Where is the Momma Bear Line?

I had class tonight, so Chris picked the kids up from daycare.  He called me right after to give me the big news.  Michael was punched in the face at school today.  Which is unfortunate because now I have to beat up a four-year-old tomorrow.

Thank goodness Chris told me on the phone while I was driving home.  This gave me time to cool down as I drove.  As I drove, it became very clear that there were two issues here.

1.  How we would handle this with Bean.

2.  How we would handle with with the daycare.

And both of those responses would be very, very different.


With Bean, it was best to follow his lead.  I didn’t want to come in the door mooning all over him and babying him because that might be making a bigger deal about it to him than he initially thought it was.  I also didn’t want to scare him if he wasn’t already scared or upset.  Be fawning all over him might get him thinking, “Gee, that must have been really scary if Mom is so upset about it.”

When I got home, I talked to Chris first without any kids around and got the full story about what had happened.  Apparently, Bean was playing a game with some classmates and one of them was mad that he wasn’t leading the group and so he hit Michael with a fist right in the face.  So, we called Michael casually into the kitchen to chat with us.

I sat Michael on the counter and said very over dramatically, “BEAN MAN!  YOU GOT HIT IN THE FACE, DUDE!  ARE YOU OKAY??????” He started laughing and said he was okay.  I checked out his eye, which has a little bruise below it and will definitely be a shiner tomorrow morning.  The skin was almost broken.

“What happened, buddy?” I asked in a very curious voice.

“So-and-so got mad and punched me in the face!” Bean squealed, smiling.

“Oh my goodness!” I said.  “That makes me so angry that someone would hit you!  How does it make you feel?”

“It made me sad at first,” he said honestly.

“Did you cry?” I asked him, trying to both balance my casual, conversational tone with my incredible urge to scoop Bean up and carry him away somewhere where I can protect him every single second!

“No!” he said proudly.

“You didn’t cry?!?!” I said.  “Well, then what did you do?”

“I went and told my teacher.”

“HIGH FIVE, BUDDY!” and then Chris, Bean and I all high-fived and cheered.

“That is exactly what you should do when someone hurts you or is mean to you, Bean.  You should go tell your teacher.  Good job!” said Chris.


We talked for a few minutes about how we want to surround ourselves with nice friends who speak and act kindly to us.  Bean agreed.  And then we let him go play, and that was really it.  Mostly that conversation was to gauge how Bean felt about the whole thing, and then to help him feel secure, confident, and loved.  Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow, Chris and I will deal with the second part of the issue, our daycare.  We adore Bean teacher, but his class is notoriously full of challenging kids.  We’ve had small incidents before of unkind words or hurtful playing, and Chris and I didn’t make much of a deal about them.  We are both aware that sometimes those thing happen in a classroom.  It’s just part of growing up.  But this was different.  For one thing, this was repeat behavior for this particular child.  He had never hit Bean before, but I have heard he has hit other kids.  The punching with a fist was definitely new, though.

And that’s where we draw a firm line with our kids.  Safety and a feeling of security are the top priorities in preschool.  Bean is learning how school works and what school is.  This is such a formative time for him.  I want to make sure… No, it is my JOB to make sure that the environment that I put him in is one that is positive and encouraging.

So, tomorrow morning, I’m going to meet with the director of the daycare and tell her that either that other child gets put into a different class (though, I happen to know through the grapevine that this kid was under a disciplinary warning and this might be what gets him removed from the daycare center altogether) or we would like Bean moved to a different class.


I called my mom and told her our plan, just to make sure I wasn’t overreacting.

“If this isn’t the time to step up as a parent, Katie,” she said.  “Then when is it the time?”

Good point.


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17 Thoughts to “Where is the Momma Bear Line?”

  1. My first response is, “I’d love to beat that kid’s butt.” However, I realize how counterproductive that is and how that might actually confirm for that kid that it’s OK to hit. I feel bad for that kid too. Where is he learning that it is OK to repeatedly hit or hurt others? He clearly needs some firm boundaries set for him before it escalates more and into his future years of kindergarten and grade school. I think you are doing the right thing. It’s better to resolve this now for the kids in Bean’s class and for the kid that is hurting others. I think you should be very proactive to help out every child involved including the punching kid. Go in there and demand for action and consequences because it is good and it is right!!!

  2. Situations like these are so tricky because it’s hard to tell where the behavior is stemming from. You are totally doing the right thing by affirming the way that Bean addressed the situation (though crying is ok, too – I’d cry if someone hit me in the eye) and addressing the situation with the day care director. However, I can’t help but think of this kid I went to high school with. He was a bully — a big bully. Beat kids up, swore all the time, always in trouble. One day, in class, he was caught drinking from a liquor bottle in the back of the room. Obviously, that was an issue. So the police were called. Lo and behold, the responding officer was this kid’s father, who proceeded to beat his son in the parking lot. We all saw it. And suddenly, we all realized the bullying came from a much deeper place and a much more dire situation. I hope the director can find a safe way to remedy the situation for all — and that the aggressor in Bean’s situation can also be taught appropriate ways to interact with peers in the future (without Bean and friends being the guinea pigs).

  3. Lee Ann

    First: I admire your interaction with Bean regarding the whole situation. Second: I would have expected the day care to be more proactive with you and Chris, telling you how they planned to handle the situation … and asking you if you thought their response appropriate.

  4. When my son was 3 he got his head slammed into a wall by another student. I was teaching at the time and he was in the class at the school day care with children of high school students. It never bothered me that he was with high school students’ kids, but this particular student was in an abusive relationship which her son had witnessed. This little boy also had a track record. He was known to have called the other kids “f—— dummies”, and protective services were involved. They took my child to the high school nurse and then called me at school. I list it. The counselor had to calm me down. I was completely irrational. Since the daycare was small, and he was in the top class, I knew there was no where to move him. I called the other (2) daycares in town. We were on the waiting list at one already. Neither had immediate openings. I had no choice but to make it extremely clear to the director that I would not tolerate another incident, and it would contact cps. Then I prayed. I prayed a lot. I prayed for his safety and protection, and thankfully, there were no more issues. We switched daycares that summer. I’m really sorry about Michael. It’s not fair to him. Yes, other kids come from troubled backgrounds but our kids shouldn’t pay for that.

  5. Sarah

    My son has been bit multiple times at school (he’s 2.5 yo), most recently on the face by a smaller kid because they both wanted to do the same Montessori work. The teachers handle it well, but my son is VERY nonconfrontational and while he stands up for himself at home, he doesn’t do so well with that at school. My husband and I react much like you did. We make sure Alex is ok and that he knows the proper response -Tell the teacher, although him screaming in pain generally accomplishes that, and that its ok for him to tell the other kid that its not nice to bite or push or whatever and that it hurt him. We want him to be able to verbalize when he’s being hurt to his aggressor as well as seek help for the situation from an authority figure.

    This last time he decided he didn’t want to go back to school the next day, but when we got there his teachers reassured him that they would protect him and he was fine.

    I still have an issue with whatever kid has been playing shooting people with his finger at school. I guarantee Alex didn’t learn that at home and that makes me a bit uncomfortable.

    I so get the Mama Bear approach, totally. But I also put myself in the position of the other parent and I’m thankful its not my kid being the aggressor because I’m not exactly sure how I’d handle that.

  6. Tabs

    Wow. Just…wow. You and Chris are such amazing parents (don’t roll your eyes ;)) and I hope to handle situations like you do when I grow up. 🙂 Seriously, best mom award!

  7. Lindsay

    Poor Bean! Great job Momma! 🙂

  8. My rule has always been: Never start it, once started though, never fail to finish it.
    I know that may sound harsh, but just wait until you actually get him school. There are MANY children growing up with no parents, morals, whatever you want to call it, in America.
    My rule saves a lot of time in that it gets the message across very clearly to the aggressors. The only time you waste this way is with the teachers, who are supposed to be “in control” even though their “hands are tied”, coming up with blah-blah-blah. As long as the aggressors know they will be hit back, they move right on, at least until somebody gets hurt enough to threaten a lawsuit.
    Which where things really get aggressive, mostly with regret over not taking a hard stand to begin with.

  9. HeatherM

    Great job! You are definitely doing this right! Since there are several challenging kids in the class, it may also be time to work with the daycare to make sure they are addressing the class needs pre- emptively. This may mean changing out the teachers to one more pro-active in identifying and addressing potentially aggressive behavior. It may mean sending a letter home with parents reminding them of what behavior is and is not acceptable at school. It may mean they spend more time giving feedback to the parents of the aggressive kids, so they have a leg to stand on when they start escalating the disciplinary process with those other kids. But they need to be working to prevent issues like this, and not just react to them.
    My mom had a similar issue when my sister and I were in daycare years ago. Another child bit my sister. Unfortunately the daycare tried to hide it instead of tell my mom head on. Not only did my mom pull us out of the daycare, but she fueled a complaint against the daycare with the state. It turned out for the best, because we ended up in a FANTASTIC Montessori-influenced daycare as a result, and we never would have ended up there if this had not happened.

  10. Shelley

    Asking the other kid to be put in another class is only transferring the problem somewhere else and some other kid’s mom is going to have to deal with exactly what you’re experiencing? What if she requests the same? See, the problem isn’t solved at all. The kid who is a perpetual problem should be expelled. Then ALL the kids are safe, not just yours.

  11. Hilary

    While I agree with the comment above, Katie does not have the authority to have a child expelled. She can either pull Michael out of the daycare altogether and why should she if he hasn’t done anything wrong, or she can request a classroom transfer for Michael or the other student. It would be horrible if this child went into another classroom and hit another student, but that’s the daycare’s problem. Her immediate concern is for the safety of her child.

  12. Kat

    WOW. You are a seriously amazing parent. I love the way you handled this. Tucking it away for later…..though I hope we never have to deal with things like this….yet I’m sure we will.

  13. HeatherM

    Please do an update post with how things went with the daycare! Sometimes it is harder to talk with adults about problems like this than it is to work with kids on them.

    1. Melissa

      I agree, would love to hear an update on how your family and daycare worked this out.

  14. Do you think you would have reacted differently if you had been the one to pick Bean up from school? I don’t think I could have been so level headed, not if it had to do with my baby. I become a big, growling, not so level headed momma bear when it comes to anyone hurting my babies in any way. You are amazing and really handled it well with him! Also, shouldn’t the school have called you to let you know? It’s kind of a big deal.

  15. […] week after Michael was punched in the face, Chris and I originally said that we either wanted the other child removed from the class or Bean […]

  16. […] week, Bean moved over to his new preschool class. It was not without some sadness and tears, let me tell you. But Chris and I did the best we could […]

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