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When is it okay for a child to get physical - WWYD?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
So today we were at the playground with my neighbor and her two kids. Her ds (I'll call him "C") is quite the handful, to say the least, and while he is actually quite a sweet kid, he also has a devilish side, and there have been many problems over the years with him hitting, pushing, saying mean things, etc. His mom is usually pretty on top of him though.

Today Ds1 got embarassed about something (unrelated to C) and was walking off to be alone. C ran over wanting to engage with him, and my ds told him he wanted to be alone. C kept following him, and my ds again told him that he didn't feel like playing he wanted to be alone. I saw C start to get that devilish look and go after my ds, so I grabbed my youngest and headed over there to help explain to C that ds wanted some time alone. On my way over I hear my ds yell at C to leave him alone, and when C continued to pursue him, my ds pushed C to the ground and walked away! Now, without making trying to make excuses, I will say that I know that he only did that because that is what C used to do to him all the time - ds can be bossy and a yeller but he is never physical with other kids. I made ds come over while I explained that he should not have pushed C over, I apologized to C and made sure he was okay.

I told ds in private that I understand that he was frustrated because C wouldn't listen to him and leave him alone, but that instead of pushing he should come get me for help. But to be honest, I felt a little conflicted about this, and upon telling dh later what had happened, he voiced what I was feeling - that maybe it was entirely appropriate for ds to get physical to defend his space against someone who was trying to antagonize him.

I feel so conflicted - I don't think it's correct to say to ds that he is never to hit or push anyone, because to be honest, sometimes that might need to happen to protect himself. But then again, you can imagine the spot I am in when my ds has just pushed another kid to the ground. I can't possibly stand there and basically tell the other kid that he deserved it.

So, what would you have done? Just to be clear, I'm not trying to excuse ds's behavior, just trying to understand it and wondering when it is appropriate to support him when he tries to protect himself, and when I need to explain to him that his behavior was unacceptable. (I hope I'm making sense - it's been a looooooong day and my brain is fried.)
post #2 of 10
I think that you handled it very well. Sometimes it is really hard to know what to do in situations like that, especially when you have one child that is known to get physical given the right cirumstance. I totally understand how you would feel conflicted about that, as I would.

Overall, though, I think we have a responsibility to teach our children to avoid physical violence as much as possible, and I think you did that very well, as well as acknowledged your son's feelings. Did someone talk to C and let him know that while it was not all right for you son to push him over, C's behavior was not appropriate as well? I think that is important as well, because children need to learn to respect one another's personal space.
post #3 of 10
I think you handled it perfectly!

I tell my daughter that it's okay to defend yourself if you're being attacked - but not to be an attacker.

Sounds like your son felt like he was defending his space - and sick and tired of his playmate taking the opportunity to bug him when he's vulnerable to that.

I once read a good book, can't remember the name! - that talked about dealing with shoving, hitting, etc. in younger children (who don't so much self control yet) and it advised to definitely make it clear that the hurting was not okay - but not to ignore why it happened. Now that I have two children I can see that working in our family. Before if someone hit my dd I would have just been aghast (at least at the bottom of it all ) - but now when my own son hits her - I want her to understand it happened because she was jerking him around by the arm and ignoring his clear requests for her to stop - and I need him to understand that he may not hit.

Anyway good luck with your son's playmate! I hope his "good side" wins out over his "devilish side".

~Eve
post #4 of 10
I totally agree with the pp's, you did the right thing. I also applaud you for being so understanding about your son's friend. It's nice to read about an incident like this that doesn't villify one of the kids.

You acknowledged your son's feelings by letting him know *you* know why he shoved the other boy but also let him know what else he could have done to avoid getting physical. I don't think you could have done better than that.
post #5 of 10
You handled it just as I would have. And as I would have you wanted you to as the mother of the "devilish" child. They (assuming the friend's child is the same age) are only four and too young to understand when it is borderline acceptable to be more aggressive. It's not as if it was a situation where parents were unavailable and the children really did have to fend for themselves. My ds behaves similarly to your friend's ds and will get physical (grabbing and hitting) to force someone to engage with him. I'm working on this, of course, but having other kids respond in kind really makes my ds worse rather than "teaching him a lesson." I tell my ds that it isn't appropriate to play games that involve touching, except for tag, because he is so excitable that he has trouble stopping when the other child wants to.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone - I appreciate your feedback. Sometimes I get so hung up on worrying about having handled something badly, that it helps to get some perspective.
post #7 of 10
I think you handled it well.

I don't think it's ok to get physical unless you feel physically threatened yourself. If a co-worker was behaving like C was, it wouldn't be okay to push them away. I think it's the same for a child. But, I do think it's okay to defend yourself physically if you feel physically threatened.
post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom
You handled it just as I would have. And as I would have you wanted you to as the mother of the "devilish" child. They (assuming the friend's child is the same age) are only four and too young to understand when it is borderline acceptable to be more aggressive. It's not as if it was a situation where parents were unavailable and the children really did have to fend for themselves. My ds behaves similarly to your friend's ds and will get physical (grabbing and hitting) to force someone to engage with him. I'm working on this, of course, but having other kids respond in kind really makes my ds worse rather than "teaching him a lesson." I tell my ds that it isn't appropriate to play games that involve touching, except for tag, because he is so excitable that he has trouble stopping when the other child wants to.
as the mother of a "devilish child" myself, I want to second what 4evermom said! This is such a hard situtation to deal with. my kid is pretty physical, and when another kid gets harsh with him his physical side turns to aggression - and that's not pretty. I would think a 4yo is too little to understand that it's ok to push friends sometimes, but not others. As long as there are adults around (and I would assume with 4yos there always are) there is no reason to hit back - you can always call for help! I try to stress this to my son.... but ugh, his temper almost always get the better of him.:
post #9 of 10
In that particular case I think you handled it well. But I don't agree with the general mantra of "tell an adult" if you're being harassed. Too often adults won't get involved, or are part of the problem. I have told my kids, if they're being harassed or threatened, first to walk away, if that isn't an option and I'm around, track me down and tell me (or daddy), or if they're away from home and we're not there, call me. Sadly, the days when we could trust any generic adult to do the right thing with our children are over, if they were ever that much of a reality.
post #10 of 10
oh I agree, Brigianna, I would never tell my child to turn to a "generic adult," as you put it. That's just asking for trouble! I mean only me, dad, or the friend's parents. I know the adults my kids are with will always help, and are willing to see both sides.
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