Sunday, January 29, 2012

Playground Bully

Being a homeschool family and not living in a place where there are playgrounds, we've not had to deal with playground bullies, until last night.

We were at a restaurant with some friends, one which parents love because it does have a play area for kids. While we were chatting with our friends, one of their girls came over and said that there was a boy pushing other kids. Our friend went over and tried to talk to the boy, but he wiggled away.

This happened again a few minutes later. Our friend then found the boy's mom who was watching the events without intervening, and asked her to do something about it. She also tried in vain to talk to the kid.

Then we heard the report that Megan was crying because the boy had pushed and punched her. Keep in mind, this kid looked to be no more than about five (but he was, as we say in the Brenna household, "sturdy"). Sure enough, Megan was trying to hold back tears because the kid had actually punched her in the face!

Ok, that's when my mama bear comes out. Unfortunately, lacking any experience in this kind of thing and having to deal with it both cross-culturally and in my second language, I was ill-equipped to do it well. I found the mother and said, "Your child just hit my child." She looked at me, a little frazzled, and said, "Yes I know. I just criticized him and told him to apologize."

It was obvious that an apology would not be forthcoming, although the mom was very apologetic toward me (she was also, unfortunately, receiving some of the boy's punches). Our friend tried to get the father and grandparents to help the situation, but their response was, "His mother is there." We were leaving anyway, so we just sort of let it drop and walked away.

When I was in bed later reflecting on it, I wish I'd handled it differently. Granted, I didn't get that angry with the mom or the boy outwardly, and I accepted her apology graciously, but inside I was seething. If I'd had a minute alone with that kid, I think I might have punched him myself. I'm disappointed that this is true of my heart. I know there is part of it that was motivated by love and protection of my child, but another part of it was just me wanting to control my world.

As I thought about it more, I felt sorry for the kid. A friend of ours told us, "You get what you tolerate." He was actually speaking of leadership, but I think it applies to parenting. That boy does those things because his parents have let him. There was no consequence for his actions last night other than, "Don't do that." I felt sorry for the mom too, who obviously has been left to fend for herself with this little guy.

So that was our first playground bully. And apparently some heart awareness for me. :)

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