Confrontation with another mom at open gym. - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-14-2009, 11:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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!).
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Old 03-14-2009, 11:17 PM
 
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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?

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Old 03-14-2009, 11:27 PM
 
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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.

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Old 03-14-2009, 11:48 PM
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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.
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Old 03-14-2009, 11:58 PM
 
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YOU did great.
The other mom, not so much. Way to not set an example for your kid. Have a tantrum and stomp out.

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Old 03-14-2009, 11:59 PM
 
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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.

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Old 03-15-2009, 12:11 AM
 
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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.
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:35 AM
 
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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.

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Old 03-15-2009, 12:37 AM
 
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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.

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Old 03-15-2009, 12:59 AM
 
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to you mama. That sucks.

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Old 03-15-2009, 04:27 AM
 
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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!
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Old 03-15-2009, 04:39 AM
 
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nak

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!

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Old 03-15-2009, 04:43 AM
 
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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.

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Old 03-15-2009, 07:34 AM
 
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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.

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Old 03-15-2009, 10:50 AM
 
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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
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Old 03-15-2009, 10:58 AM
 
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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?"

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Old 03-15-2009, 11:46 AM
 
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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.
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:21 PM
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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!
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:48 PM
 
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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.
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:53 PM
 
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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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Old 03-15-2009, 03:35 PM
 
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Wow! What an awful experience. I don't have much to add, I don't think you did anything wrong. I don't believe in forcing apologies, so I certainly wouldn't feel bad about that. Clearly this other mom has got some issues and it sounds pretty sad all around. It stinks that you are inevitably going to see her again, but I probably wouldn't bring this episode up. I mean, this isn't a friendship that you're trying to save or anything like that so I'd just let it pass. I would be concerned that something like that might happen again though, but hopefully it won't.
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Old 03-15-2009, 03:40 PM
 
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I'm going to have to be a dissenter...

When I first read the OP I thought this was a toddler situation and I would have said something to the little boy and mom but not a huge deal. When I rescanned I noticed that your ds is 7.5 and at that age I would have been more concerned over this behavior and gone farther to rectify the situation. We definitely would have left if the two boys couldn't work it out.
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Old 03-15-2009, 05:00 PM
 
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I think I would have gone over and talked to both boys together and helped mediate. I wouldn't have forced an apology. I think your son in particular would have benefited from this because he could have heard how upset the other child was, you could have pointed out to him "Look how upset C was when you took the ball. He didn't realize you were trying to start playing." You could have then helped C understand your son's interactions "It looks like my son was trying to start playing with you and the ball, and that's why he took it. That wasn't a very good strategy, was it? What do you think would work better?" "I also see that you both got really upset. What do you think you can do differently next time other than hitting?"

Some sort of peace DOES need to be made between the kids or there will be tension. And it helps if an adult models it.

By the same token, if I heard someone else's child calling mine weirdo, my momma bear would have been over talking to his mom ASAP. "you probably didn't hear that, but your son has been calling my son names. What can we do so the kids treat each other respectfully?"

FWIW, I think this mom was WAY WAY out of line. If she thinks her son is being excluded, storming around, yelling at other parents and creating a scene is NOT a way to get her son INCLUDED. Talking to the other parents and kids calmly is a much better way to do it.

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Old 03-15-2009, 05:50 PM
 
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I'm not going to comment on the whole altercation but yes, IMO, you should have had him apologize. I seriously do not understand all the people on here who don't believe in making your child apologize when they do something wrong. It is called teaching your child, it is called guiding them to learn how to behave properly in the world. Yes, your son should have apologized. No, she wasn't right to freak out. But if it had been me there and your son did that and you didn't have him apologize to my son I would be thinking that you weren't that great a parent too.

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Old 03-15-2009, 05:58 PM
 
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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'll preface by saying my son struggles similarly.

Your son interrupted the game of another two boys, and likely to the other boys it seemed that he was stealing the ball rather than trying to join in. Thus the enraged "weirdo" and chasing. Your son then escalated things by hitting the other boy; back and forth hitting ensued.

Here's some hard-earned advice, not meant as judgement, but just what I've learned and what's worked for us.

I know your ability to quickly respond was limited due to nursing at the time, but knowing that my son had trouble joining in play, I wouldn't nurse until my son settled in (if possible).

Assuming I was free to move, I would have gone over and gently separated them. I would have said clearly to my son "you may not use your body to hurt another person" (established rule, and stated this way addresses both of their behaviours). If the boys were clearly not going to be able to reconcile then, I would have had my child come to the side with me for a discussion about choices made, what he could have done differently, what the other kids probably thought he was trying to do (steal the ball rather than join play), and what he could do to make it right.

If the boys looked like they could play together, I would say to the other boy "it seems there was a misunderstanding. Billy grabbed the ball because he wanted to join you and it looked to you like he was stealing it. Is there a game the three of you can play together, without hitting and name calling? How about ______."

Later, DS and I would debrief about what happened. This is an area my son struggles with. I view my job as coach for him, and to support him in scenarios that are predictably challenging or vulnerable for him.

I have nothing to say about the other mom; I hope she was just having a particularly bad day. Though it seems she has a different perspective on the kids' interactions generally.

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Old 03-15-2009, 06:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Heavenly View Post
I'm not going to comment on the whole altercation but yes, IMO, you should have had him apologize. I seriously do not understand all the people on here who don't believe in making your child apologize when they do something wrong. It is called teaching your child, it is called guiding them to learn how to behave properly in the world. Yes, your son should have apologized. No, she wasn't right to freak out. But if it had been me there and your son did that and you didn't have him apologize to my son I would be thinking that you weren't that great a parent too.

I don't disagree with this. I think the "not forcing an apology" approach best happens in a larger context of encouraging reconciliation and being accountable for choices.

My son is 6.5. If he had hit the other boy 3 minutes after getting there, I would probably have left or, given the need/right of other sibs to stay, had him have a cool off period beside me while he brainstormed how to make it right (in our world, that means asking if the other person is ok and some version of apology, possibly up to reparations depending on what occured).

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Old 03-15-2009, 06:17 PM
 
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I am another who thinks you handled it just fine. You talked with your DS, you didn't just let it go. Maybe she didn't realize that but she didn't need to assume you didn't do anything either.

When you see her again I would act as if nothing had happened. Just be the way you normally are around her. If you normally say "hello" to her at the co-op then say hello. You didn't do anything wrong. If she brings it up again and wants to calmly discuss the situation with you, fine, though I'd request the discussion take place privately, not in front of the other parents. She had no right (or reason) to yell at you and you were right to tell her she was being a bit harsh (understatement, but effective, I think). She seems a bit off--she essentially threw a tantrum in front of everyone at open gym.
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Old 03-15-2009, 06:18 PM
 
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I probably would have explained to DS what the perception from the other boys perspective was about him taking the ball and had him apologize for that. I would NOT have made him apologize for hitting the other child with the ball, but we would have had a discussion about appropriate outlets of expression when someone upsets you. I don't think anyone deserves to be hit (except in self defense situations), but I also think name calling is equally as bad. Two wrongs don't make a right, but at that age they sometimes forget, and imo at that point BOTH boys were not behaving appropriately. I think you reacted correctly when you saw him hit C the last time by pulling him out of play and discussing the situation with him. Clearly from her later outburst, C's mom was watching the entire exchange and presumably saw her child calling yours names and saw her child hit yours as well. As she did not have her child apologize either, then the situation was a wash so to speak, both kids "wrong", neither apologizing, playing field was level at that point. I understand that C was unhappy with your son, and he was probably justified in it, but his behaviour with the rest of the group was pretty immature as well. From his mother's outburst it sounds like he may get that from her - it was completely inappropriate and uncalled for, and not a good model for the children present. Hopefully she was just having a really bad day or has some other stress going on that caused her to over react, and this will all blow over. (It's possible there was a recent or looming job loss, death or serious illness in the family, etc. We don't know the details of other people's lives, and while it doesn't excuse her behaviour, the "big" stress can cause more extreme reactions in people.)

It sounds like a real mess to be honest. Since you know you'll see them again, I'd really talk to my son and encourage him to apologize to C the next time he sees him for taking his ball. As for the mom, if she starts something again, I'd politely tell her that I would be happy to discuss this in a calm and rational manner but would not stand there to be screamed at. And then I would simply turn around and walk away from her. Good luck, it doesn't sound like fun.

K.
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Old 03-15-2009, 06:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
I think I would have gone over and talked to both boys together and helped mediate. I wouldn't have forced an apology. I think your son in particular would have benefited from this because he could have heard how upset the other child was, you could have pointed out to him "Look how upset C was when you took the ball. He didn't realize you were trying to start playing." You could have then helped C understand your son's interactions "It looks like my son was trying to start playing with you and the ball, and that's why he took it. That wasn't a very good strategy, was it? What do you think would work better?" "I also see that you both got really upset. What do you think you can do differently next time other than hitting?"

Some sort of peace DOES need to be made between the kids or there will be tension. And it helps if an adult models it.

By the same token, if I heard someone else's child calling mine weirdo, my momma bear would have been over talking to his mom ASAP. "you probably didn't hear that, but your son has been calling my son names. What can we do so the kids treat each other respectfully?"

FWIW, I think this mom was WAY WAY out of line. If she thinks her son is being excluded, storming around, yelling at other parents and creating a scene is NOT a way to get her son INCLUDED. Talking to the other parents and kids calmly is a much better way to do it.
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Originally Posted by joensally View Post
I'll preface by saying my son struggles similarly.

Your son interrupted the game of another two boys, and likely to the other boys it seemed that he was stealing the ball rather than trying to join in. Thus the enraged "weirdo" and chasing. Your son then escalated things by hitting the other boy; back and forth hitting ensued.

Here's some hard-earned advice, not meant as judgement, but just what I've learned and what's worked for us.

I know your ability to quickly respond was limited due to nursing at the time, but knowing that my son had trouble joining in play, I wouldn't nurse until my son settled in (if possible).

Assuming I was free to move, I would have gone over and gently separated them. I would have said clearly to my son "you may not use your body to hurt another person" (established rule, and stated this way addresses both of their behaviours). If the boys were clearly not going to be able to reconcile then, I would have had my child come to the side with me for a discussion about choices made, what he could have done differently, what the other kids probably thought he was trying to do (steal the ball rather than join play), and what he could do to make it right.

If the boys looked like they could play together, I would say to the other boy "it seems there was a misunderstanding. Billy grabbed the ball because he wanted to join you and it looked to you like he was stealing it. Is there a game the three of you can play together, without hitting and name calling? How about ______."

Later, DS and I would debrief about what happened. This is an area my son struggles with. I view my job as coach for him, and to support him in scenarios that are predictably challenging or vulnerable for him.

I have nothing to say about the other mom; I hope she was just having a particularly bad day. Though it seems she has a different perspective on the kids' interactions generally.
Great ideas on how to handle this.

The other mom was wrong to have a full blown tantrum over it.

I do think that you probably need to be more available to guide your ds's social interactions since you know he has trouble.
Maybe roleplay more what your ds can do if someone calls him a name, hits or how he should ask to play would help too.
Since you are going to see them again I wonder if it would be best to be the bigger person and apologize to the other mom and try to make peace.

I don't tolerate hitting. Dd knows that. If my dd hit it would not matter if she was called a name first. She could either apologize/make things right or I would apologize and we would leave asap.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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Old 03-15-2009, 08:35 PM
 
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i think you did a pretty good job. as a general rule I would expect dc to apologize but in this instance probably not. it would have just esscelated the mess. it was ugly all around.

the only thing I would have done differently is gotten to mom or C as soon as I could and made sure evrything was ok and apologizing for not being able to jump in sooner.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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