and schools. Good luck.
I am a teacher in an elementary school and you should godirectly to the
principal and have the teacher also attend and the boys parents. Your
school should have a zero tolerance for any bullying or inflammatory name
calling. This bully could be a victim of bullying or abuse at home, as they
usually are. If the school does not conform to a zero tolerance policy,
remove your son! There are schools that have zero tolence policy. The
school I work at in SF has that policy and all staff and students must
adhere to it. Explain to your son that this boy has a problem with himself
and feels a success in being a bully and that your son is not at fault.
After themeeting with the principal and all adults involved request that a
school counselor take on getting your son and the bully together away from
all others to get to know eachother and why this is happening. Yes, the
bully and any accomplises need to be punished. If I was the teacher I would
address it immidiatley and stop it in its tracks. I take this kind of thing
vewry seriously and you should too.....as you are. Remmeber, you are the
main advocate in your sons life, keep doing a great job!
I would definitely contact the bully's parents.
Though my children are both too small for school, I
vividly recall when I was in school and a kid led a
group of kids in calling me a kind of racial slur
nickname. One phone call to the kid's parents and he
stopped right away, and even gave an obviously coerced
apology. I think that unless the bully's parents are
absolute monsters that they would immediately act to
modify their child's behavior. I would certainly want
to know if my kid were acting in such an anti-social
Just be sure to approach them in a cooperative way,
setting aside your (well justified) anger at their
kid. I would also express a request that the parents
not let the bully child know specifically that they
are acting pursuant to a call from you, so as not to
give the bully more information than he needs.
If this fails (parents unsupportive), to be perfectly
honest, I would probably tell the parents something to
the effect of: "I always try to resolve problems
informally and being a cooperative person myself, I
consider litigation an absolute last resort. But I do
see your child's behavior as a threat to the
well-being of mine and I see it as my duty to my son
to protect him. I am sure you also feel the same way
about your son. I would hate to have to take legal
steps to have your son removed from school or to get
all of us involved in costly, wasteful litigation over
this matter. Please help me avoid this by working with
me in modifying your child's behavior."
My heart goes out to you and I wish you good luck.
I really sympathize with you over this, as my daughter had a couple of years
struggling with being bullied. In some ways with boys it's easier because
it's more overt - but teachers do very often miss what's going on. It is
important to hit hard and fast - because your child is already demoralised
and it makes it worse if there's no success when you (the Great Parent) step
into the situation. The teacher sounds hopeless. The principal may be
I think you should MAKE SURE the parents of the bully are told what's going
on - and possibly the parents of some of the children who are going along
with it. A good friend of mine discovered only after six months (because
the teacher never told her) that another child was living in misery because
of her son, who was acting as an acolyte to another kid, his only friend.
She was devastated that this had been happening and she didn't know. Kids
reasons for going along are pretty varied, with size being a big issue. Of
course, I found it hard to talk to the parents of my daughter's bullies
precisely because they were friends that I knew well, it was hard to bring
into a friendly conversation "...and your child has been making my child's
life a misery"...in the end it was sorted out by a teacher and a change of
school principal, and I had also worked with my daughter on defense tactics
that have helped her become a confident twelve year old.
I didn't have her change school or class because I liked the school in other
ways, and thought we would get through it (which was a slow method). It's
an option worth considering for your child, though. In retrospect I might
have done some sort of move, but things went up and down over the months and
at key moments I thought things were improving. I also didn't move her
because I'd had some bullying experience, and found moving to a new school
didn't help me get over it, really, even though the new school was better.
I actually think my daughter is stronger from having got through the
situation completely and on the last day at that school (three years after
the bullying had stopped) one of the girls involved fell on her neck,
sobbing and saying "I'm so sorry for all the times I was mean to you" which
I think was an important experience for both of them.
Part of the process, for me, was getting together with some other parents,
teachers, and the new school principal, to set up a better process for
dealing with bullying at the school - it will always exist (very bad sign if
teachers claim it doesn't) but it can be controlled and kids (both bullies
and bullied) can learn other ways of behaving. There are lots of books on
the subject, but I found some of the most useful material for prevention
programs was in emotional education sources - teaching kids to recognize one
another's emotions, being aware of the consequences of what they do, being
able to resist peer pressure etc. Basically, any school that doesn't have
an effective control and a prevention program will have uncontrolled
bullying, and a proportion of the kids there will be suffering the same
misery your son has been. So it's something that all parents should be
promoting, not just the relations of known victims.
Incidentally, one of the most troublesome kids in my younger child's class
was an angelic looking child. I always had difficulty believing such a
sweet-looking kid could do the things I knew he did do. It seems like we
all have stereotypes for things, including bullies.
I do hope that the school can be enlisted to put
an end to the bullying. Perhaps the Parents Association
can pressure the school to start a Bullying Awareness
program. This would ensure that the harmfullness of this
sort of behavior is made apparent, and that episodes of bullying
or excessive teasing will be immediately reported.
As a counselor I often see the long-term damage of teasing
and bullying in adults in adults with severely compromised
self esteem. So, I suggest that your son get some help,even
if the bullying is brought to an end.
The techniques that I use to undo the damage of bullying and
teasing are Hypnotherapy, EFT and Experiential Art. EFT is
a method of tapping on acupoints while the child and/or parent
tunes into the problem. This rebalances the energy system
and the negative emotions fall away. Kids like to tap on their
"body buttons," and it's not necessary for them to do a lot
of talking about the problem.
Meanwhile, on your own, you might encourage your son
to draw pictures of the bullying experiences. You can also
ask him to draw pictures about what else he is afraid
of, and about how he would like the situation to be.
Don't evaluate or interpret the drawings... just ask
him to tell you all about them. This will give you
more information, and give him a way of working on
his stuff. You can also encourage him to keep a
doodle diary that is his alone.
Hope some of this helps.
My sons are 16 and 18 now and over the years we have dealt with the
bully problem in all its many forms. Maybe it is something all boys
deal with, and unfortunately many of them will dish it out too, even
the "nice" boys. In grade school it's mostly name-calling. In middle
school and high school they get "jumped" by bullies, and usually they
don't tell the parents about it. One issue for me was: what do you do
if you raise your kids to be pacifists and some other kid threatens
them or even just harasses them mercilessly in front of other kids? My
older son as a freshman in highschool was suspended for a day for
punching a kid who was bullying him. I was very disturbed about it,
but he said, "Mom, he was taunting me in front of the whole
class. Everybody was watching. What else could I do?" I had to admit
he had a point - maybe his solution was the only one that would let
him keep his dignity. It's complicated. Believe me, I never
encouraged my kids to hit other kids, but we did have some "what if"
talks after some of their friends had bikes stolen or money taken by
bullies. My older son in middle school started hanging out with a big
mean-looking kid (actually a very sweet boy) as protection from
bullies, I always thought. And he in turn later protected his younger
brother, challenging any middle-schoolers who "messed with" him. The
younger son seems to have developed conflict avoidance skills. Or
maybe he is just such an irritating person that everyone stays away
from him, even bullies. At any rate, my kids were always VERY
reluctant to have me intervene, and eventually got to the point where
they would not tell me about it, for fear that I'd tattle. In
retrospect I can see that they had to work out their own ways of
dealing with bullies, because I was probably not going to be told
about any incidents, and they were the ones on the frontlines, not me.
My advice is: it is very hard to get help from teachers, at least in
larger schools. Certainly you should speak with the teachers and
principal but don't expect the school to be able to solve the problem.
Kids know how to bully without teachers seeing them. One positive
thing you can do is to generate some good PR for your kid - by that I
mean making the other kids think that your son is one cool kid. Does
he have at least a passing knowledge of whatever fads the kids his age
are in to? If not, do some investigating and get him up to speed. Can
you get him some new cool thing that he can brag about or show off? I
realize this is not the lesson we are supposed to give to our kids,
but self-esteem is very important, and parents can do public relations
for their kids that will improve their social standing. Kids are
very fickle and not too perceptive and will suddenly start liking
another kid just on the basis of one or two cool toys (or later, a
pair of shoes or a video game). If your son is still young enough for
you to create play dates for him without too much protest, you might
try inviting the culprits over for some irresistable event - a trip to
an arcade or Great America or something major like that. You will be
there to make sure everyone has a good time. If this isn't an option,
make sure your son has his own friends to hang with, setting up
playdates yourself if necessary. If the situation continues to worsen
despite your best efforts I hate to say it but I think you should
change schools. Once a kid gets labeled, it's very hard to shake it
off and it could stick to the kid for years to come, especially if he
is in a small school.
Rather than focusing on the options you've mentioned... talk to child,
his parents, head of school... I would instead suggest supporting your
son to handle this himself in some really effective (and probably
politically incorrect) way. Your son is a target for the boys in his
class, and will continue to be so until you help him find a way to be
a less attractive target, or a stronger adversary. All of us would
like to stop bullying in schools -- but most of us have only the
ability to stop our kids from being bullied.
In your place I'd be encouraging him to stand up for himself (clearly
we differ here on what is an appropriate response) and seeking an
outside source for building his body image, self-respect and social
skills. How? I very strongly recommend a program of martial arts
training such as Kuk Sool Won -- in my experience kids who get hassled
seem to send some secret signal to those around them that triggers the
unfair negative attention. A good program of martial arts (or
alternatively a good program in a team sport) might teach your son
skills to deflect negative attention, while developing excellent
physical skills and an understanding of where he is and how he
interacts with others. Its also a whole lot of fun and gives a great
sense of pride and accomplishment. I suggest the KSW on Sacramento
because so much of their program is directed at kids. They are good at
what they do.
Let me encourage you to stop seeing your child as a "victim" in this.
For whatever reason, he, and you, have entered into a relationship
with his tormentors, and you will have to break the pattern and make
a new healthier one. I know its frustrating and discouraging -- but
the fact is this could be the start of a new, more positive time for
your son. Good luck.
I had a similar experience to your son's in school. I was well
adjusted and popular, but my best friend, who was more popular,
decided she didn't like me anymore, and had the charisma to sway the
whole class. I spent a grade in isolation, sitting alone at lunch,
talking to no one in class. My parents thought I should deal with it
myself. But in my experience (I have since had several friends who
had similar experiences) the problem is unresolvable. Once a child
becomes ostracized it is almost impossible for him or her to recover
the lost social ground. My school was large and the administration
moved me to another track the next year (perhaps someone noticed?) and
I had little contact with my former classmates and found plenty of
friends. However, I have always been sure that my self-image was
permanently altered by this experience. (I am 32 and I still
occasionally have (bad) dreams about these things that took place when
I was 11.) One friend who had a similar experience suffered for years
before his parents moved. At his new school he had no problems, but
he was permanently scarred by the experience (he is a very bitter and
sarcastic person and attributes this to his ostracism in school). I
would strongly recommend that you remove your child from this school.
No school is good enough to outweigh the damage that is being done to
him by constant harassment.
Yes, talk to the other boy's parents. Talk to the principal. Make sure your
son has the opportunity for friendships outside of school. It sounds as
though the intervention really needs to happen at the classroom level, but I
realize how unlikely that is to happen espcially if your son is in a public
school. Consider getting outside help for all of you. Marsha Hiller
is a therapist experienced in exactly this kind of thing. Warm and
empathic, I can't recommend anyone more highly. (I've worked under her
supervision as an intern in a public school setting.) If her rates are too
high for your budget she can recommend someone else.
It is the school's job to deal with
bullying, and it is your job to advocate for your child and make sure he
is in an environment where he feels safe and respected. You have done
the right things by talking to the teacher and the head of the school.
Press them to be specific on what they are going to do to make their
school an appropriate place for your child. If you're not satisfied with
their responses or the results they are getting, consider taking your
child out of that school.
Contacting the other boy's parents may work if you know them and think
they will have a constructive response; otherwise let the school deal
with it. Don't talk to the boy yourself unless you are invited to do so
by the school and/or his parents.
Counseling your son on how to respond is good, as long as you let him
know that you don't expect him to solve this by himself. This sounds
like a situation that is more than any kid can handle alone. Tell him
what you are doing to help and that he deserves to be safe and respected
at school. Listen to what he has to say, and only take him out of the
school if he agrees to it.
You don't say how old your son is, or why he is in this class with
such a wide range of ages. However I can say, as a victim of nasty
bullying (and with zero get-along skills) in elementary school,
mostly in the 5th grade, that you should never, ever, approach the
bully yourself. Believe me, that will make the bullying much much
worse, and signal your son that he absolutely can't handle anything.
By all means go to the principal, and also ask her whether you should
call the parents (she knows them, so she'll have a better idea. They
could be real jerks if their son is as adorable as he sounds.
Certainly they're missing a step already.) If she also seems
ineffective (as most adults are against bullying, unless perhaps
there's a school-wide anti-bullying program that can nip it in the
bud before it starts), my suggestion is to get your son out of that
class (with that ridiculously ignorant teacher), and probably even
out of that school as quickly as possible. It's very unlikely your
son will be able to get out from under that kind of daily torture
simply by changing his response. He doesn't seem to be able to make
that leap so far, and anyway, why should he have to? You're asking
too much from a child. (Even most adults couldn't do it.) If you
leave him there and hope for the best, and it simply continues, he
will only be waiting it out, and having the world's worst life while
he's at it. Naturally he will think it's all his fault, and that
something is terribly wrong with him, no matter what you tell him.
When I finally grew up and got way past all those problems (after a
lot of time and trouble) I wondered why my mother hadn't pulled me
out of that terrible fifth grade class. She said she had no idea it
was that bad (though I had missed weeks of school at a time from
refusing to go). You know what's going on, and you have a chance to
make the difference. I really don't think there's any benefit from
toughing it out. If you pull him out now, and find a better
situation for him right away, he will have the opportunity to start
over fresh, and blame all the trouble on the bully and the horrible
rotten school, precisely where it belongs. Please just take this as
an opinion, though I guess a pretty strong one. Do whatever you
think is right, love your son, and no matter what else you do, make
it clear that he's absolutely perfect just the way he is - it's the
bullies that cause the problems of the world.
I really recommend against calling another child's parents to discuss
this kind of issue. It often comes out of the blue and their reactions
can be disturbing (and probably not indicative of what they would say
if they thought for a moment). Best to let the professionals handle
it. Most schools and districts now have a very strict policy about
taking every incident of bullying very seriously and will act if asked
My son had several incidents of being bullied two years ago. The child
who was bullying was punished at the school and the parents when we
tried to discuss it with them (we had been friendly previously) ended
up telling us that it was our child's fault that their son had been
bullying. I don't think they would have said this if they had been
thinking, and certainly didn't say it to the principal, the teacher
and the school psychologist when they met with them.
My son was also being bullied
(emotionally, not physically) and his self-esteem was falling. During the
year, he was picked on, called names, and isolated. I worked with the
school, which intervened, but frankly by the pre-teen years the kids know
how to "play" the teachers. Also, you can get only so much during school;
there's got to be involvement at home. And when I did call one parent whose
son has been implicated in bullying for about 4 years, mom's response was
"are you sure it was my son?"
This being said, I took a 3-prong approach. I worked with my son directly, I
worked through the school, but I also sought professional help -- an outside
therapist who specialized in child psychology and social adjustment issues.
It sometimes irked me that, as I saw it, my son went to a therapist because
the bullied (who obviously needed counseling) didn't, but I'm glad I did.
After a full academic year of crap, I got to see my son engaged in new
relationships over the summer. In meeting new kids at camp, he was open,
warm, and even stood up to his best friend who was bullying a new friend (as
he said, "I know what it's like to have someone pick on you and not have
anyone stand up for you"). I did not directly see the benefits of counseling
during the school year, but for my child to remain so open to making new
friends after the school experience he had was proof positive that therapy
was worth it and his self-esteem was rising.
I'd like some insider info on some of our private middle schools.
My child's issues are not academic, they're social. He was
bullied for a few years in elementary and I'm worried that he
could either become a target again, or become a bully himself if
he goes into the wrong environment. I'm looking for a place where
put-downs, snobbery, and social exclusion are not tolerated. Am I
Community School of the East Bay (2)
Manzanita Middle School (2)
Redwood Day School
St. Paul's Episcopal School
I told my 10 year old daughter that violence begets violence and if
she is ever approached to fight or threatened in any way by her peers
(or anyone for that matter), she should just walk away. Well, that
was all fine and dandy until two Thursdays ago when a group of 4
bullies (all girls) followed my daughter and her two classmates (one
is also her busmate)- let's call them A & B- from the school yard
after school. As the main bully began pushing and shoving A, the
girls just walked faster trying to "walk away". Well, this wasn't
good enough for the bullies. Because they wanted a fight, they
insisted on pulling A's hair and getting her on the ground and beating
her. My daughter said she doesn't know what made the bully stop
beating up her friend, but she did anyhow. The bullies left, feeling
victorious, while my daughter and A & B ran crying to B's house. She
lives only TWO blocks away from the school. My daughter and B were
also crying because they had never seen or been involved in something
like this before. So, here's the question from my daughter: We tried
to walk away, but the girls wouldn't let us. So what do I do now
Mommy? What should I do if this happens again? Does anyone have any
answers, suggestions??? Veronica
I tell my daughter when someone is bothering her or pushing/hitting her to
let them know in a loud angry voice to stop, and if that doesn't work, then
to push or hit back harder. Because if a bully knows that your child won't
do anything, they will continue to bother him/her.
I think that bullies of this sort don't like resistance. It sounds like
they persisted because it looked like easy prey and/or maybe slight
numerical superiority. I have no official answer on this topic, but as for
my wife, son, and I, we don't subscribe to violence and likewise attempt to
avoid physical confrontations. OTOH, if someone will not accept my attempt
to resolve or walk away from a "problem" and they insist on getting
physical, I'm going to defend myself in whatever manner possible. Same
goes for my wife and son; walk away if you can, if not then defend yourself
at least until you can get away or someone intervenes.
Assuming that your daughter and her friends know who the bullies are, what
their names are, or at least what class(es) they are in, at this point I'd
join with A & B's parents and lodge some very strong words with the
teacher(s), counselor(s), and/or principal of the school re: what happened.
The intent would be to get in contact with the offending children's
parents and inform them of what their children have done. If this happens
again, or in the event that things escalate greatly (involving police,
lawyers, courts, doctors, etc.) at least you've set a positive pattern of
trying to resolve the problem by contacting the other parents. Hate to say
it but it might also be useful to investigate whether your daughter, "A",
and/or "B" did anything to instigate retribution by others. I'm not syaing
this is the case, then again all parents have seen or caught their children
doing something the parent wouldn't have expected.
I would highly recommend checking out an organization called Kidpower in
Santa Cruz that conducts full contact self defense training for children
and adults in the Bay Area. Last summer, I myself took an intensive adult
course from Bay Area Model Mugging which offers teen classes but not
children's. I decided to take the training after numerous friends had done
so, and after attending a class graduation. These types of self defense
classes are not at all like martial arts in that blows are actually landed
on an extremely padded trained instructor. A key part of class I took and
the Kidpower my daughter took is that one learns to diffuse potentially
dangerous situations and if necessary to land knock-out blows. For younger
children the focus is not on landing knock-out blows, but temporarily
disabling in order to escape safely ie. eye strikes. Lots of time is spent
learning to become more aware of one's surroundings, setting
appropriate boundaries, and avoiding the escalation of a fight. Kidpower
does an evening of parent training before the children's classes start.
I learned so much as did my daughter. Kidpower website:
In response to "fight or flight", I've always told my boys to walk away
from altercations BUT if the bully continues to pick on them (kinda like
the 3 strikes law), then the only alternative is to fight back. I
explained to my sons that bullies prefer to pick on the so-called "weak"
and that fighting back will let the bullies know that you will not be
pushed around. I told them that they may get their "butt kicked" but at
least they show that they will defend themselves if have to. Fortunately
my 19 yr old didn't have to defend himself in school, but my 13 yr old had
to when he was in the 6th grade. No one has picked on him since that time.
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