How to Deal With a Pest

The recent surge in school anti-bullying measures might be helping, but I’m still witnessing a steady stream of children who are complaining of pests and bullies in the classroom. One of the struggles in dealing with children who deal with pests and bullies is determining whether the child is truly experiencing something intolerable or that child is simply a wimp and needs to grow a spine (or at least some thicker skin).

Parents can help their children deal with classroom pests by getting them to think rationally.

This is what I teach kids:

First, ask yourself if what the pest/bully is doing is a BIG DEAL or a LITTLE DEAL.



Threatening to hurt


Repeated hateful, cruel names/words

Spreading serious, harmful rumors


Little names like “chicken”

Making a face

Being stingy or not sharing


Cheating at a game or off of a test/homework

If the pest/bully is doing something that is a BIG DEAL, then it is OK to tell a teacher or another grown-up.

If the pest/bully is doing something that is a LITTLE DEAL, then it is important to either ignore the pest/bully or just take care of it yourself.

What does taking care of it yourself mean? First, try being assertive. Look at the pest/bully in the eyes and say firmly, “STOP IT!” If he does it again, say louder but not screaming, “I said STOP IT; knock it off!” Make sure your body looks serious. A great many pests/bullies will stop from this. Those that don’t will require adult intervention–go ahead and tell school personnel.

If the school doesn’t do anything about it and the pest continues to bother you, you may just have to live with it. Some pestering isn’t going to kill you. Life frequently involves coping with chronic pestering.

Remember, I’m not talking about being bullied. If a child is being bullied and the school doesn’t put a stop to it, then the child has a right to punch that kid in the nose–hard enough to stop the bully in his tracks. That’s the way some playground conflicts need to be resolved. Adults need to get the heck out of the way and let it happen.

2 thoughts on “How to Deal With a Pest”

  1. Why is cheating off a test/homework a little deal? Consider the number of college students who admit to cheating…as a former college instructor I think that falls in the big deal category, especially if the one being cheated off of could also potentially get in trouble or have their grade affected.

  2. Good question. Let me clarify.

    Of course cheating is a big deal. It is no doubt immoral and unethical, not to mention disrespectful to the teacher and other students. So from a global, social-cultural perspective, it is indeed a big deal. I certainly didn’t mean to minimize cheating.

    My point is that from the perspective of the child whose answers are being copied, it is not violent act or something so egregious as to require a major response. This is especially true in the lower grades.

    Your example of a student in the upper grades getting in trouble for being involved in the cheating is a valid one, of course. In that case, a student whose answers are being “stolen” should indeed offer an assertive response (telling the instructor and/or telling the cheater to knock it off).

    Thanks for the comment/question!

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