The other night over dinner, my son was telling us about a friend of his who was being bullied in school. He’s a super nice 13-year-old, but very shy, and at a new school, so he’s without his posse from last year. A classmate picked up on his awkwardness with that weird weakness-radar that bullies possess, and now she insults him in class regularly. It’s a classic mean-kid-picking-on-shy-kid scenario.
His school has a “no bullying” policy, but this is a clever bully, effective at causing emotional distress in seemingly innocent ways, leaving the victim no immediate recourse—you can’t really go up to a teacher and say, “She said I had nice hair, but it’s the way she said it!”
My wife and I realized that beyond “stay away from her as much as possible,” we had very little helpful advice to offer. “Bullies will probably feel bad about the people they targeted at some point later in their life, and send a weird Facebook message that your friend will feel conflicted about” isn’t particularly useful. Neither is “Bullying? Jesus Christ, try paying a mortgage.”
A lot of the standard tips for this kind of bullying seems woefully naive. I mean, “tell them they hurt your feelings?” That’s the whole point, right? And any self-respecting bully would respond with “I’m so, so sorry.” (But it would be the way they say it.)
Other common advice—“respond with a humorous zinger of your own” or “be more confident”—relies on the bullied possessing traits that they clearly lack, or they wouldn’t be being picked on in the first place.
So I’m going to throw it open to you, readers: What tips do you have for a kid who’s dealing with the kind of bullying that you can’t exactly report to administrators? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and we’ll round up them up and share them with others. Oh, and that’s a really nice shirt. Totally suits your style, champ.