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Is bullying just “normal horseplay?”

Question

My seventh grader was recently suspended from school for two days due to “bullying” a fourth grade boy. Since when did normal horseplay between boys suddenly become politically unacceptable? Don’t you think we are making sissies out of our children by over protecting them from normal things that all boys do?

Answer

I can’t comment on your individual situation since I have no knowledge of what occurred between the boys. However, I’m concerned about the significant age difference between your son and a fourth grader, and thus wonder if this behavior is as harmless as you suggest.

Bullying is a serious problem, with significant implications both for the child victim and the offender. We can’t allow our kids to use intimidation, threats, and sometimes violence in order to humiliate other children. We need to set and enforce clear standards of behavior for our kids, and not label something as normal simply because it may be common.

Question

Your answer to a recent letter about cheerleading demonstrates your lack of familiarity with this activity. An acquaintance’s granddaughters are involved in this and frankly I am appalled. These young girls, under 10, are objectified and exploited. They compete with over-the-top makeup, false hair, and very skimpy form fitting costumes. They are taught to bump and grind. Even their promotional photos are lewd. These girls do not know better, but the adults who approve and encourage this sexualization of their prepubescent daughters should be ashamed of themselves.

Answer:

In a previous column, I affirmed a parent’s right to determine what is best for their child, whether it be cheerleading or other activities. However, I did comment that cheerleading can be a very positive and appropriate activity for young girls, providing an opportunity for exercise, friendships, and learning self-discipline.

I’ve done more research into cheerleading as a result of your note, and I do share your concerns about some of these teams. However, we shouldn’t condemn cheerleading in general because of the excesses of some teams.

Question

My seventh grader told me something in confidence about one of her friends, and I promised not to say anything. Now I’m having second thoughts and feel I should say something to the parents of this child. I would like to do so, but not tell my daughter because I don’t want to break her trust.

Answer

If the information you have about another child suggests that this youngster is at risk for hurting herself or others, then you have an obligation to tell the parents of that child. However, if you do so, you need explain to your daughter what you are doing, and why telling the parents is more important than maintaining your daughter’s confidence. However, I wouldn’t break your child’s trust unless what she told you represents a significant issue for the other girl.

 

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