DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has been getting bullied and teased at school. My son is the more gentle type who likes magic and books. So he easily becomes sensitive when other kids take things from him or if he doesn't get his way. My husband has been trying to teach him how to stand up for himself. But my husband is really just teaching our son how to be a bigger bully back.
The kids tease and make jokes, so my husband has been teaching him jokes to throw back at the kids. He teaches him how to block punches and how to defend himself. But I hear about this type of story all the time. A kid that is introduced to that type of power who never knew how to use it before can end up being the bigger bully at school. I feel like my husband is training a monster in the making. What's the best way to help your kids who are getting bullied without teaching them to be a bullies themselves? -- Bullying a Bully
DEAR BULLYING A BULLY: The research I've read suggests that taunting bullies by teasing them usually aggravates them and makes them more aggressive, so your husband's strategy regarding the jokes may backfire. It would be better for your son to ignore their comments and walk away if he can. By not falling into their trap and reacting to their mean words, he can better hold on to his power. It is smart for your son to know how to defend himself. Encourage your son to report the children who are bullying him to his teacher, guidance counselor, principal and school security. As parents, you should advocate for your son with the administration as well.
Suggest that your son spend time with real friends at school if he has them, get involved in extracurricular activities that will boost his confidence and do his best to stay away from these kids. For more ideas read: www.parents.com/kids/problems/bullying/bully-proof-your-child-how-to-deal-with-bullies/.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My family became bored during quarantine, and we decided to surprise our kids with a dog. We had an agreement that it would be the kids' responsibility to clean up after the dog, walk him and feed him. The dog is an adult rescue, so he is pretty mature and well behaved. The problem has been our kids not taking care of him. They forget to take him on walks or feed him so he will make messes inside or steal food out the garbage.
I feel bad for our dog because it's not his fault! My wife and I have been doing everything for the dog while our kids don't pay him any mind. My wife is pregnant, and I don't think we will have the time for both the dog and the baby unless the kids pitch in. I've come to the decision that if the kids don't stick to our agreement, we will have to give the dog away. Our kids would be heartbroken, but they aren't acting responsibly. What other choice do I have? -- Family With a Dog
DEAR FAMILY WITH A DOG: Don't give away the dog. Teach them how to be responsible. Design a daily schedule that includes rotating responsibilities for walking and feeding the dog. Create penalties for your children if they don't care for him. Remind them that he is their dog, and they must look out for him. If you make the penalties serious enough -- like no cellphone use or other electronics -- it will get their attention.