Dear Barb – Conquering Bullies

Dear Barb;

My husband and I and our two children have just moved from a rural area into the city. My son is 12 and in grade seven. He has always done well in school. However since moving to the city he is having a lot of problems. The other kids are teasing him about his weight. I do not feel my son is overweight, but possibly a bit chubby. This teasing is getting to the point where my son does not want to go to school, and his grades are slipping. Is there anything I can do as a parent to stop this abuse or to help my son deal with it?

Candice in Kamloops

Hi Candice. My immediate response to your question is that you do not need to help your son deal with this abuse, because he should not have to. Your son has a right to go to school and feel safe and secure.

It sounds like this has gone beyond teasing and has escalated into “bullying” behavior. Children who bully tend to seek out other children who may be different in some way. As you say, your son may be a bit chubby. Well, for some children this slight difference can be enough to provoke bullying behavior. Your son may not have experienced this at his previous school because he probably went to school with the same group of kids since kindergarten. Therefore he would have been accepted by his peers and seen as one of the group from early on. Entering a new school would cause him to be the “new kid” and make him the center of attention. As a result his chubbiness could be seen as a focus of attention and trigger a reaction in other students. The fact that your son does not want to go to school and that his grades are slipping are classic predictors that he is a victim of bullying.

In answer to the first part of your question, yes there are things you can do to get this behavior to stop. First of all you need to go to the school and discuss this with your son’s teacher, the principal and any parent group affiliated with the school. If not already in place, together you need to establish guidelines that the school can use in dealing with these kinds of problems. These guidelines must be presented to all teachers, parents and students.

Teachers should initiate discussions with their students about bullying behavior. This has to be brought out in the open so the victims no longer feel isolated. Each child has to be made to feel that they have a role in stopping this abusive behavior, rather than just standing around watching another child being bullied. Likewise, through these open discussions, the children who bully will realize someone may tell on them, thus taking away their feeling of power over others.

To truly stop bullying, changes have to begin within the home. We have to teach our children to treat all people with dignity and respect, no matter what they look like, dress like, or the color of their skin. The best way we can achieve this as parents is to treat our children in the same way that we expect them to treat others.

Finally Candice, I know this may seem like a huge undertaking, but someone has to start the ball rolling. Since your son is experiencing this behavior, it seems you are the perfect candidate to initiate changes within your school. You may find the following website helpful in providing addition information about bullying: http://www.bullybeware.com.

E-mail your questions to advice.voice@ausu.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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