Elise’s kid, Bradley, is one of the smartest in school, but classmates tease him about being nerd or a teacher’s pet. He does not want to tell the teacher because the kids will mock him all the more. He sometimes hides his intelligence to avoid being taunted. He has become more timid and has even more difficulty making friends. How can Elise help her son?

Every school has bullies, regardless of gender and age, and bullies are rampant in the world outside school. In fact, many studies show that a significant number of children have suffered from verbal bullying, such as teasing, or worse, physical violence at least once in their school lives. Bullying, depending on its severity and on a child’s sensitivity, may either lead to loss of self-worth, or in the case of many children, it could be just a part of growing up.

There is no one right way to deal with bullies, but there are alternatives.

Tell the teacher. Bradley may have that fear telling the teacher may subject him to more teasing, and this may be true—or it may not. Caring teachers will want to know if their students are being teased, and will do their best to deal with the problem. Evaluate the teacher—if you think she cares enough, then by all means, tell her. Your child is probably too shy to do this himself, so accompany him in the consultation.

Tell the teacher your fears. “My son is afraid that he will be teased more if he tells you, so can you try your best to ensure that this does not rebound on him? If needed, transfer him to another class.

Advise your child not to hide his intelligence, but do not show off, either. I doubt that Bradley is showing off, since he is shy, but other parents (and kids) need to know that show-offs are not popular in the class. Those with quiet confidence earn the respect of others, and since they do not irritatingly dominate every discussion, they never get labeled “teacher’s pet.”

Introduce your child to nerds who have become role models. He should not retaliate, because it shows that teasing gets to him and bullies love to see this. Instead, Elise should teach Bradley to say “I am nerd, so what?” Bill Gates is a nerd, and he is the richest man on earth, earning a lot more than David Beckham. Haven’t you heard the saying, ‘Nerds rule?” My friend, whose son was teased for two months, finally stopped the bullying by asserting: “Be nice to nerds, you may end up working for one someday.”

Teach your child confidence-building skills, such as judo or karate. Enroll him in drama, debate, or singing class in summer or whole year round. Elise says Bradley finds it hard to make friends, but I would like to believe that he is not the only nerd in the class and that there are no other kids he can connect with. Yes, bullying has contributed to his problem, but I think his personality and perhaps his upbringing may have something to do with it. Ask yourself if you are too strict on him. Encourage him to bring friends over.

As a parent, network with other parents whose kids do not tease him (there are some who do not do so, I assure you) and help him make friends.

Encourage him to join the math or science club, or the school paper. Chances are he will feel at home there.

Keep things in perspective. Bullies bully out of inadequacy and insecurity. Tell your son that their teasing stems from jealousy. Tell him that achieving high grades is an honor, and that his intelligence is a gift from God. When your son eventually gets a scholarship and the bullies don’t, then they will wish that they were nerds.

Offer to help. This is a radical idea, but perhaps your son can take the initiative. The next time they tease him for getting high marks, he can ask them, “I would like all of you to do well, too. Would you like me to help you with the lesson?” One of my friend’s daughters used this strategy, and though it did not happen overnight, she eventually made friends with her tormentors, and yes, she started tutoring them, too.

Fighting among siblings is normal. They did not choose each other, forced as they are, by circumstances, to share the same roof. Some love each other but there are those who cannot stand each other. Parents should teach their children to live together and to respect one another.

My two sons, Randy, now 21 and Sean, 19, were always fighting when they were young. It was Randy who instigated the fights. He would put Sean down, trying to make his life difficult. We observed over time that Randy was insecure and jealous of Sean’s talents. Sean was a talented cello player, well-applauded by family and friends during cello recitals since he was five years old. This was a source of envy of Randy.

Parents need to look out for the child who starts the fight and asses the causes—possibly insecurity, low self-esteem, or perceived favoritism of one or both kids.

So what do we do when they fight? An effective tool I used was the time out. When Randy and Sean fought, I would not ask them what happened because, many times, they argued and counter argued. Separating them was the key. Initially, they were apart for five minutes, with Randy staying in the living room and Sean in the dining room. They could not look at each other—since they made faces, fuelling more anger. They were separated with no contact between them at all. After the five minutes was up. I let them play again. About 10 minutes of playing, they would fight again. So, I separate them again, but longer this time, say ten minutes. The consequence of fighting is a time out from each other. Having no playmate for several minutes is “painful” for kids—so no need to scream or spank. In between, I show them the right way to play with each other.

Building up Randy’s self-esteem was worked on at the same time. With a healthier self-esteem, the fights were reduced significantly.

There was also regular coaching on how to relate to each other, asking permission to borrow and waiting for the owner to lend things or toys. I encouraged them to talk to each other about why they fought. While I listened, I avoided taking sides.

Avoid these bad habits. Parents should not say: “You should love your brother or sister.” Rather, help them improve sibling relationship. Forcing them to love each other and stay in the same bedroom can make matters worse. Remember, they did not choose each other. Circumstances forced them to be together. Be aware of each one’s uniqueness. Do not compare. Do not have a favorite. These will just increase fighting between siblings. Never side with anyone.

Today, Randy and Sean say that they are very good friends, not just brothers. So work on reducing the fights and they can have a friend at home as well as a sibling.

 

Stimulation is everything. Play, read, sing, hug your child—oh, you know what to do. But what are some things that are very important to your child’s brain that we tend to overlook?

  1. Respond to a child’s cues and clues. A child, no matter how young, gives you indications of how he is feeling. Observe how a child’s eyes move when looking at you or objects. Watch out for body language and the pitch of his cry. “When a child knows you’re listening to him, he becomes calmer and more confident,” says the experts.
  2. Make every moment a teaching moment. Babies are like sponges. Name his body parts as you scrub them in the bath. Count the toys as you put them away from the shelves.
  3. Use “Parentese.” Mothers instinctively put their faces very close to a child and speak in a high-pitched, sing-song manner. Studies show that these actually help babies understand the words. Another tip: use short sentences and speak slowly, maintaining eye contact.
  1. Watch your emotions. Other studies show that a depressed mother’s interactions with a child can affect his level of brain activity. The melancholy rubs off on him, and he may become less interested in playing or interacting with others.
  1. Rotate your toys. You’ve invested a small fortune in educational toys—but most of them gather dust on the shelves. Bring out 10 or 11 each week and put them in a box, replacing them regularly.
  1. Let them crawl. Studies suggest that the act of crawling can actually build what neurologists call the primitive brain. That wasn’t a big deal before—experts once thought that the cerebral cortex was more important for daily and long-term decision making. But now they realize that memory and problem-solving involves all the structures.
  1. Build a healthy attachment. Play school teacher experts say that relationships, not things, build a baby’s intelligence. “Does he trust his environment and feel comfortable exploring it? Does he feel rewarded for his accomplishments? Does he have fun learning due to the ewere asked to play with unfamiliar toys in an unfamiliar room. Those who had a “healthy attachment” to their parents would take only a few minutes to adjust to an unfamiliar room. They would explore, only periodically checking if their mom was still there. Children who had experienced trauma or neglect were fearful and clingy. Not surprisingly, the latter scored lower on memory tests.

SPEECH AND VOCABULARY. Between birth and 3 years of age. What he hears will largely determine the size of his adult vocabulary. Those who aren’t spoken to regularly even score lower on conceptual thinking tests than those who were included in conversation.

This is also why young children can learn several languages effortlessly. Dorothy and her 3-year-old daughter traveled back and forth between Hong kong and UK. “She learned Cantonese faster than all of us, and used it to communicate with playmates. She spoke Mexican to her Nanny and English to us.” That’s one secret to avoiding language confusion—your child knows which to use, depending on who she’s talking to.

EMOTIONAL PATTERS. Between birth to 2 years. While this is difficult to isolate (our personalities are shaped by so many things) some say that babies who are raised in an inconsistent, violent or unaffectionate environment can grow up to be very clingy, anxious, or easily frustrated.

The theory fits with research does as early as 1970s. Pediatrics guru Dr. Terry Brazelton videotaped babies crying to get the attention of their moms. Each one reaches their tolerance level and begins to look away from her, finding it too difficult to continue making an effort with no response. Though some try again, they run away for longer and longer periods, finally slumping down and giving up completely. That’s one experiment conducted over one afternoon. Imagine what 2 years of this sense of rejection would do for a child?

OTHER WINDOWS ARE VISUAL ACUITY. (Birth to 2 years) and motor coordination (birth to 5 years). “Let them crawl, sweat, get dirty,” says pediatricians. “Too many first-time parents are scared that their babies will get too tired or sick. Don’t be. His got his natural immune systems to protect him. “

In the late 70s, a research group asked first time expectant mothers at what age they thought their babies were aware of things around them. Most of them pegged it at 2 months; some said as late as one year. Even prominent psychologists said that babies saw the world in “one great, blooming, buzzing confusion.”

Then, amazing research—made possible by instruments that could measure brain activity or other subtle responses to stimuli—proved that babies are far smarter than we ever gave them credit for. Some US studies found that 3-week-olds presented with 2 seemingly identical blankets would reach for the one that had the mother’s scent. (And they thought babies couldn’t remember anything!)

And maternal pride notwithstanding we sense the intelligence in their eyes and how they hate being left alone to stare at a blank white ceiling. “My son was always very fussy in the living room playpen, until I propped flashcards on the mattress,” says Janet. Then he’d grow restless again—a sign to replace the cards with another act.

But the most amazing of all neurogical discoveries is that the electrical activity of the brain cells actually changes the physical structure of the brain. The timeline:

At birth, he has over 100 billion neurons. Most believe that’s all you get—few or none are produced later in life.

 

BIRTH. While the brain contains all the nerve cells it will ever have, the pattern of wiring is not established. Your baby needs stimulation and repetition of activity to create the connections (called synapses) that lead to language, feelings and movement. No need to spend a fortune on baby classes—computer readings show that a simple hug and song can activate significant brain activity.

8 MONTHS OLD. He can’t walk, can’t talk, but his brain has already formed 1,000 trillion synapses. That’s twice more than what adults have (most of us have less than 500 trillion).

But here’s the deal: the connections operate on a “use it or lose it” principle.

The brain discards synapses that are rarely used—and since brain systems develop at different times, there’s a “window of opportunity” for parents to maximize a particular type of brain function.

3 YEARS OLD. The brain’s blue print has been formed, largely from the sensory experiences of sight, sound, touch and taste. This will be refined until he is 10 to 11 years old.

12 YEARS OLD. Scientists say the brain structure has more or less become final. Depending on the type of parenting and stimulation provided, we get a unique brain with different patterns of emotion and thought.