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.

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