DEAR ABBY: Please let your readers know that there is a solution to bullying. If parents would encourage their children's natural abilities and help them to enhance their physical assets, instead of hoping the problem goes away, much could be done to help these innocent victims.
My son, "Tim," developed a stammer in second grade. The teasing he received from classmates caused him to stop talking in class or even to playmates. In fifth grade, he developed gynecomastia, an overgrowth of breast tissue in males. The taunts increased and included asking him his bra size.
I could have told my son to ignore the teasing and concentrate on his "inner beauty," etc. But children have to compete in a world that puts great emphasis on physical beauty. Lofty platitudes, while they may or may not be true, do nothing for a suffering soul.
I realized the importance of correcting what can be corrected and outsmarting the rest. During the summer, I took Tim to a plastic surgeon who corrected the gynecomastia. Then, although his pediatrician said he would eventually outgrow his stammer (and he did), I tried to help him regain the respect of his peers.
Tim was a budding musician, so I arranged for him to perform a classroom concert. He played the guitar and sang songs by John Denver and Jim Croce. Then he performed one of his own compositions. Students from other classrooms, as well as the principal, joined the audience. Tim received a standing ovation, and mercifully, he was never teased again. -- CONCERNED MOM IN TEXAS
DEAR MOM: I congratulate you for being proactive in helping your son. There is a lot parents can do to prevent bullying. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Nearly 160,000 students stay home from school every day because they are afraid of being bullied.
Bullying isn't just a part of growing up. It can have a lasting effect on the victim, the bully, the school and the community. Victims often suffer from depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, academic problems and substance abuse. Research also shows a direct link between chronic bullying and future criminal activity and abusive behavior in adult life.
There are many ways to prevent bullying. Adults and parents can use positive discipline techniques, spend quality time with a child, and encourage confidence and nonviolence at home and at school. It's also important to teach children that they don't have to feel powerless in the face of bullying. Encourage them not to be bystanders by telling the bully to stop or by getting help from an adult. -- SID JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PREVENT CHILD ABUSE IN AMERICA
DEAR SID: Your letter is both timely and helpful. When children are the victims of bullying, the parents often don't know how to react. In some cases, the parents were victims of bullying themselves.
Readers, this is an important topic. If you would like to learn more ways to prevent bullying, visit Prevent Child Abuse America's Web site: www.preventchildabuse.org.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600