Hi Barbara -
What advice do you have for how to deal with persistent bullying in younger grades? My son has been coming home with tales about one particular boy in his class since Pre-K, and the kids are now in first grade.
My son has rarely been the target and it has never been anything I couldn't counsel him through. "Use your words, tell him you don't want to play with anyone being mean, walk away, ask a teacher for help," etc. But now it has gotten more serious, and the offending student has inflicted physical violence on my son. It happened during the lunchtime recess when there aren't any teachers present, only "lunchtime Mom volunteers," and it happened just before the bell rang.
The other side of the problem is that I am casually friendly with the other kid's parents. I happen to know that their feeling towards their son's aggressive behavior is that "that's just how boys are." We are in a small private school and there is only one group/class of each grade level for Pre-K through Grade Eight. So we're in this for the long haul with the same group of kids.
I want to see this stopped - why am I hearing the same couple of names of kids acting out over and over again during a two year period? The administration can't possibly be oblivious, especially since I have heard that the parents of "the mean kid" definitely had a sit down with the principal last year during Kindergarten. I assume that most of the parents are just dealing with it quietly at home as we take our turns with our children being the target.
Now that my little guy has actually come home with a bruise inflicted from a series of hard kicks, I'm all done with dealing with this in a casual way. What's the best way to move through and hopefully, past this?
From: RH, North Easton
Because you are in a private school, you have the best ammunition ever: your checkbook. If the school can't fix this -- that is, ensure that the school is a safe place for each and every student -- there is no reason for your child to be there, no matter how good the school is in every other way. That starts with better monitoring on the playground, the lunchroom, the classroom. You have every right to expect and demand that volunteers -- as well as teachers! -- be trained to monitor, prevent, and intervene when there is bullying.
Of course, this is true in a public school, too, but sad to say, you have more clout in a private school. In either case, this must be dealt with systemically; don't be satisfied to have the school only deal with the particulars of this one situation, otherwise it continues to put your child at risk, as well as every other child in the classroom who learn that these behaviors are tolerated.
Start with the head of school or principal and move from there to the parent association. And while you want to respect your child's privacy (as well as the privacy of the bully), this is not an issue to be swept under the rug. (Of course, private schools also have the luxury of being able to counsel a family out of a school, which may or may not be a good solution.)
There was a time when a child coming home with bruises was looked upon by some parents as a rite of passage. Today, that kind of response is not acceptable or appropriate, and private as well as public schools across the country have embraced anti-bullying curricula. Even in this midst of budget cuts, school administrators recognize that these programs not only make their schools safer but also go a long way to creating a more civil society as these children grow.
Since bullying isn't just physical, the best programs address issues of social competency that teach children what to do whether they are victims or bystanders. The curriculum with which I am most familiar is Open Circle, but there are many others, far too many for me to mention here. In fact, there are so many that even American Girl has gotten in on the action.
Meanwhile, here's one article I've written about how to stop bullies.
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