My daughter attends a small Catholic grade school. She will be starting the 4th grade on Monday. She is excited because she found out that she got the teacher she wanted. Last year was a rough year. I was glad when the school year ended and I do not think the summer was long enough.
The first quarter of third grade was terrible. I think I received three slips from the nurse each week. My daughter was constantly in the nurses office with a stomach ache or a headache. Finally, she confided to the nurse that the kids were being mean. She said "The kids have been mean since kindergarten but now that they are older, they just find new ways to be mean." We took her to the doctor to make sure that there was nothing wrong with her stomach. The doctor concluded that her upset stomach was a result of stress caused by the mean kids in school. The school acted quickly and things got better. I seriously considered changing schools.
My daughter knows the basic school yard self-defense. She knows how to get out of wrist grabs and knows how to avoid a push. What is the self-defense against mean? The kids that are one day your friend and the next day won't talk to you. I was surprised to learn that cliques start in first grade. When did it start so early? We have practiced how to use assertive words. We discussed when it is appropriate to "tell". I have tried to explain that bullies are looking for a reaction and that her best reaction is ... no reaction.
I send her to school armed with what I call "The Mommy Rules". The first rule is that "I love her ... no matter what". The second rule is "I am proud of her". I think kids need to know their parents are their ally. She refuses to stand up for herself because she is concerned she will get in trouble at school. My daughter is an only child and spends much of her time around adults. She is involved in school activities and gets good grades.