Episode 12 – Adrian, Age 8: Kid bullies him at recess

Knowing when to get adult help

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Episode 12 – Adrian, Age 8: Kid bullies him at recess


Think About It Questions

  • What is the difference between bullying and ordinary meanness? Why does this matter? How would you respond to these situations differently?
  • If someone is not listening when you ask them to stop, why does it make sense to stop trying to make them change what they’re doing and instead focus on taking care of yourself?
  • How could standing near an adult or staying near friends make you less likely to get picked on?
  • What do you think is likely to happen if you try to get even with someone who was mean to you?
  • Why do you think some kids are mean to other kids?
  • Have you ever been bullied?


Hi, there, I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Here’s today’s question:

Hi, my name’s Adrian, and I am 8 years old. Every time I go out for recess there is another boy that bullies me. I have asked him to stop, but he doesn't. What should I do?

Hi, Adrian. I’m so sorry to hear you’re dealing with this. It’s upsetting to be picked on by somebody, especially when it happens again and again!

One thing that’s important to understand is that if you’ve asked someone to stop two times, and they’re still not listening, they’re probably not going to stop. That means your goal has to shift from trying to change what he does to trying to take care of yourself.

Now, I bet you’re thinking, “But what he’s doing is wrong! He should stop!” I agree, he should stop doing whatever mean thing he’s doing…but he’s not. I don’t want you to be stuck getting picked on every day, so let’s think about what else you can do, given that asking this kid to stop hasn’t worked.

The first thing you need to figure out is whether what this kid is doing is true bullying or just ordinary meanness. Bullying involves someone being mean, on purpose, to a certain person, usually a bunch of times, but sometimes one especially mean action can count, AND, this is important, there’s a power difference between the kid doing the bullying and the kid getting picked on. In other words, the kid doing the bullying is bigger, stronger, tougher, or more socially powerful than the kid getting picked on, or there’s a group of kids picking on one kid.

Would you say that this boy who’s bothering you is more powerful than you? If there’s no power difference, then it’s not bullying; it’s just ordinary meanness.

This matters because if it’s bullying, the power difference means you probably need to get an adult involved. If you decide to tell a grown-up, you don’t have to announce, “I’m telling!” just find a quiet moment to tell an adult in charge what’s happening.

But if it’s just ordinary meanness, with no power difference, I’m sure you don’t like it, but you can probably handle the situation without an adult stepping in. Of course, you can always tell your parents or other adults who love you what’s happening. They can help you think things through, but they don’t need to step in to fix things for you. You can deal with ordinary meanness.

So, what could you do? Well, that’s hard to answer without knowing more about what’s happening, but one possibility is just to stay away from this kid. You could also decide to hang out near an adult or stay near friends. That makes you less of a target for the kid who’s picking on you because he probably won’t want to do the mean stuff where others can see.

One thing you definitely don’t want to do is be mean back to that kid. It’s tempting, I know, to try to get even, but that will just make the meanness grow.

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.

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