I’ve met the headteacher this week, dealing with an incident which started with my eleven year old son sharing some private information with a close friend, and snowballed into him being the subject of hot gossip and persistent, intrusive questions.
School have thankfully promised to clamp down hard. They told me to keep him home this morning while they spoke firmly to all of the children about what had happened. I wanted to use this time to teach my son some strategies to protect himself from these kinds of things. He wasn’t at fault, but sadly this is likely to happen again and again – with potentially more serious consequences as he gets older. With his tendency to be quirky and trusting, he’s an easy target.
I looked around for decent resources that he could connect with – a lot of what was there (understandably) focussed on schools reducing bullying, rather than bullyproofing kids. Other resources were just a bit too mature. What connected was How to avoid answering personal questions . It links with a current special interest in the house – being legal TV dramas. It’s always a win when you can connect learning to their special interest!
Here’s a potted summary of what we learned:
- Spot “information hounds”. We discussed how he’d experienced examples of manipulation, psychological tricks and shock tactics to encourage him to share more than he was comfortable with.
- The power of the pause to engage your lawyer brain:
- who might be harmed by this information
- Who might benefit
- How can this information be used
- Why do they want to know
- Do I need to answer
- How to deflect. There are lots of suggestions on the list. The five that my son thought he might actually use were:
- “Wow, you do ask a lot of personal questions, don’t you??”
- “No, I won’t answer that” (or the softer “that’s private”)
- Blink and totally blank the question
- Answer ambiguously and immediately change the subject
- Redirect to a subject you feel more comfortable discussing.
Overall I think he’s learnt a lesson about telling an adult much earlier when things are going wrong. He kept thinking it would go away if he answered the questions, and instead it just made it a bigger and bigger story.
Can anyone recommend any other resources to protect aspie kids from being socially manipulated like this? Or give me any tips what worked for them! I’m so sad for the poor chap.