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.