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My son is in the 3rd grade. Since last year he is being ignored by classmates; I've witnessed this when I dropped him off at school. He would walk into the small gathering of boys and they would stand in front of him to exclude him. He isn't invited to any parties or playdates, and although I realize there isn't much I can do about this, it is heart-breaking. The other day, a boy hit him in the eye, and he wears glasses. I plan to go to the school to discuss what programs they might present to the students on bullying and empathy, but I don't have any other ideas. And, since he is only in the 3rd grade, we have such a long way to go; I hate that my child will be excluded from everything. By the way, he is a good boy and a good student - the teachers love him and so do his older sisters and entire family. Any advice is appreciated.


Stephen Hopson Replied: Yes, it is most definitely, absolutely heartbreaking. It's actually devastating to a parent because who wants to see their child so blatantly rejected in the open like that? Let me tell you a story about my experiences. When I was a child, I was made fun of because of the funny looking hearing aids and the way I talked (I've been deaf since birth). The kids would sometimes shut off the lights or cover their mouths so I couldn't see what they were saying. Inside me, I had low self esteem but on the outside, I appeared to be happy, lucky-go. I think that outer appearance might have helped me but what changed my life was the impact a fifth grade teacher said to me one day in class. It's a long story and I've actually had it published in a book but what happened was the teacher had a question upon which I had answered, correctly. Her reply was thunderous where she said, THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN! That alone forever planted a seed in my mind that I had the capability of overcoming my disability and making a place for myself in my life. What this illustrates is the power of giving your child some idea of how powerful they are. Do you give your child the ability to make decisions? Do you encourage him to dream? Do you poo poo his ambitions (if he has any?). Or do you champion them? Do you give him the ability to make "risky" decisions or play safe? When I was a kid, I was also a "good boy" and tried to be a good student. But that was because if I wasn't, I'd face my father who I was afraid of a the time. My mom was always threatening, "Wait until your father gets home." That always shaped me up but not because I wanted to but because of fear. And because I had a little bit of fear inside me, I gave off that energy. By the way, it didn't help that I had yellow buckteeth and a large hearing aid box that was strapped around my chest. But one week after the fifth grade teacher said those three words, my courage was tested by the school bully who approached me on the playground. Long story short, those three words the teacher said the week before somehow gave me new courage to face the bully and what I said next would certainly not work in today's day and age but I more or less told the bully if he punched my hearing aid box, it would blow up the whole school. Luckily for me, he believed me and backed off and then ran away. I became the most popular kid in the whole school after that. This is not, in any way, to suggest this is the best course of action but it's simply to demonstrate the power of encouragement and what it can do to a child's inner spirit. I would take a close look at how you are interacting with the child and see if you're empowering him or if you're making decisions for him all the time. Too often parents admonish their children, "Don't do this," "Don't do that." "No, you can't." "Because I said so." You know the drill. Most parents fall into that. But what happens when they begin to develop a partnership? I'm not saying a 'friends' partnership but more of a parent-child partnership? The child begins to sense some empowerment and grows confident. When a child grows more confident, he/she radiates a certain kind of energy that almost certainly causes his/her outer world to change and in this case, that would be the reaction/behavior of other kids. Bullying is the roughest part of growing up and there are no guarantees. But one thing I will tell you is that a bully looks for others who look ripe for picking. If a child has low self esteem or gives off a sense of energy that looks easy to pick on, they make a beeline towards that child without realizing why they are doing it. Imagine if the child was empowered at home, allowed to make decisions and how that would be radiated outwards in the "real world." (i.e. "We're going on vacation next month, where would you like to go? A or B? Give the child a choice and then ask him/her why that location was picked." Does wonders for the child's inner processing system!
Posted On 2008-06-02 10:21:03
Lou Longo Replied: Bullying has been going on since the beginning of schools and we still do not put enough attention to it. Sadly, many times bullies are the sons and daughters of former bullies and the cycle does not get broken. You definitely need to speak with the school administration and teachers and I hope for you and your child's sake they have the courage, skills and time to deal with this in the right manner. Do not let them pass this off as "kids being kids" as it is very serious and 100% unacceptable. Most kids bully out of their own insecurities because as long as someone else is being picked on, they know it is not them. I have no doubt your son is a very good boy and kind. What I am not sure of are the other dynamics of school and your community. For example, my kids go to a small school and have been going there since kindergarten and I know all the kids and families in their class pretty well. I firmly believe that teachers can have a more active role in preventing the bullying as well as providing opportunities for the bullied kids to get more confidence and friendships. One thing teachers, lunch monitors, etc. need to do is step in when they see it happening and address it consistently. Are there any parents in the class you have gotten to know that you could talk to as hopefully they are not aware of this ostracizing occurring? If so, talk to them and invite them over or out for a play date so the kids can get to know each other. Finally, as hard as it is going to be, try not to let your emotions get up as you want the best outcome for your son. The first time my son took the bus to school he came home crying afterwards as he said the older kids would not let him share a seat. The next morning, I walked him onto the bus, gave the bus driver a wink so she knew I was ok and calmly (yet firmly) stated that I wanted to make sure my son had a seat for the ride to school. He had about 6 offers and it was never an issue again. Best of luck and take it one day at a time.
Posted On 2008-03-16 22:32:05
Mark Viator Replied: This situation does require some delicacy, but really warrants some parental involvement. First off, do go to the school and meet with the administration. Let them know, that as a concerned parent, you would appreciate the school to take some initative to have some programs on bullying. There are several national programs that are excellent, and I am sure that the school counselors can really do an outstanding job on presenting this information to all of the kids in the school. Now with regards to you son. Talk to him about he feels about this situation. Is it just this group of boys or is all the kids in his class or school? If it is just these certain kids, encourage him to seek other friends, perhaps even in other classes or grade levels. Also, seek opportunities for your son to be involved with peers outside of the school setting. Get him involved in extra curricular activities such as scouting, sports, or the arts. If he is interested in these, he will be able to find kids with similar likes and interest. This will help make the socialization easier. Also, don't give up. He is only in 3rd grade. Right now may be a tough time, but as kids mature and grow up, many aspects change. Just try to keep him involved, don't let him feel that he is not wanted, and encourage him to explore his options in making friends. Good Luck.
Posted On 2008-03-16 17:06:10
Christine Hierlmaier Nelson Replied: I had similar concerns about my daughter, a first grader, following school conferences when three teachers mentioned her difficulty working in small groups. She is bright and very social, but would get visibly frustrated in groups. Some of the girls started telling her that they didn't like her. I spoke with one of the social workers who was willing to bring my daughter together with some of the children and work on group dynamics and conflict resolution. She is doing much better with her frustration levels and seems to be getting along better with other children. It may also be that your son has some difficulty picking up on social cues. The majority of communication is body language. Practicing positive body language skills and interpreting social cues with your son may also help him to "read" other kids better. Here is a link I found on common body postures and what they can mean.,21770,693390-2,00.html You could also go to a public setting sometime and play a game with your son in which he talks about what he thinks people might be feeling based on their body postures. This will give you a better awareness of his skill with social cues and provide an opening for discussion. Above all, emphasize to your son that you love him and talk about all the wonderful things he can do and be. Praise his strengths and let him know that some people won't always like or agree with him...and that's okay. Set up playdates yourself with other children to give him one-on-one time with other kids in his class. This proactive strategy can help to break up the "game" these boys are playing.
Posted On 2008-03-13 10:19:05
Deborah Maragopoulos Replied: Your question reminds me of a similar situation I faced with my son. He too wore glasses, was small for his age, was very bright, and bullied by the other boys. One of his classmates confided in me while I was supervising after school play, that he and the other kids didn't "get" my son. So I introduced a parent run program called Project Self Esteem into the elementary school. Being actively involved in the school allowed me to observe my son's interactions with the other children and using the language of Project Self Esteem, I was able to help him understand how his behavior affected others. Teach your son the Law of Attraction, what we expect in others is often how we are treated. Ask him to find out something nice about one of the bullies. Looking for the positive will help him realize his power in attracting friends. And don't forget to begin each day expressing your love and gratitude for him. It sometimes takes special children a little longer to be accepted outside the loving arms of their families.
Posted On 2008-03-04 22:54:27
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