What can I say to my son who comes home crying after every scouting event? He is home schooled and every scout in his troop is rude to him. Yesterday he tripped while hiking and one of the older scouts called him a dirty name. He gets along fine one on one with the boys, but whenever they are in a group he is excluded. I have never been able to understand mean people. That is the main reason I home-school my children. I don’t want them exposed to it constantly at school. How do these boys feel when they pass the sacrament on Sunday after they have treated a fellow scout in such a way? Even the troop leader was rude to him. My son says all he wants is to be able to have friends. Do you think I should send him to school so he can end up being just like them in order for him to have friends? He’s ready to give up on the scouting program altogether. We had him signed up for a summer camp and he doesn’t even want to go anymore. He doesn’t want me to call his scout leader, or talk to any of the boys, or their parents. I don’t know what I should do.
Dear Frustrated Mom,
Children can be cruel, and usually are. And as you well know, it becomes very difficult for those who are the objects of their cruelty. The question is, what can be done about it? Sometimes nothing works, but often appropriate changes can be made. One thing to recognize is that once a relationship as been established among a group of young people, that relationship becomes the fact, i.e., that’s the way it is and that’s the way it is expected to be. So it takes real effort to change that sort of a status quo.
However, several avenues may be approached. The first question to ask is why is that your son is the butt of all this cruelty rather than anyone else? That needs to be explored very earnestly and very carefully. If there are changes in behavior or attitude that your son could make that would have him seen by his peers in a different light, that could solve the problem. But such a change in an established attitude by a group is not easy to bring about, and will certainly take some time.
The second thing to consider is how your son might respond to cruel barbs. Most of such barbs are generally made because they elicit a desired response. If the mean kids are trying to make someone feel hurt, or feel degraded, and they perceive that they are having success by the response that they create, they will certainly continue the process. However, if the boy responds in an unexpected way, such that he shows no hurt, takes no offense, and treats those persons well who attempt to degrade him, they will perceive their efforts as a failure and will cease and desist.
Such responses require a bit of maturity on the part of the injured one, and a spirit of not taking offense and a spirit of forgiveness–not an easy thing to do. But this is exactly what the Savior has instructed us to do in such situations—Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him (Matt. 5:25). And the instruction given by Paul is also very pertinent—
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:17-21
Now, in spite of your son’s desire not to tell anyone how he feels, it is extremely important that you visit with your bishop and review in detail all of your concerns. If the scoutmaster needs to be involved, or if the parents of the other boys need to be aware of the situation, your bishop is the person who could do that, should he feel it appropriate. If you do consult with your bishop, you must be ready to comply with any advice or counsel that he would give you, and it will without question turn to your good.