Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 6:14 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Is kid a bully or just socially awkward?

Inviting second-grader over for a play date could help.


Syndicated columnist

advertising

Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: My second-grader is being bullied by a boy in his class and this has been going on since first grade. It’s not bad enough to ruin my son’s day or school experience (he loves school) nor is he the only target — this kid bullies a lot of the other children. It’s all roughhousing that ranges from uncomfortable to painful for his targets.

We’ve recently mentioned it to the teacher, but I would also like to empower my naturally diffident and nonassertive son with tools/strategies to deal with bullies himself. Particularly, because (1) This type of bullying is a common if unfortunate element of playground and school life and (2) He needs to have the confidence to stand up for himself.

Do you have any books on this that you would recommend and that would be comprehensible to lower elementary- school children, or would teach me to teach him the tools?

– Dealing With Bullies

DEAR DEALING WITH BULLIES: The best I’ve read on the subject is “Best Friends, Worst Enemies” by Thompson/O’Neill Grace/Cohen.

It also sounds possible that this “bully” is actually trying to be friends with his classmates but has no idea how. Is he doing this roughhousing in anger? Second grade is a little late in the process for this, but it’s not unheard of for a wrassle or a whack in the back to be a kid’s idea of saying hello to people he likes — if he’s not comfortable yet with the words and gestures of friendship.

Of course, if he’s roughhousing in anger, then that’s something else entirely and the school needs to get on it, fast.

Anyway, read the book, and maybe draw out the teacher a bit more on the other circumstances. The more you understand, the better you can guide your son, since bully-neutralizing can involve a huge range of approaches from full avoidance to full engagement. Once you do know more, I’m a huge fan of role-playing as a way to teach your son to handle tough social situations, even if it feels like a trip to Dork Mountain. (I think using the term Dork Mountain was a trip to Dork Mountain. My poor kids.)

Re: Bullying:

“Bullying” is making a project out of making a particular target’s life miserable, for one’s own satisfaction. If this kid is rough and pushy with everyone, it sounds like he may be a bit of a clod, but not a true “bully.”

– Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Zackly. That’s what I was heading toward with the suggestion that the “bully” might just be socially awkward (and overly physical). While bullying is a significant problem, overusing the “bully” label also is one.

Re: Bullying:

Any chance of inviting the bullying second-grader over for a (supervised) play date? Might give you a lot of helpful information and, possibly, influence.

– Anonymous 2

DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: Yes, good stuff, I did this three times myself — the first at the suggestion of their teacher, because it never would have occurred to me — and didn’t regret any of these play dates, even though the outcome was different for each.

The one caveat: Talk to the teacher more fully first. It’s really helpful to know the back story, versus just plunging in.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Love the column? Pre-order the book!

Love the column? Pre-order the book!

Reserve your copy of "The Seattle Sketcher," the long-awaited book by staff artist Gabriel Campanario, for the special price of just $29.95.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►