I’ve been to three kids’ events recently and the same thing has happened at each: the boys have been totally out of control. I’ll give you an example: at a birthday party, I watched in shock as a six-year-old boy happily shoved, punched, slammed, and pulverized the children around him while his mom chatted breezily with all of her pals. The next day, at a picnic, my kid got pitched by a boy she'd never met before. Can someone please tell me when kindergarten became a contact sport?
Let’s talk about the birthday party first. I don’t watch my child like a hawk at social gatherings. She knows her job is to play nicely with her friends and she knows my job is to hang with the grownups. But lately this has become impossible because of a classmate I'll call Taz, which is short for the Tasmanian Devil. This kid destroys everything and everyone in his path and encourages his buddies to do the same. At parties, they take over and the result is mayhem.
As I watched this happen yet again at a birthday party recently, I debated my options. I could leave the party, say something to the mother, ignore the situation, or keep an eye on the kid myself. What would you have done?
I chose the last option. I put a chair right in front of the playhouse that the boys had taken over and I watched them. When that didn’t work I switched tactics, telling Taz I’d get him a special treat if he’d behave. Yep, I unsuccessfully attempted to bribe a child I barely know, a child who doesn’t listen to anyone, while his mom ignored him from the other side of the room. Does this seem as bizarre to you as it does to me?
I was still pondering this episode the next day when I escorted my daughter to a play date at a local park. Within minutes of arriving, she came rushing over to tell me that a group of boys were prohibiting her and a few other girls from entering a certain area of the playground. I told her to go work it out with them and sent her off. Not five minutes later, she was back to tell me that a boy she’d never met before had pinched her. Seriously?
So now I’m pissed. Two days, two boys, and two instances of inappropriate physical contact. What am I supposed to do: simply accept that “boys will be boys,” a philosophy I think is totally ridiculous? Or do I enroll my kid in judo so she has a better chance of making it to the first grade?
Listen: I grew up with pretty much no adult supervision and took a pounding or two weekly and nobody blinked an eye. And I know we’re supposed to let our kids work things out on their own. But I can’t stand to watch my kid get pushed, shoved, pinched, or hurt by another person. I also can’t help but feel frustrated that already, at five years old, the boys are physically harming or intimidating the girls. And the girls don’t have much of a choice other than to get out of the way.
I also find myself enraged with Taz’s mom and her parenting style. Her kid does pretty much whatever he wants, and rather than curtail his bad behavior, she seems to encourage it. My sense is that she wants him to be tough and to know that he can take care of himself in any situation. Perhaps she’s doing the kid a favor by letting him be the bully rather than the bullied. If I wasn’t so ticked off at her, I’d suggest that we reconvene in 20 years to see how it all turns out. Her kid will probably do just fine, if only because he’s not afraid to aggressively – even physically – fight for what he wants and doesn’t have Mommy coddling him every step of the way. Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe he will continue to use his fists instead of his brains and will eventually be punished for it. I simply don't know.
So I'm confused. Do I stand back and let my daughter handle these situations on her own, even if she’s being hurt physically? Do I talk to the parent of the hitter or pincher directly? Do I scold the child myself? Kindergarten hasn’t even officially started yet, and I’m already aware of the fact that I have no idea how to be a parent in this phase of my daughter’s life. Is it too late to hold her back a year in pre-K? I’m so not ready for what’s ahead.
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop