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Bullied Son Is Big for His Age
Q: My son just turned 4, but he's very tall for his age (he's four feet and weighs 56 pounds). The problem is that, because of his size, older kids often think that he's mentally retarded or just plain dumb. They pick on him and sometimes hit him. My son never defends himself; he doesn't even tell anyone.
A: Life is full of bullies but we don't manage bullies by letting them victimize others. Ideally, we protect the vulnerable and give consequences to aggressors.
If you were being threatened or hit, you wouldn't expect people to ignore it, or to gather round in a circle and cheer. You'd demand protection.
As your son gets older, the value of feeling protected will be even more important, because the stakes go up each year. He'll probably be more likely to tell you what's going on if he sees that telling brings him benefits, and not embarrassment.
Consider speaking with the parents of the other kids, or if you observe the conduct, confront the kids themselves. Do whatever it takes. We shouldn't tolerate destructive behavior directed against a small child that we'd never tolerate against an adult. I'm not saying it's easy, but your son will be happier now and in the future if he believes the world is safe and he feels protected.
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Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading U.S. expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.