Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sticks and Stones

I'm in a quandary over how to handle a bully situation with my eldest. Nope, he's not the bully, someone is bullying him. I suppose it was inevitable that at some point I would have to figure out how to cope with one or both of my children having their feelings hurt by another child. I just am not certain how to deal with it.

I take the boys to Kid's Club a few times a week at my gym while I work out. It is a break for all of us -- I get pilates and they get play time. Holden's not a super fan of it. He gets overwhelmed by the number of children and the overall noise level. But I've learned to sit him down at a quiet table with a yummy snack of Yogo's or Veggie Booty and he's happy enough for an hour or so. Often he's still sitting in the same spot when I return after my class. Sometimes he's ventured out to the play kitchen or the trains. On some occasions a staff member has had to come and get me because he is inconsolable. So it goes.

Jackson on the other hand has always loved going to Kid's Club. He's a social butterfly, much like his mama. He likes being around other kids, playing, having fun. But in the past couple of weeks he's been less than enthusiastic about going. When I've questioned him about it he told me there is a kid who calls him a "baby" at the club. Small words, I know. But it still bums me out that he's getting his feelings hurt for no reason at all. I've asked him if the boy calls other children names and he replied no, just him. It seems to happen daily, and yesterday escalated to the other boy spitting at him. Um, gross and totally un-cool. I've told Jackson to tell the teacher if it happens again. But honestly, it is such a come-and-go type of place the teachers are just trying to keep general order for the hour or so each kid is there.

My next suggestion to him was to tell the boy all the ways in which he is NOT a baby.
  1. I am 4 years old, that is a big boy age!
  2. I am potty trained!
  3. I make my own bed and brush my teeth by myself!
  4. I can put my own shoes on by myself.
  5. I can buckle myself into my booster seat in the car.
  6. I drink from a big boy cup.
  7. I sleep in a big boy bed.
  8. Etc.
you get the idea...

But I am not sure that is even working. As a last resort I've told him to tell bully-boy that he doesn't play with kids who are mean and to walk away. That seems to be the best option for him. I don't want to get overly involved because Jackson is a big boy. He can handle himself in social situations. He's always been a pretty independent child, not wanting me to get too involved in his biz. But we've never faced this before. Now don't get me wrong, Jack is not a complete innocent. By no means. This is the child who spent a good portion of his third year of life in time out for one infraction or another. He has his own behaviors to work out. But I've never heard him call someone names before. He's generally a sweet kid who cares about his friends. I know the saying - "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!" But honestly, I don't think that is always true. I sometimes think words are more hurtful than the sticks and stones. And I don't want my baby to be hurt -- in any way. It is a mama's prerogative. But I also want him to learn to stick up for himself and use his words appropriately.

So here I sit. Unsure of my next move. He has the power of his own words to use. He has his own two legs to be able to walk away from bully-boy. I just have to let him take the steps necessary. I'm hoping he can do it, all on his own. But at the end of the day, I'm his mama. And I will do what it takes to protect my boys. I think this is as much my lesson to learn as it is his.


ECHeasley said...

Sucks they're to that age already. I've run into a simular issue with a girl in Leah's class who towers over her and knows it. She's taken to telling Leah that she can't play not only with her but various other kids. Yesterday I dropped Leah off and walked around the corner to find this girl standing in the doorway refussing to let Leah in the room. I feel bad that a little 4 year old can irk me so bad but I'm a mama and need to protect my baby bear. I didn't mention the particulars but wrote the director and requested that Leah be kept with an other little girl during her transition to the 4's room so she might have a little extra confidence when dealing with this other girl. To bad our babes can't stay little forever.

Anonymous said...

We ran into this during the school year with Nicholas, only it was more of a physical thing. I would like to say I handled it well, but I dunno. I wanted Nicholas to stick up for himself but had to fight the "protecting my cub" instinct to do it. I just made sure Nicholas new what was acceptable behavior and what was not. If someone was doing something that was not nice, he should tell them. I also told him that he did not have to play with someone who did this and that he should tell them that as well. Then I related our conversation and my suggestions to his teacher, so that she could monitor it a bit. Well, it kinda worked...when Nicholas refused to play with him, he would move on to someone else and torment them. Finally one day on the playground, when he was throwing that rubber tire mulch stuff on Nicholas, Nick socked him in the mouth. I dont condone that behavior by any means, Nicholas was punished both at school and home, but that was the end of the bullying. I guess the best we can do is arm them with as much advice as their 4 year old minds can handle and hope they can work it out themselves without too much hurt.

Anonymous said...

We're starting to see some of that too with Sydney. At least some of the "you can't play with us" type crap. I'm guessing some of it is normal, but you're right, its hurts as a mom and it makes you want to step in and fix the problem for them. Hopefully each of our babes will find their inner-voice and a way to handle these situations without too much emotional (or physical) scarring.

[I can't get my password to work -- how annoying!]

Tales from the Crib said...

Liz, Stephanie and Robyn -- thank you for the support. We do have that "protect our cub" mentality, don't we. I am so glad to hear from all three of you gals! Hope the kiddos are all well! xox

Kay said...

Amy -- we too have been dealing with bullying. Another kid at school has been terrorizing Evan -- and that boy is younger and smaller! But still, he is pushing Evan down and spitting on him. So that's not OK in my book.

As a mom who got picked on as a child, I am completely at a loss as to what to do. For now, we have told Evan to use his words (telling the boy to stop and that he doesn't like it), get away from the boy, and tell the teacher. But at some point I have to wonder if something stronger would be more effective.

Not that I am condoning a pop in the mouth; I am a pacifist. But I also want Evan to be able to defend himself -- and maybe even head off any bullying by seeming less vulnerable. DH is suggesting martial arts.

Good luck, honey, and let us know how it goes for Jackson.

Tales from the Crib said...

Kay! It is SO nice to hear from you. I take comfort that I am not the only one dealing with this with their four year old, but I hate that it has to happen at all. I definitely know Jackson can stand up for himself in the physical sense -- I definitely don't want to go there because we've spent a year or so now trying to get the "no hitting!" message across. But we have talked about getting him into Tae Kwando (sp?) as an after pre-K activity this fall. I've heard such good things about it. You'll have to let me know if you go that route with Evan as well, and how it goes. I hope you and your boys are doing well! I think of you often! Do you MySpace? xo