Dear Dr. Linda,

This has nothing to do with reading, writing, arithmetic or SATs. It has to do with my second-grade daughter’s concern about how the other children treat her. For example, one of the little boys tore up something she was working on in class and a little girl told her she was stupid because she was working in a lower level reading book.

I know kids do these things and I’ve told her to ignore them, but it’s not working. So, I told her to tell her teacher when it happens. And she did. But when she did, she said her teacher told her not to tattle and to sit down.

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I know everyone sees the world differently, but I think the way the teacher is handling this is wrong. I know the teacher has 26 students, but I have to take care of my own daughter. I’m watching her go from a child who loved school to someone who doesn’t want to go. Now she’s having trouble concentrating. I’d appreciate to hear what you think.

Jen

Dear Jen,

You brought up a problem that almost every child and adult has experienced—being bullied. Schools, for the most part, are trying to address it. However, a little girl I was working with recently said, “We had an assembly about bullying, but kids still do it. And if you go to the teacher she tells you not to be a tattletale.” So, this is not just happening with your daughter.

You’re right. Teachers have so many children in their class and so much material to cover, many of them resort to pat answers. But when children are first learning how to work and learn with other children, they need ongoing guidance and support. When they are upset or anxious about something, their concern needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Unfortunately, without realizing it, many teachers and parents are the source of the anxiety. Before a teacher can teach any lesson, they need to create an environment that’s conducive to learning, and that includes one in which a child feels safe both physically and emotionally. Students need to feel that the teacher is an ally and truly cares about them. Alternatively, some children who underachieve experience or perceive parental pressure about their performance.

Do some children need to be nudged to persist and excel? Can some kids be a bit oversensitive? Of course. But when a child who loved school stops loving it, and the adults in their lives diminish their feelings or do nothing to stop it, what the children unfortunately learn is that they’re not important. If the teacher insists that your child needs to see the school psychologist because she keeps going to the teacher for support, then make an appointment with the principal and inquire about how the school is dealing with the issue of bullying.

Dr. Linda

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