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How do you deal with bullies?

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Re: How do you deal with bullies?

  • Ugh.  I'm sorry your family is dealing with this -- it's very hard for kids and parents.

    I teach middle school, and have witnessed this from the teacher's perspective many times.  I'm no expert on bullying, but here are my observations/ideas based on my professional experience:

    1. He needs praise and reassurance that he did the right thing by coming to you about it.  Kids live under a kind of code of silence about this that makes it hard to ask for help.  Assure him that he should continue talking to you and that you will help him.

    2. Let him know that lots of kids are teased or bullied -- even the "cool" kids.  Sometimes bullies mistreat their friends in secret, private ways that other kids can't see.  He's not alone.  Almost every kid is teased or bullied to some extent.

    3. Kids who are bullied consistently and fall into the "victim" role a lot, tend (from my perspective) to somewhat buy into the bully's message.  If the bully is teasing a kid about being ugly, odds are the kid somehow believes he/she is ugly.  I wouldn't confront your child directly about this, but I would ask the counselor for help with it.

    4. Kids who have a solid friend group of like-minded peers withstand bullying much better than kids who are isolated.  Sometimes seventh graders still have trouble knowing how to initiate friendships with kids.  If your child doesn't have a lot of close friends, it could be hard for him to withstand bullying.  Sometimes, in the competitive social world of middle school, kids who are less socially experienced try to make friends with the "fast and beautiful" crowd, without realizing that this might not be the best choice for them!   Ask your son to talk about kids in his classes and discuss who is similar to him and who is different.  Arrange for him and another kid who has similar interests to get together and do something they'd enjoy. 

    I've watched middle schoolers in my school who were victims in elementary school really thrive when they found other kids who liked the "Magic The Gathering" trading card game, or whatever similar interest they have.  Bullies are much less likely to target a kid who is surrounded by other kids.

    5. Maybe give him a break, if possible, at the unsupervised times of day like the busride.  Drive him to school -- or even get him an iPod so he can plug in his headphones and ignore the bullies.

    GL!

  • Now that he has finally told me he seems a lot more relaxed.  We came up with a code system so that I know how his day was w/o his siblings knowing...he's a very private guy.

    If he had a bad day instead of telling me "fine" like he always has, if his day was bad he'll say "it was crazy" and then I'll know he needs to talk later when it's just us.

    My only concern w the bus idea is that the kids will take his stuff.  I was going to suggest that it would be a good time to read...that's what I always did.

     

  • I want to respond to Kuus' suggestion and the criticism to it.

    Kuus' response is limited in that it is the product of her personal experience -- it's based on what worked for her.  It's not necessarily the right advice for the OP and her son, but not everything in her reply is invalid.

    I don't know how old Kuus is, but I know that teacher response to bullying has really improved from the days when I was in school.  So her statement that the adults around are powerless to help may have been more true in her childhood experience.

    Schools' philosophy used to be that what happened in kids' social lives was off limits.  My own busride was a free-for-all (yes -- I was teased and bullied) and my bus drivers wouldn't have recognized bullying -- or possibly would have even joined in!  Coaches had the attitude that the strong survive and the weak get pushed off the team -- for the good of the team!  True, there are educators who still believe this kind of crap, but schools have come a long way.  Any parent whose child is dealing with bullying should consider the school as a real resource and ally for the child.

    There's another aspect to Kuus' advice that's valid:  when kids stand up for themselves IN THE RIGHT WAY is when the bullying stops.  By IN THE RIGHT WAY I don't mean the old stereotype of punching the bully in the eye, like Ralphie does in A Christmas Story.  And I think that Kuus stealing her bullies' boyfriends is funny, but clearly not the answer for the OP's 7th grade son! 

    I mean standing up for themselves by taking actions and using words that convey to the bully this message: I don't care what you say.  You have no power over me.

    This can be hard for a middle schooler, but they can do it by:  ignoring the bullies, by becoming involved with friends and activities that they feel good about, by thinking positively about themselves and not believing what the bullies' message.

  • I'll be here with the "I told you so" when addressing it with the adults results in him being bullied even more when the adults aren't around.
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