Q: My son is being bullied on the bus and at school, and I am angry. He's a perfectly normal second grader. Nothing in his appearance or behavior should make him stand out in any way. Yet he's been called terrible names, and even punched repeatedly by different kids. He holds his fear and anger inside most of the time, but I found out something was going on because he was emotional and crying a lot. I finally got him to tell me what was happening and telling me helped him feel better. I am beside myself. How do I protect him from these bullies and get him to tell me when he is bullied?
I want to start an anti-bullying campaign for the school district, because if my sweet boy is being bullied I know other kids must be, too. Would that actually help, or would it make it worse from him? This is so frustrating, kids are supposed to be safe at school!
A: It's good that your son finally told you about his ordeal, and you should certainly report the problem to the school. No doubt the children who have been calling him names or punching him have attacked others, as well, so the principal should be alerted to the problem.
It's important to explain to your son that kids who bully are often also having problems. Sometimes they're bullied at home or school and become bullies to get even or vent their anger. That doesn't excuse them. For most verbal bullying, ignoring the bully or just telling him to cut it out is reasonably effective. For any physical bullying, your son should report the problem to you or his teacher. You do want to be careful not to be too, too sympathetic to your son, or he will feel as if he is a poor victim and can't do anything to stop the problem. Also, the more worried you are, the more concerned he will feel. He instead has to learn to do something about the problem and realize he is not the only one who has been bullied and that he can handle himself without harming others.
There have always been bullies. I doubt that there is an adult you know who wasn't bullied a few times as a child. It's reasonably conclusive that bullying is worse today, probably related to all the aggression that children see on the variety of screens they're exposed to including video games, television and movies.
Anti-bullying programs in schools have been very effective in reducing bullying by at least half. It would be a superb idea for you to check with the principal about introducing such a program. Your parent-teacher association might like to help you spearhead something like this. Sometimes there are state and federal grants to help develop programs and give training to teachers, parents and students on how to handle bullying.
For a free newsletter about bullying, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter and a note with your topic choice to address below. Read Dr. Rimm's articles, hear the song "Bully Power" and watch a video program on bullying at school at www.sylviarimm.com. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] All questions are answered. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.