Should I contact the parents of the kid my son bullied?

freezetagFebruary 9, 2009

Last week my 11 yo DS scratched another boy's hand with a spork at lunch. The other boy's mother was concerned that her son was being bullied and called the school. Before last week, I had never heard of the other kid ("MJ"), but my son said that this is someone he sits with at lunch, that they were just playing around, and that the other kid has sometimes poked him with a pencil, thrown stuff at him, etc.

I know boys play around like that, but I felt that my ds's behavior was unacceptable (especially at school!), and told the asst principal not to go easy but to just dole out whatever punishment is customary (which was a 1-day out-of-school suspension). That day, I had ds detail my van, do 5 loads of laundry, walk the dog, and clean out the freezer and refrigerator (to be sure that he understood it was not a vacation day). When ds returned to school, he and "MJ" had a meeting with the asst principal. So, feeling that he had paid his dues, I resolved to say no more about it.

However, (you knew this was coming, right?) yesterday my neighborhood friend (whose son is ds's friend) and I were out walking our dogs, and she mentioned that "MJ" had been over to their house to play with her son. "MJ"'s mother mentioned that "MJ"'s father is being deployed soon, and that she wasn't sure what to do with "MJ" after school while she is at work. So my friend, who works part time and is home after school, offered to watch "MJ" after school for the rest of the year.

Since now ds and "MJ" will be riding the same bus, and because ds frequently goes to play with his friend (where "MJ" will be), I am wondering whether I should contact "MJ"'s mother, just to reassure her that I'll be keeping an eye on the situation? There is a group of boys who picked on ds last year, and I think I would feel uncomfortable if I knew he was riding their bus and staying at a house in their neighborhood. I don't want to stir the pot, and I know "MJ"'s mother knows where we live (because my friend told her that ds and her son had been friends since 1st grade) - just looking for some feedback.

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My daughter was bullied in primary school. I know that I would feel better if I were that woman and you called me to say such a thing, especially since she'll no doubt be worried about her husband being at war. It shows consideration and I'm sure she'd appreciate it.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 11:52AM
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Freeze, when I saw the header to the post, I was sure it was going to say BUT HE DIDNT DO IT!!!! I am so impressed with your mothering skills..Most parents today are , Oh he couldnt have done it...Refreshing...As a mother of a bullied kid also, I think your idea of contacting her is a good one..Shows a lot of thought and consideration.....

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 12:42PM
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Thanks, Dotz and Khandi. Not sure my mothering skills are that impressive, because then maybe I wouldn't have needed to write this post!

I feel really irritated with the parents of the boys who picked on ds last year, so it is humbling to find myself on the other side of the situation, and I'm not really even sure of what I want to say - maybe something along the lines of "I am sorry that ds got carried away at school, and that your son was hurt. Since they have a friend in common and may see each other after school occasionally, I just wanted you to know that I'll keep an eye on him so that it doesn't happen again?"

I don't want it to seem like "I" think that ds is a bully who needs to be watched like a hawk. Really, I think ds is basically a good kid, who is impulsive and sometimes does stupid stuff. But I don't want to tell her what a good kid he is, either - seems defensive.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 1:54PM
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Hi Freeze,
I think you're doing a great job with this situation. Just give her a call, let her know that you were sorry to hear your son had hurt her son and you've spoken with him and he understands what happened was wrong. Let her know that you are glad that they will have to opportunity to spend more time together and hope they can be friends.

"Since they have a friend in common and may see each other after school occasionally, I just wanted you to know that I'll keep an eye on him so that it doesn't happen again?"

I don't think you can keep a close enough eye on him to make sure nothing like that ever happens again, especially if it is as your son says and they goof off and mildly injure one another on a frequent basis. But letting her know that when things come up you will make sure he takes responsibility for his actions is something I think every parent would appreciate.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 2:12PM
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I think highly of you for trying to do the right thing... but quite honestly, I would let it go. Of course make sure your son knows what he can and can't do. And, if a problem presents itself again, deal with it.

I think trying to become too 'friendly' or accepting too much responsibility may backfire for you, or even the other mother. Either the bullying has stopped or it will continue, and if it continues, you're probably going to be in a no win situation and probably will not be able to remain on friendly terms no matter how hard you try. You may think you're doing the right thing, but it really may just become an uncomfortable situation for everyone.

Just focus on keeping your son in check and leave it at that.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 6:10PM
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I've been letting this one sit in my brain for a couple days. With all due respect to kids who are victimized by bullies, I just do not understand why this situation is defined as bullying. I just keep re-reading the post with my forehead wrinkled cuz there must be something else. A couple boys goofing off frequently, a scratch from a spork... and suspension for bullying? Am I missing something? Do you think your DS's intentions were more corrupt than goofing off? Was he trying to hurt or scare?

I'm not sure why an isolated scratch with a spork sets off the bully alarm. What you explained sounds mutual to me. Was the other child disciplined for his previous horseplay?

Nope, based on what you've said, I would not call the other mother. I would let boys work things out for themselves. Is her son seriously scared of yours? Aren't they still seeing each other every day at school (including lunch) without further incident? That should be convincing enough, actions speak louder than words.

If I knew my child bullied another child, you can bet I'd have consequences. Please don't think I'm minimizing the trauma of true bullying by questioning this. I just really dont understand why this ended with one child the bully and the other the victim, when it sounds like they both had a role in horseplay gone wild.

Actually, based on what you've said, if I were MJ's mom I'd want to call YOU and say I'm sorry this was blown out of proportion, I just wanted to know the whole story, not have a child suspended and wrongly labeled a bully.

I really am not minimizing bullying, please don't bash me for "not getting it." I do get it... In 6th grade I was bullied, threatened to the point I would not go to school for a week before my mom caught on and went to the administration. It was bad. So it's not a lack of compassion or understanding of the effects of bullying. This situation just sounds like it was blown out of proportion.

Am I the only one who sees it this way?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 11:14PM
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No. I agree with you Stephanie.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 12:14AM
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Stephanie..."Am I the only one who sees it this way?"

Linda..."No. I agree with you Stephanie."

Ditto Ditto.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 10:50AM
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Stephanie, I understand your confusion, and agree that it is not a true bully / victim situation. However, I really think that what my son did was over the line, and wanted to be sure he realized it, too. If they were playing out in the yard, I would have handled it differently, but there are different rules for the yard than for school, and he is old enough to save any roughhousing for after school.

I don't know what, if any, punishment the other boy received, and truthfully, I'm not even sure it matters. Ds has never complained about "MJ", so what reason would the school have for punishing him? When the asst principal first talked to ds, ds only said that they were playing around - didn't mention the pencil-poking until later when he talked to dh.

What I wanted ds to get out of this, is reinforcement of something he learned years ago with my niece. My boys and their friends all play rough with each other, and know not to expect any sympathy from me if they get bruised while wrestling or playing dodge ball. But when my niece would come over, ds would play with her the same as he plays with his friends, she would screech, and he would get in trouble (because she had made it clear that she was not interested in their games). Pretty soon she would screech whenever he came anywhere near her - I think just for the fun of getting him in trouble. So I told him, I know that she is overreacting, but I can't defend you if you have so much as touched her. So just stay clear of her, and then you'll never be in trouble. I know it isn't exactly fair that he has to walk on eggshells around her, but in life he'll find there are always a few people who don't play by the same rules he does, and I wanted him to be able to differentiate between who is "safe" and who is not.

To me this is nearly the same situation - the school makes it clear that students are not to touch each other, but he did it anyway and paid the price. Yes, the other kid seems to have changed the rules between himself and ds midstream, which is unfortunate, but still, I really don't feel that I can defend ds' behavior here - he has to be responsible for what he does regardless of what anyone else did.

Probably will not call "MJ"'s mom, though - your comments made me realize that there is really nothing I can say to improve what will be an uncomfortable situation. "MJ"'s mom will eventually see ds out playing with his friends enough to realize he is not a big bad bully :)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 11:37AM
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Freeze..."To me this is nearly the same situation - the school makes it clear that students are not to touch each other, but he did it anyway and paid the price."

The rule is really that the students are not to touch each other?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 12:37PM
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OK, I probably overstated that. Technically, I don't know that there is a specific rule against touching each other, but at the middle school orientation, they did say that there is a "hands-off" policy (though perhaps this rule is more to prevent kids from being overly affectionate).

And technically, I guess you could say that ds didn't touch the other kid, only the spork did :)

Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that ds and the other kid both know that it is against school rules to jab someone with a spork, pencil, etc, but did it anyway.

Has anyone besides me slowed down after paying a speeding ticket? Even though other people are driving faster? I know virtue should be its own reward, but paying the price for breaking the law is a good motivator, too.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Bottom line, and I agree with many of you that this doesn't seem that severe, but the OP's child could theoretically, get expelled for this kind of stuff. It's hard to see a whole picture.. the OP's child could be tormenting this other child all the time, and the fork incident is only one in a line of things he is doing to him.

Friends jabbing one another with a spoon/fork at lunch could be funny, but, on the other hand, if they are not friends and your child had just called him fat in the hall way earlier that morning and yesterday accidentally tripped him on the playground making sure others saw it and laughed at him... it probably is not all that funny and could be considered bullying. Without knowing the whole content and relationship between the boys, it's hard to say. And, I bet there is a history between them. Generally, kids won't tell about a fork incident unless something else is going on. There's always two sides to a story and almost always more going on than you think.

So, the schools choose to err on the side of caution whenever any kind of physical altercation occur. (And, no you can't get out of it because he used a fork not his own hand.. using that logic, I would guess a baseball bat would be ok- NOT). I kind of agree with the ways schools are handling it especially nowadays. The line has to be drawn somewhere. Back when we were younger, sure, a lot of people used physical force daily; today, kids just don't. The ones that do resort to physical acts REALLY do stick out. So, what seems minor, may not be.

What I expect could happen, and why I say don't call about it... is at some point something else may happen. The other mother will think it's a bigger deal than you do because it is her child and you will (and probably should) side with your son especially if this is his second infraction and he may face expulsion. You don't want to be on record taking all the blame especially when you don't know what is actually going on... For all you know, the other kid is the actual emotional bully and your kid just responded with the fork out of frustration. It's nice that you accept responsiblity, but be careful... it really could come back to haunt you.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 9:47AM
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