Dear Mother of My Son’s Bully,
First, I want to tell you that I’m not mad at you. Not one little bit. I want to give you a little background from my family’s side of things. For the last three weeks, my son, who is five, the same age as your son, has come home from senior kindergarten, telling both his father and myself that your little one has been punching him in the stomach.
I did not immediately jump on the phone, e-mail, or even go into the school to talk to the teacher, even though, as you know, as a parent, we have that Mama Bear gut instinct to protect our cubs and do whatever we can to make sure they’re safe. I know my son. I know he loves to play fight. For hours on end, he will jump on me and I’ll push him away. He loves this game. But I wanted to see how this would play out, before coming to any conclusions about your son hitting mine. It’s not that I didn’t believe my son. But, at first, I thought our kids were just play fighting and that there was a great chance that my son was just as involved in these physical fights with your son.
Did they start out as playful fights that turned a little too serious? Was my son lying or exaggerating? But, then, my son came home again, telling his father and I how your son had hit him again, and that it ‘hurt.’ Still, I wanted to wait it out, to see how this played out. I don’t know about your son – I only know what he looks like – but my five year-old son is not overly talkative when it comes to what he does at school.
All I could get out of him was that your son hit him again in the stomach and that it hurt and that he didn’t like it. After the third time hearing my son complain about being hit in the gut by your son, I did make the decision that his father and I had to do something and should talk to the teachers, so they could keep an eye on the two of them. So, his father went into the school one morning at drop off and talked to the teachers, who we both know are incredible, not only at their jobs, but as human beings as well. Our son’s teachers said they would keep an eye out for our two boys, which we both know can often be a difficult task for a teacher, to say the least, with so many children in the school yard, and especially because it’s often hard to tell, especially with our rowdy boys, whether they are having fun, wrestling around, falling down on top of each other on purpose, or are actually purposely trying to hurt each other.
I think we both know that teachers can’t always watch all the kids every single second of the day. When my daughter was in pre-school, I once watched her class through a window. The class was sitting in a circle, for circle time. My daughter’s teacher was sitting to her left. Sitting on my daughter’s right side, was a boy who literally continuously punched her in the arm, again and again. I was furious.
Even in such a small class, and even though the teacher was sitting right next to her, this particular teacher didn’t notice that this boy was punching my daughter, like she was a punching bag. Yeah, I said something alright, because I witnessed it with my own eyes. I told my daughter that she must tell me if that boy ever punched her again, so I could tell to the teacher, since my daughter was way too shy to tell on another kid, which seems to be the same case with my son, who is also shy around teachers.
The difference being, and I’m not proud to admit this, I did tell my son’s father to teach our son how to throw a punch. Embarrassingly, I’ll admit that I told my five year-old to ‘just hit him back’ if your son hits him first. It’s far from my proudest parenting moment and, in fact, when those words, ‘Just hit him back!’ came out of my mouth, I shocked even myself. I am sorry for that and believe me when I say I’m all about peace and love. I even hate water guns. But, yes, I did tell my son to ‘fight back.’ As wrong as it was, I know many parents who tell their kids to fight back, especially if another kid starts the fight or are picking on them, especially if they are boys.
Are you a Kelly Clarkson fan? I only ask because recently she found out through her nanny that her 6 year-old was bullied at a park. The award-winning singer said, ‘I’m a mama bear. Our nanny told me that an older kid was mean to my daughter at the park and that she just crumbled,” Clarkson told Redbook. “I wouldn’t have handled that well. I totally went off on that 6-year-old in my head.”
And, I’ll admit, I kind of went off on your kid…in my head, too.
In any case, I know the teachers talked to you about your son hitting my son. I understand that you were ‘appalled’ by your son’s behaviour, and also, I’m guessing, shocked, as I would be as well. No mother wants their kid bullied. And certainly, I hope, no mother wants to be the mother of a bully. Because I am a journalist, I also do a lot of research. According to this informative website about bullying, it says, “We assume that the parents of a bully must either be bullies themselves or negligent. But that is rarely the case. Let us begin by impartially accepting that a bully is not necessarily the product of bad parenting. Bullying behavior by your child does not make you a bad parent, but it does mean that you will have to take steps to correct their behavior.”
Never once did I ever assume, or think for a second, that you are a bad parent. I might have mentally went off on your son, but never once did I blame your parenting. In fact, it never even entered my mind. Why? Because, like the author of the article on the website on bullying, I don’t believe that bullying always starts at home. “Most parents are genuinely shocked to discover their child is bullying others. Bullies can be socially savvy and seem like healthy, well-functioning individuals. They are often popular and outgoing. The very fact of their popularity or ability at something like athletics, can lead them to feel superior to those around them. Bullying stems from a desire to attain and maintain control over others.”
Again, our children are only five years old, still young but old enough to know right from wrong. I believe that since you were ‘appalled’ by your son’s behaviour that you will be having a serious conversation with your son about hitting others. And, by the way, it’s completely possible that your son thinks my son is the bully. It’s very hard to get straight answers out of five year-old boys, isn’t it? But the way he told us, with a mixture of sadness and embarrassment, I knew he was not lying about being hit in the gut. Also, because us mothers talk, I learned that indeed another boy, apparently, stepped in to protect my son.
I’m quite positive that neither of us want our kids to be called out for punching each other or for bullying, which five year-olds, especially five year-olds who love to play fight, may not comprehend. However, I do think both our children, with our direction, can teach them why hitting is wrong and that it can hurt. So, no. I’m not mad at you. I’m kind of mad at your son, because I’m human. Still, I have great empathy, as I hope you will for me, if my son is ever called out for being a bully. And, yes, I do feel bad and so guilty for telling my son to ‘fight back,’ because violence is never the answer.
So, from here on, I promise to teach my son that hitting back is NOT okay, as I’m sure you have done, and are doing, too. Together, we can teach our boys how to be gentlemen. Because that never goes out of style.
All the best,