Question: Our son is in third grade, and we suspect that some of the older kids at school are taunting him. He doesn’t want to talk about it, though, and keeps assuring us everything is fine. What should we do?
Jim: If the older kids are bothering him, he probably feels very alone right now.
I know what that’s like. When I was a kid, I fell victim to the neighborhood bully. My parents weren’t around, so it eventually fell to my older sister to come to my defense. Long story short: She decked him, and he never bothered me again. That’s obviously not the best way to deal with this issue!
Bullying is a rising problem in schools. Kids in this situation need to know that Mom and Dad are on their side. Author Brad Lewis has identified four ways parents can support their kids when they’re being bullied:
1. Don’t wait for your child to talk about it. If you sense there’s a problem, say, “Is someone picking on you at school?” Some bullies will threaten to harm a child if he tells. Keeping the lines of communication open will assure your child that he’s not alone.
2. Watch for nonverbal signs of bullying. Does your child want to stay home? Does he keep “losing” his lunch money? Is he hungry right after school even though he took a big lunch? These could be warning signs.
3. Encourage your child to make friends. Being with one other buddy might deter a bully. While peer support does not replace adult intervention, it does provide an emotional safety net and can help restore lost hope.
4. Let the school know what’s going on — but in a discreet manner. Your child may fear that if you make a fuss, it will make things worse. Keep the same thing in mind if you know the parents of the bullies and decide to contact them.
Question: I have a 12-year-old boy who never gets his chores or homework done because he’s obsessed with video games.
I’ve tried telling him he can’t play until he gets his work done, but then he rushes through his work and does a sloppy job because he’s so anxious to play. I’m at my wit’s end!
Juli: As the mom of three boys, I know your frustration. Boys can become obsessed and even addicted to video games.
Unfortunately, the problem does not always disappear with time. College students are failing classes and husbands are ignoring their wives because of gaming.
Here’s what I recommend. Your son needs to be reminded that video games are a privilege to be earned, not a right.
While he is at school one day, remove the game console from the family room and hide it. When your son discovers that the video games are gone, very calmly state that they have become a distraction.
Explain that the video games will be put away for a while until he learns to focus on his grades and chores.
If you see him being disciplined with his work for several weeks in a row, you may consider reintroducing video games.
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