…And Then I Beat Up That Kid

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So, I have a parenting issue going on right now.  It is complex.  It is complicated.  It is multifaceted.  It is perplexing.  Such is the social life of an almost four-year-old.

(sigh)

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Bean has two “best friends.”  One is a legit bestie.  He talks about her at home, we hang out with her family, Bean might be in love with her.  Her name is Elle and she is lovely.  The two of them fight like an old married couple, but it is all very normal, healthy behavior for their age.

And then there is this other kid.

I am fairly certain that Bean is only this dude’s friend because he is being forced to be his friend.  True, Bean likes to hang out with him.  But from the interactions I have seen, it is more of a “I’m-smiling-because-you-scare-me” kind of friendship.  The kid himself is always in Bean’s face, always talking/yelling/screeching in Bean’s face, always putting his hands on Bean’s face.  He is just one of those face-talkers.  Well, face-yellers.  And it drives Bean crazy.  I know this because when I am around the two of them, Bean will give me these pleading looks like, “Make him stop, please!”

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Now, those are personality traits in a child, and I know more than to judge or throw my mom weight around because of something like that.  In the grand scheme of things, those are annoyances and not behavior issues.

But then he crossed the line.

A few weeks ago, we were at a birthday party for one of the kids’ classmates.  The other kid was there and so was his mom, and Bean was hanging out with him pretty much all day.  This was the first time I had really gotten to see them interact, and it was the first time I noticed this annoying in-Bean’s-face behavior.  It was driving me nuts, and I could tell it was bothering Bean, too.  But I had never seen them interact for a long period of time before, so I sort of stood back in case this was normal behavior.  I was just keeping my eye on things.

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I happened to be talking to the kid’s mom for a minute, and when I turned back around, this kid had his hands around Bean’s neck and was shaking Bean.  Bean, of course, was crying.

…And that’s when I almost beat that kid up.

I try to be a very polite person who respects other parents and gives the a chance to intervene when their child is misbehaving.  But you put your hands around my kid’s neck and we’re going to have some words.

I pushed about 15 kids out of my way in about 15 seconds, and very quickly pulled the kid’s hands off of Bean.  Then, as I pulled Bean into my arms to comfort him (he was pretty freaked), I said very nicely, but firmly to the other child, “Michael doesn’t like it when you put your hands around his neck.”

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That Monday after the birthday party, I mentioned what happened to Bean’s teachers.  I had this terrible fear that they would be on some corner of a playground somewhere and that kid would accidentally strangle Bean. I told the teacher that I would appreciate it if they would watch for any kind of aggressive or overly zealous behavior from that kid directed towards Michael.  Even if the kid wasn’t intending to be aggressive in a mean way, I still didn’t want Bean to feel overpowered or uncomfortable – no matter what someone’s intention are.

Weeks have gone by since that birthday party, and Bean has continued to talk about his “best fwend.”  He never says anything bad about this child, and seems to really enjoy hanging out with him.  But last night we went to science night at the kids’ daycare, and this other kid was there with his mom.  I couldn’t help but notice that the kid was still all over Bean.  He had his hands all over his face, was kissing his face, and was pushing all these toys and things into his face whenever Bean would try to move on to something else or talk to someone else.

Bean gave me that look again that said, “Help me!” and then I think I made a mistake.  I smiled at Bean and said, “It’s okay, Buddy.”  And I didn’t do anything about it.

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All night I have been thinking about what I said.  The truth is that it is NOT alright for a child to be all over Bean.  It is NOT alright for Bean to have to put up with behavior that bothers him.  It is NOT alright to pretend that something is okay when it clearly is something Bean is uncomfortable with.  I don’t want to be the parent who is overly protective or overly involved in my kids friendships.  But more importantly than that, I don’t want to be the parent who teaches my children to endure what they are uncomfortable with for the sake of being polite.  Because, God forbid, this was a situation where something was inappropriate and uncomfortable, I don’t want Bean to grow up thinking he has to be “okay” with anything that makes him uncomfortable.

This afternoon, I talked to Bean’s teachers again and said that Michael was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this enthusiastic child and he was uncomfortable with someone’s hands in his face or someone kissing his face or shoving toys in his face.  I asked that the teachers remind the kids to keep their hands to themselves, and to keep an eye on Bean and this kid to make sure that even though Bean might SAY he was okay, that they help him keep a comfortable distance from any child if he wanted some space.

Then, I came home and talked to Bean.  I told him that last night when I said that it was okay for that kid to put his hands all over Bean’s face, I was wrong.  And that it wasn’t okay.  I explained that when someone is doing something that we don’t like, it is okay to say, “Stop doing that!  I don’t like it!” And then we practiced that a few times, which Bean thought was hysterical.  Then we talked about how he should tell his teacher if someone kept bothering him after he asked them to stop, and we practiced talking to the teacher.  He came in from our chat and walked right up to Chris and announced, “Dad, I don’t have to let people bother me.  I can tell them to stop doing that because I don’t like it!”

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I’m a pretty laid back person, I think.  It takes a lot to rattle me, and I try not to rattle other people.  But as a parent, I am learning.  I’m learning to speak up for my child and to say, “Hey, this bothers me. Stop doing that.  I don’t like it.”  I need to learn to say that so I can empower my child to say it, too.  My mom told me one time that being polite doesn’t mean you have to be passive.  You don’t have to sit there while something goes on that you don’t agree with or that really bothers you.  As a parent, I can speak up.  And in speaking up, my children learn to speak up for themselves.  Isn’t that what we want?  We want our children to grow up knowing they have a voice.  A voice to speak out, a voice to share, a voice to encourage, but also a voice to set boundaries and to hold their own when they need.

Then again, if I just beat up every kid that bothers him, Bean won’t really need a voice at all.

But I guess that isn’t the point…

 

 

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22 Thoughts to “…And Then I Beat Up That Kid”

  1. Leslie Ruth

    A.) I think you were completely justified in feeling the way you did.
    B.) You handled it BEAUTIFULLY. I especially admire and respect that you went back to Bean, told him you were wrong about saying “Its ok,” and then gave (and practiced) tools for him to use.

    Great job!

  2. Sara

    Way to go, Mama! Way to reassess the situation – you handled it beautifully!

  3. Katie

    I wouldn’t let me parents speak up for me when I was being bullied (for a lot of reasons, but also because the school didn’t do anything no matter who spoke to them). Please, always be willing to go to bat and make things NOT okay. I wish I had let my parents do that (I was a teen, and old enough to stop them to a point), as I know that they would have ripped anyone apart. You did the right thing.

  4. Emily

    I am so glad you wrote this…such an important thing to teach our kids that will stay with them forever. I remember my mom standing me in front of the mirror in elementary school practicing what to say to other kids in certain situations like this. I love what your mom said about being polite, but not necessarily passive.

  5. You’re a great mama, Katie. I wrote a post last week about how another child said something mean to Hudson and he told me that he politely told her that she was wrong.

    I also wanted to tell you that there was a child in Hudson’s MDO class when he was 1 and 2. The mom met me through my blog and we went to the same church and hung out when we could with all the kids. But both of her kids were really aggressive. And Hudson would also say that this kid was his “best buddy.” We had a bunch of people over for a Halloween party and both of this girl’s kids were hitting all the other kids, and at one point I looked up and I swear the other little bit was trying to choke Hudson. He had a very strong grip on Hudson’s neck and I freaked. I just ran over them, scooped up Hudson, and tried to stay calm. But it really really rattled me. We didn’t hang out with them outside of church and MDO anymore after that.

    A few months later, I found out that the mom had packed up with the kids and left the dad. Because he was abusive.

    I’m not saying that’s what’s going on in this kid’s situation. Some kids are just aggressive. But it explained so much about my fear of these kids and my fear of Hudson and Hayes being around them. These kids were learning that behavior. (I have continued to check in on the mom over the past year as she has had to pick up the pieces.)

    Some of these parenting situations are SO hard. You did the right thing with Michael and I’m sure he’ll be able to put into practice what you taught him!

    (If I could have found your email address, I would have emailed you this story.)

  6. Man, I would have been right there, too. No way. It’s one thing when kids are older, but Bean is still so young. It just scares me with the whole bullying thing.

  7. You gave Bean great advice! And I love that you admitted to him that you had been wrong! Another really great lesson.

    But I also wanted to add that it’s possible this boy has some behavioral delays. His actions sound so much like those of a boy in my daughter’s daycare (they’re three). He’s VERY physicalbut generally well-meaning. He has a tendency to be on top of the other kids all the time. He was just diagnosed with ADHD, SPD, and slight OCD. And his behavior has improved a lot since he began seeing a behavioral therapist. Maybe something like that is going on with Bean’s friend. If so, it certainly doesn’t make his actions okay, and Bean still should tell him if he’s uncomfortable. But it might help explain his actions and help you and Bean deal with him.

  8. You definitely handled it way better than I would’ve. Luckily, I have not been in this situation with my kids but I could be someday, and I will remember this. I’m also really curious about whether the other mom did anything at the birthday party after you pulled Bean away… I think that would make me more livid than anything else, if the mom didn’t do anything to rectify or correct her son’s behavior after witnessing it.

  9. Sara H

    I think what you did was great! My oldest son, who is now 8, has had a best friend since he was four. Unfortunately we are now having to move on from this friend for many of the same reasons you are having trouble with Bean’s friend.

    My son is so mild tempered and never told us how his friend really treated him. So for years we never knew how possessive his friend was of him.

    He often tells my son that if he ever plays with other boys, then they will never be friends again and many other things that just aren’t ok with me.

    So we told him much the same things as you did Bean. Now that the friend knows my son doesn’t care about his threats, he’s not as apt to say those things. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t want my son being friends with anyone else.

    But my son is resilient and he has so many friends that he knows it’ll be alright.

    Good luck with that kid. You handled it like a pro!

  10. Diana

    if you haven’t already, you should watch the documentary bully. i think it offers good insight into what happens when similar situations escalate and go unchecked.

    sounds like you did the right thing. children from a young age should be taught to speak out about behavior that makes them uncomfortable. it is unfortunate that not all parents are as on top of things as you are.

  11. Suzanne

    I think you gave Bean great advice! I was a very passive child when I was young and I had a best friend who would pick on me, push me around, etc. I let her do it because I didn’t want to be rude. Well, I was venting this with my parents one time and they told me I didn’t have to take it and that I should stand up to her. Well, I took that a little too literally at the time and ended up knocking the breath out of her (oops!) but it’s stuck in my head. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to stand up for myself without being aggressive. I think you did a VERY good thing by sitting down with him and letting him know exactly where you and he stands. We know how aggressive/bullyish people can be and he needs to know now that he doesn’t have to sit back and take it. He seems like such a sweet little soul and he doesn’t need to be bullied! You’re a great mom, Katie! But I think you already know that 🙂

  12. You handled that brilliantly! Sullivan is having similar problems with his “friend” at school. This is also the kid that bites him constantly. We’re trying to tell him it’s ok to say he doesn’t like it but at 2.5, he’s not quite grasping that as quickly. Hopefully Bean handles his “best friend” and all will be well. Way to teach your guy to stand up for himself!

  13. Becky

    Sounds perfect to me Kate:

    1) You felt you made a parenting mistake. Like I, and(I hope) every other parent in the universe does/has/and will continue to do;-).

    2) You were honest with Bean that you had made a mistake…letting him see that even Mommy makes mistakes and not only is that a part of life, but it’s okay.

    3) And most importantly, to me, you validated the importance of his feelings and gave him smart tools to use to assert himself. (I believe you build self-esteem by giving children the love, support and tools to solve his own problems as his maturity level allows.)

    Brava Mommy!

  14. Lindsay

    Bravo! I do not know how I stumbled across your blog many months ago, but I had to come out from behind the screen and tell you that I think you did an incredible job with this situation! I echo all the comments above 🙂

  15. Sara M

    What did the other mom do in either situation? How is she ok with her kid being up in other people’s faces? I wouldn’t let my kid do that and I would have flipped if my kid had been choking someone else. Also, I probably would have said something to her after the choking incident, whether she saw it or not. But I like how you talked to Bean and it gives me ideas on what to use with my almost 6 year old who is also pretty passive.

  16. Good call, Katie, good call. You did exactly the right thing. I have been in this experience myself, and I just strode right on up to the plate and made the other kid mind me. His mother, I believe, was whacked out on the Judy Garland trail mix, and never said one word to me. In fact, the poor dear seemed relieved that someone could handle the kid. It didn’t help the kid, much, but he always knew that around me he had to mind or else he could leave, and this included the country club pool, over which I must point out I had no earthly jurisdiction whatsoever. *shrugs* Few people will mess with momma bear, and that extends to about anyone with the guts to speak out. This PC world is in for a rude awakening, and it has it comin.

  17. I think you handled that well. And while your first response of, “It’s okay” may not have been the right one, you realized your mistake, then apologized to Bean and told him you were wrong. That is important for kids to see as well – they need to know that mistakes happen and when they do you go back to the person, apologize, and correct it.

  18. Christina

    Well said. Love your blog and am so glad you are not stopping! Thanks for putting yourself out there. : ). Have followed your blog for many years. Always look forward to your posts, new ideas, a fresh perspective, advice or a good chuckle!

  19. Amy

    Excellent post. Good on you for going back and correcting what you said. I don’t do that enough- figuring that he’s forgotten about it by then. You are totally right though. Thought provoking parenting topic for a Saturday night 🙂

  20. Cheryl

    You. Are. Amazing.

  21. Lauren G

    You are such a great mom!! I love how you handled this. Thank you for sharing the story with us. I have all of your stories and advice stored up for when I have kids!

  22. Alyssa

    Navigating parenthood is hard, you’re going great. I even tell my (almost) 2 year old that she can say NO to her brother messing with her and that he HAS to listen. I want to teach her that if she tells anyone NO they have to stop what they are doing to her (even if it’s only tickling) and I want my son to learn that if someone says stop touching my body you listen the first time every time. There’s all these underlying issues in raising kids. I remember being told to just put up with creepy uncles (not that any of them were inappropriate but that’s not the point) but I don’t want my child putting up with something because that thought that I can’t say NO might stick with them at the wrong time. Good job mom. You can do this!

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