The Thought Of My Kid Being An Unpopular Loser Keeps Me Awake at Night

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My kid hasn’t even reached kindergarten age, and I’m already worried about his social standing. Wait—before you leave, I promise this isn’t as vapid as it sounds.

The only reason that I want my kid to be liked in school is because I can’t stand the thought of him coming home crying because people have laughed at him, rejected him, made fun of him, etc. I just don’t know if I’m strong enough for it. I’m not even using the word popular in the scenario because it has ridiculous connotations. I can only hope that he makes a few good friends and is kind to others and has a healthy school experience, if that’s even possible.

I never had issues with being unpopular in school, save for that really awkward stage in sixth grade (chubby, glasses, frizzy hair, the works). But I did have some family issues growing up that made me feel like I couldn’t be myself. Even though I had friends, I was well-acquainted with feeling alone and vulnerable and trying so desperately to cover it up.

Maybe that’s how every kid is destined to feel some time in their school years, who knows? I can only speak to my experience.

I get that it’s not realistic to try to shield my kid from any unpleasantries in life. I want him to experience some negative emotions so that he can learn to work through them himself. Tough emotional situations can also teach him to have empathy for others.

There’s no easy solution for this because I know that my son will probably come home crying at least once in his lifetime. I haven’t figured out how I’m going to comfort him while teaching him that disappointment and loneliness and vulnerability are healthy and expected parts of life, in small doses.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. If I’ve learned anything from the Mommyish community, it’s that teaching kindness to kids really does matter. I may not be able to guarantee that my son will always have friends at school, but I can teach him to look out for kids that don’t. I know that this shouldn’t be about me, but I don’t know how I’m going to handle it if my son is the kid that is always excluded and sits alone in class.

(Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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    • Alanna Jorgensen

      My little girl is only 4 and I do watch her interactions with other kids with baited breath. I was made fun of quite a bit before high school so I know how much it hurts to be that kid. I worry that since her father and I work opposite schedules we don’t use daycare, her social skills are not as practiced as they would be if we did. So far she seems to do okay.

      • airbones

        I have this same concern with my daughter, who also does not go to daycare.

      • Andy

        I stay at home with my kids, and starting when she was two I put my daughter in mother’s day out twice a week. So far it seems to be doing what I wanted it it-giving her a chance to interact with other kids and build social skills. If anything she’s overbearing with other kids-she’ll run up to them on the playground, introduce herself, hug them, you name it. My heart breaks thinking about the day another kid pushes her down or calls her weird because of it.

      • airbones

        Ughhh…. god. My daughter is almost 18 months and she is already like that with other kids. Conjuring the image you’re describing breaks my heart too.

      • JustaGuest

        I know it’s not germane to your point, but…”bated” breath. Unless you’re dangling a lure and hoping for trout. In which case I totally want pics.

        (My superhero identity is Pedantic Girl. If it’s any consolation, I’m equally pedantic to myself.)

    • elle

      Ugh I worry about this ALL the time. Especially with the shockingly horrific cyberbullying stories you hear about. I don’t want that to happen to any kid but I especially don’t want it to happen to my kid.

    • momma425

      On the reverse side of that- I was very much in the “popular” crowd in school for a while in high school.
      I would almost prefer my daughter talk to nobody the entire 4 years she is there than get involved in a lot of the “popular kid” stuff I got involved in.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Good point!

    • Rose

      I am SO worried about this. My son (3) has a language and articulation delay, and it can be hard to understand him sometimes. Because he’s so young, we still don’t know how he’ll be by school time. I don’t want him getting made fun of or name-called because he’s different, but like you said, can’t keep the guy in a bubble for life. My brother was bullied throughout school, and I seriously believe it has had a negative impact upon his life.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Hugs!!

      • WriterLady

        My son has a language delay (and perhaps a slight speech impediment) as well. He is four. So far as I know, it has not impacted him at preschool, although he’s clearly quite young to determine what the future holds. My heart goes out to you…have you started your son in speech therapy? We wanted to wait until our son’s fourth birthday to see if his language skills improved, but it’s still hard to understand him some of the time. It’s not a cognitive delay (I can tell that he tries to say fairly advanced words–and understands everything we say to him–but the pronunciation and/or enunciation is often way off.) His teachers have made it a point of explaining that the earlier he gets help, the better. And on this note, I will be making a phone call very soon to set up arrangements for the therapy. My fear with this is that he will be taken out of his daycare/preschool class for several hours a day, and I’m afraid that in getting him help, he will recognize that something is slightly different about him and/or the other kids will question why he’s suddenly gone for part of the day, each day. Ugh…there is so much anxiety in parenting.

    • K.

      So…I WAS that kid in junior high–like, come home crying every day. Never had a lab
      partner or anyone to sit with on the bus, ate lunch by myself, no one came to
      my birthday party. It was a horrible two years and I’m sure painful for my
      parents to watch as well. I did survive, though.

      Suffering is universal—no one gets through K-12 unscathed, even Homecoming Queen. School and the changing social environments as we grow up build character and character is a mixed-bag. We all had good and bad times socially and I think we’d all say that they had some formative effect on making us who we are today—our flaws, and our strengths. For me, I still have difficulty with social interaction (why do you think I spend time on message boards and other mediated forms of communication) and I’m still convinced people judge me and don’t accept me. This is a flaw I deal with. But at the same time, because I WAS so isolated during those years, I also learned how to be self-reliant and to actually enjoy my own company, to respect my time, and to grow into my misfit self. The experience made me who I am. And while I wouldn’t wish bad things to happen to people, and no one likes to see anyone in pain, we do shape ourselves from these bad things, in unfortunate ways, but also great ways.

      • WriterLady

        “Suffering is universal—no one gets through K-12 unscathed, even the Homecoming Queen.”

        This is very true. In high school, I was considered ‘popular.’ I was the Prom Queen at my rural, small- to mid-sized school, and was on the cheerleading squad and track team. I also was involved in a lot of academic activities and clubs. There are two things I have to say about this: a.) There were girls that were much prettier than myself and had more friends that were deemed “cool.” I never really felt that I fit into any one particular group, and for that reason, I was friends with a variety of people. b.) For me, the notion of popularity was not a quest, or goal. I tried to better myself in every possible way on a daily basis, but I think most people do that. The idea of wanting your kid to have friends and be healthy is normal, which is what the article is stating, I believe. I do not, however, want to push my kid into various activities and clubs, so that he can climb a social ladder. If he happens to be popular, that’s great–so long as he nice to all of the kids, and doesn’t get a big ego about it. There’s nothing worse than a “popular” person who throws their weight around and acts like a conceited jerk, just because they have the perceived power to do so.

        Another important thing to note: Popularity is fleeting. When I graduated high school, I went to a very, very large public university to do my undergraduate work. I briefly joined a sorority, but I found the Greek scene to be your stereotypical “mean girls” charade. (I know not all sororities/fraternities are like that, but, at this school and during that time–late 90s, it damn sure was like that.) First, I was rejected from my first two choices. Eh, whatever, but it did kind of sting. So, then, I stayed with the sorority that accepted me for less than a full quarter (the school was not yet on the semester system). The girls were all fairly wealthy and extremely vain. They were also intimidating, outright rude/condescending, and just generally mean. I was utterly miserable at the few meetings I attended, and I felt so out of place, since the environment was completely unwelcoming. I took a good look in the proverbial mirror and quickly realized that was not what I wanted to strive to be, so I left the sorority without so much as goodbye. I would see the girls around campus on occasion, and they would snicker behind my back. I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt a little, but I was mostly surprised that people could act so cruel and shallow. Ultimately, I made a handful of close friends from my dorm, but I never was the popular girl in college. After college, I maintained a small group of friends–mostly people whom I had met either through college or work or through my younger brother (we had mutual friends—that’s actually how I met my husband!)–but I was never the girl that people would consider to be super-popular. Honestly, I was completely and totally fine with that.

    • brebay

      Unpopular and loser are two very different things…the Steubenville rapists were popular, so was Rachel Canning.

    • brebay

      Popularity is a job, and like any job, if you want to keep it, you will sometimes have to do things you really don’t want to or don’t think are right. Your kid doesn’t need that job. Having a group to belong to is important to most people, but popularity in school I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

      • Véronique Houde

        THIS. Very good sociological comment on bullying. You’re completely right. And it’s actually theorized that bullying prevention needs to focus on the social dynamic of popularity and teach leadership skills to the kids that would generally bully others to enforce their popularity.

      • WriterLady

        I understand where you’re coming from, but not everyone’s experiences are alike. I’ve already posted about my experience, but I was considered popular “on paper,” I guess. As I have stated, this was never a goal or quest. I was involved in a lot of activities that I enjoyed, and made friends with people from all different backgrounds. This was a natural inclination for me, and I certainly didn’t do anything utterly unbecoming of myself to achieve some sort of status–like acting like an arrogant bitch or whatever. The girls that could have been the prom queen or homecoming queen (due to their looks or cool friends) were not well-received by some people because of their conceited attitudes. Several actually antagonized me when I did get the vote of popularity. And, while we’re on the topic, I think we would all be better off if schools stopped awarding “king” and “queen” statuses to people. I wasn’t a queen then (despite a silly crown I was given), and I’m not a queen now. I was just a person who made friends with a number of people, I guess. I really don’t know. Also, popularity is fleeting. I wasn’t popular in college, and that was just fine.

        Also, much of the stereotypically negative perceptions about popularity have to do with the type of school people attended. My school had a few bad eggs, but for the most part, people were pretty grounded. At the enormous college I attended, I saw firsthand what egotistical, popularity-seeking behavior does to people, and it was not pretty. So, yeah, I wasn’t up for that “job.” But, again, this is all dependent on the environment and one’s motivations. Being so-called popular in high school neither hurt me (as your last sentence suggests), nor did it particularly benefit me, aside from a few ‘awards’ that had no bearing on my future whatsoever. What did benefit me was my pursuit of a good education and a desire to befriend those with whom I enjoyed their accompany–no matter if they were a fellow a cheerleader or track member, or if they were a friend from science class who didn’t participate in many (or any) extracurricular activities.

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      I was a loner throughout elementary school for quite some time.

      Honestly, the best inoculation against social pain is having an excellent hobby, something you can do well that you enjoy. It’s the kind of thing that gives you self esteem that comes from something tangible. I could draw and write. I threw myself into drawing and reading and gave so few shits about what others thought about me as a result of my preoccupations that I eventually joined the cool kids. It just sort of happened.
      And then within a couple years I started caring what people thought, and as a weird person was on the outs again by high school where being odd just doesn’t fly. But I still had my art. Knowing I could do something special kept me afloat.

      • Bethany Ramos

        This is awesome, thank you!

      • Andeli63

        Great advice!

      • Sara610

        YES. For me, that thing was music. It gave me something–tangible, like you say, and completely unrelated to what the other kids thought of me–to be proud of and take solace in.

      • K.

        Oh yes. For me, it was definitely “get out of Dodge.” My school peeps probably knew me as a loser, but not the kids that I met at surf camp or the adults taking writing classes at the local community college, or the people I worked with at the animal shelter.

        Even if it wasn’t a hobby or about developing a skill, just being in a different place with different people at least showed me that my school wasn’t the entire universe and gave me the perspective that I wasn’t universally a loser.

    • Andeli63

      My two cents: my oldest is named Oscar (now a junior in high school) I’m sure you can imagine the teasing he got, and the quick move from “Oscar Meyer” to “You’re a wiener!” Here’s the thing, I told him, “It doesn’t matter what your name is, you’re going to get teased at some point. Your dad’s name is JOHN and he still got teased. So if it wasn’t your name, it’d be something else, so let’s be glad it’s just your name.” I think the most important things are CONFIDENCE and the ABILITY TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF. Because once he was laughing along with them, it was much better. ALSO, teach the response: “So?” because it shuts most things down. “Ha Ha you like pokemon!” “So?” and it’s pretty much done.
      The Oscar Meyer Wiener stuff lasted through elementary to middle school, and always upon first meeting kids, like at the beginning of the school year and a new class, etc. Finally he started calling kids out on it- “Really? is that the best you can do? You know how many times I’ve heard that? sheesh” And that shut it down right quick.
      He got called a “dork” when he was 4 by another kid, and I had him go tell the kids mom himself. They left the play area. He also was the target (along with his friend) of a girl bully on the bus in 5th grade (including being spit on!). He and the friend also handled that themselves, we encouraged them and they went to the principal themselves, and we made sure they KNEW we totally had their backs if nothing was done (and it was). While reassuring him that we’d be right there I also reminded him of the girl’s position: that she was new, and probably nervous and unsure at her new school and not knowing anyone so looked at the clean cut, well liked boys in the next seat and tried to bring them down– and that while that didn’t EXCUSE her, it did explain things a bit. And he totally got it!
      He is the most confident kid I know, acts silly for no reason- even in public! and doesn’t worry a bit about what people think!
      (Proud Mama here!)

      • Bethany Ramos

        This is good stuff – thank you! It sounds like you are doing a great job. :)

    • Valerie

      I feel you. My daughter is in 1st grade and unusually kind, mature and non-sassy for her age. I have seen her female peers be a touch bratty towards her and it went right over her head. Shes definitely a bit naive and sensitive- she quite literally does not understand why anyone would be mean to her so the handful of times she had a bad interaction at school she came home in pieces. Which of course, tore me to shreds. They were very minor things and easy to resolve but I’m so scared for the future when the offenses are bigger than “Grace made fun of my Spongebob fruit snacks!” I’m scared for my son too. He starts kinder this fall and is a pretty anxious and nervous little guy. Hoping he adjusts as well as he did in preschool. I just registered him for kinder today, actually. Uggghhh my baby is growing up. :-(

      • Guest

        I remember that epiphany as a kid that someone didn’t like me even though they had no reason not to- it was weird and hurtful but once you realize it you’re like alright we can get past it.

    • keelhaulrose

      My kindergartener I think has a good balance, she has a couple good friends and is friendly, but being the most popular kid doesn’t seem to be important to her.
      My younger daughter is autistic, and I’m terrified of her going to school because I know she’s going to be bullied. She also has no interest in making friends at the moment, but I really hope she’ll get interested in that and make at least one good friend. Someone told me that if she doesn’t care about being social she won’t care what other kids think of her, but I think that’s probably not true. And I’m afraid she won’t be able to tell me if bullies are bothering her. Some days I wonder if I should home school her, I have a degree in special ed, but I don’t have the resources the school district has, and they have such a good reputation working with special needs kids I feel I’d be doing her a disservice keeping her home.

      • Kelly

        I know exactly how you feel, I have an autistic son. He has no interest in making friends and he really didn’t care when he was bullied or teased at school, except for the few times it became physical. I know it bothered me way more than it bothered him.

        We ended up pulling him out and homeschooling him for academic reasons. I still worry about his lack of desire to make friends but we’ve found that if he meets people he likes, he will eventually befriend them, even though he has no desire to seek out friends.

        I’d give the school a chance and see how it goes. My son did really well for the first couple years and he enjoyed going to school. I hope it works out well for your daughter.

      • keelhaulrose

        I’m definitely giving the school system a go, at least for a while. She starts preschool there in the fall, and her classroom is very therapy-intensive, like developmental, speech, and behavior all in the room (maybe OT, too) all the time. And I’ve heard great stories of kids going in non-verbal and coming out using short sentences. We’ve been working with therapists for six months (which my state requires to be in our home), and we’re seeing great improvements, so I really want to keep it going, at least for a while, to see what happens when it’s not in our home. In six months we’ve gotten a few words from her, and she can sit and focus on what we’re doing with her for 45 minutes or so. I am cautiously optimistic that a good school district will help her make more improvements. I’m not expecting miracles, but I do want to give it a shot. I know that I have the background to teach her, but I fear I’m just not the right person because I’m her mother, and we’re blessed enough to live in a really good school district.

    • TheGirlWhoWoreGlasses

      And the other side of the coin is – you may never really know if your kid is popular or not, particularly once they get to late elementary school and beyond. I speak from experience. My kids had friends, seemed to be doing okay, but as to their exact place on the social ladder? Couldn’t tell you except that neither was ever nominated for Homecoming King or Queen. If you *do* know your child’s exact social standing, perhaps you are being a bit helicopter.

    • Jessifer

      My son is still little so I have no experience as a parent. However, having been one of those kids that was rather unpopular in elementary school (luckily, was spared from bullying at least until high school), all I can say is that no matter what, don’t minimize your child’s experience and don’t blame it on him. I was socially awkward and I didn’t feel I had much in common with the other kids (it was a small town), so I didn’t have many friends. I never thought it was a big deal, but my mother made it seem like it was the worst thing in the world. While well-intentioned, I was constantly accused by her of being anti-social or not putting enough “effort” into making friends. It made me feel awful, like there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until I reached university that I realized that I wasn’t a loner, I was simply very selective when it came to friends and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

      • Larkin

        Just offering some solidarity. My mother did the exact same thing when I was unpopular and unhappy in junior high. Instead of trying to help me feel better about it, she made it seem like it was all my fault. If I would just TRY, then people would like me. She forced me to go to extracurricular activities I hated because other popular kids did them, literally forbade me from talking about things I enjoyed because the other kids thought they were weird, and to this day I distinctly recall getting yelled at because she thought I’d forgotten and missed a youth social event (I hadn’t; she had it on the calendar wrong). I actually blame most of it on the fact that I went to a very, very small private school (like, 30 people in my grade) so, basically, you either fit in or you didn’t. Once I went to high school–at a large public school–I found my niche, kids I actually had stuff in common with, and had a great time.

        So, yeah. Don’t do it that way.

    • SunnyD847

      One of my daughters and some friends were bullying another girl in 3rd grade. This girl was going through a rough time at home and was feeling really needy and clingy and the other girls – who had all been friends with her for years – turned on her. They sensed her vulnerability and started excluding her and gossiping about her. It was awful. My husband and I and the school and all the the girls’ parents came down on them like a ton of bricks. The bullying stopped and now my daughter is in 7th grade and is known for her kindness and compassion. It can be stopped. It just has to be caught early and parents can’t be in denial about what their child is capable of.

      • Hyperbolme

        You fucking rock. Thank you.

      • Valerie

        This got me a little choked up, not gonna lie. You are an awesome mom.

    • AP

      The thought of my future kid being in the popular crowd terrifies me. I don’t want to have some brat demanding designer clothes, booze, and no rules out of fear of losing her friends.

      I’d be fine if the kid was popular of her own accord because he/she was kind and interesting, but I 100% not want my kid with the in crowd. I’d do everything I could to prevent that.

      • Larkin

        This just made me think of a line from the movie Stardust.

        “So you don’t fit with the popular crowd. I take that as a very good omen.”

    • CW

      Unfortunately, even homeschooling is no panacea against “mean girl” issues. Last week I was extremely disappointed to overhear a couple of the 8th grade girls on my kids’ homeschool Science Olympiad team doing the worst kind of backstabbing, “fat talk”, and general nastiness that I’d hoped homeschooling would protect my daughter against. I guess you can take the kid out of middle school, but you can’t take the middle school nastiness out of 13 y.o. girls :-(

    • Paul White

      I WAS that way in elementary and middle school and early high school :( Hope Sam isn’t that way but he may be at least a loner–I sure am and my wife was at that age from what she’s said.

    • Kelly

      My kid is considered a weirdo, loser by his peers. He’s mildly autistic. I’m not going to lie and say it’s fun but it’s not as bad as people think.

      My son is an interesting person. He’s funny and intelligent. He’s also kind. I know that adult life is going to be alright for him so I try not to worry too much. Some kids just don’t mesh well with other kids and that’s not the end of the world because eventually those kids will grow up and become adults.

      So yeah, it’s hard when your child comes home from school upset because they have no friends. But, it’s not the worst thing that could happen. We’re working on encouraging him to discover what he’s really interested in life and what he wants. I’d say we’re helping him work on his people skills but they’re excellent. He can hold a conversation with any adult and young children love him. It’s just the other kids in his weird, in between, tweeny age group that don’t get him. So, it’ll pass. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

    • Liz

      As far as the younger grades go, I think it’s just really important to teach a kid that they should be how they want regardless of what other people think, that their own happiness with their activities and appearance is the one that matters. I also think it’s important to teach kids that while they can ask any adults for help at any time, and that they should always stand up for themselves and others. From my own experience I can say that kids were less cruel when I wouldn’t deal with their shit and I made the best of friends with anyone I stood up for. In elementary school, I was really popular with the “weird” kids, and it was great. I always stood up for them whenever shit went down, but that meant I had a huge group of friends that would stand up for me if I was the one in trouble. It also meant that I had other people to do Harry Potter LARP with me at recess.

      tl;dr–teach kids to embrace the weirdness of themselves and others, and even when shit goes wrong, they have a support system of parents, teachers, and their weirdo little friends.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Very good advice! The weird kids are more fun anyway. :-)

    • footnotegirl

      From 4th through 9th grade, I was the low man on the school totem pole. It was awful. Horrible. I did a lot of crying. There was a lot of holing up in my room. That said: I think I came out better in the end? No matter what I did, no one in my school was going to like me, so I learned never to try to please anyone but myself (and my parents). I never felt the need to go along with the crowd, and I learned a lot about people who will be nice to your face and mean to other people or behind your back, and why you shouldn’t deal with them. Of course, I was lucky insofar as I had a very intact and supportive family. If it hadn’t been for them, I think that I would have shattered into a million pieces. It would not have been a good outcome. So that’s kind of the secret. Be there for your kid 100%, and never tell them that they should change to get the other kids to like them.

    • EX

      I’ve always thought popular was such a strange term. In my experience the kids (or at least the girls) who were considered “popular” were actually disliked by more people than liked, but somehow the people that did like them counted more than those that didn’t. Popularity is a strange phenomenon. Most of the “unpopular” kids, myself included, had plenty of friends. We just weren’t friends with the “popular” people.

      • Larkin

        So true! Most people actually hate the “popular” kids. It’s a weird social construct.

    • Rowan

      I have similar anxieties for my son. I was bullied all the way through school because I was different (nerdy, liked computers & maths, never got the memo about which pop stars / actors / TV shows I was meant to like) and because I cry at the drop of a hat. The thought of my son going through that terrifies me.

    • Sara610

      I came home crying more days than not in junior high–I was bullied mercilessly. To the point that my parents took me out of public school for a year. It was rough.

      But you know what? It was also one of the best things that ever happened to me. It taught me to draw my sense of validation and self-worth from something other than what the “cool kids” thought of me. And while I went on to have a successful and fulfilling career, a lot of those “cool kids” never really matured beyond the high school level, so I’m not so sure that I didn’t come out ahead in other ways as well.
      There are worse things than not being “popular”. It might be rough at the time, but if it happens to your son, don’t despair–there’s potential for great good in it. It all has to do with how you teach him to handle it. For me, what was key is that my parents worked with the school when the bullying reached a really untenable level, but they also taught me that there are always going to be assholes and you can’t base your sense of self-worth on what those assholes think or say. They taught me to have a thick skin, and that’s a lesson that I’ve repeatedly needed–and appreciated–as an adult.

      • Bethany Ramos

        This is a great perspective, thank you. :-)

      • Sara610

        No problem! Just one more thought–try to separate the concepts of “unpopular” and “loser”. The two are often mutually exclusive, and if your son isn’t in the “in crowd”, teaching him that that means he’s a loser–even projecting it unconsciously, while never saying it out loud–would be a mistake.
        Your worth is not defined by what a particular group of people think of you. Lots of “popular” people are total losers, and lots of “unpopular” people are actually awesome, smart, funny and accomplished. ESPECIALLY in middle school.

      • AP

        When the “cool kids” bullied me in middle school, I just looked at their parents. Did I want to grow up to be like their parents? No, their parents were sad, pathetic, shallow adults whose lives seemed empty and meaningless, who spent their time doing things mindlessly “because you’re supposed to” and not because they actually wanted to.

        I clicked through my HS reunion page on Facebook, and it turns out…I was right.

    • Véronique Houde

      The fact is that every single kid out there gets bullied at least once in their lives. All you can do is teach your son how to react to the bullying – to know himself and have confidence in his abilities. You do this by helping him learn that, no matter the mistakes he makes, he always comes out of them strong. No matter what flaws he has, he has a lot going for him that counterbalance the flaws so that at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter. Self-confidence is something that you learn WHILE going through hardships, not something you need in order to go through them. It is the process through which you gain the knowledge that despite it all, you had the abilities to deal with it and overcome it. Therefore, as a parent, empower your son to find solutions to the problems he is facing, and encourage him to be proactive about changing things for the better.

      When it comes to bullying, the best thing to do is not to let the bullies destroy the knowledge you have of yourself. If, despite having had people throw insults at him, your son knows that 1- it’s either not a big deal or 2- it’s just not true, then his reaction to the bullying should help stop it. Because at the end of the day, when you don’t care so much about being bullied, bullying becomes boring and the bullies tend to stop. If he treats people with kindness and respect, they will also back him up, and make sure that bullies don’t try and destroy him.

      Well, that’s my theory at least. I’ve thought about the same things… Seeing my daughter’s innocence light up in her eyes, and imagining that someone could come and try to tarnish that turns my heart upside down and inside out. I can deal with people getting bullied at work everyday without blinking, I can go into schools and do presentations to get bullied kids to know how to handle it all, but when it comes to my daughter, I’m filled with insecurity and doubt. I honestly hope that I’ll be able to help her out just as much as I’ve helped other kids that aren’t my own out, and that my theories turn out for the best.

    • Guest

      It’s funny that this article actually brings back memories of me and my brother being really quiet kids in high school and how other kids reached out to us instead of leaving us to eat alone. I had plenty of friends but I was quiet and had lunch with nobody I knew. I sat at a round table and the kids at the next table told me to come sit with them. I ended up being friends with them and we ate together every day. My little brother had lunch with none of his friends (but lots of my friends) and my friend Sam made sure that he (and any other kid who was alone at lunch) would sit with her and her giant table of friends (she was VERY outgoing and knew everyone). I think the key is raising kids to be kind and look for instances where they can help others whether they are the shy/quiet/introverted kid or the loud/outgoing kid or anywhere in between.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Great advice.

    • GS

      My 10-y-o daughter, who is somewhat socially awkward, is currently (one of) the ostracized in her class and it just kills me to hear about the stuff she says goes on. She stands alone on the playground before school and no one will play with her at recess. The “popular” girls have apparently started asking one of her friends why the friend hangs out with her. At this age, the behavior can be so subtle and insidious that even if someone calls the girls on it, there’s plausible deniability.

      So, here’s what I do: I worry a lot and cry. I talk to her at home, listen to her concerns, and make sure she knows her family loves and values her (although sometimes I cut off her litany of woe so that she doesn’t wallow in it for too long). I stay in touch with her teachers and the school counselor to get a balanced perspective about what’s going on and to make sure they know how she’s feeling. I encourage her to do things that she enjoys and that make her feel positive about herself and her abilities. I also hope with all my heart that things get better in middle school, where there will be a larger pool of potential friends, but I dread that it may get much, much worse.

      • WriterLady

        Unfortunately, I believe middle school (especially Grades 7 and 8) to be the roughest years. I witnessed some of the worst bullying during that time period. I will say that I must have attended a very unique school. The people who did the bullying were not popular at all or well-liked, for the most part. They were part of a small clique, and they were generally kids who got in a lot of trouble and either had poor academic records and/or came from dysfunctional homes (with all three almost always working in tandem). So, this connection between bullying and popularity is somewhat foreign to me. I understand that this is definitely not always the case, but I am intrigued by some of people’s personal experiences. At any rate, it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job of monitoring the situation, without being too overbearing. I sincerely hope the middle school years are not overly difficult, and that your daughter and her group of friends can gain the confidence it takes to ignore the taunting and cruelty of the mean girls. My heart breaks when I hear of these situations, and I know that, as parents, we all wish we could somehow convey to our young children that this is all just a phase, and that, as an adult (or even a teenager), the issues that now consume them as kids will dissipate to a large degree in a handful of years–if not sooner (although there are certainly quite a few adults who are jerks…I worked in an office once that was full of catty women…horrible, but I could handle as an adult). Best of luck to you, and everyone else who happens to be dealing with these problems.

    • Ddaisy

      My advice is don’t overreact when something does happen. I was always scared to tell my dad when I was being bullied, because I knew he’d take it way harder than I was. And I’d end up in the bizarre position of feeling defensive on behalf of the kids who were picking on me.

      Unfortunately, I never did figure out how to make the mean kids cut it out, so I can’t say anything in that regard. Ignore them, stand up for myself, didn’t matter. Everything I did or didn’t say or do got thrown back in my face anyway.

      All I can say is how I could have got more support from my parents. If my dad could have listened more, and reacted less, I probably would have opened up a lot more. It’s still something he struggles with, but he’s really actively working on it, and now I know that I can tell him a lot more things without him flying off the handle.

    • SA

      UGH. I was really picked on until about 8th grade. I worry so much about that with my kid. Right now she is a hitter and a biter and I am so afraid the 3 friends she has won’t like her anymore. Fortunately they are all too young to really retain memories, but she doesn’t have much longer!!

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I wish I had some advice, but even with a 10-year-old who is relatively well-adjusted, I have the same fear. My middle child is just now in kindergarten and has had no issues, but my oldest had some growing pains and it was heartbreaking.