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.)