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When A 7-Year-Old Gets Bullied

When Beth of Silver Spring's daughter came home earlier this year and told her mom that a boy had been calling the girl chicken, Beth didn't take it too seriously. Beth told her daughter to squawk like a chicken back at the boy, figuring that would be the end of the problem. But it wasn't.

The 7-year-old girl continued to come home from school and tell her mom that the boy was hitting her at recess. So, Beth advised her daughter to tell the recess moniter. The girl followed mom's directions and the boy was sent to the principal's office. Next, the boy began telling the girl that he wanted to hurt her and the girl came home with a bruise on her ankle.

By then, Beth was taking her daughter seriously, and trying to figure out how to keep her daughter safe at school.

"I e-mailed with the teacher. That was the first she’d heard of it," Beth said. "The teacher said she’d go out to recess to see what was going on. The big problem was that [my daughter] wasn’t telling who the kid was.

When I went to recess twice, she wouldn’t ID him. The teacher suggested she’d take [the girl] to each of eight 1st grade classrooms. I thought that would be too scary; maybe she could look at photos instead." The girl began wetting herself several times a day and Beth thought her daughter was anxious. After the girl was away from school for a week, the situation appeared to resolve itself. The anxiety disappeared and the girl told her mom that the boy is no longer coming to school.

"I don't know if I handled it well and I'm not sure what my next step is," Beth says. Every day after school, she asks her daughter if the girl saw the boy and if he bothered her.

"The girl told and that’s what she should do," said Stephanie Bryn, the director of Injury and Violence Prevention for the Health Resources and Services Prevention Administration. Bryn heads up the agency's Stop Bullying Now! Campaign. It's important in bullying situations for parents and kids to be talking openly about the situation.

The other thing that Beth did right, Bryn said, is to talk with the teacher. Having the girl try to identify the boy, though, is not a good idea in a bullying situation. Bryn also recommends that the teacher discuss bullying with the class, possibly using anti-bullying cartoons as starting-off points for the conversations. Young kids don't yet know what to do in these situations, but the adults around them do and need to teach them.

It's important for bullied children to be able to rely on bystanders. That, though, can be difficult at this age, when the situation may be simply that the boy is trying to get the girl interested in him but doesn't know how to do so with words. Bystanders, Bryn says have a lot of power. "They can be active or passive and walk away and not do anything." As long as a situation is safe, other children who see a bullying incident can report it to an adult, be friendly with the bullied child or stand up to the bully.

What other advice do you have for Beth?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Safety
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Comments


I think this mom handled a tough situation well. Thankfully, there is an increased emphasis on teaching children how to handle these situations and how wrong bullying is.
An excellent book to share with a child or classroom that just came out is called "One" by Otoshi. Through simple blotches of color, author-illustrator Kathryn Otoshi creates a gang of personalities cleverly tied to their hues–quiet Blue, outgoing Orange, bright Green, outgoing Purple and hot-head Red. This clever story about standing up to a bully, and finally inclusion can be used effectively with preschool and elementary aged chldren. I have reviewed it on my website http://www.playonwords.com http://playonwords.com/reviews/2009/03/24/one-book-review/
I am a speech language pathologist and review great children's books that teach concepts like sharing, inclusion, and diversity.
Sherry Artemenko

Posted by: playonwordscom | April 15, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

This is why my kids are taking karate so they learn how to defend themselves, and more importantly, gain the confidence to stand up for themselves. I know most schools have a much greater awareness of bullying and trying to stop it than they used to, but the reality is they can't police everything. Kids need to learn how to handle it and I don't trust the schools to be able to teach that.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 15, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"I am a speech language pathologist and review great children's books"

Playon...maybe a linguistic nitpick, but if the books are prejudged as "great", reads more like you recommend books, not review them.

Posted by: 06902 | April 15, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I think this mom handled a tough situation well.

Posted by: playonwordscom | April 15, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Are you kidding? Did you read today's post? Or did you use it as a platform to shill your website?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 15, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't have any advice for Beth but I am a little puzzled by the story.

First it says that she told the recess monitor and the boy was sent to the principal's office and then it says that they were trying to ID the little boy when the bullying escalated by having her go to the classrooms or look at pictures.

Who the heck was sent to the principal's office? Was or wasn't it the little boy that was bullying her?

Posted by: Billie_R | April 15, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The advice that I would give any parent whose child is being victimized is to BELIEVE YOUR CHILD AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I was bullied for two years in elementary school, and my parents did NOTHING about it. My "mother" had the gall to blame ME for it.

Posted by: Alex511 | April 15, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm afraid that if my years as a girl scout troop leader taught me anything, it's that mean girls frequently have mean moms (and perhaps mean boys have mean dads but I know less about that.) Kids that bully seem to be socialized differently from other children from an early age. If Mom comes home from the gym and makes nasty remarks about the fat lady on the treadmill, you better believe that her child hears that and decides it's OK to make mean remarks about the fat girl in class. And if Mom acts like a high school student, purposely excluding other women from her girl's nights out and gossipping about the new lady who moved into the neighborhood within earshot of her child, her daughter has just learned that it's OK to exclude people and to gossip about them and build alliances.

My experience has been that when you call a mom like that on her child's behavior (I'm convinced that most scout troops break up during middle school because of the bullying issues), she'll pay lip service to you and your nice little ideas, then probably go home and pick up the phone and tell her girlfriends how uptight and weird you are for trying to intervene in what she sees as a natural, normal part of growing up. Her daughter will grow up to be just like her, unfortunately.

I also find myself wondering about the people who end up working in middle school education. Clearly, the cheerleading coach was herself a cheerleader during junior high, and even if she worried about bullying in her classroom, chances are she wouldn't see it quite the same way the rest of us do. It's been my experience that most people who end up teaching in middle school were the people who were social butterflies and alpha girls and who just LOVED middle school so much that they want to spend the rest of their lives there. It's a bit like the inmates running the asylum, unfortunately.

Posted by: Justsaying4 | April 15, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Good question Billie R.

As well, (and appreciating the quote is from Beth’s email) I initially read "wasn't telling" as "refused to say". I take it "couldn't say" is what was meant? The sentence referring to the threat that the boy "wanted to hurt her" and the ankle bruise appearing is also strange. Was the ankle bruise caused by the boy or not?

I hate to say it, but by the end of the story (and including the boy conveniently "no longer coming to school) I wonder if something else was going on.

Posted by: engelmann | April 15, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I saw the inconsistencies in the story too and wondered what was being covered up or left out.

I agree with dennis5, when my son is old enough, he will take some kind of martial art. These disciplines teach self defense and give kids confidence to stand up for themselves. With most bullies, as soon as the victim makes any kind of stand, the bullying stops.

Posted by: VaLGaL | April 15, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"With most bullies, as soon as the victim makes any kind of stand, the bullying stops."

It's more than a little naive to consider martial arts classes a solution to bullying. The above statement is another way of blaming the victim, e.g., "If only susie had stood up to him, he'd have stopped." Bullfeathers.

Most bullies have nothing to lose. If they get suspended from school, they don't care. If Susie's 'self-defense' move learned in her 3 day per week class in the burbs is seen by the recess monitor, and Bully's initial slug is not, guess who is in trouble? Susie, the one who just might care about being suspended.

You can't watch your back all day long, and you shouldn't have to, when you are 7.

Posted by: anonfornow | April 15, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

For those of you with questions about Beth's story, the ankle bruise was caused by the boy, according to Beth's daughter. I can't answer why the school apparently doesn't know who the boy is given that he was sent to the principal's office. It's a good question and one I should have asked. But the girl herself is not identifying the boy. Her school has 8 first grade classes, so it's entirely possible that she doesn't know his name. It's also possible she doesn't feel comfortable saying who the boy is. It's hard to know with 7 year olds.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | April 15, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

anonfornow, you might be willing to put your faith in your schools anti-bullying program or whatever they have, but I'm not. Not to mention plenty of bullying happens outside of school - there is no "recess monitor" at the park on the weekends. I'm going to make sure that my kids know how to defend themselves and have the confidence to stick up for themselves.

And I find it very interesting that you would rather your child let herself get punched in the face instead of protecting herself because she would risk getting in trouble.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 15, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

So, it sounds important to listen to your kids when they say someone is bothering them. Some kids will say a lot and some less, so parents need to be attune to their kids. Kids don't need extra anxiety. I would be mortified if my child was being mean to another person. Teaching kids to be kind is one solution.

I can understand why the daughter did not want to id the kid, especially by going into classrooms; that seems embarrassing.

I think the bully should be id-ed and talk to a counselor at school or somewhere so this behavior and its cause is addressed.

Posted by: kstickler | April 15, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

"the Health Resources and Services
Prevention Administration" is a googlenope, so I'm assuming fiction in today's topic, or something.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | April 15, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"the Health Resources and Services
Prevention Administration" is a gov agency - see http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/index.asp or http://www.hrsa.gov/

Posted by: kstickler | April 15, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I think the anonymity of the boy, who most likely was a regular with the playground monitor and the Principal is a problem.

As the mother of a boy who was prone to bullying other children I hated hearing from other parents. BUT once I heard from them I did my best to tell my kid to STOP what he was doing immediately!

My kid always swore up and down that so-and-so bullied him first (usually his problems were with other boys) and I'd make it totally clear that I didn't care - I did not like hearing this kind of stuff from him and it needed to stop!

So if I had been the parent of Beth I would have pushed to have identified the kid and had a one-on-one talk with the parents. This would almost certainly be a not-fun conversation and they're likely to have heard their kid's story and be very defensive. However it's so unpleasant that usually it does result in parental pressure being applied.

Kids who get away with this kind of behavior will do it again. Kids who are harassed by their parents about it may do it again, but eventually they learn to think twice and quit.

So I think be sure you get the offender identified for every bodies good. Taking martial arts and trying to use them will only get your kid suspended.

I will also say that at the age of 7 my son was fairly well behaved, his problems didn't surface until the 12-13 y/o period. A seven year old who is bullying probably has more extreme issues. All the more reason to identify the child and make that unhappy phone call to their parents.

It is one thing to get reports of bad behavior from someone at school - when other parents start calling it's worse, and the kid is more likely to have pressure applied to behave.

In the meantime little Beth should also be advised to hang with her girlfriends and let that group shield her from the ruffian.

Posted by: RedBird27 | April 15, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Redbird, your response seems pretty clueless all around. Either that, or we didn't read the same post from Stacy.

First, the mother's name is Beth, and we don't know her daughter's name.

Second, suggesting a kid who's the target of a bully "should also be advised to hang with her girlfriends" makes it obvious that you were never a prime target for a bully in your life. I was. Most kids who are bully-targets don't have a lot of other friends to hang with - maybe one or two. And those one or two friends aren't likely to be the social leaders, or strong enough to shield a classmate. At best, they'll be witnesses, but in my experience most kids coming from the middle and lower rungs of the social order are going to become very scarce when the bully arrives on the scene - some of the weakest (again, in my experinece) will join with the bully and gang up on the target.

Welcome to the real world...

Posted by: SueMc | April 15, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, the naysayers have never been exposed to real martial arts. These disciplines teach self confidence and they teach kids to look for another way to resolve a conflict - they most certainly do not teach kids to "slug it out" as some seem to believe. Your child can not be suspended from public school for self defense, if it comes to that - if they are, you as the parent need to take that up with the Administration. Besides, most bullies, at least in my experience do not pick fights, they terrorize with threats and words, so no need for hitting him or her to stand up. And no, I certainly do not agree that encouraging a bullied child to stand up for him or herself is "blaming the victim." What else are they supposed to do? Roll over and take it? Screw that.

Posted by: VaLGaL | April 15, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

It's been my experience that most people who end up teaching in middle school were the people who were social butterflies and alpha girls and who just LOVED middle school so much that they want to spend the rest of their lives there.
------------------------------------
Perhaps true, if you are speaking only of the cheerleading coach or the football (or name your sport) coach. I taught English at the junior high level, and I definitely was not an alpha girl when young. Far from it. Middle school (junior high when I was growing up and when I taught) was not something I loved. I got through it, just like most of us who were not in the popular crowd.

Posted by: lsturt | April 15, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who finds the anti-middle school educators rant totally ridiculous? Please tell me I'm not....

Posted by: mlc2 | April 15, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

This story makes no sense for all the reasons outlined above by Billie, engelman and Valgal. I suppose the parent handled the situation well but since the story is so confusing, who knows?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 15, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, the naysayers have never been exposed to real martial arts. These disciplines teach self confidence and they teach kids to look for another way to resolve a conflict - they most certainly do not teach kids to "slug it out" as some seem to believe. ..... And no, I certainly do not agree that encouraging a bullied child to stand up for him or herself is "blaming the victim." What else are they supposed to do? Roll over and take it? Screw that.

Posted by: VaLGaL | April 15, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Very well said.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 16, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Call Melissa Huckaby.

Or enroll your child in karate class.

Posted by: Boraxo1 | April 16, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I have a question for posters about my son. He's 3.5 and plays regularly with another boy the same age.

My son is quieter and this boy is on the rowdy side. They don't get on that well but I am social with the mom, and sometimes we babysit for each other.

Sometimes I question how well this boy can control himself -- he needs constant supervision and can be aggressive with my son (not hitting or biting or anything like that). The mom just shrugs and says her son has "a lot of energy". She does regularly correct him, but it doesn't seem to have much effect.

Any thoughts? I am getting uncomfortable with this boy but don't want to offend the mom, who is trying. At this age, am I expecting too much from a kid who is clearly on the more "testosterone" side of the spectrum?

Posted by: goodhome631 | April 18, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

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