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My 5 year old wears prescription glasses for astigmatism and they are helping him immensely and he keeps them on 90% of his waking hours. From time to time I appreciate he 'helping his eyes to see better' and that he is doing a good job by respecting his eyes. This morning he unintentionally forgot his specs (as there is always a spare in his bag for such times). When I asked him to put on his spare specs he said one of his mates called him ugly. It isn't clear to me if he was called ugly for wearing specs or generally.

I asked him "do you think you are ugly" and thankfully he said no. Wonder what I would have done if he said yes. I brushed the matter aside for the time being by saying what your friends say isn't very important or even true (this particular friend of his has often told him "I am the boss of you" "You will do what I tell you to" "You are my butler" etc - and I tell him if he says "I am your father, does it make him your father?" Friends are supposed to be nice to each other - if he isn't nice to you, may be find other friends). Unfortunately, his mate is one of the few guys who is in the "beyblade club" and my son invariably has to end up hanging out with him. Some part of me shudders to thinks that this behaviour from his mates is going to set him up to attract friendships which will contain some sort of unhealthy abuse and he might actually look forward to it.

This has brought up a lot of other situations in my own head - he is always going to wear specs, have speech problems and will be of a minority race in the class. He is bound to be called names - how do I enable him to deal with such situations for now and at least for the foreseeable future?

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There are two issues here.

First, you need to engage with the school. Keep a log of incidents, and take it to a meeting with the class teacher. Ask what they teacher is going to do about it. You don't say where you are, but in many countries the school should have an anti-bullying policy. Also if there is a racist edge to the bullying then that should also be ringing alarm bells with the school. They need to stamp down on this.

Second, you need to help your son reject the abusive "friends". I don't have any good answers here, but your concerns about this are absolutely valid. Can you find out-of-school activities where he might be able to find other friends?

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Remember the good old saying, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me"?

Reassure him and let him know that what those other kids think doesn't matter. That their words can't actually hurt him or change what a super kid he is. Remind him that he's a great kid and he's loved by his family and that you all think he's the best.

If his friends aren't true friends and they are the ones picking on him, you'll need to find him better friends. If he calls mean people his "friends", he'll never know what a real friend is supposed to look like.

It's not always perfect, but maybe a church group would be an option. Many times they do fun activities and are (generally) more kind and will sometimes even try and "protect" the oddball in their bunch. Kinda like ... he might be an oddball, bet he's OUR oddball! If that's not your thing, ok, but it's just a thought.

There is some toughening that you'll need to do. Do it with love. Let him choose his friends. If there are other kids or environments where he doesn't feel safe or welcome, don't force him into it. At least not until he's got a good grasp on the whole "sticks and stones" concept and can handle it better.

Contrary to a lot of folks on here, I'm not in the camp of words=bullying. With that said, if it ever turns into physical contact then there's a bigger problem. Just be careful of running to the principal or teacher about it. If you think he's picked on now, wait until he has the reputation as the kid who's mommy told on the other kids. Strengthen him by giving him the skills to ignore the taunts and to understand that his real worth is not given by his peers. Don't weaken him by turning him into the class tattle-tale whenever someone is mean to him.

I know it's hard seeing our kids picked on, but it's nothing new and kids have been dealing with it since the beginning of time. Only recently have we turned being called names into being a victim. I'll lightheartedly say "don't turn him into a snowflake!" :-) Give him all the positive feedback and encouragement you can!

For the things that you know as an adult will draw negative attention to him, try to help mitigate some of those points. For example, if he has to wear glasses, try to get him cool glasses... ie. a neat style, maybe like a famous actor or sports person. If he has speech problems, get him help. You don't mention where you're from, but here in the USA, most public school systems have speech therapists that work with kids (for free) to improve their speaking skills. I had a lisp when I was a kid and the speech therapist helped me overcome it.

And one final thought... If at all possible, teach him a good since of humor. I remember being picked on as a kid and when I learned to make witty responses and make people laugh, the picking became more mutual as my new friends and I would bounce insults back and forth... only now, they were in jest and friendship and some great bonds were created.

I wish you all the best!

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