Moms with older kids: What do you do about bullying? Please weigh in here!Subscribe
Our 9-year-old, G., is having a bad experience with bullies at school. The physical aspect has stopped -- for now -- but these mean kids are saying mean things, and our boy doesn't quite know how to deliver a snappy comback or brush it off. There are other issues at play, too -- G. has Asperger's Syndrom, which is a mild form of Autism, and he doesn't automatically understand how to read social cues (facial expressions, body language, gestures, tone of voice, things that we generally take for granted)...
His mom (G. is my stepson) has yet another meeting set up with teachers and school administrators, and I'm trying to help her by gathering information about how other parents and other kids have dealt with school bullies. We're trying to find ways to help G. cope in the short term while the adults set things straight in the long term.
Has your kid been bullied? How did you handle it? What did your kid do to cope?
L - - I have no experience specifically with bullying . . . but just wanted to jump in to give you a 'high five' for being so active, and a valuable part of G's life!!
The only suggestion I have is that all of the parents involved may want to try and pick out a friend for G - - cultivate a new friendship for him . . . someone that can hang out with him, provide a protective bubble . . .
Maybe ask the admin at the school if they have anyone they could suggest? A "big brother" of sorts?
Our oldest (almost 13) did that for two years for a classmate. . . the kid just needed someone 'on his side' to keep out the aggressive brats . . .
Naomi, that's a wonderful idea. His older sisters are at a different school, so they can't do it for him, but I think he'd really feel relieved at the idea of having someone "on his side." He knows he's not alone but, especially for kids with Autism, knowing and feeling can be pretty separate things...
School bullying is nothing new and was once considered a character-building rite of passage for our children, but now it is seen for what it is--a form of victimization and abuse. As a children's author, I do a lot of school visits and invariably the students and I end up talking about their bullying experiences. We also role-play different bullying scenarios, so that the students can "feel" the same situation from the perspective of the bully, the bully's victim, and the bystander. I always emphasize the importance of the role of the bystander who can inadvertently (or sometimes purposely) frequently stop or facilitate the bullying situation. Many of those students' stories were included in my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs and the book was dedicated to a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied. Bullying is by no means harmless and it can leave lasting psychological scars.
You are starting on the right path, just being supporting and proactive about the bullying problem is a step in the right direction. It's a great idea to involve the teachers and any other adults in your stepson's life. All of you are demonstrating that he has a group of adults that he can come to when he has a problem. Teachers and parents are instrumental in working through bullying problems. First, by setting appropriate expectations for behavior (bullying is never allowed, even if a teacher is not around!). As an educator, I would recommend expanding that group of "safe people" to include some same-age peers. The teachers can help you find other students who will reinforce those expectations. A group of peers who are defending your stepson against bullies (with words and actions) will help create a positive environment for your soon. Keep communicating with the teachers, and make sure that your stepson knows he can talk to you, too.
I echo the "safe people". My daughter also falls on the spectrum, high functioning, especially academically, so she is in standard classroom. This year she was placed in a classroom that effectively separated her from all the friends so carefully cultivated in the prior two years. And the bullying started.
Luckily her teacher was actually interested in helping, and we devised a plan to get her a group of safe peers. And it worked; the 2nd half of the year has gone brilliantly.