Yesterday, the Boy complained that a kid in his class was bothering him. “He makes fun of my name,” he said.

“How so?” I flashed to Cadillac’s description of pretty much every male, from high school to basic training, making fun of the last name. The name caused the drill sergeant, apparently, to double over in tears of laughter. I was not surprised to hear someone made fun of our name.

“He called me Dalloway and he knows it’s not,” he said.

Mrs. Dalloway? The Virginia Woolf novel? This struck me as not a particularly creative or sadistic name-calling effort. Perhaps this kid didn’t know.

“And he annoys me at recess,” my son continued. “He gets in our games and he won’t play by the rules!”

At his age, this is highly annoying to my son. I mean, it’s annoying at any age, but eventually you learn how to deal with it. The other day, in a different incident, he was enraged because two kids were helping a third play chess against Boy.

“Say, ‘If it takes three of you clowns to beat one of me, it’s not worth playing,’” my husband told him. I don’t think the Boy did; it’s not his style. I think he just told them they were cheaters and stopped playing.

At any rate, this kid who was bothering the Boy sounded more like a pest than like a bully. Bullies require a different and more serious tactic, but this kid didn’t sound so horrific. Either the kid lacks social skills, or he just likes getting a rise out of people.

I told our son, “Look. People like that just say stuff to see if you get mad. If you stop getting mad, I bet he’ll stop.”

I was also thinking of a great child-rearing book, THE BLESSING OF A SKINNED KNEE .* This book basically tells you, that as a parent, you must let kids deal with crap on their own. Your kid needs to learn how to excel despite obstacles. Whether it’s a less-than-stellar teacher or a kid who sits behind you making hooting sounds all day, these kinds of annoyances never stop.

Annoying people don’t magically go away when they reach adulthood. In just about every workplace, there’s an egoistical maniac, a pestering fool, a pendulum-mood coworker, a clique leader.

Learning how to deal with these people now is a good thing. And not becoming one of those people—even better.

*The book uses Jewish teachings, but the lessons are applicable to every family who wants to raise self-reliant and respectful kids, regardless of faith. I especially like the part that says you should make your kids clear the parents’ dinner plates. Put those kids to work already!