June 15, 2009

How do you deal with kids that aren't nice?

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." --Anais Nin

Last night, Mo and I were talking about some boys in the neighborhood that are giving Robotson some difficulties when he's out in the neighborhood. There are five or six of them, and most are older than he is, although Robotson looks older than his age. He has tried a couple of times to befriend them, but so far it's mostly been name-calling and insults on their end. Being a new situation for him, Robotson didn't handle it well at first and resorted to retaliating. Then it got to the point where he'd just come home upset. He's tried his luck a dozen times or so over the last few months to no avail. We've talked about it many times and his usual response now is to ignore them, but he still comes home upset. The last time he was around them though there was some pushing and kicking involved.

Here is my perspective. I look out the window and I see these boys in their bikes, circling my driveway or my son. I can see them talking to him, and he's usually not talking back. He only wants to go down the street either to visit a friend, or just to walk on his own. The way they swoop in and circle him reminds me of vultures. My instinct is to keep talking to him, but also tell him not to go outside if the boys are around. Mo wasn't as sure about that idea :) We both agree that learning how to deal with confrontation is a valuable skill that neither of us really has now. She thinks it would be better if I work with Robotson on how to handle these situations, but let him ultimately decide how to handle it. He needs to determine what sort of people he wants to hang out with on his own. It's not that I don't agree with her, but he's my little boy, ya know?

I *know* I should talk to the parents. My dislike for confrontations is a huge driving force behind my not doing so up to this point. In addition, B is not convinced it will do it any good, and is actually completely unhelpful (in an angry sort of way) when I try to talk to him about the situation.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? How did or would you handle it? I'd love any and all advice right about now!

Update from this afternoon

I just had a knock on the door from the mom of one of the kids. She told me that Robotson was causing problems. I pointed out that there have been several kids down around my house, several times, also causing problems. I am at a loss here.


  1. *sigh* I so feel for you. I want to shield my little boy from all of the yahoos of the world.
    Our tactic is to try to give him the skills to rise above and be the leader. If kids are playing a mean game, we want him to be the one who says, "I'm not playing THAT game. It's mean. Hey who wants to play bug hunter with me?" or something like that.
    Basically, don't fight back, but don't say nothing. Take the lead and be the one everyone wants to be around.

  2. How old is your son? If he were 10 or 11 I'd be inclined to let him take the lead, but younger than that, there's no way I'd make him suffer on his own to figure it out. I would absolutely be in there talking with the other boy's parents to work together on a solution. I'd approach it nicely, of course. The value of my son realizing he's not alone if he doesn't want to be, that he's with people who demonstrate that what is required is the calm management of a situation by people who are supposed to be taking care of him, would trump any discomfort I'd feel about the potential for conflict. I'd have to put that aside psychologically and manage this situation.

  3. Deb-he's 8.

    At this point one of the moms and I have talked. The other boys are saying the problems reside with my son. After she told me what happened today, I explained about what I had seen at our house. She didn't say anything to that, except to tell me her husband was at home. I'm not sure what she meant by that.

  4. I would guess the comment about the husband at home was meant to be intimidating.
    Perhaps you could simply suggest that since the children do not seem to get along that they avoid each other. Politely ask her child to avoid yours and vice versa.
    Depending on how nasty the conversation was, why not invite her over for coffee or something? Try to be nice.
    But, I would also keep a video camera around just in case. Also ask your son and any applicable teachers to note any times that the bully comes up to your child.

  5. webster69-fortunately the boys don't go to school together since we homeschool. This is just a neighborhood issue. They are also a lot older than my son, her two boys are 12 and 15, so they wouldn't see each other much in school if he was going.

    I think we basically came to the agreement that our kids should stay away from each other, we'll see how that goes. Part of the problem is the street we live on. We are the second house in and they are two houses down from us. Her plan was to have Robotson stay down here, which means the entire neighborhood is cut off from him. She seemed "reasonable" enough, but on further reflection, she clearly didn't want to hear what I was trying to say to her.

  6. Woah, this woman's children are 12 and 15 and she believes them when they say your kid is the problem?

    Ok, if a 15 year old is having conflict with an 8 year old, he's nothing but a bully. I'd tell that to the mother. Clearly her children are the ones with conflict-resolution problems. Does the mother know your child is only 8? I would make that very clear to her, and tell her that if her kids lay a hand on your child, you WILL press charges.

    Sometimes bullies have parents who are also bullies. They can't see that their hateful behavior carries on. Sounds like this mom was one of them, since she made the comment about her husband being home (seriously, sounds like a veiled threat to me.)

    As for what to tell your son, tell him to ignore them. Tell him to walk with his head high, and to go about his own business. If they taunt him, let it go by and keep walking to where you are going.

  7. I am fascinated to know exactly what kind of trouble is your son causing exactly? Shouldn’t the older kids be able to handle themselves and well, not be bullying anyway?

    Also, it is very unrealistic to make kids stay on their side of the neighborhood or even in their own yard.

    The simple fact that the other parents will not even think their kids are doing any wrong then it makes it’s a no win situation. If you see something different and they don’t see anything other than what their sons tell them then they are full of crap. Even if the husband was home, did he see it from the beginning? Because from my own experience, no one can tell who the problem is if both are fighting when you catch them. I would call the cops and I bet they would talk to the neighborhood kids and possibly the parents.

    I was bullied growing up and pretty much until high school. I have also had my dad not believe me when a bunch of older kids came down and threatened to beat me up when I didn’t do anything but they said I did this and that and my dad believed them. I eventually learned to ignore them and figured they had their own issues because I pretty much was a loner and didn’t talk much in school. I don’t understand why kids/people bully others anyway.

  8. Jenn- I'm sorry to hear you were bullied as a child. That's really just awful.

    Robotson was worried at first that I wouldn't believe him since it was now him against an adult. I made sure he understood that there was NO WAY that could happen, especially in this case. She mimicked to me what my son has been saying and I've been seeing for myself for a while now. Even *if* he did call her son a name and stand at the foot of their driveway--the other boys are not blameless here.

    We talked again about the importance of taking the high road on this one, for me as well as him.

    Thanks for all the comments!! I really, really appreciate all the feedback and suggestions.

  9. I don't have much helpful to say other than this is also one of my worst nightmares for my son when he gets older. How FRUSTRATING!! I'm sorry you are going through this and in your own neighborhood and home area where you are supposed to feel safe. I'm sorry for Robotson, he doesn't deserve it. I can't believe the other parent came to you first, that is very strange. Good luck, this is a tricky one.

  10. I'm sorry to hear Robotson has these jerks to deal with. I've been interested to read comments here- DH was bullied as a kid, and we've talked about bullying and how to raise our kids to be able to handle themselves in these sticky situations. I almost hesitate to admit it, but we're taking the approach of: First ask the kids to stop. If that doesn't work, try ignoring them. If that doesn't work, consider getting help from an adult. But if none of that does the trick, then feel free to defend yourself physically. Don't be afraid of a fight.

    I know that telling my kids it's OK to get in a fight (in some situations) is not a popular approach. But I believe it, and more importantly it's what hindsight has taught DH. I think bullies smell fear, and by simply not being afraid to fight, picked-on kids can nip the whole conflict in the bud.

    Luckily this hasn't come up for us yet, but of course my boys are quite young. Also I don't know that it really applies to your situation, especially since these idiots are so much older than Robotson. There's just no excuse for that behavior. 15?!?? Picking on Robotson? What a complete loser. Though (allow me to put on my snarky hat) it sounds like the idiot comes by it honestly.

    Good luck!

    PS- you were in a dream I had last night: I asked you how your early mornings were getting along, and you enthusiastically told me that they were going SO much better now! :) Hope it's prescient. . .

  11. Thanks KristenMary! This week has been much better but only because he no longer seems interested in going out front.

    Kit-You know, I'm not completely opposed to him defending himself. When he told me the time before last that they had pushed and kicked him, and he did it back. I wasn't upset with him, just worried. Worried that it was going to escalate from there and that there were more of them. Obviously I don't want him starting fights, but I don't want him taking it and not defending himself either.

    I wish things were going as well as your dream! It's been a better week, but only marginally. But hey! It's on my second week of trying to change something I've been doing for years. It's going to take some time. :)

  12. I am sorry that your son is being bullied by older kids. I am not afraid of a conflict. If it were my child, I'd be all over their parents telling them to watch their own kids and leave mine alone. Also, I'd see if maybe there is someone in this bunch that can be "converted" into a friend, maybe by inviting him in your house for some 1:1 play.