On Motherhood & Sanity


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Bullying ~ I need your help, seriously


So this is not some marketing tactic to get more comments (although that would be nice… you shy shy people), but I’m actually concerned and lost.

It appears my 4 year old is being bullied by a six year old. And I don’t know how or what I can do about it. And since it’s STOP BULLYING week, I thought I’d reach out to other moms.

Facts:

- she has been talking about “the bad boy” on and off since week one of her new school for big kids.

- I did not think much of it. Kids sometimes push, shove, take a shoe... it’s part of life

- Until last week when I saw him screaming at her to stop her from climbing on one of the playground toys until she backed down and broke into tears

(coincidentally you should know that my daughter is pretty fierce less and does not even back down when me or her father get pissed at her)

- When I politely told the boy –in absence of his mom- that was not nice and if he did it again I would have to talk to his mom, his response was “you don’t know who my mom is. You don’t even know who my teacher is!”~ nice

- Soon after his mom approached and I thought it was fair to tell her what had just happened: if someone talked/ disciplined my kid I would want to know. Her response was “I tell my youngest not to play where the boys are. They play rough.” i.e. tell you kid to play wherever my kid is not.

- Next day I was informed –by two other moms- that this kid is trouble, has been causing trouble, and has been known to bite, punch and hit with sticks in the past (sleepless night #1)

- Next day my daughter told me that “bad boy” had pushed her and she scratched her knee. So I spoke with the teacher and said I was concerned. They told me they had had problems before and would pass it along to the playground caretakers.

That was last week. Yesterday during pick up, as my child played on the school grounds I noticed the kid would stop whatever he was doing if mine tried to get on the slide, and stare at her menacingly until she backed down. This happened a couple of times. Standing right next to them I told my daughter to go up, that I would defend her. In the end the fear of the 6 year old won, she walked away, so I went up to him to tell him it was not nice, and then his mother intervened and we had a very public and loud fight –to the entertainment of other moms- where she said that he was “just looking at her”, that he had explained that what had happened last week was that her kid had tried to protect mine from getting hurt, that is why he did not let her climb on the games… and that it was both of them and I should also look at what my child is doing. (denial?)

I told her I would not let her kid bully mine.

(sleepless night #2)

I get she wants to defend her kid. But if it is hard getting testimony out of an adult, try getting a straight story out of a 4 year old. I don’t know what has happened during lunch hour (the only time they coincide) for her to be so afraid of him. I don’t know if he is or isn’t responsible for her scratches. I don’t know if he is or isn’t responsible for the fact that she no longer wants to go to school. That she is coming to sleep in my room every night, something she never did before.

I spoke to the teachers again, I don’t want her to feel it’s a big deal, yet I want her to feel backed up.

Am I over reacting? Can I afford not to? I want to be there for her. I want to make sure this does not get out of control, but am not sure how.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It Happened once with my son, and i just told him not to play where the other kid was, and stay in groups and not alone. He wouldn't talk about it again.

I could also think of love, and that your daughter would react to his menaces not with fear but with a loving attitude, that makes miracles in boys who are not well loved in home, but i guess it is too much to ask, and motherhood instinct would never choose thar option.

So my advice would be to just avoid him and look for groups of childs, where she can feel more protected. And encourage the teacher to keep your daughter into groups instead of being alone.

Fighting with the other mother is useless.

Bso

Vins

angelica said...

fighting with the other mom was never my intention, and to be fair, we both tried to keep it civil (it just sounded more dramatic that way), but I also don't think that the boy should get away with this behavior. What am I teaching my kid if I just tell her to walk away whenever he chooses to play where she is?

I've thought about approaching the other mom and just saying I understand she want to protect her son, and that we should work together. I just have a feeling I'm going to get slapped in the face if I do...

Anonymous said...

Hmm wise behaviour.

Now I remember to talk about the problem with my son refering to the boy as "the boring boy" or "the annoying boy", so to lighten the burden and the connotations.

And for the kind of education you are teaching your daughter, this is, in my opinion, just like real life: if you find an evil workmate, would it be a problem to just avoid him? I call it practicity, it has nothing to do with such a thing as cowardness.

BTW, 1 year later my son's bullyer thing was forgotten; both had grown up.

VIcente

Melinda Roos said...

Oh Angelica, I feel for you. You did the right thing by informing the teacher. And you should keep doing it until it stops. Clearly, the boy has a history and I always believe children mimic their parents' behavior. If you keep talking about it enough and bringing it to the school's attention every time, they will take action. Maybe it will help if you video the whole thing the next time and view it with your daughter too. If she can look at the whole incident again with you explaining it to her maybe it will lessen her fear. Give a copy to the teacher and let the boy's parents view it as well.

Children being bullied is a big deal, no matter at what age. If I were in your shoes, I would have camped out the entire time in school and the playground if it meant protecting my child. So you are certainly not overreacting.

Brigid said...

Emily Bazelon has written a great deal about bullying. Try searching through Slate to find articles on her past recommendations.

From what I recall, her recommendation is that bullying needs to be approached from the whole community. You've described the difficulty in approaching just one player at a time, be it the teacher or mother. But if the teachers, mother, mothers of the other children who indicated a problem, and you all tackle this together, then there is a group commitment to keep all kids safe.

Performance Consultants said...

Hello Dear,

I am all too familiar with bullying since my ten year old has been bullied several times in schools.
She is mild-mannered and very sweet so bullies always pray on her: we always contact the school administration and they help often but you also need to help your daughter by talking to her and advising her how to deal with the bullying.


Your daughter has to learn to stand up for herself, it is not necessarily about fighting but speaking up is enough at times.

We ask our daughter to be more vocal and to tell her bullies to leave her alone with a firm voice and tone, that has worked.

In your case though, I have to admit that as a parent I probably would have argued with the mother since she seems to be somewhat encouraging her child's behavior.
You also have to put your foot down, I won't let another child mistreat mine right in front of me...someone is liable to get slapped and it , I'm just saying.

Diana said...

You are right to be concerned, and the school should be involved since this kid is doing it on regular basis is their responsibility to keep the playground safe for such young children. They should teach that boy what is the appropriate way to behave in school.
I would tell my daughter to go directly to the teacher and inform her, whenever it happens.
But it is also an opportunity for you to teach your daughter how to defend her self, be firm "you do not scare me, and I can play here to" or shout for help if he continues or whenever she is bullied.

Ellie said...

hi angelica, we had the same problem here with chloe, who has actually always been good at standing up for herself. i think that there is just always a problem kid in every class who none of the kids really like and who probably don't really know how to behave (and actually it's never their fault that they don't). i always told chloe to go and tell the teacher as soon as the boys were rough with her so that they would be told off in that instant. the teacher also made a comments box in the classroom so taht the kids could anonymously report bad behaviour, and then her class teacher talked to the kids as a class a few times to also calm them down. i would encourage your daughter to do the same - if that boy learns that whenever he does something rough/mean to her that she will ALWAYS go to the teacher he will also learn to stop pretty quickly. and get the teacher on your side, she is the best ammo to deal with this problem.

StephanieC said...

I can only speak from personal experience of being bullied all through school.

The administration often claims to have a "zero tolerance" policy, but they are very hands off and I think are often scared of doing much because of liability. They don't 'punish' really any more. I don't mean spanking, but simply consequences for poor behaviour.

I would support Brigid's idea about getting the other parents to rally with you, so it is not just one lonely voice (like he said vs. she said). I think that is your best chance of motivating the school to do something. Sounds like his mom will just give excuses.

Having her stay in a group is a good idea, but bullies have ways of involving themselves (like the evil stare) and I know, personally, that it can be very scary and very hurtful.

Keep sending your daughter the message that she's done nothing wrong and deserves to play and be happy and not feel scared at school.

I wish you luck. It needs to stop so she won't feel negatively towards school.

Thinking of you and her.

nicole said...

Hi Angelica, I have no words of wisdom, only adding to the you're-not-alone sentiment. Violet was bullied by 2 girls when she was in Early Years2 (age 4-5) and it was really frustrating. What was saddest was that despite how mean they were to her she was so desperate to be their friend that she let them order her around. One took her milk everyday at lunch, another took a plastic flower that came off her shoe and made pull the one off the other shoe to give to the other girl. She was so eager to buy their friendship that she let them. When I suggested she tell the teacher or ask them to stop, she said they would get angry at her. When she gave a tour of her classroom to her grandpa and she saw the name of one of the girls, she told him that it was the girl who pushed her down the ladder of the play house. Then she laughed nervously and changed the subject.

THe difference though is that in this case the mother of the really mean one that led the other one to follow her was just devastated by her daughter's behavior. She spent a lot of time apologizing to me and telling me about all the things she was doing to try to get her daughter to change. The teacher also was very aware and put up a special sticker chart just for those 2 girls to motivate them to be nicer.

The good news was neither was in her class the next year and Vy became so much happier and more confident. I did catch the "mean" girl still picking occasionally on her when they encountered each other and I had no hesitation in having a word with her, asking if she thought what she did was friendly etc.

What I end up telling Violet when she tells me about mean kids is that I feel sorry for them because if they continue to be mean, soon they'll have no friends. I also coach her to be sure to tell a teacher immediately if someone picks on her.

Good luck and sorry that you're dealing with a difficult mom too. We're trained that we're not supposed to necessarily blame the parents but in some cases I think we really should to some degree. It's not fair to leave it to the victim's parent to do the disciplining. I would have done exactly what you did in the same situation. When it comes to my kids, as soft-spoken as I normally am, I just become the mother bear defending her young. - Nicole

nicole said...

Hi Angelica, no words of wisdom, only adding to the you're-not-alone sentiment. Violet was bullied by 2 girls when she was in Early Years2 (age 4-5) and it was really frustrating. Saddest was that despite how mean they were to her she was so desperate to be their friend that she let them order her around. One took her milk everyday at lunch, another took a plastic flower that came off her shoe and made her pull the one off the other shoe. She was so eager to buy their friendship that she let them. When I suggested she tell the teacher or ask them to stop, she said they would get angry at her. When she gave a tour of her classroom to her grandpa and she saw the name of one of the girls, she told him that it was the girl who pushed her down the ladder of the play house! Then she laughed nervously and changed the subject.

THe difference though is that in this case the mother of the really mean one was just devastated by her daughter's behavior. She spent a lot of time apologizing to me and telling me about all the things she was doing to try to get her daughter to change. The teacher also was very aware and put up a special sticker chart just for those 2 girls to motivate them to be nicer.

The good news was neither was in her class the next year and Vy became so much happier and more confident. I did catch the "mean" girl still picking occasionally on her when they encountered each other and I had no hesitation in having a word with her, asking if she thought what she did was friendly etc.

What I end up telling Violet when she tells me about mean kids is that I feel sorry for them because if they continue to be mean, soon they'll have no friends. I also coach her to be sure to tell a teacher immediately if someone picks on her.

Good luck and sorry that you're dealing with a difficult mom too. We're trained that we're not supposed to necessarily blame the parents but in some cases I think we really should to some degree. It's not fair to leave it to the victim's parent to do the disciplining. I would have done exactly what you did in the same situation. When it comes to my kids, as soft-spoken as I normally am, I just become the mother bear defending her young. - Nicole

Muddling Along Mummy said...

I was horribly bullied at school - basically pushed away and not allowed to play on various things and made to feel very much an outsider, even 30 years on I can still remember it clearly

You are doing the right thing, stand up to her, stand up to him and keep hassling the school until they do something. If you can get the other Mums to back you up and tell their issues too

Rob Cairns said...

First off it is a big deal that your child is being bullied. It is wrong.

A couple of things I would do. One is I would ask for a meeting with the teacher and the principal. In this meeting I would outline my issues and expectations.

If this meeting is not satisfactory I would involved the school board and local government very quickly.

One thing I would also watch is the mental state of your child. This is very important. If you need even though the child's age is young to have a counselor involved, please do. Bullying can cause long term issues.

littlepitcher said...

Had the experience. In both cases, I had to reciprocate in order to stop the bullying. Five girls tried to push me down a flight of stairs, I fought back hard, then ran for administration, and they told me it was all my fault because I was intelligent enough to know better! I did have an uncle in politics, he called the school, and told them that they could have a police officer and reporters up at the school reporting on it, or they could take care of the problem. 'Nuff said. Second case, 11th grade, I busted a bully's nose, she started crying, and she and her gang steered clear of me thereafter.

We've had a recent bullying suicide here and a second lawsuit, in this small county where the Cherokee Nation was essentially bullied off their lands. Make a stink. Threaten. Be a bigger threat than they are. It's a darned shame, but children are just like adults--if they get away with it, they will continue and escalate their behaviors.

BuenoBaby said...

Oh my, I have a lot to say about this. Your kid has the RIGHT to attend school without the threat of violence or intimidation. Period. The end. The school has the obligation to step in and prevent its students from physical injury while those kids are on their clock. Take it up with the school and be a BITCH about it. Forget the mom. Where do you think this kid got his charming personality from in the first place?

angelica said...

of course, after actively trying to avoid eye contact at pick up, mom & I ended up both showing up to the ballet school with our daughters, who are now in the same class...

I introduced myself and said I hoped that "what happened the other day would not happen again", mumbled it really, boy was there... hopefully this will actually be a good thing and it will all be in the past soon