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My son is 8 and has problems with bullies in school. He is one of youngest and smallest in his class and doesn't react appropriately* when someone bullies him, and I guess that made him the target for bullies.

He didn't say that he has this problem, but his friends said that. And they said that it last for too long.

Instead of just talking to him, and encouraging him to do something (what my wife suggests), I am planing to even talk to the school headmaster and the teacher, since the bullies are in the same class.

What is the best way to resolve a problem with school bullies?


* By appropriately, I mean to yell at them "Don't do that", "Stop", report to teacher or just simply to hit back.

  • I am not sure from your posting: is your plan to talk to the headmaster instead or, or in addition to talking to your kid? If it is the first, I would advice to reconsider: if you want to involve the headmaster, no problem, but don't try to solve anything without at least telling your kid what is going on. – Layna Feb 16 '15 at 10:17
  • @Layna Sorry if it wasn't clear. My plan is to do both: first talk to my kid, and then talk to the headmaster. – BЈовић Feb 16 '15 at 10:21
  • good to hear :). – Layna Feb 16 '15 at 10:22
  • @Layna But I am wondering if there is a better way. I was bullied in the primary school, but i resolved it by seriously beating up one bully with a chair. Needless to say I got into troubles. – BЈовић Feb 16 '15 at 10:23
  • I wish I had a definitive answer... I was bullied myself ("mildly" if there is such a thing in bullying...) from Kindergarden on, my parents actually made efforts to rectify the situation, but barely ever involved me, and I am still struggling with the effects of that. So all I can say with any authority is what does NOT work. – Layna Feb 16 '15 at 10:32
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I think there are lots of possible responses and the one that you choose depends on your values and ability to do the response fully. When I was bullied at school, although I was doing karate at the time, an aggressive response was just not me. Taking your son's character into consideration is therefore important. Here are some ideas:

Give your son some empathy, understanding and support for what he is going through. Chances are that he will feel bad and may internalize the messages he hears. Allow him to express his feelings without there being a should message about what he needs to do, which on some level he might interpret as blame.

Talk to the school administration. They have a legal responsibility to keep your son safe. Find out what their policy is about responding to bullying.

Keep a diary about incidents if you can.

Ask someone at school if it's possible to dialogue with the bullies. Find out what's going on with them and what emotional issues they're reacting to.

Punitive measures may not work long term though if anyone is in danger and they are the only option, pursue that route of course. Ask the school if they are willing to try a Restorative Circle. See this article: http://www.circle-space.org/2011/11/18/5-steps-to-use-restorative-justice-circles-for-bully-behavior/ It needs to have a competent facilitator.

Good luck with it. It's a hard situation, and sadly too common.

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A bully is a tyrant in training. Dealing with a bully is as challenging as dealing with a tyrant -- none of us are born with the skills to handle them well.

When I was about 7yo, I asked my mom, "Mommy, why do kids act one way at school and another way when they are not at school... I am me wherever I am?" The question fell on confused ears as it does for so many of us: "Why are people not true to themselves?"

The answer is that they are, but that they do not know themselves and that leads to inconsistent behavior as they try to define themselves.

How do you deal with a bully? You yourself have listed a variety of ways, but how does one -- on the fly -- choose which of those ways?

Your child will choose the way they see most fitting at the time. Your task is to help them in identifying the options available to them even though they may not have seen them at the time.

For example, my mother once told me of a school she attended where she was the only one of that race present. The other girls would pick on her and sometimes that would result in violence. One day she ended that by carrying a brick in her purse. When she walloped them with it, she was given respect and left alone.

As another example, when I was in high school there were these guys I thought would try to get violent with me. I offered to teach them what I knew of martial arts. After the first class, they asked me if I would ever use it against them. I replied with the question, "Well, you would never attack me, right?" No battle ever ensued.

The "solution" to a problem is a function of the nature of the other person. Your task is to help your child identify the nature of the other person so that the most peaceful solution can be achieved.

That said, do not think of it as a failure on your child's part, but an opportunity for you to better educate your child on the process of understanding the other party so that an effective (ideally peaceful) solution can be achieved.

"How?" was your question. The answer you already know. My reply is that you'd be best served in delivery the answer while simultaneously respecting the context so that your child can grow to be the balanced adult s/he is meant to be.

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Some will probably down vote because what I offer is not so much a direct answer as a loose collection of observations over time, in the hopes that it will generate ideas and discussion.

Here is footage showing what it took to stop years of bullying in a zero tolerance school in NSW australia. There were roughly 50 bullying reports on the head masters desk filed by this boy at the time he finally took matters into his own hands. Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isfn4OxCPQs .

In case the link goes dead, the video shows a gang of kids picking on a much larger boy between classes at school. One of the gang has some boxing experience and lands a couple of punches to the victims face, while the victim attempts to de-escalate. Finally the victim losses it, rushes the bully and throws him to the ground hard. The bully was fortunate that the victim didn't hold a grudge.

As a martial arts instructor I have made a study of bullying and bullies, and yet my own daughter was bullied in school and there was nothing I could do to change it until we pulled her out of that school.

The first thing you need to remember as a parent is that your son, ultimately, is on his own in dealing with the bullies unless you can remove him from the situation. The schools are helpless, and your son is a target only because the bullies know he can't fight back effectively.

Martial arts is of limited help - 1 black belt rank is only equivalent to 10 lbs weight advantage given equal fitness and general athleticism. 8 year olds are not generally at a real blackbelt level (systems with junior black belts have the kids start at a lower rank when they hit 12-15).

The average bully is athletic and well spoken, with higher than average self esteem - exactly the kids that are well liked by adults, and can talk themselves out of taking responsibility. Since their self esteem is in part based on their ability to ride roughshod over their peers, there is no benefit to them to stop bullying. Sending them to anti bullying classes is more likely to make them more effective as bullies than to stop bullying behavior.

Even the presence of teachers is no defence. A review of the security recordings from the Bailey O'Neal event shows that four teachers were present and moving towards the activity before the first punch was thrown, nevertheless a 6th grade boy died for doing all of the "appropriate" things.

At the other end of the spectrum, a Canadian boy took the courageous step of going to school early and greeting everyone with a smile and handshake daily, as they came into the school. The bullying stopped very quickly as he was known as everyone's friend.

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When my son who is three years old told me that a kid was always hitting him, I approached the mother of the kid and asked her how could my son make his kid stop it. Because she should be the best person to know how her kid ticks, so that I could transform it into something useful for my son.

Fortunately, I learned that the kid was not bullying my son so much, they were just annoying each other sometimes.

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I'll add to the others: Have a brief talk with a parent of the bullies. Your son's problem may get immediately better. He might even get an apology ... but I wouldn't count on it.

Now, while it is true the apple usually doesn't fall far from the tree, speaking with the parents will get you much further than "talking to the administration."

Make it clear to the parent that your expectation is for the bullying to cease. A local police officer could mediate on a face-to-face with the parent whose behavior is awful.

My kid has been the smallest since he was out of the womb. There is a disappointing amount of change that a school will make to accommodate the smaller kids. Fighting the administration will mostly just be frustrating.

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