Bullying at elementary school

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  1. I would much appreciate your advice on the following situation:
    My 7-year old son is a good-natured, easy-going and popular boy. Other kids (boys and girls alike) like him, and he has many friends. His two closest friends (A & F) he has known for 4 years. They went to the same kindergarten/ pre-school and regularly meet up for weekend outings and the like. Two years ago a third boy (D) joined their day care and befriended them. All 4 boys plus one girl (H) from their former pre-school are in the same class at elementary school. After school (which ends around noon) the 4 boys and one girl walk together to their day care center (NB: We live in a European country where kids usually walk or ride their bikes to school by themselves.). They are under strict instruction from their day care that they must walk with at least one other child (so no child walks alone).
    Here the problems start... Acc. to my son, a few weeks ago D refused to walk with H because he "does not like girls in general and he really dislikes H". A and F immediately sided with him. My son likes his friends but he has nothing against the little girl and was worried about breaking the day care rule so ever since he has walked with H (but not his friends who rush ahead to get away from the little girl). Last week D declared my boy to be a "girl lover" and told him he was not allowed to play with the (1st grade) boys in the garden. My son was not happy about this but he is not a confrontational character so he turned around and played with the 2nd and 3rd graders.
    Today my boy and I went down to the river and by chance encountered A, F and D (plus two parents) rollerblading. And my son was simply crushed that he had not been invited (his face just fell and later in the car he cried). He feels terribly betrayed by A and F and blames D; he might also feel somewhat upstaged since he always had been the kid that everyone wanted to be with and now out of the sudden he is being excluded by his closest pals. I feel his pain and told him that friends sometimes need a little breather from each other (and this can be painful) but there are other boys in his class that he gets along with well and he should play with them for the time being.
    Still, I am not sure how to handle this as I do not quite understand what's going on (and do not get how esp. A's and F's parents - people I have known for years and spent some time with due to our sons' friendship - seem to condone all this). I dislike disputes in my dealings with other adults and tend to walk away (often for good). However, this might not be the best advice for my boy; I do not see myself as a role model in this respect. So... Should I just let it go? Encourage my son to spend time with other friends? Approach F's mother (whom I am closest to of the three sets of parents) saying what? Any advice is appreciated!
  2. This is difficult, but I think your son needs a little help here. These friendships are very important to him and it would very hard on him to "let it go".

    I would approach the mother you are closest with and ask her what is going on from her perspective. She must see that your son is being excluded, but she may not know why, or perhaps F has told her something else. I find that when I handle these things in a conversational way, without accusation, but more with concern and confusion, it goes well. Please keep us posted.

    Of course, it doesn't always go well. This year my son was excluded from a party and I approached the mom, who invited him...and then I got a text message from the son disinviting him!!! I told the mom about the text and she sent me NO response - but then I realized that perhaps these are NOT people I want my son hanging out with!
  3. #3 Jul 4, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
    It's always sad to see your children excluded from the fun their friends are having. Although it is unfortunate, I don't think that your son is being bullied. My children has gone through periods where a few of their friends no longer want to play with them or they themselves don't want to play with certain friends. There were no malicious words or physical alterations exchanged. They just found other classmates with more common interests to play with. Children do outgrow each other. I just use these opportunities as a teaching moment.

    It is good that you told your son to play with the other boys and to try to make new friends. If your son still wants to play with these friends, maybe invite the boys over for a few play dates. Observe the interactions of the boys. Do they all play well together? Or do they seem awkward with stretches of silence or independent play? If they all get along well then maybe you can suggest that they all walk to daycare together including the girl. Listen to the responses. If the reasons not to walk with the girl are too general (girls are icky or boring, etc) then maybe you can dispel it. You are not trying to convince the boys to play with all girls but maybe get them to understand that it is safer to walk as a group to daycare. They all need to look out for each other as they walk on the street. Talk to the day care center to get them on board with this as well. Maybe change the rule to include all the children instead of just one other child. Sometimes young children needs to be reminded that their actions can be hurtful to another person even when they didn't mean it.

    Its common for children to only want to play with their own gender when they reach a certain age. Sometimes it is OK to let them decide who they want to be friends with. Being nice and polite is different than being friends with someone.
  4. These children have been friends for years. It seems that the inclusion of the girl is what caused this problem - your son chose to do the right thing so that she did not have to walk alone - as opposed to a natural growing apart. I think the cause of this situation needs to be dealt with, not ignored. If it was growing apart due to interests or personalities, that would be a different matter.
  5. Thank you both for your replies! Brief update:
    I approached F's mother who was shocked and immediately invited my boy over. At the same time my boy spoke with the three boys during break time at school. Acc. to him he told them they had been mean to him by excluding him. He thought they had been friends but friends would not act like that. Apparently, F apologised; A tried to shift the blame on D. My son skirts around the issue how D reacted. Anyhow, F, A and my son have made their peace for the time being. All four boys and H (the little girl) walked together today. All in all, I am glad my boy managed to resolve this issue largely by himself (by stating his case not resorting to violence).
    kristinlorraine and BBC like this.
  6. Yay! So glad it's working out!!!