Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Little bullies

First day of Kindergarten didn't go well, and I'd love to hear from you all:

When I picked up AB, the first thing he told me... FIRST THING... was that recess didn't go well. I asked what he meant, and he said he came in last in all of the races and that BoyIDon'tLike won every time. I said it's OK and I explained that sometimes people are first and sometimes they are last.

AB: But [BoyIDon'tLike] won EVERY race. And I lost every time.
APL: Well, [BoyIDon'tLike] is older than you, and bigger than you. And it sounds like he's very fast. That must be something he's good at. What's something you're good at?

I figured I'd try to distract him, if that was all that was bothering him. I know losing sucks, but at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later) all kids need to learn that the world won't end if they lose something. I fear for kids out there whose parents try to protect them from that. (I recall reading a story that was about academic redshirting where a first-grade teacher said something like, "I've got seven-year-old kids who've never lost a board game before.")

But AB wasn't ready to be distracted from his day of woe, and he then complained that when he and BoyIDon'tLike were fighting, Precocious Girl was rooting for BoyIDon'tLike. Uh, what? So I tried VERY CALMLY and NONCHALANTLY to grill him (cross-examine him, really) to get the details of this supposed fight. I told him in no uncertain terms that if BoyIDon'tLike wants to pick a fight with AB, AB should just walk away.

But what I really want to do is tell BoyIDon'tLike to stay the hell away from my child. By the way, I'm calling him BoyIDon'tLike because this isn't our first issue with him. About a year ago, he and AB were briefly in the same class, and he would pick on AB then, too. And I want to say, yeah, you little punk, AB is almost one year younger than you. Big whoop. Now go bother someone else.

So, anyone else been in this position? I'm not worried about AB's safety right now (even despite his comment about "fighting"), so I'm not sure I'd want to raise it with the teacher at this point. And I'm not concerned that BoyIDon'tLike is acting jerky toward my kid (if indeed he is) because of some bullying at home. I've seen his mom at school, and she is very nice and polite, and NSAH says his dad seems mild-mannered and nerdish, too. I just have no idea if there's anything I should do, or if I should just sit back and see what develops. I'm leaning toward the latter.


Blogger K said...

Oh that is so hard.

When my (now 8) daughter was in Kindergarten, there was an older (4th grade) boy who teased her incessantly on the bus. She'd get off the bus and burst into tears every single day.

I didn't get involved, other than to mention the situation to her teacher. (She also burst into tears upon arriving school.) We worked hard to change her reaction to the teasing. Eventually he stopped, when she stopped reacting to him.

Sometimes I wonder if I couldn't have just said something to his mother and stopped the whole thing instantly, rather than the weeks and weeks we went through.

But, looking back - it was a good lesson for her. We still talk about it. How hard it was, but how she got through it.

Honestly, those were some of the hardest weeks for me. I so wanted to jump in and fix it for her. But I didn't.

But no one was physically hurting her - that would have been different.

If it makes you feel any better, these things don't seem to happen as much to the 2nd kid! Those poor first kids get to test all the waters without a protective older sibling to show them the ropes.

Maybe mention something in passing to the teacher? Maybe get her perspective? It definitely helped my daughter that she could talk to her teacher about it.

Our school has a fairly strict "anti-bullying" program, so the teachers try to stay in-the-know and often appreciate getting info from parents.

There are some *really* good books out there for kids about bullies, teasing, etc. I think I have them all. Thank you Amazon. The books really helped, too.

Good luck. This stuff gets so hard!

10:20 PM, September 02, 2008  
Anonymous Genevieve said...

Well, that just plain sucks. I'm sorry. It's hard when your boy's first day of school doesn't go well.

I'd be inclined to sit back and see what happens, too. And tell AB to let you know about anything else that comes up with BIDL. If there seems to be persistent bullying, then it makes sense to talk to the teacher, but I wouldn't after one day and non-major (though rotten) incidents.

10:20 PM, September 02, 2008  
Blogger kenju said...

Wait and see. Also, don't make a big deal out of it with him. If he starts to tell you something, that's fine, but don't elicit info and seem to be too into it - otherwise he will see that it is a hot button for mom and he might be tempted to make it worse in the telling than it really is.

If he is still saying things like this 2-3 weeks into the year, I'd talk to the teacher about it so she can watch the playground at recess and nip any problems in the bud. You don't want the other kid to find out you "fingered" him, or he'll make it harder for AB.

11:47 PM, September 02, 2008  
Blogger KLee said...

As a kindergarten teacher, I will say that it is hard, with all those little people around, to keep track of exactly how each and every student's day is going. Playground times are especially fraught with social struggles that we may not see happening. I would say mention it to the teacher. She may not be aware that it's occurring.

I would just say that you're mentioning it because AB mentioned "fighting", and while you're sure it didn't mean actual *hitting*, you're concerned because there have been issues in the past with this particular child. At least the teacher will be forewarned, and can keep them separated in class.

Plus, it never hurts to let the teacher know that you are an involved parent. Sadly, we see fewer and fewer of you each year.

Good luck, and hugs to AB about the "losing." Just remind him what a special guy he is.

8:03 AM, September 03, 2008  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

I'm with KLee on this one. When LG had a similar experience early in his kindergarten career, we raised it with the teacher. We sent in a carefully worded note saying that LG had been telling us that one of the children -- we didn't name the kid -- had been pushing him and being mean to him, and did the teacher have any advice for *us* about how we could help him handle it? Fifteen minutes after she read the note, we got a call from the teacher saying that she'd gotten a confession from the culprit and a talk with the whole class, all of whom agreed this was not the way we treat each other in kindergarten. LG had no further problems the rest of the year.

Caveats about the awesomeness of the teacher and the school, of course -- but maybe AB's teacher and school would be similarly awesome if given the chance.

9:09 AM, September 03, 2008  
Blogger Jody said...

I agree with Klee and Phantom.

At our school, a lot of the first month of kindergarten was spent on class rules and behavior toward each other. The kids came up with rules for treating each other with kindness, and it was the focus of every discussion. The teacher needs to know how to shape that conversation to include playground behavior.

I would act sooner rather than later not only to start as strongly as possible, but mostly because there's a history here and this other kid needs to be shut down fast. I love Phantom's method for not directly accusing the other child, but still getting the point across.

Courage -- hopefully it will be much better soon.

10:05 AM, September 03, 2008  
Blogger liz said...

I'm with KLee, Phantom, and Jody here.

And I'm also wishing I could send in MM and DeepVoicedFirstGrader to back up AB.

10:45 AM, September 03, 2008  
Blogger susan said...

I'll jump on the mention-to-the-teacher bandwagon--this period of school is all about teaching the social niceties, and it's an easy moment to intervene without calling a lot of attention to the intervention.

I hope the rest of the week goes more smoothly.

11:04 AM, September 03, 2008  
Anonymous dagwood said...

I have a very different perspective on this, but very similar advice.

When my son was in kindergarten, about halfway through the year, it was brought to my attention that MY son was the one being the bully to another little boy in his class that I adored. Naturally, I was mortified. Apparantly this had been going on for weeks (the little boy going home every day telling his mom how my son was picking on him), and I was completely oblivious. I didn't find out until my son up and BIT the other boy, and the mother told the teacher the next day, who told me.

My son, mind you, has never acted like this at home or in front of me to any other child. (I don't know if he was just experimenting with relationship dynamics, or if I'm just in total denial.) Obviously, I flipped out on him, made him apologize to the little boy and his parents both in person and in a letter, and proceeded to set up playdates with the other little boy to straighten everything out, which, thankfully, the other mother was open to. Today, they are in second grade and friends.

But, my point is this: I had no idea. This was not behavior that he had ever exhibited before. And the other mother had been discussing my son's behavior with everyone but the teacher and myself. I called her directly to apologize and asked her to PLEASE inform me if it happened again, because I would stop it immediately. (Her husband was also the boys' tball coach, so this was a woman I saw fairly frequently).

I think Phantom is 100% correct in her advice to go through the teacher first. But if it doesn't stop, and if the parents seem as nice as you say, I would approach them. They may not have any idea, and you may want to give them the benefit of the doubt. No one (well, mostly no one), wants their child to behave like that, and his parents might just need to be made aware of it in order to correct it.

Good luck!

1:54 PM, September 03, 2008  
Blogger Blonde Justice said...

I have no idea. But, whatever you do, DON'T pull your kid out of that school and take a second job so that you can afford private school.

That's what my friend did. And then she found out that there are bullies in private school too.

$40K later and one very defeated kid who was bullied at two schools later, you can learn from her expensive mistake.

Oh, and tell your son, "Bill Gates probably got bullied at school too. And now he can afford to buy every school in the country." That's somewhat reassuring, isn't it?

6:09 PM, September 03, 2008  
Anonymous nutso-ranter said...

Ohhhhhhhh!!!!! This just breaks my heart APL. I just called to check in and see how my OWN little guy's first day at school had been (it went great) and it made me think of you and AB, and check the blog. As you know, this could so EASILY be my own son next year. AB is such a gentle kid, I do think they're somewhat susceptible to being bullied...

sigh. For what its worth, I'm in the "talk to the teacher" camp. But from one lawyer mom to another, I think I'd do it in person, and as casually as possible. I think the teacher should know, but you don't want to sound like a hysterical overreacting parent (not that you do... that would be ME!). Just mention it off-hand so she knows, and then sit back and see what happens next. I hope I hope that Day #2 went better!

3:01 PM, September 04, 2008  
Blogger Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Thank you all for chiming in on this. NSAH did mention something to the teacher in passing, so she is aware of any potential problem. And AB hasn't mentioned anything else related to this, so it might turn out to have been nothing. But I feel better about it.

9:59 PM, September 04, 2008  
Blogger ccw said...

This is such a difficult position to be in as a parent. You want to interfere but that often makes it worse but at this age I think you have to say something.

I always find myself wanting to go all Rebecca De Mornay in Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

Now that Kid L is older I find myself blurting things like "he's an asshole" or "she's a bitch" stay away from them. Then I of course have to calm down and remind her that she may not say the things I say to them or she will get in big trouble.

10:17 AM, September 05, 2008  
Anonymous sherylm2@hotmail.com said...

Just because Mom seems nice doesn't mean she has control. Many children act like bullies because they can and no one tells them not to. You want your childs kindergarten experience to be a good one and if all that is remembered is the bad time on the playground thats important. Do you want him to feel sad each time he goes out to play? Mentione it to the teacher and ask her to keep an eye on the situation. If one child is bothered than maybe there are others?

8:07 PM, September 06, 2008  
Blogger Suburban Gorgon said...

Oh, man. One of the kids in the Kraken's class is a major bully, and she's also the Kraken's BFF. At least on the days she feels like it. The other days she turns away from the Kraken and breaks her heart. I don't know what to do either. I just try to remind her that it's not nice to treat people like that, and she needs to say so when it happens, and go play with someone else.

9:52 PM, September 08, 2008  
Anonymous DaniGirl said...

Yeah, I'm with the crew of sage commenters above who said mention it to the teacher in a nice way. We actually got called in the second week of Tristan's JK because a parent thought T was picking on her kid. The teacher understood that T was just being affectionate in an exhuberant sort of way, but wanted us on board in explaining it to him.

On the other side of the fence, there was one boy who terrorized the whole class last year. When I mentioned my concerns at parent's night, the teacher said it was a problem they were all having trouble dealing with. I just sat by, and we tried to use any situations that arose as an opportunity to teach tolerance of people we don't like but have to deal with. Not a lesson I thought I'd be teaching my six year old!

6:31 PM, September 09, 2008  

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