This bullying has to stop. What do we do?
Q. My fourth-grade son has become really clingy and has been making excuses not to go out on the playground at lunchtime. After asking him a few questions, I realized that a new classmate has been bullying – hitting kids when they’re standing in line and threatening them. My son is afraid it will get worse if he or I “tattle,” but this needs to stop. What should I do?
A. Although your son may feel lonely, he is far from alone.
Get school administrators and teachers on board. A tattle-tale is someone who gossips about others. On the other hand, your son is sharing important information with the adults at school. Emphasize that you will do your best, working with his teachers and principal, to keep him safe. Write down as many details as possible and share them with the school administrators. Do they have an anti-bullying plan in place? How do they plan to respond to this situation? Now that the school officials are aware of the problem, efforts need to be made to change the classroom and playground climate. See how you and other parents can support these efforts. The solution should address long-term concerns and not just focus on this particular bully.
Discuss options that are under your child’s control. Find out from your son how he has been responding to the bully’s actions. Help him figure out if there are more effective ways to react in each situation. Why Are You Picking on Me? Dealing With Bullies by John Burstein discusses specific actions such as choosing a seat by the driver of the school bus. Role-play what your son plans to do when the bully approaches.
Talk to your child about cyberbullying. It might seem as if home is a refuge from bullying, but cyberbullying makes this aggression a 24/7 experience for many children. Text messages and social media sites allow the harassment to occur anywhere.
If your child remains anxious about participating fully in school, then consider having him talk to a school counselor or get a referral to a psychologist in your community. Encourage your child to share his fear and anxieties with God through prayer. He can choose a Bible verse to bring to mind when the bully is near. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:4)