Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is A Bully Born or Made?

Bubba has a bully. Well, sort of.

One evening a couple of weeks into the school year, Bubba told me that a kid in his class named Aidan* had hit and kicked him.

"On purpose?" I asked. "Are you sure it wasn't an accident?" I questioned him only because a few days earlier he had told us that a boy had kicked him in the chest, but upon further questioning he admitted that the kick had been an accident while they were playing.

"No, Mommy. He did it on purpose. He hits me all the time. I don't like him."

Hmmmm. "Well, just stay away from him if you can Bubba. And if he hits you again, tell your teacher. Don't run to the teacher about every little thing, but if somebody hits you, it's okay to tell the teacher about that. Does Aidan hit other people too?"

"Yes, Mommy. He hits everybody. He hit Thomas in the head and knocked him to the floor."

Well good grief.

A few weeks went by and no more mention was made of Aidan but when we went to our parent teacher conference last week, I asked his teacher. She wasn't really aware of what had happened because Aidan isn't in Bubba's actual class and they only see each other in the before and after school program, which she's not a part of .

But two days ago, Bubba came home and told us that Aidan had hit him in the eye and had tried to bite him. Two teachers had intervened and had apparently had a "discussion" about whether to pull a red card on Aidan. A red card is the highest level of discipline a child can receive and usually merits a trip to the office, but apparently they decided this behavior did not warrant a red card.

Well hell, what DOES warrant a red card?

So, short story long, we emailed all three teachers involved (his teacher and the two teachers who witnessed the incident) and asked that action be taken to prevent Aidan from hitting Bubba anymore. Bubba's teacher emailed back the next morning and assured us that she had already spoken to the morning and afternoon monitors to keep Aidan and Bubba separated. And thus far it seems to be working.

But a couple of questions have come up for me. Did we do the right thing by handling this with the teachers? Should we have counseled Bubba to stick up for himself a little bit before getting the teachers involved? I have this vague, uneasy, feeling that perhaps we have let Bubba down in some way but not letting him fend for himself in some way.

But then I think, my God, he's only five. He shouldn't HAVE to fend for himself at this age. And those feelings I have are probably just the antiquated notions of what's proper masculine behavior. Boys are supposed to be rough and tumble and fight and take care of bullies, right? Whatever. I don't want Bubba to be bound by those same notions that boys have to be so tough and never cry and don't talk about their feelings.

But the other question that has come up for me is about Aidan. What is going on with this child that he feels like he must strike out at everyone? His brother apparently has no such issues and is actually a friend of Bubba's. That's part of what makes it so strange. Is Aidan just being "all boy"? Or is there more going on there? I have no way of knowing. I know Bubba has two great advocates behind him, fighting for him, helping him. But who is behind Aidan, fighting for him, fighting to find out why he's so angry? Who is helping Aidan?

*not his real name


AndreAnna said...

Hoo boy, am I not looking forward to this stuff when the babies grow up.

I'd like to think I'd raise my kids to know HOW to stand up for themselves without resorting to the same violence or being a tattletale. And yet, like you said, they're just KIDS. How are they supposed to know how to handle such situations with poise and dignity when three seconds prior, they were eating their own boogers?


I'll be coming to you in a few years for these answers.

AmyM said...

I think you did the right thing. First, you told Bubba to stay away from Aiden. It seemed to work for a while. But when a kid is this aggressive that he is attacking all the kids, not just yours, a teacher or even the principal needs to be notified. This is beyond being a bully and whether or not Bubba needs to stand up for himself. This kid needs an intervention and five-year-old Bubba can't handle that.

M&Co. said...

I think you did the right thing by taking it to the teacher. Kids shouldn't bully other kids.

calicobebop said...

I agree with Amy M. You tried to handle it at the lowest level, but Aiden kept pushing his luck. I think Bubba is young enough to bounce back from this experience pretty quickly - but I'm sure it's something that you'll remember for a long time.

Lauren said...

We have almost the EXACT same situation going on with the boy around here...There is a kid, not in his class, who repeatedly calls him a baby, and who just generally bullies him. I have met his parents..he seems to come from a completely normal I have no idea why this kid bullies. (he bullies the other kids too...bit one child till he bled). You did the right thing by intervening early-if you nip it in the bud now, hopefully the bully will avoid Bubba from now on...Thats what we're hoping for around here. (sorry this is so long!)

Mir said...

I'm sure Aiden needs some help, but it's not your job to find it for him. I mean, it's lovely that you care (truly). But that's up to the teachers and his parents.

As for Bubba, you are correct that at 5 he should not have to handle this himself. I think I might add to the "stay away from him" arsenal that it's okay to VERY LOUDLY say (shout) "PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!" if there's another situation. I'm sorry your boy is being bothered. :(

BarbJ said...

I teach kindergarten, and have for a number of years. If a child in my class is being terrorized by another child (in my class, or on the playground) I want to know! I want the parents to let me know so I can step in and protect their child. Admittedly, I want the parents to let me know civilly (as opposed to coming in with the mindset that I'm actually allowing this to happen without intervening) but I'm always grateful when a parent clues me in on situations like this.

As for why Aidan didn't get a red card, that baffles me. My school has a zero tolerance policy for physical bullying - there would have been no discussion, he would have been in the principal's office so fast it would have made his head swim!

So you did the right thing. Now encourage Bubba that it is OK to tell when someone is hurting him. I teach my kinder-kids that telling is different from tattling. We tell when someone hurts us, does something dangerous, or breaks something. We tattle if we just want to see that person get in trouble!

Hopefully it stops here. If not, do not be afraid to take it a step up the chain of command and talk to the principal about the situation.

Karen said...

I'm so sorry. This kind of stuff is so very hard to know how to handle. But I think you did the right thing in having Bubba go to a teacher. If he would have defended himself, the teachers may have just witnessed a two-boy fight and Bubba would be punished as well.

And what the heck IS red card behavior if that's not it?!

Katie in MA said...

I think you did an excellent job! And poor Bubba! Sheesh. Can you teach him to loudly exclaim, "Good god, man, what's gotten into you?" No? Okay, then I guess telling him to stay away from Aiden, then yelling, "Stop please!" and then going to a teacher would be the appropriate steps. And don't feel bad about going to the teachers - you shouldn't HAVE to email them, they should have noticed it happening in the first place! They should be the ones warning you about what is going on and telling you their plan to fix the situation! So good on you for being a great Mom. :-) said...

Yes, you did the right thing in my opinion. You can only expect so much from a five year old and it's just not something they are equipped to handle by themselves at that age. I think talking to the teacher was wise. I hope they got together with Aidan's parents and are helping him.
And kudos to you for acknowledging that he needs help, also.

for a different kind of girl said...

I'm so sorry that Bubba has to deal with a child who is bullying him. It's sad that the instinct of some children is to treat others the way Aiden is. Perhaps it's the only way he "knows" to interact, or maybe there is some underlying issue, but still, it's disappointing when your youngster is one of the targets. I absolutely think what you have done to address the situation is spot on. You talked to your son in a manner that assured him he had choices, and that bullying is not one of them. Knowing that you have grown ups in your corner when you're a child is one of those unspoken reassurances I'd want a child to carry with them. But, has been said, teachers absolutely want to know what's going on. I think it can really impact the child who's being bullied in other areas, and those areas may manifest themselves in the classroom, so it's great for the teachers to know.

I hope Aiden's parents are up to date on his behavior in school.

Jonny's Mommy said...

I am late on this one, but I tend to agree with you...why should a five-year old have to fend for himself?

Should he be able to stand up for himself? yeah...but...if the kid hits him, should he hit him back?

I don't know about that one.

But he's a kid. I think you did the right thing calling the teachers. You are there to protect them. It isn't like he is 17. He is five.

ImpostorMom said...

I'm so not looking forward to this. I think you did the right thing though. I believe there is a time that children should learn to stick up for themselves but Bubba is still so young I think you're right in saying he shouldn't have to deal with this stuff yet. It's sad too that this other little boy is so angry at such a young age.

Colleen said...

I commend you for thinking of what is going on in Aidan's life that he feels the need to be aggressive and hostile with Bubba. And I agree wholeheartedly that you did the right thing by instructing Bubba on when to tell, talking to the teacher, and after that incident occured, following up with the teachers who were present. Hopefully that will be the end of things (and how did he not qualify for a red-card? really?)