Beating bullying


My little nephew means the world to me, and he’s at what should be a really exciting and innocent time in his life. He’s just starting kindergarten. Unfortunately, some kids in his class have been really mean to him. I have no idea why, or why his kindergarten teacher can’t see to control a group of kids that is so young, but my brother and his wife say my nephew has no friends and sometimes cries and asks them not to send him to school anymore. He’s all alone (he has no brothers or sisters), and it makes me so sad. I know it’s not my place, but what can I do to help?

Bullying is a serious issue at all ages, and while it can be shocking to see such young children embrace such cruel behavior, it’s tragically common. A full 25% of kids are bullied, and while the problem is particularly severe in certain age groups (like the middle school years), it happens at all ages–even, as you are finding out, in kindergarten.

The first line of defense against bullying in the school environment should be the teacher, and it’s unfortunate that that’s not sufficient or effective in this case. Your brother and his wife could try contacting the principal or another higher school authority in the hopes of getting better results, or they could attempt to reach out to the parents of the children directly. The parents may even be grateful–identifying this sort of behavior at a young age can be key to correcting it, and may lead to the discovery of other issues that might otherwise have avoided detection.

Bullying is harmful in part because it’s difficult to properly process. Hatred is never easy to handle, but bullying isn’t always about hatred: it can be about the insecurities of the bully, for instance. Teaching children how to deal with bullying is important, because it can help protect their self esteem, give them strategies to defend themselves, and encourage them to stand up for others. You could gift your brother and his wife educational resources like the many videos, games, and children’s books on bullying.

It’s terrible to hear about children without companions. Your brother and his wife may want to consider joining a playgroup or some other kind of club so that your nephew can meet children from outside of his school. The breed curators at say a pet can also help–and studies back them up by showing that pets can increase kids’ self-esteem.

Neither you nor your brother’s family can force your nephew’s bullies to be friends with him, but there are a lot of ways to help build your nephew’s self-esteem and educate him about the nature of the bullying he’s facing. With the right support, he’ll be able to preserve the things that make him wonderful and unique, even in the face of this (hopefully short-lived) rash of bullying.

“If you’re horrible to me, I’m going to write a song about it, and you won’t like it. That’s how I operate.”

— Taylor Swift

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