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I live in Israel. Here bullying is not as much on the radar as it is in the United States. For example, there don't seem to be special "bullying policies" in the schools. In fact, when I looked up "to bully" in a Hebrew-English dictionary, I found just the generic word for "to instill fear": there doesn't seem to be a single word used specifically for bullying.

My son is in the third grade (age eight) and is being picked on, bullied. Every week, sometimes more often, he comes home with a story about how a classmate physically assaulted him, generally one of the same two or three people; also, a group of second-graders apparently call him "stupid" every chance they get.

I've looked online for advice, and some if it is relevant (like advising him to be strong in the face of the verbal taunts and ignore them, which most everyone seems to say to do). But a lot of it is "get the help of the teachers and principal: they're trained to deal with this" and that, unfortunately, does not seem to be working here. (I've tried.)

So my question is, what can I do from my end in lieu of whatever the teacher and administrator should be doing?

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This is a hard one. The only thing I can suggest, other than moving your child to a better school, is to become a major pain in the butt; its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

  1. Keep a log of incidents. Write up what you can recall of the history, and then keep it up to date. A litany of painful incidents packs a lot more legal and emotional punch than "my child is being bullied".

  2. Look up the legal duties of a school. Presumably they are supposed to keep your child safe. Read up on the long-term psychological impact of being bullied. Get a lawyer to your next meeting with the school and have him menace the staff about possible legal consequences. I don't know enough about the Israeli legal system to be more specific; having a lawyer will not only provide you with that information, it will also signal that you mean business and won't be fobbed off. (Also you might ask on SE.Law about specific points of relevant law; just don't ask for general advice)

  3. Are there any other bullying victims at the school? Get together with other parents in the same position. Form a pressure group. Get on to social media to connect up with other victims in other schools.

  4. Consider reporting the perpetrators to the police. Physical and psychological abuse of a child must be some kind of crime in Israel, especially when its a persistent campaign. If these children were going around throwing stones through windows then surely something would be done. Isn't child abuse a more serious crime than petty vandalism?

In one way the lack of a direct translation for "bullying" is a benefit; you can choose your own name instead. What is the legal term used for what in English is called "child abuse"? I.e if a carer were to be beating a child, what would they be convicted of? Consistently use that term to describe what is happening.

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  • @ThrowawayAccountForPrivacy I appreciate the thanks, but round here the things to do are 1. click on the up-vote arrow to the left of the answer, and 2. in a few days possibly click on the gray tick mark to indicate this is the accepted answer, assuming nothing better turns up and you think this answers your question. – Paul Johnson Dec 29 '20 at 15:09
  • This account doesn't have enough rep to upvote. – Throwaway Account For Privacy Dec 29 '20 at 16:09
  • +1, but I think the emphasis on the option to move the child should be greater. I expect the school is legally obliged to protect the child from harm, be they resourced for it or not. So as long as the child is there, be sure to remind them of that obligation and how they're failing it. But if they persistently are, we as parents also have an obligation of course, to not stand idly by. If the school is unsafe, the child must be moved, much as I think it is morally the wrong thing that the victim is the one who has to move. Safety of the child has priority over such concerns. – dxh Dec 29 '20 at 20:35
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    I was assuming that moving was a last resort. Also it sounds from the question like there is a cultural issue at play here: there is no reason to think that the next school will be any better. – Paul Johnson Dec 30 '20 at 8:58
  • @Paul: it may well be that other schools aren't any better at dealing with bullying, but I suppose there's no reason to think the bullying should persist if they move away from the bully. But then, I could probably move to another country if hurting my children was endemic to where I live. – dxh Dec 30 '20 at 19:32
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In the absence of any kind of protection from the adults who are responsible for your child’s safety/well-being while at school, the only thing YOU can do is teach your child how to protect himself. Sign your child up for self-defense classes. Whichever type you find suitable/acceptable based on your beliefs and holds your child’s interest. There are all different types and styles. I make no recommendation either way.

There was a time here in the US when bullying was just part of growing up for some kids, and the schools did little, if anything, about it. In fact I think most people used to just think it was part of growing up. Here’s a question (Teaching children how to fight back) and a bunch of answers/comments that you might find interesting, if you have not already read it. The advice that OP was given was probably relevant (I neither support nor condemn) in an environment without rules or specific policies against bullying, which now is uncommon, at least here in the US. While it’s never easy to deal with a bully (as a parent of either a bully or a victim!) it is relatively easy to find advice about how to deal with bullies in a “zero tolerance” environment. Unfortunately, that’s not an option for you.

The harsh truth is sometimes these policies (depending on their application etc.) don’t work anyway, so it’s up to us, as parents, to give our kids the skills they need to get themselves out of a bad situation in one piece. Besides, bullying can happen outside of school; not so much while our children are so young they are always accompanied by an adult, but when they get older and start going off on their own to practices for sports or birthday parties, dances, etc. The adult to child ratio changes as kids get older so they need to learn to look after themselves.

I took martial arts as a young girl. I started taking karate (no idea what type!) classes just for fun, not to learn self defense per se. I have also attended various “self-defense” workshops sponsored by my university and employers. They each used different techniques and had different names, but they all had a similar goal: get out alive, as unharmed as possible, and do the least damage. (For example; Only use deadly force against deadly force because you’re not the jerk here, and/or because you don’t want to go to jail!)

While I certainly don’t often find myself in sketchy situations, the knowledge I have (I am certainly not “well trained” or anything) has served me well as I have had a few incidents over the course of my life where it came in handy. Not only does self defense training provide the skills to come out of a physical situation relatively unharmed, it also gives confidence in strength and ability, which in itself is a bully-deterrent. (Bullies thrive on power.) And if that isn’t enough, it also teaches you to spot aggression and avoid it, to diffuse/deflect, and to use the appropriate amount of force required in a given situation (don’t bring a gun to a knife-fight, in other words.)

I speak from personal experience on this topic. Yes, that means I was bullied and that on one occasion I ended up getting into a fight, after all attempts to avoid and diffuse/deflect failed. I didn’t start the fight, the verbal part or the physical part, and I didn’t “win”, but no real damage was done and the person who took it to that level never bothered me again. I had endured bullying for weeks. I was given all the usual advice: “Ignore him,” “tell a teacher,” “avoid him,” “tell him to go away/leave you alone,” “don’t get caught alone,” etc. As your child is experiencing, these things are sometimes not enough, but, I do believe it should be the first thing to try.

In my case, nothing worked, and it just escalated from taunting to theft to vandalism until finally assault and battery. The reprimands of teachers and principals only made it worse-he became more vindictive and saw my attempts to get help as further evidence of my weakness. This happened at school; one with “anti-bullying” policies that were basically ineffective against someone who just didn’t care about rules. Which is most bullies, or anyone who truly desires to cause harm.

There are some individuals in this world who lack social mores, self control, etc, so that their behavior/actions/intent is unpredictable and/or dangerous. No rule will provide protection against people like this, only avoidance or self-defense. It’s awful your son has to learn this lesson at age 8, but it’s the truth. I’m not saying his classmates are total sociopathic deviants, but, they definitely aren’t nice. Since avoidance doesn’t seem to be possible or effective, the only thing left is for your son to “fight back”, even if just enough to prevent further harm.

I think some of the other advice here (on this site, and in the previous answer) is good, particularly getting other parents to help out. (Maybe just so you can set up play dates so your kid has a “group” of his own and isn’t alone on the playground, getting singled out?) Ultimately, it’s not going to be one thing that fixes this situation for your child. It would be nice if the school would help out more, but since they can’t or won’t, and you can’t follow your kid around shielding him from jerks, the one thing you CAN do is teach your kid how to block a punch.

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Teach him to fight. I know that's probably not a popular answer in today's snowflake world, but I can tell you from experience, fighting back works... and usually works very fast.

Bullies pick on kids because the know they can. What I mean is that they pick on kids they believe to be weaker, more docile. Once that "weak" kid is no longer considered weak, the bullies will move onto the next kid they feel they can pick on. Like any predator, they will seek out the weakest in the bunch.

Get him lessons in self defense, and maybe a little offense. Above all, teach him to fight with honor. By that I mean when his opponent stops fighting or is on the ground, he stops. He's stopped the threat and can end the conflict. If he does this with honor, bystanders and witnesses will see that honor and respect him for it. If the issue gets brought to the principal or law enforcement, there will be witnesses to say your son only reacted when he was attacked and only fought back enough to end the threat. ie... he didn't turn into a bully himself.

As Jax mentioned in her answer above, your son might not even need to win the fight. Just the fact he was willing to defend himself and not cower in fear can often times be enough to persuade the bullies to leave him alone.

Best of luck to you and your son!

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