What can I do to help ds toughen up a bit?

(36 Posts)
seeker Tue 15-Jan-13 08:40:28

That sounds awful- but he does need to! He's in year 7, and both his friends and his "enemies" know exactly how to push his buttons and he gets upset- so obviously they do it again. It's not bullying, I'm sure of that, it's just normal messing around- and when we talk about it at home he is very aware that he has over reacted, and kicks himself. We're trying to come up with strategies to help, and they are working a bit- a clever come back is his favourite, or if all else fails, to ignore. He's a very cosetted and petted younger child with a big sister who adores him, and I'm beginning to think that a bit more emotional rough and tumble would have been good for him- he's not good at being teased or laughed at at home either. I think because I was very conscious that I was raising a boy, I worked too hard on the sensitivity and neglected the resilience! What can I do at this stage to help?

basildonbond Tue 15-Jan-13 09:08:37

he just needs to ignore - no reaction at all is best as that's the most boring for the 'teasers'

I'd avoid trying to get into clever retorts as they're often not seen that way by the other boys and will be seen as proof that whatever they're doing is getting to him

ds2 used to overreact and it took him ages to realise that the way he dealt with it was fuelling the teasing

it's actually much better for him at secondary as he's in a class full of other geeky uncool boys (they're lovely really!) and he doesn't stick out in the same way he did at primary (plus all the teasers are in a different stream phew)

seeker Tue 15-Jan-13 09:18:30

He's found that the smart arse comment does work with his friends- I think some of it is learning when to use which strategy! Oh, and learning that getting stroppy or upset and showing it never works! We need to work on making sure it never works at home, either. Must have a word with doting big sister....

seeker Tue 15-Jan-13 11:51:18

Shameless bump!

yumskimumski Tue 15-Jan-13 12:02:02

Feel very sorry for your DS. It's such a sensitive age. Well, my DH says to our kids that the best response to any remark is "So?" with a shrug, thereby acknowledging the remark and rendering it pointless. DH is the most laid-back person on the planet, so it seems to have worked for him! I have DS1 who has completely adopted DH's laid-back attitude, and DS2 who is far more sensitive and whose buttons are also very easy to push. We're trying to drill it into him that the absolute key is not to care - really not to care. Easy to say...

seeker Tue 15-Jan-13 12:12:25

I sort of feel sorry for him- but he does bring it on himself quite a lot! His form tutor confessed yesterday that he lost his cool with him last week and said "Oh, for goodness sake, man up!" He was really embarrassed and apologised to ds afterwards, but I know exactly how he felt!

yumskimumski Tue 15-Jan-13 12:20:22

The trouble is, that we tell our sons they have to be sensitive to other people's feelings - which let's face it doesn't always come naturally to them - but we don't prepare them for other people failing to play by those rules. And as for your ds's form tutor - what a pillock! Have been musing about how I used to be a sensitive soul, but it's worn off. Now just jaded and surly. Same thing will happen to your son, but it may be a painful process getting there!

crazygracieuk Tue 15-Jan-13 12:53:23

I am going to disagree with basildonbond and say clever retorts are the way forward.

I have a son in Y7 who's Achilles heel is his shortness. He deals with it by using clever retorts. He knows what he's good at, what his friends are not good at and how getting physical achieves nothing as he's smaller than average. He is very observant so has picked up how others deal with similar situations so can often turn a situation round quickly.

guineapiglet Tue 15-Jan-13 13:44:45

My son has just moved into a HS in a completely different area due to house move - he has, ahem, red hair -( it is amazing to me that anybody would still find this unusual after thousands of years, but there we go.....) as you can imagine, this has resulted in lots of comments and name calling, - like others have said, lads this age are quite sensitive souls, they have moved from being big fish at primary school, to their position as tadpoles in a huge school system - sink or swim almost. Kids delight in ANYTHING which doesnt fit their bog standard view of things - and go out of their way in some cases to make the 'victim's' life a misery. Some times quick responses, clever responses and shrugs work, sometimes it can make things worse - alot depends on the person doing the 'picking' so to speak. I can read him very well and know when to stand back and when to try and get a bit more involved with what has been going on in his day, and would take it further with the school if I had genuine concerns - I think they need to know they have your support if and when needed, otherwise they have to tough it out themselves - that's life I guess!

lljkk Tue 15-Jan-13 14:20:16

I am a big fan of martial arts for teaching them (not how to beat someone up but rather) how to handle conflict. How to keep their cool under pressure. How to take a social type defeat with grace. How to bounce back and try again. All the emotional and discipline sides.

Oh and yes, something like Judo also teaches how to flip someone over and pin them to ground if they get too annoying (bonus).

schoolnurse Tue 15-Jan-13 16:05:18

A few years ago I had an incidence with two boys same age as your DS OP. Other boys were making comments about something these boys were up to like your DSs situation the other were messing around there was no real malice. One boy who was sensitive like your DS took it very badly the other boy laughed it off "they have a point" he said. The mother of the first child didn't help she came in all guns blazing the mother of the second child shrugged her shoulders "its just boys mucking around isn't it?" The second child was never teased again as far as we were aware and remained very popular with the other boys "he can take a joke" one boy told me the first boy was always slightly on the outside of the group those teasers had got into trouble and thus were wary of upsetting him again incase they got into trouble again. The moral of this story: tell you DS to laugh it off kids love to tease the weak or those who rise to it.

LaCiccolina Tue 15-Jan-13 16:11:43

I'm defo with the martial arts ideas. Anything practical and mental eg scouts/duke Edinburgh etc as these round out personalities as they generally are rough/tumble in new ways.

I expect some of this is just age but maybe some complex challenges will stretch him that bit further so as his confidence/personality/intelligence grows so does his physical.

Dededum Tue 15-Jan-13 16:16:25

My eldest has just started Yr 7 and like your son he is a sensitive soul. I was petrified that he would get bullied, but so far so good. Have been a few incidents but school have been brilliant.

I have a youngest son who is like Teflon, can deal with everything, knows when not to rise. Don't think you can really teach that skill.

Think you can't change him, make him less sensitive, he will have to find his route. All you can do is give him the requisite support.

I have listened but tried not to give advice.
Invited friends over from junior school at weekends.
Supported him by finding a new outside school club.
Driven him to and from school. Ten minutes in car to offload.

Think the fact that he had an awful time at junior school and couldn't wait to leave helped. grin

seeker Tue 15-Jan-13 16:20:51

It's funny- but he doesn't actually need his confidence boosting! He's a good sportsman, clever, musical, a vary enthusiastic scout.....quite "blokey" really. I don't know why he can't handle being teased- as I said, we probably cosset him too much.

webwiz Tue 15-Jan-13 16:53:06

DS(16) just couldn't handle being teased either - it got better as the other boys got older and DS learned to just shrug it off. DS is my youngest with two older sisters and confident in himself so quite similar.

I would say though that being sensitive to people's feelings isn't a bad thing and DS is much more popular now than the boys that were doing all the teasing.

Abra1d Tue 15-Jan-13 18:33:03

My son has always been hyper-sensitive and unable NOT to respond to teasing and provoking. It has been quite a long, hard slog to get him to learn strategies. At one stage, when he was about 12, we were referred to PCAHMs. They taught him some good 'games' to play with people who were actually more than teasing, actually bullying him.

The biggest change has come with age and confidence. He started playing a slightly unusual role in a team sport (don't want to say more). It was a high-risk strategy but by working very hard at his skills he ended up being promoted to a senior school team. At first he was not well received and really had to prove himself. Little by little he gained grudging acceptance. The impact on his general confidence can be seen.

But, sport aside, a lot of the change has been very slow, very gradual, us talking to him about what he can do. I have asked him about school friends who are nice and don't get picked on. Why is this? What happens if someone tries to tease XX? Does he just laugh and make a joke? Does he ignore? Why does my son (or yours) think that the teasers give up and move on to someone else who will respond? What lessons can he gain from that? Does he think that if he pictured himself responding like [insert name of friend/classmate] the teasers might move on, too.

The other thing my husband picks me up on is not dwelling too much on 'downers'. It seems I have a propensity to go on trying to make him feel better, talking it over, etc, when there comes a point that we should just put a funny DVD on and have a good laugh. Older male relatives in the family can help as well. My husband is a gentle soul but we have more rumbustious brothers and BILs and nephews and cousins who can do the joshing and play-fighting that some boys seem to find helpful.

racingheart Tue 15-Jan-13 19:59:26

seeker, my sympathy. DS1 can be over-precious. he takes himself soooo seriously too often. I refuse to give in when he gets all teary over minor injustices and encourage him to laugh them off. We've talked about how good it is to be able to laugh at yourself and not react to teasing. It helps a bit to discuss it when there's no heat in the situation. Also - demonstrate! If you're teased or mocked for weaknesses, fess up and laugh with the mockers. It shows the DC how to take the heat out of the situation.

seeker Wed 16-Jan-13 08:33:41

Thank you everyone- lots to think about here. I'm inclined to over analyse too- and dp has to step in sometimes to stop me forensically questioning the poor child about his day!

I think he actually finds it impossible to just ignore- so for him the best policy is either the incredulous laugh in a "what a bizarre thing to say!" sort of way, or a smart arse answer.

And no sympathy from anyone in the family for percieved minor injustice. Are you listening, dd????

I think it's a good thing that we are raising sensitive men. (well, that's what I tell myself)

horsemadmom Wed 16-Jan-13 12:17:22

Had a similar story to schoolnurse with DS. The full might of the anti-bully policy came down on the heads of my DS and his friends after their sensitive friend made accusations following very friendly rough and tumble teasing. Mother of the accuser was mortified and told the school that her son was being oversensitive and embellishing the incident. This fell on deaf ears at school where they followed through with disciplining the boys and scaring them half to death. Result- The accuser had no friends for the rest of junior school as the other boys were terrified of being accused of bullying again. If they had actually been bullies, the accused would have had a target on his back forever.A cautionary tale for you.

seeker Wed 16-Jan-13 12:36:13

Hmm. Need to be careful here, I think. Sometimes it is bullying..... Just because some people can take it, doesn't mean that the person who can't has to put up with it. IYSWIM.

Ds1 is a bit sensitive (he's Yr5) and has taken a lot of persuading that the bigger his reaction the more flak he will attract. One comeback I have suggested to him is to feign boredom with the comments. So if someone makes comments to him he might try "X, you are boring sometimes"

I agree that its sometimes difficult to draw the line between bullying and banter. I think ultimately its down to how the person on the receiving end feels. I might address a sarky remark to an equally senior and experienced colleague that I wouldn't make to a junior colleague because it might look like a veiled criticism of the more junior staff member whereas the senior colleague would know it was a joke.

racingheart Wed 16-Jan-13 13:04:03

I think he actually finds it impossible to just ignore- so for him the best policy is either the incredulous laugh in a "what a bizarre thing to say!" sort of way, or a smart arse answer.

Hmm...

Seeker I'd argue that he doesn't find it impossible to ignore. Just very hard indeed.

I was a precious little madam right through my teens and twenties. Even now, I have to really work at not taking slights to heart and getting all uppity about nothing. But I did teach myself to laugh stuff off and it is so much more fun than being hard work to be around. He can do it, but he'll have to learn how and graft that unnatural reaction onto his personality until it takes root.

Abra1d Wed 16-Jan-13 13:27:36

It's actually a bit of relief to find we are not alone in having an 'over-reactor'.

It can be hard to build resilient yet sensitive children. But it's a good mix of attributes to have.

takeonboard Wed 16-Jan-13 16:16:16

I could have written this about my DS same age and the forensically questioning - thats me every day! My DS was badly bullied for 3 years and it has left its mark on both of us, my heart literally aches with every small social issue he has now....

He does seem to have turned things around at high school (no one from his juniors went there - a deliberate move) though and seems to be able to laugh off minor teasing - the right thing to do when its minor. He is blossoming simply because he has friends and feels accepted.

I am hazy now as to whether he was always over-sensitive and that is why he was bullied or whether the bullying came first and made him over-sensitive IYKWIM.

I agree that an 'I don't care' response such as SO? and a poker face is the best reaction, we tried teaching DS smart comebacks but they just aren't natural to him.

I agree resilient and sensitive children are the ideal, I feel my DS is getting there slowly....your will too I'm sure smile

Just a thought, he may be hormonal.
My DS1 was similar in that he was (still is) very sensitive and handled teasing very badly. It all got much worse when he was 11. In fact for about a year he was very weepy at the slightest thing, then he was fine . He went through puberty early and I didn't realise it at the time but in retrospect that was a big factor.

BooksandaCuppa Wed 16-Jan-13 20:25:39

Oh, seeker, I don't have advice about the over-sensitivity thing, I'm afraid (if anything my ds doesn't notice if someone has been a bit mean; his best friend is a different kettle of fish altogether)...

...but the forensic questioning does ring huge bells. I've been interrogating ds each and every day since he started yr 7 (he has Asperger's; he has a special diet; he knew no-one when he started; he has a tendency to tell me/remember nothing) BUT he recently said to me, 'Mum, I wish I was still at primary school because you didn't used to grill me every night back then.' It was sobering and I have tried to tone it down. It's hard to let go but maybe necessary so that any other problems he has aren't compounded by your anxieties/questions too?

swanthingafteranother Wed 16-Jan-13 22:32:15

Booksandcuppa my son has been a bit hit and miss at secondary too, and I had got into habit of sitting down and asking him about his day when he came home, with tea and biscuits wink. However, I soon realised the best thing was just to give him the tea and biscuits large sandwich and SAY NOTHING. Just sit there, or be around...He soon told me whatever he wanted to say, but it became less of a debriefing, more of a casual recounting (if he wanted to recount anything). He generally says what went well, and what didn't without me even asking. I try and leave an opening so he can mention anything which is bothering him without direct questioning.

Seeker My son is not very good at dealing with teasing. And not that good at making friends. He manages to get along most days, and seems to enjoy school, and the institutional setting (I think he finds safety in groups) But he has learnt to just accept it - sometimes he tells us, sometimes he over reacts, sometimes he just moves forward, and kind of works out how he should behave next time to his peers. It is a slow process. The teachers are quite good at reassuring on one hand, yet encouraging them to "man up" on the other. The rule of thumb is , if someone says something unpleasant, move away, and ignore them and assume they are not going to do it twice, if someone says something "downright rude" or "threatening"or uses physical aggression, or continues to "harass" you tell the teacher, and that is not considered sneaking.

I think it is getting better, but it is a two steps forward one step back sort of situation. We are assessing for dyspraxia in our case.

swanthingafteranother Wed 16-Jan-13 22:35:46

The other thing to say, is that what worked as a dynamic between you as mother and son, does change as they enter teens. My son is a very affectionate child, but I think he does want a bit of distance, and independence. I think this is why it is an emotional stage because they keep moving between relying on you to solve problems, and then wanting to live their own life grin and NOT be helped. It is very important for them to feel they can solve their own problems.

seeker Sat 19-Jan-13 09:35:23

Just thought I'd keep this bumped as there seem to be a lot of us, and there are some really helpful and thought provoking posts on here.

guineapiglet Sat 19-Jan-13 13:22:47

Hi again - my son returned on Wednesday night looking shattered - gave him a brew with honey and a snack, and he started sobbing - it was very upsetting - said that HS was tough, the big ones just push through the year 7s like skittles and he felt very low about it - also had a slight temperature and went to bed early, , had Thursday off school as was very hot and bothered, so obviously not well, plus Friday was a 'snow day' so he seems back to his old self again today - but some days it obviously all gets to them, and they are constantly expected to 'man up' and get on with it. I remember this time last year he was in year 6 preparing for SATS and an Aladdin play at school, so in a very short time things change for them... these things are rites of passages, and next year the focus is off them, but still hard to watch them coming up with coping strategies, but glad when they can.

swanthingafteranother Sat 19-Jan-13 16:18:44

Just thought I would add to this rather shamefacedly by saying that ds got a detention on Friday for being rude to someone blush Oh dear, the manning up can backfire...

I think this one is going to run and run, so many lessons to be learned..

marriedinwhite Sat 19-Jan-13 16:40:02

I have a very sensitive dd seeker - now in Year 10. I cannot change her and would not want to change her - we have to accept our children for what and who they are and help to deal with other people.

DD found Year 7 unspeakably difficult and I think it's important to realise that the friendships are very fluid in the first few terms of Year 7. Her close friends by the end of year 7/beginning of Year 8 were different from the girls she was friends with at first. She settled down and was much happier after the first year.

We moved her however at the end of Year 8; not due to friendships/sensitivity but because we felt the school was slipping from its perch academically and socially and had lost the vision and passion built up by the previous head. No probs with the change though - and a much happier all round dd so we did in the end feel that there was an innate problem at the school or she just didn't quite fit it but it was working out and if we hadn't been able to have moved her she would have been OK. Y10 now.

ShebaQueen Sat 19-Jan-13 16:58:10

Seeker, your post could have been written by me! My DS is in Y7 and has found it hard moving from a small primary school to a huge secondary one. He is very sensitive and has always been an anxious boy and although doing very well academically he has struggled socially so far and seems to spend a lot of time on his own at break and lunch. When he does manage to tag along with a group he seems to get upset by the teasing and sarcasm. I have been talking to the school and they have been helpful, offering a mentor from Y9 and suggesting after school clubs. I haven't manage to convice him to join any clubs yet though.

I think I question him too much about what he has been doing, but I really worry about him. He did try martial arts beacuse so many people had recommended it but it didn't work for us, he used to get stressed about going there.

I tend to agree with those who have suggested laughing things off or ignoring them all together, it isn't a bad idea to have a few witty comebacks prepared too and that's what I've been trying to work on with my DS.

Hugs to you, you are not alone smile

takeonboard Sat 19-Jan-13 17:37:41

I am surprised there are so many DC's going through this and mostly boys, is it easier for girls? Or is it that "banter" is part of boys language in friendships and our sensitive boys just can't handle it? Can it be taught?

marriedinwhite Sat 19-Jan-13 18:30:15

I don't now. My dc are so different. DS is alpha and dd is so quiet and shy it's amazing they are from the same stable. I think there are so many different dynamics in every family it's hard to say.

GreatUncleEddie Mon 04-Feb-13 13:55:17

I have a similar y7 DS (who i strongly suspect can "dish it out but not take it") and has been overreacting to banter-type comments, but IMO is not being bullied. I have decided to reawaken this thread just to say that things have been better over that last few weeks. I reassured him that he would find a way to deal with the boys whose comments were upsetting him and said that if it ever did turn into bullying we could decide between us to talk to the school. I tried to make him feel that he had some power in the situation, and then to see that he also had the power to decide whether he let the comments upset him or not. I bought the "Bullies Buddies, so called friends" book and he did read it. He has set up a worry box and I think it is helping him to see that most of the worries that go in it never actually come to anything.

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