HomeHealth & BehaviorBullying

Ask the Experts

Is My Child Being Bullied?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My fourth-grade daughter has done well in school until the past few weeks. She is very bright, imaginative, curious and sloppy. She copies homework from a blackboard, but always forgets one out of every four assignments. The teacher also says that her attention wanders and she does not focus. My daughter's response is, "The girl in front of me always turns around and kicks me; the class is boring; some of the other children are not smart."

When my ex-wife and I spoke to her teacher, the teacher said that she had some "special" students that she needed to concentrate on and she could not afford to give our daughter special attention. The teacher would not move her away from the girl distracting and kicking my daughter because this was between them and she should settle her own problems. I believe there is a problem here that would be helped by changing classes. Can you give me your opinion?


I would like to congratulate you and your ex-wife for both speaking with the teacher. Co-parenting is good modeling for showing your daughter how people can work together even though there are difficulties.

I do think there are things you need to consider before requesting a new class. The problem will follow her if the root is not fully explored. First and foremost, is this a safety issue? Does the teacher say that there is equal provocation, or is it one-sided?

Are these behaviors happening with other peers, or just between the two of them? Has the teacher rotated seat assignments? Some teachers do this regularly as part of their classroom management. What is the schools policy on bullying? If you have safety concerns and are not satisfied that the issue is being addressed, discuss it with the principal.

You may also want to explore how you feel your family has adjusted to the divorce. How parents continue to parent and interact is the key to lowering a child's anxiety. If the divorce was recent, then there may be a long adjustment period for all of you. If it happened years ago, you may want to re-visit your agreements to see if they meet everyone's current needs. What other changes may have recently occurred? Have there been moves or other environmental changes that have changed your routines? Do you or your ex-wife have a new partner?

New relationships are difficult for children to adjust to. Sometimes even if the parents feel that things are going well, some children have longer adjustment periods and are more reactive to changes in their environment post divorce.

Having a better understanding of the underlying issues can help you and your ex-wife plan an effective course of action.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I have been through this time and time again, and my advice to these parents, is first go to the teaher my experience with this is 9 times out of ten they will blame your child so be ready for that. next, go to the principal and if there is no satisfaction there then go to a Board of Education member in your town, they are voted onto this board by us the tax payers and they are there to help us when we need it. These teachers tend to forget that we pay school taxes in our townes which in turn covers their salaries. My son is now a sophmore in high school and a number of the teachers there are constantly telling the kids, I don't care what you learn or don't learn I still get my pay check and let me tell you we just had a math teacher retire he worked for 10 years in out town and made a whopping $114,000 a year. If you don't like kids do not become a teacher. "
"I was bullied as a child. Bullies are nothing but undisciplined overfed circus oddities that can barely understand comic books.Usually when bullies reach adulthood and there is no one left to bully they turn to drugs and alcohol; [if they have'nt already];then they proceed to spend all of there free time;which is pretty much all of their time; fattining their asses up on the local barstools and bitching about how ''everybody owes them something,and Goddammit,no one is paying up.''Buffonish alcoholic turds that can barely walk upright and have a hard time navigating being even mentally proficent enough to wipe their own ass and pick their nose without becoming overwhelmed with confusion"
"my daughter an her family just moved to a samll town from the big city and her class mates have repetedlly said things about her. at first when she moved there they where just saying things like her clothes where not right an she cted stuck up. but then as the year progressed and she ended 5th grade the girls an other poeple who where bullying her made tings worst with starting to call me things and saying we didnt belong here and swearing at her. when she started 6th grade things where ok for a little bit but then they started up agian. shes gotten treated to be knocked out by one girl she was in teh first place telling hte teachers and the guidence conculler ut they just said well i dont see anything happening in school or well there just kids there problly just trying to have fun and make her laugh. but i didnt see it that way at all she came home okish at first an tryed to forget what they said an did to her but to gogt to teh point that she started getting depressed and! didnt want to do anything that she just wanted to stay in her room and do nothing when htey started makeing fun of her weight witch wasnt bad she is healthy all a beauiful girl she stopped eating and made her self lose weight to see if maby she would fit in then an now she has a food disodor from the girls. in the being ing it was just as said i was telling her to ignore them she did it didnt work and then i tol dher to try an act like them an telling her that shes doing something wrong an what she did wrong she has to fix and the same as the school teachers and the guidence concualar but then i noticed what there where doign she was crying every day trying to kill her self at one point she used to have good grades now she does she just wants to die shes affiade of school and the kids. its all one girl the popular girl who doesnt like ehr who then made all teh other poeple not like her an the teachers where saying tis her fault for not getting alonge cuz all of them hate ! her an treaten her it istent normall ive told the teachers the! gidence conclar ive tryed speaking to the kids parents but they all say there kids just let them be an o well she has to fight her own battles. can anyone people here give me some advice on her situation and please help me before anyting else happens."
"i feel that kids should be able to go to school , without a feel of getting harrassed. I think schools need is for learning, not CLIQUES."
"Hey, I am a victim of bulling. I'm in the eighth grade. I started at my new school hoping for the best especially since I moved from another state. Everythimg was going great then, one day in gym class a couple of girls were talking about my clothes. EWW GROSS! Was one of the comments that was said. Hurt and upset I left gym class tore up as in I was crying. I talked to the lady in the office and she filed out a school a report and they took care of it. So if you think your kids are being bullied then teach them to tell someone about it nine times out of ten it will be taken care of. If it continues then my parents and I would take it as far as to the police for harassment that should stop it for sure. "