Stay out of son’s conflicts |
More Lifestyles

Stay out of son’s conflicts

Question: Our son is 13 and in the seventh grade. Last week he came home from school complaining about how a few of his friends have been bullying him. The same boys were at his birthday party just the weekend before and they seemed to get along fine. Sometimes they poke fun at him when he is hanging around girls that the other boys have either “dated” or currently like. I think he pokes them right back, but they are three or four and he’s just one. Besides, we teach him to be kind, thoughtful, compassionate and inclusive, so getting in a tit-for-tat really isn’t what we want him to do.

I don’t know if we should let it work itself out or mention it to the other boys’ parents. My fear is telling his friends’ parents will cause them to pick on him even more. On the other hand, I want it to stop. Any thoughts you can share would be most appreciated.

Answer: Having been a child who was picked on, made fun of and more, and relentlessly so (or so it seemed) from grades five through eight, I consider myself to be an expert in such matters.

The first thing I’ll point out is children do not tend to do a good job of representing facts when they’re recounting events, especially when the events in question have elicited strong emotion. Getting picked on qualifies as an emotional event. Therefore, I’d bet there’s more going on than is reflected in your son’s report. I’m not suggesting he’s lying; I’m simply saying emotions tend to interfere with recall.

Second, the definition of bullying has shifted, and considerably so, since I was a bullied kid. When I was being abused in various medieval ways, I was being bullied. Several of my peers took turns chasing me home from school, for example. Like Forrest Gump, I learned to run fast, but if the Bully of the Day caught up with me, I was then subjected to various tortures, including being pinned to the ground and tickled until I nearly passed out from delirium. (By the way, in case the reader has never been tickled while immobilized, it’s funny for about a half-second, after which the experience is akin to being roasted alive.) Name-calling was in a different category altogether.

Today, name-calling — making a joke of someone’s last name, for example — is considered bullying. It’s no wonder today’s kids seem to think anything that causes them momentary discomfort is an aggression. This has had the effect of weakening the emotional resilience of a generation or more of children.

Name-calling is the sort of thing that causes some pain, yes. But it’s not life-threatening and left to their own devices, boys will usually work things out.

You undoubtedly don’t have the full picture; your son is probably overdramatizing what actually happened; kids’ relationships at this age are on-again, off-again. And you are absolutely correct that intervention on your part may well make matters worse. In that last regard, consider that today’s parents tend toward being defensive where their kids are concerned. For all those reasons, I’d definitely stay out of this.

Bottom line: Tell your son to figure it out for himself or find new friends. He needs to begin learning how to solve his own problems.

Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website; readers may send him email; because of the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.