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How to Prevent Teasing

MIddle School Boy Teasing

Kids often get teased for having a “funny” last name. Dr. Linda has suggestions for what to do when this happens to your child whose name is unusual.

Dear Dr. Linda,
Our family name is so unusual that it’s often the butt of jokes. We’ve gotten used to it and laugh about it. Our son Jason, however, is about to enter middle school where bullying, teasing, and taunting is common. He’s already anxious about his name.

Do you have any suggestions to help Jason deal with possible bullying or taunting because of his name? Uncommon Name

Dear Uncommon Name,
A child with an unusual name or a name that can easily be turned into a joke is often teased. This can certainly make children unhappy and angry.
Often such teasing isn’t considered serious by teachers or parents, certainly not in the way bullying is. Adults may tell the child just to forget it. Or they might repeat the old saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Unfortunately, that’s not true. Research has shown that words do indeed hurt children and adults.

Teasing with words can lower a child’s self esteem. Children may feel they don’t fit it in or that something is wrong with them. Some kids become embarrassed by their name and wish they had a different name.

I’ve known children who get so upset by teasing that they hit back. Then they get in trouble. You’re right that Jason needs some good strategies to fend off being teased about his name

Strategies to Stop Teasing

The best way to defuse the situation is to become proactive. I recommend you teach your son some tactics that pull the rug out from under the kids who are teasing him. He can even use some of them before the taunting starts.

For example, Alvin isn’t a common name and is often associated with Alvin and the Chipmunks. Although the song has been around since the 1950s, it’s still heard today at Christmas time so kids will probably know it. So if a boy’s name is Alvin, he could make fun of himself by explaining that his parents are chipmunks so they named him Alvin.

Or he could even use the high pitch silly voice heard on the recording. Now there’s nothing left for kids to taunt him about. He’s taken the lead.

A child with the last name of Byrd can try flapping arms like a bird. A child with the name Quisenberry might announce that he wasn’t really born. Instead he’s the fruit from a Quisen tree. Sparrowhawk might say, “I’ve tried to learn how to fly, but I’ve never been able to get off the ground.”

Brainstorm with your son until he has ideas that he’s comfortable with. Just because all of you can come up with something funny that would squelch the kids who want to tease him, doesn’t mean he’ll be ok using it.

Role Play at Home First

Be sure to role play these scenes with your son before he gets to school. By practicing ahead of time, your son will likely be more comfortable with what he’s going to say or do.

Names aren’t the only challenge. Kids who have unusual physical features are often the victim of teasing too. The same strategies that work for names will work for how a child looks.

For example, Jimmy Durante, a popular Vaudeville and early television entertainer had a large nose. If he’d ignored it, Durante surely would have been taunted. Instead, he drew attention to his nose, called it a schnozzola. Durante even nicknamed himself “Schnozzola.”

Often kids (and adults too) who defuse taunting by first drawing attention to themselves become known as a good sport and much less likely to become the victim of further abuse. When your son learns some of these strategies to stop the teasing, his self esteem will go up. He’ll no longer worry about his name or be embarrassed by it. He is in control.

Teasing isn’t bullying

Keep in mind teasing and bullying are not the same. Bullying cannot be stopped by your child becoming proactive. It is mean and dangerous. If you think your child is being bullied, you need to take it seriously and go directly to the teacher and the school administration.

Wishing you a happy and successful school year,
Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. To help middle school and high school students get better grades and improve test scores, check out the our Study Skill Handbooks

Self-esteem: Who Gets the Most Attention?

two-children-homeworkDear Dr. Linda,
My sister has two wonderful kids. Cole is 12 and Samantha is 9. From the day Cole was born, it was “Cole did this” and “Cole did that.” Even after Samantha was born, it was all about Cole.

Once they started school, it got worse. Cole does very well, but Samantha is an average student. He receives one award after another, is in advanced classes, on the honor roll, etc. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great kid, and I love him, but I feel for Samantha.

As my sister talks and talks about Cole, Sammy just sits and listens. I mentioned this once to my sister, and she replied. “I pay just as much attention to Samantha. She’s good at art and I always put her art work up. I can’t help it if Cole is so smart.” Isn’t this going to affect Sammy’s self-esteem? Aunt Lisa
Dear Lisa,
What you’re describing happens in many homes. Parents, usually without [Read more…]

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Many of these children are defiant, act out in class, refuse to do class work and homework. They lie about tests and homework or anything related to school to either make themselves feel better or to get their parents off their backs. [Read more…]

Dr. Linda Answers Your Questions | Parenting Teens with Attitude

Dr. Linda's School Success Q & ADear Dr. Linda,

I read your blog and enjoy your advice, but I’m having trouble with your advice on respecting your child. I’m having trouble with my 15-year-old daughter.

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Dr. Linda's School Success Q & ADear Dr. Linda,

Every year when school begins I feel like I’m always ready. I pride myself on the fact that I’m a very organized mom, but by the second week of school, there are papers all over my house. Do you have any suggestions?

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So who’s right? [Read more…]

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Maybe Dad thinks it’s best if their son starts out close to home at a two-year college, but Mom thinks their son should go away to school.

Often, as parents, we come to these conclusions because of what we did. If Dad, who started at a two-year school, is successful, he might believe a two-year community college is the obvious answer.


Every successful adult has a story, but most successful adults would have been successful even if the story had been different. [Read more…]

Stressed out Kids: Activities can Hurt School Success

Daniel wasn’t doing well in school, and he was very busy. Every week, in addition to school, he had drum lessons, tennis lessons, chess club, swimming meets, religious instruction, and karate.

Not surprisingly, he was up to all hours of the night finishing his homework. Daniel’s Mom worried because Daniel kept having  meltdowns and she didn’t know why.

Daniel wasn’t suffering from low confidence. He was suffering from one of the “Terrible Toos,” having too much to do.

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Your child is going to have piles and piles of papers. These papers need to be organized. they need to be hole punched and filed in 3-hole binders. Some are necessary for the next test and some are notices about next week’s cupcake sale . . . or last week’s sale, oops!

Every night or at least once a week, go through the papers with your elementary-school child, tossing the unnecessary sheets into the paper recycling bin and hole punching the others. Encourage older children to follow this plan. It could even be on their to-do list that’s on the fridge. [Read more…]

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Michael believed that if he tried hard and kept working at something, he’d succeed.  He could succeed at school. He was sure of it. He said that nobody had told him this—not his parents, not his grandparents. How did he know?  It was the message in his fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant–so it must be true.

It’s a cute story but in Michael’s case, luckily only partly true. In fact he had wonderful support from his parents and his grandparents. They cheered him on every day as he struggled with severe language issues.

Although Michael could speak when he was five, nobody could understand him. His family was concerned with school and worried about his future. [Read more…]