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Neighborhood Bullies

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My 8-year-old daughter feels intimidated by a couple of 11-year-old girls. It's not just simple teasing -- the girls tell my daughter they will punch her in the face -- and their parents won't do anything about it. There are also several parents in our neighborhood who have threatened me with bodily harm. I called the police, but they won't do anything. How do I handle this?

A: Everyone should have the right to feel safe in their neighborhood, and it's a shame that you and your daughter do not. It sounds like you have already tried talking to the parents of the girls, which should always be the first step.

Make sure that your daughter knows some strategies to deal with bullies (ignore them; use "I" messages such as, "I don't like it when you threaten me -- Please stop"; and go to an adult for help). You may want to either walk with your daughter yourself or ask a teenager or another adult to walk with her when she must go near those two girls.

You could take out a restraining order requiring that the parents and the girls stay away from you and your daughter. Go to your police station and ask them the process for doing that in your area. You may also want to talk with a lawyer about other ways you could get help through the legal system. If you are in a neighborhood or an apartment house with a neighborhood or tenant association, ask that group for help with this as well.

Although it's impossible for many people, the police and the courts have advised some people in situations like yours to simply move away.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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