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Confrontation with another mom at open gym.

post #1 of 124
Thread Starter 
I had a confrontation with another mom the other day. It was over parenting and not pretty. I am still sort of shell shocked.

Long story so bear with me: We were at a local homeschool open gym that we go to every Friday. I have three children. My oldest is a boy, age 7.5 years. He has a little trouble in social situations but has made drastic improvements. But he still has trouble just asking to join in and play.

When we arrived at the gym he ran in to play. C is a boy we have seen quite a bit but do not know well. I don't really click with his mom but we are in a small co-op together. So C was playing with another boy with a ball. The ball fell and I guess DS picked it up and ran with it (obvious to me it was his way to initiate play). C was upset, chased DS and called him "Weirdo" over and over again. DS lost his temper and hit C over the head with the ball (one of those soft rubber baby balls, NOT a basketball). C then hit DS, DS hit him back.

I only happened to see DS hitting C the last time. I had him come over immediately and sit down, while I finished nursing the baby and getting DD off and running. The I went and talked to him, found out what happened and told him it was not alright to lose his temper and hit someone, even when they are calling him names. That instead of stealing the ball he should have asked if he could play and that they would have let him join him. I asked if he felt he should apologize. He refused saying C was just as responsible. I didn't push it, I just asked if he could play the rest of the time without any sort of confrontation like that. He said he could. So After he was calm, he went and played. Not problems.

The kids were all playing together, except C wasn't happy and wasn't playing with the group. He didn't want to play what the kids were playing and was also quite vocal about his dislike for DS at that point. I heard him saying he didn't want to play tag because DS was it and he didn't want DS to touch him. I get it, he was upset at DS. I don't blame him.

Anyway, about 20 minutes before the end of open gym C's mom just exploded. I mean seriously exploded into a full on temper tantrum. She started by yelling, "That is IT! I have had it!" and continued that the other children had been excluding her son and none of us were doing anything about it and didn't care.

We all jumped up and said we were sorry, we didn't see any exclusion that was going on. I called my son over (I was nursing the baby again) while two other moms went over to talk to their sons (the girls were off doing their own thing).

The kids, when questioned, said C was telling them to go away and leave him alone so they thought he didn't want to play with him.

The mom then singled me out and told me DS was a bully and I was raising him to be a bully and she didn't think I was much of a parent because I didn't leave with DS immediately when DS and C got into their little fight. She accused my son of hitting hers in the head with a basketball and that he had no empathy and showed no remorse. That I should have had DS apologize. I told her I thought she was being a bit harsh but that was about all I could seem to get out as she was yelling at me. (this is how I remember it, and it may or may not be super accurate but I am trying hard to not get it wrong).

She then screamed at C to come, that they were going, because they had better things to do.

BTW, she was saying all of this while my son was standing there.

Ugh.... I was pretty upset and shocked. I mean, I was shaking. The other moms were very cool, One was a good friend, the others I didn't know as well.

Anyway, I don't know if I handled it right. Her words have me wondering if I should go around forcing DS to aplogize now for ever social mishap he has. I used to do that and it was horrible and never seemed to do any good. I know he shouldn't have taken the ball. I know he shouldn't have lost his temper and hit the other boy with it. But this boy has also excluded DS with another boy, made DS cry, and I never said anything. I talked to DS but I never freaked out at the moms or the kids.

I am going to see her again. I know it. It is a small area and I see her talking on mailing lists with friends of mine from the area. There will be no escaping her.

BTW, this mom talks a lot about empathy, love, patience, etc. but I have seen her hit her child, yell at him, call him names and lose patience with him endlessly. She is certainly not the perfect mother (and I am not saying I am either!).
post #2 of 124
Wow. That sounds really, really ugly. I am so sorry you and your son were exposed to that. Why would anyone want to play with a child who behaved rudely (namecalling, making fun of other children, etc.)

I'm not big on forced apologies, although we do talk a good deal about peacemaking. I often ask my kids "How could you make peace with so-and-so?" Sometimes it's apologizing, sometimes it's offering them a toy or a turn, sometimes it's a handshake. But it doesn't sound like this kid would be open to overtures of that sort, so I don't blame you for wanting to protect your child from further interactions with him.

I feel really bad for you, because in a small community, you will probably have to deal with her again. Is there any way you can clear the air with her?

Again, I'm really sorry. That's the kind of sordid yucky thing I really try to shelter my kids from. Is your little guy doing OK?
post #3 of 124
We do do the automatic (and quick-after-the-incident) apologies, but I see that as an individual family rule, not A General Rule. So no, I don't think you did anything wrong.

It was open gym. "Open" play [versus, say, a soccer team, or a graduate-student group project] in my book, at any age, means learning one's own preference and social awareness and practicing them. Which sometimes means learning that if you do X Y or Z, people won't play with you. I think it was wrongish of C's mom to suggest that parents interfere with that process. I mean yah, if someone bonks C, the parent of bonker should step in to inquire (as you did) and if kids are consistently teasing and C isn't able to handle it/learn (and it sounds like C was handling it his own way - it was his mom who blew up), then inquire. Other than that, let the kids learn lifelong people skills, heh?

I'd be shaken, too.
post #4 of 124
wow, I am so sorry you went through that. in my opinion you handled that BEAUTIFULLY. If I had been there to see the whole thing I would have been taken notes. If C had been my son, I would have talked to him about moving on in play, or perhaps mediated with the 2 boys or something. You really did great, don't second guess yourself please we need more parents like you out there! and too bad for the adult having a temper tantrum, thats very sad. Anyway I DO NOT agree with forced automatic meaningless apologies. I can tell when someone doesn't mean it... You are doing awesome really!! dont let her to get to you!! I am really admiring your grace in handling her explosion as well as the way you handled the situation with your son.
post #5 of 124
YOU did great.
The other mom, not so much. Way to not set an example for your kid. Have a tantrum and stomp out.
post #6 of 124
The children's behavior pales in comparison to how that mother acted.

I'm a big believer in teaching by example. She wasn't setting a very good example.
post #7 of 124
As far as apologizing over an incident like that, yes, you can't force them, but I always intervene, as an adult, and ask the other child if they are ok, and that *I* am sorry that my child hurt them physically or hurt their feelings. I think that by modeling this to my kids, it will help them to learn more empathy.
post #8 of 124
I don't do forced apologies, so that would be a big issue right from the start. I also think her behaviour was totally out of line. If another parent at an open meeting (we don't do open gym, but do have a regular meetup) has a problem with my children or my parenting and wants to discuss it, she or he is welcome to do so. She or he is not welcome to berate me in front of everyone and treat me like a child. I don't go for that kind of treatment of children (although I will admit to losing my temper and saying things to my kids that I later regretted, and more often than I like ) - I certainly don't think it's okay to treat other adults that way.
post #9 of 124
While I don't agree with the way "C"s mom handled the incident, I can see why she might feel that way towards your son. After all, if someone hit my child over the head and didn't apologize, I'd be ticked. I certainly wouldn't yell, but I would calmly ask for an apology. Of course, if my child hit the child back, she (I have only girls) would be expected to apologize immediately. I understand the "no forced apologies" line of thinking, but honestly, I think an apology is the best way to acknowledge the inappropriate behavior and express that the incident should not have happened. I probably would have apologized to C's mother as well, to show her I was aware of my child's behavior that I was handling it-also to diffuse the situation.
post #10 of 124
to you mama. That sucks.
post #11 of 124
Ugh. That's terrible.

Now, for me, I would have made your son apologize and if he didnt I would have left. BUT sheesh different strokes for different folks I don't think that it's fair of this lady to come and get all worked up especially when her son was calling names, and YOUR son's behavior was a REACTION to her child's action. Anyhow, you didn't do anything wrong. You addressed the situation, you didn't ignore it. It sounds to me like you are doing a great job.

As a side note I say above that I would have left but perhaps not if I was in the middle of breastfeeding one child and I had others playing! I had forgot about that part!
post #12 of 124

by the same token, why did c's mom not "force" him to apologize for calling your son a weirdo and excluding him from play? it seems she is applying double standards, and i don't think you did anything wrong!
post #13 of 124
I think you did great. We don't do forced apologies here either. You certainly handled the other mom with a lot more kindness than I would have.
post #14 of 124
I thinkt hat you handled it beautifully. It sounds like both boys were "in the wrong" but both also felt justified in their reactions. The only thing that I may have done differently when she started yelling (though I would probably have been as speechless as you were) would be to say, "I am willing to discuss this with you if you stop yelling." If the yelling stopped, then I would say "Yes, the boys had a confrontation that should have been handled differently by both of them. Perhaps all four of us could sit down so both boys can understand each other's actions and learn to work out their disagreements peacefully in the future." If the yelling did not stop, I would just walk away.

As for the future, I would just be civil to her, welcomeing to her son, and perhaps be more aware of the two boys' interactions and intervene as early as possible to offer constructive guidance before it escalates.
post #15 of 124
I agree you handled it well. I do encourage my children to apologize in situations like that though. I want my dc to know that their behavior is wrong and they are keeping their side of the street clean. "C"'s name calling and hitting 1st was wrong but IMO my children's reaction to his behavior is what I can work on. In our house if they hit a sib for taking something they are to apologize and each is equally responsilbe. I know this can't be done in the real world but I can teach my dc to take the high road and sometimes that means eating hmble pie.

As for the mothers reaction. I would probably have said something along the lines of "why are you yelling at me?" this usually throws people off and makes them see how they are acting. In the future I would not avoid places/events because I know they will be there- I would go and be nornal. If another confrontation happened I'd say this sounds like something we should TALK about and not so it in front of the children.

I'm sorry. This sounds like a really hard situation.GL
post #16 of 124
that mom sounds kinda crazy. I don't force apologies either. The only thing I may have done differently is to apologize to C myself when your ds didn't. My almost 7yo has to cool off before he feels ready to say sorry (and then he gives a very heartfelt real apology which is sweet), so i ususally go over to the other child and say something like, "C, I'm sorry ds hit you, that wasn't ok. Are you alright?"
post #17 of 124
If you and your ds should have left due to the fight, so should she and her ds. If one could try again to make things work, so could the other. I love how people have discipline rules that only apply to other people's kids.
post #18 of 124
it sounds like the OP DID encourage an apology - she doesnt didnt force a meaningless begrudging one

mamazee I totally hear you on that one!
post #19 of 124
Have you ever tried taking him over to the child he's had an altercation with and had the two children use words to tell each other what they see happened, how it made them feel and then how they'd like to resolve it? I know this works with 3/4 year olds, it sounds like it should work with seven year olds?

I don't force apologies either, but I do tell my child (and other children) that being sorry makes the other person feel better, and saying it is nice. I know a lot of people get hung up on the word.
post #20 of 124
I think in that situation, I would have apologized to the little boy myself, saying something like, "let's share and no more hitting, ok?" Then I would've gone to speak to the mom. Maybe just talking to the mom about what happened would help, so she knows you are actually paying attention and that you care, you know? I don't agree with forced apologies either, although I would tell my child I think they need to apologize, and I'd let them know that I was going to go talk to mom and child about it myself as well.
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