Originally Posted by jtjt
I don't want him to feel different. He came home last week crying because the kids were saying he talks funny, meaning he uses big words. I want him to feel proud of himself, not ashamed.
Clearly, he is different. It's healthy for his emotions to be in alignment with what is real, even if and when that poses new challenges. Right now he is uncomfortable, but shame is more likely to come from denying himself as he actually is, than from recognising his uniqueness. He needs strategies for navigating his life, including the awkwardness of the social situation he is in.
It's not likely going to stop anytime soon, so trying to conjure inauthentic feelings to mask the real ones is effort and energy that would be better used for cultivating understanding and social etiquette that honours others as well as himself, as well as nurturing the friendships he presently enjoys. It is hideous that he was treated so badly, but it's wonderful that he knows that and reacts in a healthy way. Crying after being mocked is an appropriate response, and I'm guessing that you know that and wouldn't want him to suppress that, but want him to not experience that again. Of course!
So that's what needs to be addressed. How will you help him to figure this solvable problem out? What are the options? Which are most beneficial? Which will he choose and enact? Was it successful? He needs to recognise that he is not helpless, but fully capable of addressing the situation, of asking for help if needed, of changing his mind, of trying again, of disengaging and re-engaging. This is all, of course, assuming he is not being targeted and bullied, but that the remarks by other children are genuine and/or perhaps intentionally cheeky, but not more. Bullying is something else entirely.
I was different in school. It didn't stop there until I finished, and then it continued afterward in other situations. No amount of poor behaviour on the part of others has caused me to be ashamed of myself. It has hurt me- a lot in some/many cases- but I recognised from a young age that I am not responsible, or to blame, for the uncharitable behaviours of others. If your son doesn't recognise this (I know from my mothering experiences that this realisation is not so self-evident to everyone- gifted or not), that's where to start. How he feels, where it aligns with reality, is to be encouraged, but also a cue for learning coping strategies and options for responses.
Later in my life, I realised that I am free to feel and express pain, free to be repulsed by hurtful behaviours, and free to express that in a way that doesn't reciprocate the hurt and cause what I don't want for myself, to be done to another.
It is so, so okay to feel different, if one is. To deny the feeling when the reality that justifies it is evident, is a recipe for shame, in my opinion.
I want my dc to feel proud, too, and so I make sure they have ample opportunity to accomplish things in their lives that validate feeling pride. That way, they have both the feeling and the experience/evidence that reinforce one another, and neither can be taken away from them. I don't mean just material things, of course. Those, too, but my dc are proud of their abilities to act compassionately, to meet the needs of others, for example, because they've done so, many, many times. If someone said to them that they are uncaring or incapable of compassion, for instance, they might be shocked, but they would know that the other person was in error, and would not feel shame.
As a simplistic example, if your son has opportunities to really work at his verbal communication (if it interests him, of course), such as club participation for debating, public speaking, or just general discussion at his level and beyond, he might be hurt by being told he talks "funny" because he knows it's not a comment intended to invite him in, but rather to push him out, but he wouldn't feel shame because his relevant experiences would reinforce his understanding that he speaks well, that he is understood by people who are interested, and that he is free to invest that part of himself in that part of his life. This may open him up to investing some other way into that group, or to disengaging completely. Either is fine, as long as it was his choice, and not the result of shame or of having been ostracized.