How do you teach your kids to deal with a bully? Our oldest son, who is currently ten (nearly eleven) years old and in 5th grade, told us last night that one of the kids in his class has been picking on him and calling him names.
A bit of background
While the name-calling has been pretty run-of-the-mill stuff so far, we don’t want it growing into something larger. Moreover, the kid in question apparently told our son that he’d “get him” during recess if he told a teacher. Given this, we’ve decided that it would best to nip it in the bud right now.
It seems that the protagonist is an equal opportunity bully, in that he’s been picking on and threatening a number of kids in the class, including a number of our son’s friend. From the sound of things, he’s a bit of a loner, and I suspect he’s lashing out because he feels left out.
Anyway, enough pop psychology…
Standing up to a bully
Rather than inserting ourselves into the situation, we’ve decided that it would be best for our son to try and work this out on his own, at least at first. To that end, we had a chat with him last night before bed and suggested some possible responses the next time this happens.
We certainly don’t want him to escalate things, so we’ve advised him to steer clear of this kid as much as possible. However, if confronted, we would like to see him stand up for himself, so…
First and foremost, we suggested that he respond to any further name-calling by simply making eye contact and telling the other kid (firmly and confidently) to:
“Stop calling me names.”
If asked what he’s going to do about it, we suggested that he respond matter-of-factly with:
“Tell the teacher.”
If he’s then greeted with a playground threat, we advised him to respond with:
“Stop threatening me. I’m not afraid of you.”
It doesn’t hurt that the kid is actually considerably smaller than our son, and he’s not actually afraid of him — he’s more annoyed than anything else. And to close with:
“If you don’t stop, I will tell the teacher.”
And then make good on his promise by telling the teacher.
The goal here is to be firm, confident, and non-provocative. In my experience, the vast majority of incidents like this happen because the protagonist enjoys getting a rise out of their mark, and they are further emboldened when their victim shies away from the confrontation, so… Say it like you mean it, and then act on it.
This is all new territory for use, so we’ll see how it goes.