Bullying at School and Strategies for Moving Forward

Please only genuine and thought out responses. Its hard enough at the moment as it is.

So we found out that our 11 son hasn't been getting along with one of his classmates and its been going on since December last year. This is our side of the story. Our son seems to think that it happened when he told his friend that he wanted to draw the same cityscapes as his friend, as our son thinks he's friend is a great drawer. Believe our son also told his friend that. Well the friend didn't like that and thought it was copying.

The friend has now been taking our sons friend away from him at play time and I assume also telling them why they shouldnt play with him. He's now isolated and doesnt have anyone to play with. We only found out about this as our son was starting get very agressive and standing his ground at home which was very different from normal.

He also noticed that his lunchbox has been going missing for the last 4 times. Could be coindidence, but the teacher is now watching.

It would seem the last teacher and this new teacher havent been able to stop this or help.

My partner has tried reaching out to the parent via text. The parent texted back and pretty much said our child is greast and theres nothing to talk about. My partner worded it asking for a meet up for a discussion. Not pointing finger at anyone as we want them to work it out and be friends. My wife was in tear at school and she broke down again because she felt I wasnt supporting her. That's another issue for another topic.

There's probably a heap more detail, but yet to get it all out of our son. Tuff.

What can we do? Thanking you in advance.

By the way its ironic as our son helped this student as he was from UK and new . Our son only started School last year as well and had to make friends. He already had bad experience at the other school.


  • +1

    Have you spoken to the Principal? If not, I would set up a meeting with the Principal immediately and explain the situation. The Principal should be able to work out exactly what is going on and intervene if necessary.

    • +6

      I'd leave this until OP's run out of other options. You can't force people to be friends - and doing this now will basically ostracise OP's son permanently as the kid who needed to go to the principal to make friends.

    • This. We experienced a similar issue in our children's new primary school where bullying was endemic. We did go to the principal, and worked through the process for managing everything with him. He was new at the school, but thanks to a few other parents who'd reported similar problems, he had plannedaand ran a school-wide campaign to stop bullying. There was a good book about girls and bullying at the time called Queen Bees and Wannabes, which had some good tips.
      All the best with this.
      It's a horrible issue, and can affect children profoundly.

      • I was bullied in year 9. Reported to the principal. The entire year group came to know about it. More people started bullying me (because I reported the bully), then the staff started bullying me for some reason (they didn’t want anything to do with me).

        I was devastated and depression levels were sky rocket high. Left the high school in 6 months. Told the principal that I would be back in 6 months after I recover (was a selective school). But the high school didn’t end up taking me back and basically kicked me out.

        I ended up moving from a selective school to my local high school but ended up getting ATAR > 99 as my cohort in my local high school was miles better.

        So avoid the principal. Try to use the rules to stop bullying like - ignoring, confrontation etc. Use the principal as the last resort

        • Sorry to hear you didn't get the support needed from the principal. Leaving was better for you, but it didn't solve the problem at the school. Ours happened at a State primary school, about 15 years ago, and there was an anti~bullying program being implemented across the State even then.

  • +5

    You can't force kids to be friends, but if there has been some falling out or misunderstanding, it just needs to be cleared up or resolved so that they can possibly become friends again.

    Have you considered inviting the friend to your's for a play date?

    Are there no other kids he can befriend?

    Edit: I don't have school aged kids yet…so take with a grain of salt.

  • +11

    I have 3 kids at school.

    Talk to the school. You are not making a complaint, you are just highlighting a concern you have for your child.

    The school has methods/plans for dealing with such situations.

    • +2

      This is the best suggestion

    • -3

      I feel like I must be under some misapprehension as to how this works, but does "have the teacher or principal force other kids to play together" ever actually work? I feel that's doomed to backfire, but that's from my own experiences decades ago at school - I've no kids myself so no idea what that's like these days.

      • +5

        How do you interpret that from the comment?

        The school is in the best position to identify the problem and come up with solutions, which may include building confidence in the osctracised kid, as well as dealing with potential behavioural problems that the (alleged) bully has. If the school responds with "we will force them to play together" I'd be pretty concerned about the school.

        The world has moved a long way towards recognising bullying and addressing behaviour that in the past would be waved away with a simple "toughen up".

        • The school is in the best position to identify the problem and come up with solutions

          Identify the problem, probably. Come up with solutions? I don't know. I'm not in the school of thought (heh) that says schools are responsible for teaching kids the bulk of their required life skills - to me, that's still the job of the parents.

          So things like building up confidence, building up and role modelling social skills, teaching kids how to navigate and deal with interpersonal relationships - I believe the parents are in a far better position, and are naturally responsible for, doing than the school.

          The world has moved a long way towards recognising bullying and addressing behaviour that in the past would be waved away with a simple "toughen up".

          How did you get this from my comment, especially since it was an actual question asking for insight? Christ some people are quick to neg anything that even remotely or possibly disagrees with their opinion.

          as well as dealing with potential behavioural problems that the (alleged) bully has.

          I'm not actually seeing that the other kid has any issues (unless they're responsible for the lunchbox going missing). They don't like OP's kid (which they're perfectly entitled to do), they want their friends to play with them instead of with OP's kid (which they're also entitled to do). OP's problem is really that the other kid seems to be better at this than they are.

          • @HighAndDry: I think the school is in the best position because:

            -teachers can observe interactions and identify the issues, given that kids spend most of their waking time at school
            -teachers are required to discipline children as well as teach
            -schools employ counselors, and have more knowledge than most parents about adolescent development
            -schools can address issues that may be coming outside of the parent-child relations (ie. other children acting inappropriately)

            I didn't neg you and I probably inferred that from your comment and others in this thread.

            Finally we don't know if the other kid has issues, but the school might. That's why you at least start the conversation.

            • @one man clan:

              1. Teachers are best placed to observe, which is why I said the school would be in a good position to identify the issue, I agree completely.

              2. Lunchbox aside, what's there to discipline? You can't use rules to force kids to play with other kids during their free time.

              3. Maybe so, but I'd argue that these counselors serve as advisors to the parents, and aren't there to take the place of parents completely.

              4. Again - lunchbox aside, not being friends with someone isn't acting inappropriately.

              At the end of the day, this is an interpersonal relationships skills issue for OP's kid, and imo parents are responsible for teaching their kids these skills, not teachers. (Again lunchbox aside) This isn't a disciplinary issue or a rule-breaking issue.

              • @HighAndDry: The thing is, it could be a disciplinary issue. We don't know. We have a limited story from the parent of a child. Maybe he's not being bullied, maybe he's an annoying shit or a whinger and kids don't like hanging around him. Maybe he smells.

                Or maybe the other kid is a sociopath and decided to manipulate other kids to osctracise this kid for a laugh. The school can identify these problems AND work with the parents, the kids, and possibly the other kid's parents to solve it, if necessary.

                Schools have a duty of care to children which extends to bullying. Again, I'm not saying that it is in this case - we don't know. But if it is, the school has an important role to play in solving the problem.

                OP isn't trying to fob the problem on the school, and that's not what the original comment suggested (or my response). OP is looking for suggestions how to best deal with the problem, and my view is that in the first instance, she should talk to the school.

                • -5

                  @one man clan:

                  Or maybe the other kid is a sociopath and decided to manipulate other kids to osctracise this kid for a laugh.

                  This still wouldn't be a disciplinary issue - it'd be a behavioural one for that kid's parents, but kids are allowed to decide to play or not play with someone.

                  Schools have a duty of care to children which extends to bullying.

                  Bullying is a serious issue. Diluting it to include things like "the kids won't play with my kid" does noone any favours.

                  OP is looking for suggestions how to best deal with the problem, and my view is that in the first instance, she should talk to the school.

                  My stance on self-sufficiency extends to parenting. Your kid not being able to make friends isn't something I feel you should bother the school with - it's something for the parents to teach their kid.

                  • +1

                    @HighAndDry: In this case, your stance is inconsistent with expert advice (see below article). Not all problems can be solved self sufficiently.

                    • -1

                      @one man clan: No it's not? I just actually replied to your comment, and the article, which you linked, specifically says:

                      We now know that parenting specifically affects children’s risk of being bullied at school.


                      Research has identified two additional ways parents can make a positive difference to children’s relationships with peers: parents can coach children in social skills and they can actively support their children’s friendships.

                      It actually repeats almost exactly what I said:

                      Parents see children every day so are in an ideal position to help children find ways to deal with peer problems. Parents can improve children’s social skills, which can help children become better accepted by peers, and support children’s friendships by organising play-dates and other activities that help children develop close friendships with children at school. Having good friends at school helps protect children against bullying.

                      What were my repeated suggestions through this thread?

                      1. Teach the kid how to deal with interpersonal issues (i.e. social skills); and
                      2. Throw the kids a pizza party.
                      • @HighAndDry:

                        If the child is experiencing problems at school, parents should first contact the child’s school.

                        • -1

                          @one man clan: You conveniently leave out the sentence literally immediately before this:

                          If a child is unable to deal with a distressing issue by themselves

                          My advice is for OP to teach the kid to deal with it himself first.

                          • @HighAndDry: From the story above it looks like the kid isn't able to deal with it himself, given that it's been going on since December last year.

                            • -1

                              @one man clan: We don't really know if he's capable of solving it himself because OP wasn't aware of it, and so not in a position to support the kid, until now.

                              I classify "dealing with it himself" to include dealing with it after being coached or taught (better) social skills by OP.

                              Eventually the kid's going to grow up and not have teachers to run to.

                              • +2

                                @HighAndDry: Yep and he's 11 now, so he's got 7+ years of life to grow those skills. People aren't born self sufficient and don't learn life skills in one blow.

                                • @one man clan: Sure, but going to the teachers will teach the kid nothing but to run to teachers. And 7+ years of nothing is still going to be nothing - and the main point here is that you're not even trying to teach the kid anything. If you try, and it doesn't work, sure go to the teacher. But that shouldn't be the first course of action.

                                  Edit: Heck, this is a great example. OP should teach his kid to be self-sufficient. That is a good lesson. The kid should know that his parents and the teachers are there for him, but that he should try and solve problems himself first - and hey maybe he will solve it and get a nice confidence boost. He should not be taught that for all problems, the first thing is to run to someone else for help, which is what the lesson will be if OP runs to the teachers right off the bat.

                                  This is a great teachable moment.

          • +3

            @HighAndDry: If you haven't been a kid at school in the last 5 years and you don't have any school aged kids then you're not helping by commenting, only making noise that dilutes the actual helpful answers.

      • +1

        Not playing together, and having one child actively discourage others from playing with this child, are two very different things.

        • -1

          And yet both aren't disciplinary issues, nor will forcing the other children to play with OP's kid solve any of the underlying issues.

          • +1

            @HighAndDry: Again, I never said anyone should be forced to play with anyone. A bully telling other kids not to play with someone is not the same thing. That is simply mean and isolating.

            I do agree that there are possibly other skills ops kid can learn. Self confidence is very important, as is the ability to ignore asshats. However, being 11, these are very difficult skills to master.

            • @brendanm: Those other kids aren't being forced not to play with anyone either.

              • +1

                @HighAndDry: Do you have kids, or were you a kid recently? If there is one child who is slightly more dominant, other kids will follow them even if they are friends with ops kid.

                Even if this situation involved adults in a workplace environment it would constitute bullying.

  • +8

    Build up your kid confidence at home. Sit down and talk to him . Explain to him that bullying is not acceptable and if someone doesn't want to play with him that s fine. Move on. There are plenty of kids on the playground and not every single one is mean.you don't need to go to the bully's parent as they obviously are the one who teach their son that way.Tell your son he is gorgeous, you love the way he draw . Walk him to school and pop at lunch time whenever you can just to take a look. Speak to the school principal and other parents.

  • +13

    Kids make and lose 'freinds' all the time (so do adults). If he is confident in who he is and gets the appropriate love and support (not indulgence) at home then his self-confidence should see him through. Also, nothing beats self-confidence boosting better than signing him up for a kids karate school. I've found those kinds of things much more supportive and less violent that 'team sports'.

    When junior was growing up we taught him that people (especially kids) can be jerks and if he was verbally bullied he should understand that that's what jerks do and the kid doing the bullying is probably a victim of very bad parenting themselves. So just ignore them in the knowledge that if theyweren't bullying you it would be whoever else was around at the time. I also told him that if anyone physically bullied him he had my permission and approval to punch them right in the nose and regardless of how the school reacted I would support him. It never came to that of course (as opposed to my own school bullies)but he needed to know that some courses of action and self-defense ARE ok because his mental and physical wellbeing are more important than suffering for the sake of PC cowardice.

    Just my 2c.

    • +1

      I totally agree with this. My 8yr old son is probably one of the smallest stature wise in his year and he is quite placid being an only child and no siblings to get aggressive with. A couple of years ago we decided to sign him up for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is quite good at it now and it has greatly improved his confidence knowing that he can now easily handle certain issues that might arise, which they did - and he handled them himself. Just like EightImmortals, I also gave permission to my son to defend himself and said I will 100% back him up. He doesn't seek trouble, he actively avoids it, but he has the confidence now to stand up for himself.

      One other thing that Jiu Jitsu / Karate / other martial arts also provide is often a supportive group of friends and coaches outside of the school arena.

  • Focus on the lunchbox part. Don't get the school involved in the "taking friends away part".

    Feel free to throw a party (with beer and pizza) and invite all the kids though, including the ex friend - at your son's age, that tends to help with popularity.

    • +2

      best party we have had for our 9y.o was an invite all the kids, byo ipad and minecraft, we supply the pizza. We also supplied wine and cheese for parents, and got to know a few parents a bit better :)

      • +1

        We also supplied wine and cheese for parents

        If I were a parent, I'd force my kid to be friends with yours just so I keep getting invited haha.

      • Haha this is hell for me as a parent. Adults wanting to 'get to know' me and I don't even get to eat the pizza.

  • -1

    teach your kid how to fight, get him to beat up the other kid and steal his lunch box

  • You could:
    1. Arrange a meeting with the teacher and your son to talk about his experiences at school, sometimes its more powerful for the teacher to hear it first hand from the child. You can ask that it be raised with the year co-ordinator too. Ask the teacher for a plan of action to deal with the friends. They can't force them to be friends but the teacher can arrange a class discussion about appropriate behaviours - exclusion - bullying. Teachers have a range of activities to drum the message home.
    2. Have follow up meetings with the teacher about a week or two and more if needed to discuss how things are progressing.
    3. See if there is a school counsellor - there may be a referral to one in your region.
    4. Arrange a meeting with the principal if the teacher isn't taking this seriously
    5. Speak to your child and let me know you support them.
    6. Focus on other things you child is interested in e.g tennis, books, pet, any hobbies? Helps remind them that they can find solace in the things outside school.
    7. Encourage your son about making friends from different classes. Not to late to even ask to change his class as its early in the school year.
    8. Self-defence classes - not just about the fighting but instilling confidence, resilience etc
    Best of luck

    • Some of these are good ideas. Others… eh. Like:

      but the teacher can arrange a class discussion about appropriate behaviours - exclusion - bullying.

      OP's son and the other kids are 11, not 7 or 8. This will paint a target on OP's back.

      OP should talk to the school and the teacher about the missing lunchboxes. But the rest of the issues are just a matter of OP's son needing to improve social skills and how to deal with people. You can't have a teacher enforce that, not least because doing so would prevent OP's son from actually learning those essential life-skills.

  • Getting involved and trying to solve his problem for him might do more harm than good.
    His peers might end up teasing him seeing his parents always coming into school asking questions.
    Talk to him at home. Build up his confidence. Help him to solve his own problems. Only be as involved as he wants you to be.
    Give him space.
    Don't treat him like a child. Kids at that age don't like to be treated like a child.

    • I second this. OP should focus on teaching, modelling, and building up the kid's ability to deal with interpersonal conflict and relationships. Give the boy a fishing rod instead of a fish, so to speak.

  • +2

    -Encourage some play date catch ups with other kids to help your kid broaden his friendship group.. if a small group is getting him down maybe developing a friendship outside that circle might be good? Perhaps invite a mate to the movies or to Timezone or rock climbing or something?
    -If school is getting him down, consider helping him with his social environment outside of school, through a team sport, scouting etc? This might help him to be more resilient.
    -Have a chat to the teacher/school - sometimes the messages you get from your kids aren't quite the same as what the teacher would say - maybe the teacher/school can provide further advice?
    -Are there lunch time clubs/activities/sports he could join in on?

  • +3

    Have all your kids do Boxing (they can pick it up quickly), it gives them confidence and word quickly spreads that they can throw them. They will be set for a hassle free existence at school.

    I have done that with mine (3) of them and they all have come through with no issues at all.

    PS: Never run away ie: Change schools, you do it once and the kids and you will be running from everything for the rest of your lives (school years anyway).

  • +2

    1) Talk to school
    2) get your boy involved in some team sports. It helps making new friends.
    3) encourage your son to make "lots of friends" rather than just a few.

    It's really hard (especially now when kids often live "out of area" and will be slow going. Good luck

  • There's an article here that might be a starting point: https://theconversation.com/what-should-parents-do-if-their-...

    • Good link, though (at the risk of sounding like "I told you so"), it says:

      Research has identified two additional ways parents can make a positive difference to children’s relationships with peers: parents can coach children in social skills and they can actively support their children’s friendships.

  • +2

    Talk to the school, don't get involved with the other parent (or so I've been warned by the assistant principal as that usually escalate out of hand) and let them deliver the goods.

    They did.

    (we're on first name basis with both principals and knew the other family as well so that may have influenced the favourable outcome)

  • +2

    Scouts might be a good option. He can make some new friends and learn some new life skills while building up his confidence. Karate and boxing would be awesome too!!

    All the posts above about teaching him how to handle his own problems are spot on. You are the parent and that is your job Good luck!!!

  • +1

    If you have an issue with your child I would advise you to post on mumsnet.com so you can get advice from people who have actual experience, not randoms whose advice is going to be worse than what you can come up with on your own (not only do they not have kids but they don't have the knowledge you do of your own son and the culture of his school).

    • I'm sure some OBZs have kids and can comment.

      • Yes but there's a lot more bad advice to sort through, and work out which is which

  • Not always, but mostly, jerk kids are that way because of jerk parents. I wouldn’t be patching this friendship and I wouldn’t be contacting the parents either. I would encourage your son to make new friends and you could help this along by organising play dates.

  • My head hurts reading that post :/

    I hope everything works out (whatever is going on there)

    1 idea, go talk to parents of the 2? Other kids involved

    Surely you can get together as adults and resolve this. You probably already have met the bullying kids parents and the parents of kid who may, have been told not to play with your son anymore

    • That is the issue. Partner did text the boy's parent who started it all and they didn't think there was any issue to discuss. Yeah we should try and speak to the other friends parent's for play dates. believe that has already begun. So positive steps.

      Fully understand a lot of what people are saying and suggesting. Its a small blip in our childs growth. Just hard enough making new friends and keeping them. You can't make everyone like you and understand your own personalities. Our suns probably more ok about it then we are. You never get an instruction manual for parenting. Its all hands on and you try different things.

      I upset my partner as she wanted to approach the main parent and I already knew that the response could be one of a protective nature as every parent thinks their child is the best. Now I am in the poo for not supporting her methods. By the way a similar thing happened previously hence why I didn't think approaching that parent was a good idea. You have to learn from your mistakes, but she was hoping they would see it differently and just have that discussion. Oh well. Onwards and upwards.

      Our son seems to have settled down a bit at home, but that's probably from our own talks about his behaviour and how we could help or let him tell us the issues. Thanks all so far.

  • boy's parent who started it all

    With this, try to reflect back and realise you are most likely doing as you said "one of a protective nature as every parent thinks their child is the best"

    There is maybe more to this, almost certainly more to this. Maybe your so has not told you everything.

    Regardless, be sure, when you or partner do speak with parents,

    Dont play the blame game

    Ie. Don't make out like their kid is horrible and it is all their kids fault, or they will be right away on the defensive. And there are 2 sides to every story you only have a part, of 1 story (what your son chose to tell you) .

    You want to be careful also, not to overparent also. As you mentioned, in real life as a adult, not everyone is always going to like you and want to play (or spend time) with you. I believe part of being a good parent is to prepare the children for adulthood. If you intervene every single small thing, this won't be preparing them well for being an adult.

    Sometimes things cannot be worked out, maybe this can be worked out, but regardless, your son will need to learn to get past things and move on, without acting out at home.
    Acting out at home might get a child sent to their room. Acting out inappropriately in real life as an adult, could result in loss of job, loss of partner, even prison.

    If there was actually physical injury and attack from the one you call the "bully" that would be different. In real life as an adult, physical bullying would result in serious consequences for the offender. Someone 'bullying' by stopping being your friend, is simply something everyone needs to learn to live with, and accept not everyone will like us

  • Both parents and schools have important roles to perform in a child's journey towards adutlthood.
    Most parents try to teach their child concepts like honesty and fairness amongst others. They do this in their family unit, some lucky enough to have valuable help from an extended family.

    Schools aim to teach more than reading and writing. Most school mottos will include phrases such as"to develop the whole person" and "love and respect for themselves and others". Teacher training includes modules on child developmental psychology to assist them in their important roles.
    If your primary aged child is experiencing difficulties then a discussion with the classroom teacher is a great place to start. A teacher wouldn't"force" children to play with others, but they would likely know which children in the classroom may be more inclined to involve a loner into their games. Also, good classroom practice can increase a child's level of inclusion.
    Schools vary in size,some less than 10 pupils to more than a thousand. They are a meeting point of varying levels of academic, physical and emotional skills. Schools pride themselves on doing the best for their students,and though they do try hard, they are not perfect.
    I wish you all the best, parenting is not always easy. Finally, I would definitely advise against texting the other parent. And also I'd be very careful about activities that could be seen as bribes,eg pizza party, as they can backfire.

  • I'll echo the theme of teaching/helping your child to be resilient to social and other challenges through developing self esteem and self confidence independently of peer related friendships.

    Martial arts classes are great for this, not just because they instil a calm and collected approach to conflict resolution, but because the friendship, trust, and community present within any well managed martial arts school will deliver a supportive and caring network of peers, older kids, and adults where your son can experience and develop healthy relationships.

    Obviously martial arts is not the only sport that can help, so let your child follow their interests.

    Just for some perspective, if your child is 11 and in year 5, they will be out of that school and into high school in not too long. Use these years to help him develop physically (unfortunately it's what most kids respect more than anything else) and even if he remains a little isolated at school in the short term, looking forward to martial arts each afternoon will give him resilience and something to look forward to.

  • Schools have lots of mechanisms in place for bullying, but unfortunately bullying occurs everyday in schools. Some very low level, others quite extreme. I dont want to make a judgement upon the kind of bullying your child is experiencing but it is obviously having a negative effect upon them.

    I would recommend making time for a meeting with your classroom teacher and your child together. Your childs teacher definitely wants to ensure that all their students enjoy their time at school and would want to do everything in their power to fix the situation. It could also be a good teaching moment as a parent to explain to your child that some kids can be mean and that we can't always be friends with the people we want to be friends with.

    I really hope you have a positive outcome to all of this

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