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Reality Check: Mean Kids

Q. Our kindergartner has a speech impediment, and kids sometimes make fun of her. She deals with it by just clamming up. How can I help her handle the teasing?

Kids can be cruel. But you have to explain to your child that not speaking isn't going to make the teasing stop (the kids will know they've intimidated her into silence) and won't help her speech improve, either. Remind her that her speech problem is only that, and not a definition of who she is.

It might help to explain that everyone gets teased about something at some point in childhood. My girls found comfort in knowing that when I was little I was teased for being too thin and having big eyes.

While it's probably true that if your daughter could laugh off the wisecracks they'd stop, not many kids (little or big) have that level of self-confidence. It might bolster hers to point out that everyone has something that's hard for them, whether it's pronouncing certain words or thumb sucking. Remembering this when she's being teased may make her feel at less of a disadvantage to her tormentors.

Most teasing of this kind stops on its own, but if it doesn't, don't hesitate to have a talk with the children's parents (and with teachers, if it's happening at school). It's not pushy or rude for parents to step in to work out problems among 5-year-olds. If it's more than a sometime event, she shouldn't have to just live with it.

And be sure to make opportunities for her to play with kids who don't tease. Having a friend stand by you can make all the sticks and stones of childhood so much more tolerable.