Raising a Nonconformist in a Bullying World

Eli in a suitMy son is the best dressed child in his class, and that’s not open to debate.

Elijah has taken to wearing a shirt and tie to school and, sometimes, a full-blown suit. It’s his latest choice in costume, an evolution that began with an Iron Man suit and now includes a pinstriped model.

It makes him happy, and he looks impossibly dapper. Plus, thanks to that Kohl’s cash, we got the suit for a song. What could go wrong?

Nothing … yet.

Elijah’s classmates have been kind regarding his sartorial selections. He hasn’t had any run-ins with a mud puddle, and his teacher is amused by his new look.

That won’t last, I fear. Someone, someday will pick on Eli for looking different. It might not happen this year, but it could start as early as kindergarten. He’ll be an easy target, a gentle soul whose passions run deep. I wonder where he gets that from?

What then?

There’s likely little we can do about it. Nonconformists don’t conform after a brief chat or bullying session. I grew up as the picture of conformity. I was shy, had low self-esteem and never had so much as an urge to rebel against authority of any kind. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t spot nonconformists a mile away. I admired their courage, their individualism and their pluck. Nothing stopped them, even if they got funny looks or cruel nicknames.

Do I have a nonconformist on my hands? And if so, how can I protect Elijah from future bullying? I’m not sure I can. What’s in my power, though, is giving him the love and strength to follow his idiosyncrasies wherever they may lead. The worst thing I could do for Elijah is not have his back. I will explain the consequences of his actions, though. I’ve already told him kids might tease him for wearing a suit.

He didn’t say much. That’s just Elijah. He takes it all in without so much as a syllable, but I know the message got through.

Elijah’s suit and tie mode won’t last long if history is any guide. A few months back he wouldn’t wear anything with sleeves. That was followed by his soccer phase. He’s also partial to shirts with corporate logos, even if he doesn’t know what the word “corporate” means. Alex P. Keaton, your twin is on line two.

It doesn’t matter what phase he’ll pick next. It’ll be his choice and there’s little anyone can do or say to stop him. I couldn’t be more proud.


  1. Maureen Toto says

    Look at that handsome boy. Many nonconformist grow up to be very successful adults. He is so bright he knows what he wants. Eli will handle himself with his intelligence and grow up just fine. If anything is said just step in and squelch it immediately. I’ve done that on several occasions. Everyone comes upon some unpleasantries in life. As long as he is filled with love he will be just fine.

  2. beth trapani says

    Adorable! Hey – he could be wearing a princess dress every day like so many girls this age do. A suit ain’t a bad choice! 🙂
    And I applaud the way you explained to him that kids might have a certain reaction.. but left it up to him! Yeah!

  3. Stop worrying says

    You worry to much. Nothing when wrong, but you are writing about how sooner or later you know it will? Um, that’s why people conform because they are worried about what might happen. Take a lesson from your son.

  4. says

    I wouldn’t worry too much just yet. I don’t know if it’s a matter of conforming so much as being able to brush off people’s comments. When his peers realize that teasing doesn’t work and that the kid could care less what they think, he’ll likely be respected than ridiculed.

    • says

      You’re right, but It’s the brushing off comments part that concerns me. Eli is super sensitive, even when his little brother playfully punches him. We have our work cut out for us!

  5. Maureen Toto says

    Some additonal comments. Sport coaches, in the formative years, are very damaging to youngsters. Win is the only word they know, leaving behind many children who never play the sport and are looked down upon by their peers. Instead of creating friendship, teamwork and harmony they create an elite class of players. Many players have swollen heads and others just sit in the background watching the stars. Their parents spend as much money, time and effort on the sport only to go home empty. The power these coaches yield is just that. They are not there for the kids but for their own glory. Some of them berate and overwork children. The same applies to gym teachers. Its a rarity that they treat participants equally. How sad that they are so shallow to create a bullying situation. Not to mention the lack of confidence it instills. Perhaps schools should have coaches and gym teachers attend anti-bullying classes.

  6. says

    I have always been a nonconformist and been bullied over it. Not just as a child but also an adult. This has greatly affected my self-esteem and my attitude towards society and the workplace. I think you should check out a book by Australian author Andrew Matthews called “Stop The Bullying” as to what you can do about your son being bullied at school over the choices that he makes.

    Andrew’s site is http://www.andrewmatthews.com and he is also on Facebook at Andrew Matthews – Author.

    Good luck with raising your son! 🙂


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