What do you offer a child who is being bullied?

A couple of times I have found a large sixth grader in the office, sort of taking a time out after having been bullied at recess, or so he says. I’ve not actually seen the bullying, but I’m not doubting him, only trying to figure out what can be done to help him. Disciplining the bully(ies) is not my responsibility. Helping a child feel better about him(her)self is.

Last week when I found Miguel (not his real name) in the office I sat with him for awhile and we talked about what was going on. I asked him about his teacher, whom he likes. He likes being a sixth grader. He likes to draw. I suggested he start drawing pictures for a book that he could share with first graders about what it’s like to be a sixth grader. To get him started while he sat in the office, I got him a small stack of paper and told him I would check back in a week. I saw him at lunch yesterday and asked how his book was coming along. He sort of shrugged and kept going.

Today, as I was going out through the front office, after reading stories to two first grade classes, there sat Miguel again. He had brought his lunch to the office, giving himself a time-out. I again asked about the progress on his book and he admitted that the paper had been taken away from him because he was working on the book during PE class. Hmmm. I explained that it was a project he could work on before and after school, but not during class time. Maybe after he had finished his classwork and the teacher gave free time. He said that never happened. Hmmm.

I was carrying a book around in my chaplain’s bag, The Red Rubber Ball by Kevin Carroll. The book is Carroll’s philosophy of life, using one’s passion and creativity.  He has distilled his philosophy into seven simple rules: 1) Commit to it, 2) Seek out encouragers, 3) Work out your creative muscle, 4) Prepare to shine, 5) Speak up, 6) Expect the unexpected, and 7) Maximize the day.

The book is tiny. It has a red rubber ball on the cover, made from actual ball material. There are lots of fun pictures to stimulate ideas, blank pages for writing one’s own ideas, clever ways to get one thinking differently. After flipping through the book, showing Miguel some of these properties, I gave it to him, along with more paper for his book. This time I put the paper in a folder and suggested he only work on it during his free time.

Before leaving, I ducked into the principal’s office and let her know Miguel was all hers. She smiled, and just like me, said she was unsure of what to do. She would talk with him. I told her about the book idea and left it at that. We’ll see if any of this helps. I don’t have answers to such hard problems.

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9 responses to “What do you offer a child who is being bullied?

  1. Yes, kids who were bullied need caring and love. I was bullied, and I know.

  2. Hope it works out for poor ‘Miguel’.

  3. I was bullied as well. It can affect you your entire life! Thank you for being there and helping. When I was young (before the dinosaurs ruled the earth), we didn’t have anyone but our teacher to turn to, and they were far too busy to do anything. At least, that is how I remember it.

    • I cannot fix this problem, but I’m hoping I can offer Miguel tools with which to better handle the situation. A strong sense of self can help a child to stand up to bullies. I’m just not too sure how to go about building that sense of self since I’m only around a few hours each week.

  4. I’m glad Miguel has you and knows that somebody cares what happens to him. You are a real treasure. Thank you for all that you do.

  5. I hope Miguel is open to your suggestions.

  6. I so wish there had been school chaplins and others to tackle bullying when I was a kid. during my daughter’s childhood also. bullying is terrible and can continue throughout life.

    • I’m hoping that the work I do with the first graders will carry through their school careers and beyond. Miguel is a sixth grader and this is my first year of contact with him. It seems a difficult point to step into his life and for such a short time. The new principal appears to be really good at her job so I’m hopeful she will have better answers and techniques to help the child.

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