Q: 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 boy 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 and strategies to deal with bullies himself. Particularly, because this type of bullying is a common if unfortunate element of playground and school life and my son 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
A: 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? 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 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.