How can I help my son not become a victim of bullying

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  • How can I help my son not become a victim of bullying
  • Premier Icon cubist
    Member

    Hello,

    I am in a quandary and I am after some advice.  My eldest is just starting his second year at secondary school.  He has really struggled with the transition from primary school.  He has always had a pretty small group of friends, generally friendly with most of his classmates but never really having a best mate per se.   Moving up to secondary school meant his tight group all ended up at different schools and he has floundered.  He doesn’t really seem to have made many friends.  Every time we tried to suggest he try and contact someone over the summer he would tell us he couldn’t get hold of anyone.  I worry that his self confidence is so low he doesn’t want to be rejected so doesn’t ask if anyone wants to meet up.

    We’ve had him come home in floods of tears most nights this term due to people picking on him.  Its so heartbreaking to see him in this state.  He seems to have given up on himself.  He’s slowly retreated and now is obsessed (almost to the point of addiction) with 1 computer game that he would play every waking hour given half a chance (we don’t let him).  He’s never been sporty but has now become obese and my wife and I have tried and tried to keep him active and eating healthily but he is really anti-exercise.  He’s got a nice bike which he cycles the mile each way to school but if we go out together I might as well be on foot he’s so slow and any attempt to push him a bit results in him getting upset.  I am sure he is secretly eating (we don’t have junk food or sweets at home) and this is probably because he is so unhappy but this is a vicious cycle as hes being bullied now for being fat.  At junior school he always cared about what he looked like, his hair and clothes etc.  now he just can’t be bothered and this is another area he gets shit for. It sounds such a horrible thing to say but its like he’s given up and is setting himself up to be the victim.

    I need a strategy to help him build his confidence.  I know it sounds like I’m knocking him by what I’ve said above but this is me trying to paint the picture so I can get good advice.  My wife and I are really trying to be positive and help him but I just don’t know what to do.  The school are not really filling me with confidence that they can deal with things and I remember from my own time at school that there were kids who had an awful time of it and to see my son becoming one of them is horrible.  I want to find a way of helping him build his self confidence and stop him attracting the negative attention from other kids.

    I have suggested a martial art as a way of improving fitness, building self confidence and also as a potential way of standing up to the physical aspect of the bullying.  I have found a club locally that seem to focus on helping struggling children.  They do classes for adults and kids together so I’m up for learning with him as I think it’ll help him get started if he sees me comfortable making a twit of myself on the mats.

    What other strategies or techniques could people suggest for me to use to help him gain confidence?  I am sure if he was a bit fitter his mental wellbeing would improve and it would give the bullies one less thing to pick on but what else could I try.  We are lucky at the moment as he will still open up to his mum and I but I am dreading him reaching a point where he completely retreats into himself.

    Premier Icon MSP
    Subscriber

    Flippant comment, get him a “life lesson” from a prostitute and make sure he always carries a knife!

    Real comment, have you talked to the school about it? Let them know you want to keep it quiet and not exasperate the problem, but ask them to be aware, and they may have advice for dealing with the situation.

    Assume it’s Fortnite?

    Tell him you’ll buy him Vbucks every time he has a mate from school over to hang out.

    Motivate him to make friends.  They’re the most  effective defence against bullying

    kelron
    Member

    Hmm.. I appreciate you mean well and obviously care about your son but I’m not sure if you’re approaching this the right way. I don’t think the answer to bullying is to change whatever aspect of him they’re picking on.

    I don’t have a better answer, especially if you don’t have confidence in the school to handle it well (which imo is a major part of the bullying problem), but maybe it’s worth seeing if he’s open to the idea of counseling? He’s obviously unhappy, which may have started due to bullying but as you’ve observed withdrawing into himself is just making it worse.

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Subscriber

    I remember from my own time at school that there were kids who had an awful time of it and to see my son becoming one of them is horrible.

    It is. I was that kid at school. Fat, bright, speccy….. I don’t really know what changed but sport got me out of it (even through the bad times I still played even though the kids didn’t want me in the team, the sports teacher saw i had a certain aptitude, and gradually i got acceptance)  I was a late developer and through late puberty the puppy fat disappeared (the adult fat came later 🙁 ) and so by the time I was about 15 or 16 I was playing county sport and properly fit.

    Honest answer – try not to force things on him, just talk, listen and be there with whatever he suggests he needs your support with. Sport and being in sports teams saved me, but it might not be for him – music, theatre, computing….. there are lots of other interests besides. Good luck.

    Scouts or similar? Different group of kids in a different setting?

    100% go and see the school.  They should have an anti bullying policy.  Read it before you go for a meeting with them.  Arrange to see the Head or the Head of Pastoral Care.  If necessary c/c the head of Governers into any correspondence.

    tjagain
    Member

    I was bullied as a kid ( but never particularly badly) – an obvious target as the posh english kid with the lisp at a local state school in Glasgow.  this went on from 10 – 15 yr old

    Several things made a difference to me.

    1) I was enrolled in martial arts – judo.

    2) I did manage to retain some friendships with the other geeks and outsiders

    3) I learn’t to talk to the girls younger than most of my classmates

    4) My dad told me to take my choice on each event.  If I could get away then do so.  If I couldn’t pick the biggest of the bullies an hit him hard without warning if he tried to bully me ( I don’t remember actually doing this but it gave me confidence)

    5) Sport – I joined various teams and gained some respect thru that

    6) – Again – my dad told me to always hold my head high and never be a victim

    So from my somewhat limited experience I would say get him enrolled in some sort of sport.  Teach him to defend himself.  Do your very best to boost his esteem.  Sounds like your lad is getting it worse than I ever did but the main thing that saved me from being a victim was my mental attitude that my father  instilled in me.

    Premier Icon Harry_the_Spider
    Subscriber

    Marshall Arts? Not for the fighting, but for being in with a different crowd of kids from across the spectrum, all of whom will be extremely well behaved in the class.

    Find a club with a big cadet section and see how it goes. Ours is really good for bringing out the self confidence in them. Even those who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

    Ask the school to get someone older than he is with similar interests, to take him under his wing, if they do nothing, that’s when you can get the goveners involved.  My son had autism and had a problem with a couple of bullies and the way the school promised to give him help and he got nothing.  We had several meetings and got it sorted, in a very short space of time, he became the go to for computer related issues that some other pupils had and he even fixed software problems on the schools equipment.

    I got him into martial arts, plus it coincided with him shooting up in height and getting muscly.  He was 6′ 4″ on his 14th birthday and no-one even tried to cause him any issues. He didn’t get bullied or equally, get shirty with anyone else, he didn’t need to, his stature and easy going manner spoke volumes.

    He’s now at Lancaster University and loving it.

    rene59
    Member

    Get him into the gym and or MMA, will give him self confidence and ability to fight back when required. By the time he if fit and confident he’ll be glad he did it and that will likey coincide with the time he is looking for fun times with opposite/same menbers of sex whatever way he swings.

    Phone the school. Speak to his tutor, then make an appointment to see the Head of Year or Head of House whichever they have. If progress isnt made try and speak to whoever leads SEN.

    There are very different pressures at secondary compared to primary about what you are supposed to be into etc.

    is it a mixed or single sex school? Pretending to not care about how you look helps to deflect attention. It’s far less stressful to create a reason not to have to be involved and do things than risk trying and failing in plain sight. This becomes a vicious cycle…

    some school environments don’t suit some people others not so much. Other schools are about.

    Premier Icon MSP
    Subscriber

    Get him into the gym and or MMA, will give him self confidence and ability to fight back when required. By the time he if fit and confident he’ll be glad he did it and that will likey coincide with the time he is looking for fun times with opposite/same members of sex whatever way he swings.

    That is very easy to say, but if he doesn’t want to or like that kind f thing it could damage his confidence even further. It is important to encourage without being a pushy parent and interfere to much and push him into things he doesn’t want to do.

    Jakester
    Member

    I was picked on a lot in the first years at secondary. What made a real difference was getting into a scuffle with one of the bullies and me properly laying a solid punch on him. First time for me, shocked the hell out of me, and reduced him to tears. It also made an impact with some of his other mates and they went away to find an easier target. Life was easier after that.

    It may not be the recommended approach, and may not work at all for your son either. My view is sadly there is always going to be a bully and the bullied – if you aim to make your child a difficult target, there’ll be someone easier for the bully. That’s not to say I for one minute condone bullying, and I admit it is a very selfish approach.

    I think a martial art is a good idea, for three reasons – general fitness, self confidence and showing him what to do if things do get out of hand.

    stevextc
    Member

    Bullies are bullies … unless the school addresses it (and they probably won’t) then the best thing is to not be a target.  Sadly, that means that some other kids will cop it…

    Also sadly not being the bullied kid probably means hitting them back… probably just once.

    My younger brother got bullied a bit… only when I wasn’t around… but it only ever really STOPPED (as opposed to got put on hold) when he was forced into this by me not being in the same part of school.

    ton
    Member

    i was bullied at school by older kids.

    sport worked for me a bit because i was good at it (rugby). i managed to get in the team 2 years above me.

    i also went to army cadets. which was fantastic. loads of outdoor stuff built confidance.

    army, navy or air cadets?

    Premier Icon eddiebaby
    Subscriber

    Marshall Arts? Yep music helped me find mates at school.

    smashit
    Member

    Cadet forces helped me a lot (Air Training Corps in my case). Confidence building, camaraderie, and it appealed to my geeky nature at the time. Lots of outdoor stuff and a different bunch of kids to school was all useful. Worth considering 100%.

    cbike
    Member

    Please consider mental health aspects.

    I had a similar school experience and in retrospect I think I suffered from mild depression at times.   I went to an anti bully meeting once to find two of the main offenders taking part.

    Parents  (Teachers!) often pushed me to do stuff, which could be annoying…sometimes it would be great.  Having lots of friends is also not the be all and end all.   Scouts and sailing is where is I found real pals.

    Join a Lunchtime club and avoid them.   40 years later stalk them on facebook and see how fat and old they have become.

    Premier Icon psling
    Subscriber

    Scarey advice above. Do sport, get hard and beat the bullies up. Right, that should do it!

    My suggestion would be to find out why he has become like he is. Maybe a simple child counselling session – without parents present. He may feel he is letting you down by not living up to your expectations; he may feel he is being pushed in a direction he doesn’t want to go (this may not actually be the case but could be how he sees it); he may have issues that for one reason or other he feels uncomfortable opening up to you.

    It may well be that he is having difficulty settling into the school environment but reading the OP there may be more to it. It is difficult – adolescents can find it very difficult to express themselves, especially with people they don’t want to let down. IMO.

    rene59
    Member

    Do sport, get hard and beat the bullies up. Right, that should do it!

    Well sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

    Well sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

    Agreed, sometimes.  But sounds like there are underlying issues that need addressing first.  Lamping the school bully, as satisfying as it might be, would probably not solve it.

    Actually, scratch that.  Lamp the scrote.  And then address the problem if it still exists.

    A team sport or outdoor or active activities. The opportunity to get pals outside of his year group, and these bully’s, will give him some positivity back. He might, as an example, join the school rugby team, where his current build could prove helpful, meet some older kids who might take him under their wing and some protection from the bullies.

    i don’t envy you or him but knowing you are there to protect him and guide him, could be all he needs to get through this part of his life. I had a good friendship group but bullying was definitely part of my school culture and it had a major effect on my confidence in secondary school. To be honest, I thought this type of thing was something schools were on top of these days.

    Premier Icon augustuswindsock
    Subscriber

    I feel for you ( and your son) Cubist, I really do, my son is very similar -same age, similar interest (or lack of) in most sports, I suspect he’s mildly dyspraxic, the stuff he’s taken to is mtb ( what he lacks in skill he makes up for in enthusiasm) kayaking (ditto) and climbing (ditto again).

    what everyone else said regards contacting school, but most of all be there for him, show him you love him and encourage him where you can.

    i take my son to the lakes for activity weekends where no tech is allowed, do go ape, rock climbing mtb etc etc. He loves it, I give loads of positive reinforcement and it’s def helped.

    good luck.

    oreetmon
    Member

    30 years ago i bullied a couple of lads and girls at high school. I’m not a nasty person, never have been.

    Looking back I was just following the crowd and think I was trying to prove something to myself,,, maybe a way of building selfconfidence to cancel out my oppressive/aggressive father.

    one thing I will say is, one of the lads I bullied was a small slightly built, quiet, glasses wearing, clever, teachers pet type. He was bullied by everybody, relentlessly

    A fight was arranged after school and after taking a couple of punches he absolutely lost it and had to be dragged off his aggressor after knocking fk out of him.

    nobody bullied him for the last year of school out of respect.

    as soon as my son is old enough he will be attending Thai boxing classes and I will be trying to teach him the balance between respect for others and not giving a fk about what others think of him ( if that makes sense)

    revs1972
    Member

    I think one of your first steps should be to get him away from that f**king game (assuming it’s fortnite)

    He’s not going to have any enthusiasm to do anything else until that is out of his life.*

    *speaking from experience

    I’m pretty game savvy, ( I’ve got a Ps4) , but that game is damaging for these younger kid!s

    Premier Icon cubist
    Member

    Thanks for the advice so far. I’m really trying to balance encouraging him to get active and healthy with not being pushy or strong arming him into something he doesn’t want to do.

    My wife works in education with kids who have mental health issues so she’s really good at trying to get his school to do something about the issue. The thing is it needs to be a 2 pronged approach, the school deals with the bullies and my wife and I help my boy become more confident and self assure.

    He’s a smart cookie and loves learning he just doesn’t like school at the moment.  I would hate for him to end up hating school.

    bukobuko
    Member

    My experience at secondary school was quiet, I hung around with the bad boys at School and had separate friends, (Keep your friends close and <b>your enemies closer</b>. Another thing I learned was if you do get Picked on Stamp it out immediately and they leave you alone.

    How ‘cool’ are you?  Any opportunities for you to get more involved with the school – joining in on school trips, clubs etc?  Might earn him some respect by proxy or give you a sense of what’s really going on.  But maybe only if your ‘down with the kids’ or it’ll probably make things worse.

    Premier Icon cubist
    Member

    I’m 42. I’m under no illusion I’ll ever be cool again.

    bonni
    Member

    Agree with comments above re: video games. You’ve got to limit their time in front of the screen, it sucks the life out of them.

    Sometimes a bit of coercion/strong arming to join clubs etc. is necessary as kids don’t always know what’s good for them (Did I just say that!). Also, don’t be scared of arguments. As far as I can tell, emotional and sometimes noisy “debates” with secondary school kids are de rigeur and are part of parenting (it’s not easy).

    Fortunately, we made our eldest (who is a similar age to your son and is definitely a would-be a gaming addict – if he could) do some sports/activities as part of non-school clubs but also encouraged him to invite his close associates over for tea (occasionally the missus did it for him by chatting to their parents). So he does know kids from his new school.

    Currently we are also encouraging him to join as many clubs as possible in his new school, on the condition that he can drop them if he does them for a reasonable length of time. Hopefully if you fling enough mud on the wall…

    Just what seems to be working for us. Best of luck with it all.

    Premier Icon duckman
    Subscriber

    I am a teacher in mainstream, email not phone calls will get you further as they leave a trail. In my opinion the bullying and the downturn in other aspects such as appearance are linked, so stopping the bullying is the first step.

    Premier Icon Gaz.dick
    Subscriber

    Off Piste suggestion;

    do you have anything like a circus school near you? or some kind of non-mainstream activity? – bear with me…

    I work with a local circus in the North East; and I have seen many of the shy/quiet/non confident kids come, have a play with something (there is so many things, from juggling/unicycling/diablo  all sorts!) and giving a bunch of ‘misfits ‘some alternative stuff to play with – really helped build a different group of friends, different skills, things that can be practiced at home; and then gradually build up and out.

    some of the afore mentioned quiet kids – are now street performers – infront of complete strangers in the middle of big cities – the transformation is nothing short of incredible.

    and by having the alternate friend group – giving confidence in general – allows them to be more confident in the ‘real’ world too!

    A quick thought re the ‘Punch the Bully’ idea.

    If he ‘Punches the Bully’ in reasonable proximity to a teacher he achieves 3 things:

    1) Low risk, he’s not gonna get hurt because the teacher will break it up fast and the bully’s mates are unlikely to join in to help him out.
    2) It’s a good way of telling the staff what’s going on in a way they can’t ignore and without being seen as a grass. [1]
    3) The usual benefits of hitting the Bully.

    Of these I think 2 is by far the most beneficial.

    I was bullied for ages. I lost my rag and smacked the ringleader in a bus queue. I hadn’t considered the advantage of teachers being nearby. As it happens he collapsed into a dustbin and looked a dick losing a fight to a younger kid, but the real advantage was the whole story came out to the teachers and he got a 3 day suspension and a few prefects were told to keep an eye out for me. I was never bothered again and the bullies couldn’t claim I’d grassed them up.

    None of that was planned, but it worked.

    Whatever happens, as a parent, keep on at the school.

    Gerry’s final thought: What is it about kids? I played Rugby at school, nobody else on the team even spoke to me. I suspected because I wasn’t “cool” and they didn’t want to be seen to talk to the un-cool kid. [2] When I started playing ‘Adult’ rugby everyone was my best mate from the second I turned up. I moved a lot and every new town I instantly had a ton of new mates. Why aren’t kids like that?

    [1] To an adult mind the whole “grass“ thing is mad, just a control mechanism bad guys use, but for some reason it’s important in kid culture, even to the victims.

    [2] They were wrong. I am ****ing cool. 🙂

    Premier Icon funkmasterp
    Subscriber

    Really feel for you and your son cubist. I was badly bullied at secondary school and took the learn how to fight route. Really wish I hadn’t done this. You are supporting and clearly care about your son. As others have said, contacting the school and trying to get support on that front should be the first port of call.

    Does he show an interest in anything other than video games? Are there any other adults in his life that he may open up to? Maybe that school just isn’t the right environment for him. Wish I could offer more advice.

    ski
    Member

    Talk to the school, our school was amazing helping our daughter.

    Bullies like a easy targets, so help your son, not be that person, our daughter started karate, participated in  group sports, now a black belt and does mixed martial arts, the classes were great for her confidence.

    The school stoped the initial bout of bullying, my daughter stopped playing the victim role and now helps her friends when they experience bullying.

    good luck, it’s one of the worst feelings as a parent to go throuh but ther are options.

    Could you see if he’s interested in designing or programming computer games?

    Sometimes there are local groups for children or the school might have them?

    I have posted before about my stunningly bad school , and bullying was part of that culture.

    There was  a heirachy of bullying with daily fights or incidents , mostly to maintain your place in the pecking order . This lead to a ‘league table’ of people who everyone knew who was ‘hard’ and who was a ‘victim’

    I have no idea if this still exists , although it sounds possible at your sons school. Bottom of the league victims got picked on by alot of the people up the pecking order, the top tier just had to avoid being seen to smack you round the head by the teachers.

    Having a 9v battery rammed into your mouth and held there doesnt sound too bad , but as i guess the lad ( not me ) was 12/13 it probably affected him for years .

    There were all sorts of issues  with weapons  , little gangs or cliiques , often supported by thickos or relatives  in more senior years  at the school. Running away helped , but if they decided  it was your turn then it was hard to avoid being picked on.

    Advice wise , I would get him away from screen time as much as possible . If he is big then rugby seems appropriate , boxing gym maybe ? Although bribery is going to be a tool you may have to use. Yes , you can play your pointless , non life enhancing game if you go XYZ  twice a week,

    imo violence is going to be the quickest way for him to stop being bullied . but try to ensure he doesnt use a weapon or gets into cyclic depression and self harms

    Difficult situation I think that the computer game needs to go and you might need to get a councillor in to get to the root of the problem. Any chance of a change of school to where mates are?

    Without wanting to start another teachers are shit and don’t give a **** thread. Bullying in schools is hard to stop. Parents want it stopped (as does anyone sensible) but without giving the bully more kudos for being the hardman and making the victim weaker because parents and teachers had to step in. It takes a long term concerted approach to effectively make bullying socially unacceptable in the year group even then it won’t work with all kids.

    Edit: that said you do need to speak to the school make them aware and let them know you’re pissed off about it. But work with them not take to Facebook like some.

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