I'm having some trouble deciding how to handle the relationship between my son and another little boy in his class. Please let me know what you think...if I'm over-reacting, what you would do, etc :-) Here's what is going on:
After the first day of school (a couple of months ago), my son told me that a boy in his class (I'll call him "L") approached him in the bathroom and asked him if he knew Jehova. My son told him that Jehova's Witnesses come to his house all the time (true! we have a lot of missionaries visit our neighborhood for whatever reason from a few different religions). I thought nothing of this, and ds and I talked about the rest of his day.
A couple of weeks later I was talking to ds about our schools upcoming fall festival. DS said very matter of factly that he's not going to any festivals because he wants to go to the "beautiful garden". I asked him what that was and he said it was the most beautiful place you could ever imagine...you can pet lions and bears and you're never sick. After I asked some more questions he started to cry and told me that L said he can never have birthday presents and that in winter he can only go sledding...no Christmas. I talked to ds about how those were things that L and his family believed, but that we have different beliefs and to not worry, he can still go to all of the festivals, birthdays, Christmas, etc. Ds seemed ok with this.
Fast forward a couple of days after that, ds comes home upset saying that L keeps telling him he's only allowed to play with him because they're Jehova's Witnesses and they're going to the beautiful garden. I told ds that he can tell L that he is not a Jehova's Witness and that he can play with whomever he wants. This goes on for a few days.
Yesterday when I came to pick ds up from school, I found L hiding ds's lunchbox under a table. His mom happened to be coming in at the same time and saw L doing this and asked what he was doing. L quickly put ds's lunchbox away in its proper place and said that he was just helping ds. Later on, ds and I found that all of ds's belongings in his cubby had been either hidden around the room or thrown on the floor of his cubby. L and his mother had already left at this point. Ds began to cry and told me that L always does this and it makes him late getting ready to go outside to play.
Today I saw that ds had only eaten the grapes from his lunch. I asked ds if he was feeling ok and why he hadn't eaten the rest of his lunch. He told me that L told him he was only allowed to eat the same things as him, and they both just happened to have grapes in their lunch today. This made me really upset and I told ds that he needs to tell L that he can't tell you what to do. (I've been talking to ds about this for awhile now). L is not the boss, and if L won't respect you, you need to talk to the teacher. Ds says that he has talked to the teacher, but she just tells him to talk to L about it.
I want to talk to L's mom about all of this. If things persist after talking to the mom, my plan is to then bring it up with the teacher. I believe in trying to solve problems at the lowest level. I just don't know how to approach the mom. There really isn't time when we're picking up and dropping off our kids and that's the only time I see her. I could email her or call her, but I don't want to put her on the defensive and I don't really know how I would phrase things so they wouldn't put her on the defensive, you know what I mean?
Oh, for the record, my ds attends a Waldorf preschool/mixed age kindergarten. Ds will be 5 in February and L will be 7 in April. Ds is a highly sensitive kid and a total follower. He has a hard time taking a leadership role in most situations, but he's also good at expressing his needs and feelings. In this case though, he's having a really hard time sticking up for himself. Thanks so much for reading my super long post and any advice is highly appreciated!
I give you huge amounts of credit for coaching your ds to manage his relationship with this other boy. While I understand that you'd like to deal directly with the other mom, I think you need to speak with the teacher first. The teacher needs to know about the situation in her classroom. Even though your ds has spoken to her, she doesn't seem to realize the extent of the problem or the impact it's having on him, so she needs to hear about it from you. She should be a part of the solution. She needs to be alert to any further problems and intervene to re-direct and correct when/if they happen. Even if you speak with the other mom, it's possible that the other boy may not change his behaviour immediately. It will be the teacher who is in the right place to monitor the boys, watch for further problems and take action without delay.
there seems to be a lot of time in that day to talk about the "garden" etc and that would be a big concern of mine----so much talk? your sons seems to have been giving lots of into here- I would not be happy
I wouldn't talk to the mom about this either--particularly since this concerns a couple of volatile topics, religion and the behavior of her "baby". Also, though sometimes children "proselytize" in a way the parents don't intend, it could be that he is mostly doing what is expected of him by his mom, so if you confront her on that it could get very ugly. I can say that ds has a boy in his class since last year that is JW and to ds this only means the boy doesn't participate in class parties .
Since this concerns L's behavior in school, the "lowest" level is giving the teacher the opportunity to handle it.
I'm both the mom of a 7yo who has had significant behavior issues in the past and has been the "friend" of a boy like L (without the religious component) -- his teacher was a huge part of handling these issues.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses! I agree now that talking to the teacher should be my first step. Thanks for giving me some insight to help me think through this! I'll try to email his teacher later on today since there really isn't much time for her and I to have a face to face chat. Parent teacher conferences are next week, but I'd rather that time be focused on other things. I agree that talking to L's mom could go sour pretty quickly. I knew I had hesitations for a reason! Thanks for making that more clear to me.
do your email and end it with a little about how you "hope to see some movement here" prior to your meeting next week - shows you don't want to wait on this! hope you are not blown off with "we will discuss it next week"
doesn't need to be nasty - just direct
i agree with this. I think what u wrote in your OP is perfect to write to the teacher. be as objective as possible and write the incidents as it is and your sons reaction and the words he uses.
are you expecting other things to come up with the conference? if not, i would make sure THIS gets taken care of first and then later you can have ur conference if any details about your son's progress needs to be discussed.
use one incident as the needle on the haystack. like the not allowed to eat lunch. try and give approx time periods so the teacher knows how long its being going on.
stand your ground. this is far more important than progress report. explain the impact this is having on your son and how its affecting his day to day life - at home and at school.
I'm sorry you and your son are dealing with this sort of manipulation and bullying.
I agree with the PPs that you should talk to the teacher. I also think you should tell the teacher that you would like to meet about this right away. The teacher should be able to get some coverage in the classroom to meet with you about a matter that is becoming or feeling urgent. This way you can use the parent/teacher conference next week as a chance to check up and make sure that action is being taken to bring about some improvements.
I had an issue with my DD's preschool class recently and talked with one of the teachers in a meeting during the school day. I was so grateful and impressed with all the creative and thoughtful solutions the teacher offered and ever since I've been seeing real improvement in the issue both with other kids and with DD. I ordinarily would have waited until the parent teacher conference but I'm really glad that I didn't. A few weeks in the life of kids is a long time and you may be surprised by how efficiently the teacher can bring about some solutions.