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-   -   My son tackled a boy at school (http://www.mothering.com/forum/36-gentle-discipline/1352986-my-son-tackled-boy-school.html)

beru 05-11-2012 12:57 PM

1st some background. My son has a friend, Arnold, who is often mean to him. He got in trouble last week because he told Arnold he was going to shoot him. This is after Arnold taunted him. The school counselor said this is the story according to everyone there and Arnold himself, who apologized and told my son he was sorry he got my son in trouble. My son felt terrible and he was horrified he got sent to the principal’s office. This was his only “punishment” along with being told to try to avoid Arnold.

 

Also, they go to after school daycare together and one of the teachers has warned me that Arnold is a bully and has been bullying my son. However, my son doesn’t want to stop being his friend.

 

Today, they turned physical. My son tackled Arnold and hurt him at recess at school. He now has to stay in the principals office for the next 3 recesses and if he assaults anyone again he’ll get an in-school suspension. I accepted this as appropriate. However, my husband feels my son needs more punishment at home because our disapproval needs to be “memorable”. I don’t even know how I feel about that.

 

On one hand I feel there are extenuating circumstances. He is being taunted and bullied. He also is very sensitive and does suffer from being sent to the principals office and missing recess. They are “memorable”. These are closer to natural consequences than anything we can do at home. On the other hand, I don’t want to be one of those parents that thinks their child can do no wrong and lets them “get away with” bad behavior. The truth is he made a bad mistake. He needs to find better ways to cope with such situations. I want to tell him he can’t socialize with Arnold (however, I don’t know how to enforce that because I am not there when they are together).

 

He wanted to take away all his video game and TV time until Monday night. (That is 7.5 hours worth, btw.) I would rather require him to do something than to take something away. My other thought is to make him do something proactive. But I don’t think my husband will be satisfied with a punishment unless my son “suffers”. Thoughts? I don’t know what to do.


mamazee 05-11-2012 01:01 PM

Hmm well if Arnold is a bully I'd be careful not to have him feel like you're taking the side of a bully. It sounds like a harsh punishment from the school. I'd be the safe place to land, since he's getting bullied. I can't imagine getting bullied and then getting punished at school for fighting back, and then getting punished again at home for it - having my parents take the bully's side.

I guess if I were going to err, I'd err on the side of letting him know I trust him more than a bully. I'm assuming this is not a normal behavior by him and likely caused by being bullied.

mamazee 05-11-2012 01:03 PM

Also, he needs help finding a solution to this bullying problem. I don't know what it is, but it sounds like he's moving to desperate measures. He must be very upset with the situation. I haven't dealt with bullying yet (knock on wood) so I don't know how to handle it.

prone_to_wander 05-11-2012 07:09 PM

If the school knows that there is a bullying situation going on, what are they doing about it?

One_Girl 05-11-2012 07:44 PM

I suggest telling him you are disappointed he chose to assault another child, that if he has a problem with a kid at school he needs to go to the teacher or duty person for help, and that you expect that he will not get sent to the principal for anything again. I think that you should also bring up the bullying with the school and see if they can separate the kids.

nextcommercial 05-12-2012 09:26 PM

Well, if Arnold is really bullying your son.  Let your son take the full punishment, and make a punishment for him at home too.  

 

It sounds harsh.  But, it's a small price to pay for your son letting Arnold know he's not putting up with it anymore.  Arnold will have a new respect for your son.  If your son willingly goes to his in school suspension, and knows it's worth it, Arnold will see his attitude and hopefully stop taunting him.  If your son goes to his suspension crying and mopey, Arnold will use that as more leverage against him.

 

Does that make any sense?  It's not O.K to handle problems with violence...but, since he did, he should accept the consequence without complaint and make sure Arnold sees his good attitude.  

 

Then, you guys can all come up with a better plan to handle things with Arnold without resorting to any kind of violence in the future.  

 

Maybe you can all three come up with a consequence at home that you can all live with.  My suggestion would be a day of work with Dad.  Nice hard labor.  Maybe send them to do this hard labor tomorrow.  (Sunday) while you enjoy a nice quiet Mother's day.  Yard work, or garage cleaning, or driveway scrubbing.  But, they should leave you with a book or a new magazine.....and some chocolate.

 

Seriously though... I think taking your punishment with a good attitude, while knowing it was worth it, is a good lesson for both your son, and Arnold.  


nextcommercial 05-12-2012 09:31 PM

Also, he can admit to being wrong, without apologizing.    Especially if he's not sorry.

 

"I shouldn't have tackled you... I won't do that again".  It's not saying "Sorry, I was wrong"... it's just admitting to a mistake, and letting him know he plans to handle it differently next time.  

 

If it doesn't happen again, then there really isn't a problem.  If it continues, then something is wrong, and you can be more drastic, because it might not really be Arnold.  Especially if it happens with anybody else.  Sometimes two Alpha kids find each other and tend to butt heads.  


alicewyf 05-13-2012 09:58 AM

I agree with nextcommercial. Knowing your kid had a good reason for misbehaving isn't an excuse to not discipline them. And I'd probably let your husband handle this one--it isn't as if he is asking to spank him or anything, your son just won't be able to play games for a few days. Your husband has probably been through similar situations as a little boy and I'd trust his judgment.

 

For what it is worth, I'm going thru a similar situation with my daughter. She has a little playmate who is about 5 months older than her (she will be 3 in July) and we cannot watch them without constant supervision or he WILL injure her. On purpose. His mom and I cannot even have real conversaions because that is how closely we must watch these kids. The mother is out of her depth a lot of the time, and to be honest I continue the playdates as long as she asks us to and as long as my daughter tells me she wants to (if DD said she didn't want to I would never make her). I cannot imagine being "that mother" whose child has no friends, and I feel bad for her. I also think it is a good learning experience for DD. But yes, when this little boy tries to hurt her, sometimes she fights back. And if she hits him instead of using her words or coming to me, she gets in trouble. I think it is appropriate to have high standards of social behavior for children. It will only make them better adults in the long run.


mamazee 05-13-2012 11:51 AM

Well discipline means teach, not punish, and I wonder what it teaches a child when he gets punished twice - at school and then again at home - when he fights back against a bully. I'd look big-picture at this. Also, is this the first phyiscal issue he's had at school? If this is an ongoing thing I'd look at it differently than if this is the first time. If he's been a peaceful kid all along, and then is getting bullied regularly, and then fights back, that spells desperation to me, not aggression. Desperation should be treated differently than aggression. I always try to look past the behavior at the reason for the behavior, and then deal with the reason. I don't think it's ever a good idea to focus on the behavior rather than what's going on beyond the behavior.

Tigerchild 05-13-2012 02:30 PM

The child would be disciplined for assaulting another child at school, not 'standing up to a bully'.

 

Here's the reality--you can and will suffer serious consequences if you respond to someone goading you by putting your hands on them.  This applies to school, work, and life.  Sometimes life is not fair--even if someone's a brat to you and/or they taunt you, you don't get to physically attack them.  Or you can, but it's going to be your butt parked in jail or detention.

 

I think the school was pretty lenient for a child tackling and *injuring* another child.  I would still want to know what is being done about the harassment on the other child's part--but harassment does not give you the right to assault someone.  The earlier this point gets across the better.  IMO.  Luckily it does seem like the administration is not painting the OP's kid as 'bad' (because he's not).  I'm a little concerned that they're not working to teach both boys (as well as all the bystanders/witnesses) better ways to deal with this situation.


mamazee 05-13-2012 02:47 PM

Well, again, discipline means teach, not punish. I don't see how punishing a bullied kid who gets fed up and attacks his bully is going to make anything better. I do see how it could send a message to him that the one instance of violence he causes is a bigger issue than the many done to him, and make him feel like no one is on his side. He's being punished at school, and I can't imagine punishing him again at home when in the big picture, he's been the victim.

He's just a kid - we're not talking about jail. And to think one issue at school means he's headed to jail someday is just silly. There are lots of ways to teach kids to work through problems, but kids getting bullied are in a very bad place emotionally, and if they act out due to that, it's understandable and can be dealt with in a kinder and more productive way than punishing and making him feel even more victimized.

Tigerchild 05-13-2012 07:43 PM

Yes, and IMO it is okay (and necessary) to teach kids that unless your *life* is being threatened, pretty much it's *never* going to be acceptable to use violence.  No matter how much you think the other person "was asking for it."

 

I don't think that negates a parent's responsibility for also advocating for their child who is being bullied.  You have to do that too.  I see what went on as separate (but linked) issues.

 

But really, as long as someone feels they've been bullied, they get to be violent?  Not in my house.  That's not something I teach my kids.  We've had many conversations about bullying in our house (on all three sides of the issue--being a bully, being bullied, and being a bystander) because every single one of my kids has been on all of those sides.  I'm also big on being very real with them about who it is that's likely to get into trouble if you have a situation where YOU throw the punch that is seen.  We don't live in a perfect world, and we do live in a zero-tolerance school district, so if I did not teach my children that, again, unless you fear for your life, you'd better not put your hands on someone no matter what they do without being prepared to accept the consequences (which may be severe), then I feel that I would be doing them a huge disservice.

 

It's not "taking sides with the bully", it's helping them work through the consequences of their actions.  All actions have consequences.  Even well intended/morally correct actions sometimes have unintended or negative consequences.  If one of your household rules is "you may not put your hands on anyone in anger, even if they're taunting you" then even if you hate the other kid (vs. a sibling or someone that you love) then it is not unreasonable (IMO) to impose the consequences you would have.  If you allow kids to respond physically to verbal abuse/attacks or in kind, then it doesn't make sense to have consequences for something happening at school that you'd be fine with at home.  I think that it's also appropriate if you choose to have a school problem=school discipline/home problem=home discipline reaction.  We do that with a lot of things, but I have to be honest, we would not do that with physical violence, even in response to physical violence or teasing.


beru 05-13-2012 08:15 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

Yes, and IMO it is okay (and necessary) to teach kids that unless your *life* is being threatened, pretty much it's *never* going to be acceptable to use violence.  No matter how much you think the other person "was asking for it."

 

I don't think that negates a parent's responsibility for also advocating for their child who is being bullied.  You have to do that too.  I see what went on as separate (but linked) issues.

 

But really, as long as someone feels they've been bullied, they get to be violent?  Not in my house.  That's not something I teach my kids.  We've had many conversations about bullying in our house (on all three sides of the issue--being a bully, being bullied, and being a bystander) because every single one of my kids has been on all of those sides.  I'm also big on being very real with them about who it is that's likely to get into trouble if you have a situation where YOU throw the punch that is seen.  We don't live in a perfect world, and we do live in a zero-tolerance school district, so if I did not teach my children that, again, unless you fear for your life, you'd better not put your hands on someone no matter what they do without being prepared to accept the consequences (which may be severe), then I feel that I would be doing them a huge disservice.

 

It's not "taking sides with the bully", it's helping them work through the consequences of their actions.  All actions have consequences.  Even well intended/morally correct actions sometimes have unintended or negative consequences.  If one of your household rules is "you may not put your hands on anyone in anger, even if they're taunting you" then even if you hate the other kid (vs. a sibling or someone that you love) then it is not unreasonable (IMO) to impose the consequences you would have.  If you allow kids to respond physically to verbal abuse/attacks or in kind, then it doesn't make sense to have consequences for something happening at school that you'd be fine with at home.  I think that it's also appropriate if you choose to have a school problem=school discipline/home problem=home discipline reaction.  We do that with a lot of things, but I have to be honest, we would not do that with physical violence, even in response to physical violence or teasing.

I am the original poster and I agree with your posts. We are aiming for zero tolerance of physical violence. My husband and I compromised. My son lost his screen time through Saturday night and had to do extra chores with me and his Dad. We have had three different conversations about this kid with him and he understands (I hope he understands) that no matter what, he can't be violent again. We also made it clear that we believe Arnold is not good for him as a friend and is unexcusably mean to him. And he definitely shouldn't tolerate it. I also feel these are two different issues rolled into one.

 

Arnold is not a physical bully. He taunts and manipulates my son. I have also discovered through conversation that my son is, in some ways, being blackmailed to stay in the friendship. If my son won't play with Arnold, Arnold embarrasses him. He also tells others things about my son that are untrue, sometimes trying to get him in trouble with teachers.

 

The principal has had health issues and has been out of school so she really isn't in the loop. And she is the first one I spoke to Friday. I told her some history and that both the guidance counselor and the after school director both are familiar with the pairs "conflicts". These two have been marvelous and have taken some steps to help them handle their relationship. Putting it like that ("handle their relationship") may sound like they are not dealing with the bullying but I think so far they have been doing fine. This is not clear cut bullying. The boy is strangely manipulative and has sucked my son into a strange codependent like relationship. My son wants to be friends with him (They actually do have similar interests). The teachers would not "have a case" if they handled this as a black and white bullying issue and would put themselves in conflict with Arnold's parents if they treated it that way. I agree that helping Arnold and his parents rehabilitate Arnold's bad behavior and relationship skills is a good goal so I wouldn't want them to do that. That being said, Arnold is the instigator and the teachers know that. My son is well-behaved and somewhat of a teacher's pet. He gets the benefit of the doubt. They believe he is being pushed to desperation by Arnold. Clearly, it is now time to move beyond "handling the relationship". I feel confident that the staff will step up.

 

One who I have not heard as much from is my son's classroom teacher. I emailed her. We will speak to someone in person Monday or Tuesday (teacher, guidance counselor and/or principal). The principal said she will talk to the after school director (who has a good handle on the two of them so she might be able to tell the school folks what she thinks will work) and try to keep the two apart at least until she feels like she is up to speed on the situation. I feel really good about my son's school and the communication and trust I have with them. I realize that is a blessing.


mamazee 05-14-2012 05:37 AM

You can teach that physical aggression is unacceptable without punishing. I would problem solve other ways to handle the emotions and taunts. I don't understand the idea that punishing is necessary to teach that something is unacceptable so I can't go beyond that I don't think.


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