Q: My 6-year-old-son loves to watch shows for younger kids, his favorite show is Paw Patrol which he will watch repeatedly. He has Global Development Delay, and may also have ADHD. I’ve spoken with his pediatrician about the shows he watches and she said that if he likes shows and toys geared towards younger children I should let him have them, however I am concerned that he will be picked on for it. What should I do?
~ Troubled About Teasing, USA
A: Dear Troubled,
Unfortunately, kids will pick on other kids for anything that makes them appear or act “different”, which can include anything from physical or cognitive limitations to their TV and clothing preferences. An important part of the education of your son and his peers during their school years is social-emotional learning – how to respect and work with people who are different from themselves. While we cannot protect all children from being picked on (whether we like it or not, it is part of the process of becoming social beings and fellow citizens), what we can do is give them the skills to understand and cope with these experiences so they don’t see themselves as victims and, possibly, victimize others.
Start by identifying situations in which your son has been picked on and work with his teachers and other adult supervisors to create a plan to recognize and respond to hurtful teasing and bullying. Make sure that the focus is not on punishing his peers, but on educating them, and your son, about what is happening. Help them and your son to see that all of them, and their community, are diminished and become suspicious of each other when any form of bullying goes on. Teach them how to be agents of change for their classroom or sports team.
Whether through a formal class discussion, informal conversations, or meetings with the school’s guidance counselor, your son’s peers can be taught how to recognize what is happening and learn how their teasing affects others. Guide them to access their natural empathy by showing them that we are all different in one way or another. Our differences are what make our classes, teams, and other groupings diverse and interesting. Our limitations (and we all have them) can be supported by the strengths of others – and the trust that builds will let them permit our strengths to support them. Reframing “difference” into something positive and enriching helps children learn respect for others and feel safer in a society that they have built for themselves.
At home, you can teach your son to talk with his friends about interests they share, from playing soccer, to reading, to a lunch food or toy, that they can all comment, take part, and even play together. Encourage him to get silly and find what is funny. Laughter lowers people’s defenses and helps them bond – and a sense of humor builds his resilience.
Enjoy your media and use them with laughter,