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OMG - just been told my son has been bullying a girl at school...


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I honestly never expected to write anything like that in my life, but I have just heard from one of my son's best friend's mum that he has been involved in a gang of boys taunting this girl in the playground, calling her 'fat'. her Mum says she has started throwing food away and hiding packed lunch food as a result. I am so shocked - I started with anorexia at this girls' age (9) and can't believe that my son, who i have been so careful to bring up with a healthy attitude to food, body shape etc would do this. Admittedly, the Mum says my son was not the leader, and we have had trouble when he plays with this lad before, but i am at a loss as to what to do. Up until recently, he and this girl were best mates -had been since Reception class (age 4-5). My immediate instinct is to read the riot act about bullying, calling people names etc, tell him not to play with this boy, but that may well make everything worse - not to mention cause bad feeling with this lad's Mum (it's a village - everyone knows everyone, and banning certain playmates could get out of proportion)... is there perhaps a more subtle approach?

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You should certainly talk to him about bullying people..  does the other boys mum know her son is bullying this girl?  If not maybe have a word with her too so she will have a word with her son too. 

Maybe tell her you have strong views on bullying and you would not be happy allowing your son to continue playing with a child who bullied other children?  she may not know and be just as shocked? 

Teach him to do the right thing. He can play with the lads but when they do the wrong things, he is to refuse to do such act and say: "This is wrong, I won't do this."

Learning to take a stand is a very important thing in the education of a person. The ability to not yield to peer pressure when principles are involved will keep him from falling into worse things.

Making him apologize to his friend is another one. He will then get to see the consequences of his act. He will get a chance to see the hurt he has caused.

A friend of mine posted on FB about what a teacher did to teach her class about bullying. The teacher told each child to crumple up a blank sheet of paper then stomped on it. Then she told them to try to smooth out the paper to make it like the stomping never happened. When they failed, she told them bullying another person is just like that, you leave scars no matter how much you try to make amend.

disclaimer: I know nothing of raising kids or being a parent or dealing with bullies

I think talking to him about bullying is a good idea. But not about specifically about calling her "fat" and about her throwing away food and such.

I really like what cajunrider wrote - make him apologise, and that paper example is pretty good.

Why not sit your son down and have a talk in a calm manner first? Here what he has to say and explain how this is a very hurtful and can lead to a lot of problems for this girl. I would also ask him how he would feel if people did this to him? Then maybe ask him what he feels he should do to resolve this and make it better?

 

I'm just glad that you're concerned.  In my experience, children who bully tend to have parents that did as well (and respond, "Oh, come on, they're kids.  This is what kids do...").

Original Post by cajunrider:


A friend of mine posted on FB about what a teacher did to teach her class about bullying. The teacher told each child to crumple up a blank sheet of paper then stomped on it. Then she told them to try to smooth out the paper to make it like the stomping never happened. When they failed, she told them bullying another person is just like that, you leave scars no matter how much you try to make amend.

I like this!! He's a good boy, and I'm sure he'd respond to an idea like this. He is also sensible enough to accept that 'this is wrong, I won't do this' , and I have to teach him to do this, as you say.

I agree I need to aproach this calmly, and NOT make it focus on the 'fat' remark, but bullying and making others feel bad in general - and maybe talking to the other Mum would work, if done VERY carefully...

Thank you all for your ideas!

 

If he's not actively chiming in and bullying this girl, he's trying to fit in and feel like part of the crowd.

Personally, I'd explain about personal courage, about how his job is to defend people that can't defend themselves, and forbid him playing with such people and tell him to blame me when they ask.

I think the fact that it's a small village where everyone is acquainted could work to your advantage.  Why not call up the other boys mom and talk to her?  You don't have to attack her or suggest that her son is at fault, but she might not be aware of the problem.  Just express your concern for the little girl and you guys might be able to work together. 

My son has done some bullying and has been the victim of it, himself.  One thing I can say is that while it is a problem and one that needs to be addressed, it is not the end of the world and not worth making your son feel like crap about himself.  Peer pressure and influence has a lot to do with this.  He needs to understand why it's wrong and hurtful.

There actually is a little boy that I have forbidden my son to play with at school.  It was just plainly obvious that they could not play or interact together without having an issue.  It's not an ideal solution, but sometimes it's the only option.

 I would first sit down with him and calmly say, "Hey, I found out that so and so boys have been calling 'the little girl' names. What's up with that?" I would try to find out first, from his point of view, why he wants to be friends with these other kids and then ask why he stood with them while they did this (even the silent ones are participants because they chose to stand by the bullies). Is he afraid of the main bully himself? Does it make him feel powerful, important or special to hang out with that group of kids vs. being an outsider to them? - I would ask. Then, of course, comes the part about what's right and what's wrong.

 Find out his motives first- (in his own words), and then help him find ways to stand up for himself and feel special without victimizing someone else.

 cajun's example of the crumpled paper is powerful.

Original Post by kathygator:

If he's not actively chiming in and bullying this girl, he's trying to fit in and feel like part of the crowd.

Personally, I'd explain about personal courage, about how his job is to defend people that can't defend themselves, and forbid him playing with such people and tell him to blame me when they ask.

 I agree with this, except the banning him from playing with the other boy.  He can stop bullying, stand up for the girl and still be friends with the boy.  I don't know, but it seems pretty young to be blacklisted, especially in a small community.  ...maybe if the other boy doesn't also stop, then your son can't play with him.

Do you think he'd be blacklisted if he blamed me for the restriction? Or would I?

I wonder if peer pressure is playing a role in all of this? You said your son wasn't the leader, so what if he feels pressured to take part? Is he protecting himself from the other kid (the bully)?

Peer pressure and mob mentally is really difficult to break.

I would sit them both down with a girl and have a nice big chat.

Original Post by kathygator:

Do you think he'd be blacklisted if he blamed me for the restriction? Or would I?

 I was referring to the other boy being blacklisted, not the OP's son.  It's hard to tell how severe or pervasive the bullying by the other boy was.  It might be going too far for the boy to be labeled as a kid that other kids need to avoid.  That could be just as detrimental for him as the bullying of the girl was for her.

I suppose that's true, but I wouldn't consider the bully's reputation as being within my sphere of responsibility.

Original Post by phoebe_luvs_smallville:

 I would first sit down with him and calmly say, "Hey, I found out that so and so boys have been calling 'the little girl' names. What's up with that?" I would try to find out first, from his point of view, why he wants to be friends with these other kids and then ask why he stood with them while they did this (even the silent ones are participants because they chose to stand by the bullies). Is he afraid of the main bully himself? Does it make him feel powerful, important or special to hang out with that group of kids vs. being an outsider to them? - I would ask. Then, of course, comes the part about what's right and what's wrong.

 Find out his motives first- (in his own words), and then help him find ways to stand up for himself and feel special without victimizing someone else.

 cajun's example of the crumpled paper is powerful.

 ^this. The 'herd' mentality can be overwhelming to a little guy.

Original Post by kathygator:

I suppose that's true, but I wouldn't consider the bully's reputation as being within my sphere of responsibility.

 Well he is the son's best friend, and he's very young, and it takes a village and all that...

Wow this a tough one- I have been on the other side as a parent and really commend you for your concern and for addressing the matter. 

My guess that he already knows he is doing wrong and is struggling with it - your style of parenting is there even when they go against what they know!  It might be a relief to him to be "outed" and to stop - I would try to take the soft root at first and tell him you are disappointed that he chose this course and that you know he is too good a kid to continue this behavior.  Tell him you will be monitoring the situation very closely.  It's ok to make a mistake - it's not ok to continue it though. 

Maybe try to get the other kids Mom's to go along - if they followers stop and be friends with this girl, the bully will likely follow suit at some point once he knows he stands alone.

Since you are one of the moms on the "instigator" end of this situation, maybe you can talk to the other bully-kid's moms.  You could say something like, "Wow. Hey so-and-so, I just heard that our boys were saying blablabla to so-and-so and was wondering what we should do about it. Do you have any thoughts?"

 

Well, this is a hard topic to talk, it’s a shame that you’re in the side of the aggressor but it’s a good things that you want to do something about it, at my 15 i was victim of this kind of aggression and it’s true that it leave you scars, I’m 22 now and i'm still fighting (I’m still thinking that I not deserve to eat and i'm still trying to forget) but it’s a hard thing to do, so please encourage your son to talk this girl and makes him understand that its very dangerous to hurt a person in that way.

Be honest with him. he is going through adolescence and this is a time of insecurity for all kids. I remember when I was being mean to a girl at school and the teacher called my mom. I will never forget it because i was never mean to anyone after this incident. My mom sat me down and started speaking with me about her experience as a child (she was bullied) and it was that compassion I felt for her that filled me with guilt. I was more aware of my actions upon other people. I think you should be honest and open with him- tell him YOUR story and don't be afraid to be emotional. It may help give him a sense of compassion and help him understand that what he does affects others. Good luck.
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