Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Boy Troubles

I have written about this before, but here I am struggling with it again: boys, roughhousing and bullying.

My two sons are quite different when it comes to roughhousing and wrestling. P does not enjoy it AT ALL. R, on the other hand, cannot get enough. (Interestingly K really likes it, too!)

It is not really an issue at home because we are instructed to 'use our words' to say when we have had enough--and the other child is expected to comply at that point or face punishment. Confronting these issues with friends (whose parents may have different ground rules) is a whole different story. With Summertime upon us and many more opportunities for free play with friends, I find myself dealing with how much of the roughness is just part of being male, versus when it crosses the line to danger. Additionally, I am unsure about when to intervene and when to let the boys just duke it out.

This weekend we were in a situation where many children were wrestling inside an inflatable at a party with little adult supervision. After hearing P cry, I went and stood by the inflatable to discern whether it was legitimate. To my disappointment, I found him yelling at another similarly aged boy, then pushing him. I ordered him to come out of the inflatable for a chat. He cried and said, "But, Mama, he was pinching me and hurting me. I told him to stop and he wouldn't."

A few minutes later R had a very similar experience with the same child. As I started in on my lecture for the kicking I saw him do, through tears he assured me that the other little boy had provoked it by squeezing his knees "so hard it hurt and wouldn't stop."

I have friends who feel the right thing to do is to tell them to push back. I just cannot get comfortable with that approach. Yet, I want my children to be able to defend themselves if they are truly being hurt. I decided to tell him the right thing to do was 'do what he needed to do to get away' and find a grown up.

I want to teach my children Biblical truth (turn the other cheek), but practically, I do not want them to get bullied or hurt. I would love to hear how some of you other mamas handle this issue.

P.S. Proving that it is dangerous to get another Mama involved in a way that makes your child out to be a completely innocent victim, a few minutes after R's confrontation with the boy, his Mama walked up and asked if everything was OK. Before I could respond, my son got a running start and tackled her son right before our very eyes.
"They were being rough," I told her, "but I think we are more than even now."

15 comments:

Colored With Memories said...

i love your PS...how funny!

i wish i had some advice to offer...i only have 2 absolutely angelic girls that never fight though! ha ;) !

i'll be checking back to see what other mamas say!

Courtney said...

I have no advice, as you well know, I am struggling with this as well. However, I might be(am) on the other end of the spectrum. My son (almost 4) is the son of a youth pastor's kid. ALL of the youth rough house with each other constantly (especially the boys) and with him all the time. That is like their "love language" in a weird way to each other. So Jackson sees this all the time and doesn't quite 'get' that he can't do that with the kids his age. I absolutely hate it. He is the sweetest, cuddliest little boy in the world...but it doesn't ever appear that way on a playground because of his behavior. No one understands that it's his way of saying 'hi, you're pretty cool, you wanna play?' nor do I want that to be how he says that. But he does.

I'm working on it. I half want some kid to just waylay (no clue how to spell that) so he gets it back at him. So far most of the kids just take it, tattle, or do things he doesn't get hurt enough to come tell me.

I am at a loss. We talk about it all the time. I hate it most because I feel it's a failure on my part to help train up his character and obedience. And of course, it's absolutely embarassing when parents have to come find me to tell me my kid is hurting theirs.

And of course my 2 1/2 year old little girl has been watching and does the same things now.

Ramble ramble ramble. Sorry. But I'd love advice too! :)

Jennifer said...

I have 3 boys, from 2 1/2 to 7 and would love to hear more too. I do agree it's a part of boys and play. You also have to guide them through it properly and I have yet a great answer to that. A new Christian based book does talk about it a lot though, it's titled Wild Things. It's a great new book on boys.

Tonya said...

Interesting timing... My boys love play fighting, only now my almost 3 year old is walking up out of nowhere and punching his older brother! Yesterday I asked my facebook friends for their advice and came back with mostly "let his older brother hit back". I had another friend write something that has really challenged me as a mom... I wrote about it on my blog today if you'd like to read it.

Bailey's Leaf said...

You know, my K- had issues with a child beating her up at school. K- is one of the taller kids in class, but this kid knocked her off her chair, pushed her off the letter on the rug, purposely kicked her and something else that I can't remember. I finally called the school director, but admit that I had held off since I'm on school board. I told K- to please tell the child that they were hurting you. If they continued, to please tell the teacher. When I called to report the problem, I found that they had been having issues with this little girl, as she had spit in a little boys face the week before. K- told me that she didn't want to tell and get the girl in trouble. Now she is a little hyper-telling and is a bit of a tattle tale. HOW DO I FIX THAT?! Oh, I do want her to stand up for herself. I don't want her to beat people up. I want her to use her words-- words that Jesus would be proud of. (As we talk about.) Oh my, this child raising stuff is tough!

Renee said...

I know exactly what you mean. I have two boys-ages 8 and 6. The funny thing is, we have only had problems like this with our cousins. My husband has instructed them to look in their eyes and say loudly, "Please do NOT do that again. I do not like it." Making sure with volume and tone that they are clear. Second time, repeat the message and say, "I told you before I do NOT like your (kicking or whatever). you need to stop now." And then turn around and give the child no attention. The third time, our boys are allowed to use physical force with the purpose of making the child stop bullying, not just for revenge. This rule only applies to social situations because we home school. We don't have to deal with these issues in a school environment. That's another ball of wax altogether. The reason for the retaliation with the third blow is that my husband believes the boys not only need to be trained to defend themselves, but also ladies, their families, and possibly their homes and countries. They need to know how to take a stand physically, as well (and more importantly) as spiritually. My husband moved many times and had to stand up to bullies to the point of physically defending himself many times during high school. He never picked a fight. I was really glad he had learned what to do one night at college when another guy was not treating me like a lady and he physically put the guy in his place. Ultimately, I think Dads who desire big brutish sons are foolish and silly. (What is the verse in Proverbs that says "A wise warrior is mightier than a strong one..."). I think this is a very hard issue, for sure!! And the self-control and maturity it requires for a boy to know the rules and limits takes a lot of time and patience!

Felicia said...

I tell you..I've said this before..your blog falling into my lap through Jennifer Hayes was a God-send! I have been struggling with this for a few years..and us too it is usually only with cousins. It has really put a strain on our relationships because you are right everyone treats it different as far as the rules for their kids and ultimately you have to go with your own instincts for your own family's well-being. And, then you also have to make sure your child isn't being bullied..and that their behavior is normal boy/child behavior for their age. It took me a while to really truly realize my oldest's behavior is COMPLETELY normal. People had me believing otherwise though! :( I think you areon the right track. Although I think I am going to go find that book Wild Things someone mentioned. Have you read Dobson's Bringing up Boys? I want to read that too.

Felicia said...

I tell you..I've said this before..your blog falling into my lap through Jennifer Hayes was a God-send! I have been struggling with this for a few years..and us too it is usually only with cousins. It has really put a strain on our relationships because you are right everyone treats it different as far as the rules for their kids and ultimately you have to go with your own instincts for your own family's well-being. And, then you also have to make sure your child isn't being bullied..and that their behavior is normal boy/child behavior for their age. It took me a while to really truly realize my oldest's behavior is COMPLETELY normal. People had me believing otherwise though! :( I think you areon the right track. Although I think I am going to go find that book Wild Things someone mentioned. Have you read Dobson's Bringing up Boys? I want to read that too.

Amazing Racer said...

Read Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. It gives some great insight.

All that to say, I have a 4 year old (VERY tall for his age) who is sensory seeking and on the autism spectrum. We have found that with him, until he has a better understanding, the policy is only wrestling with Daddy. Because more than once he has unintentionally wrestled someone younger than him to the ground.

Katy said...

I have 2 boys, 9 1/2 & almost 7. They love to wrestle at home. My rules are: you must be on your knees, this prevents kicking. my husband or i supervise, we use to sit and watch, when they were little. now i can be in the kitchen and still see them. they can not hit out of anger. it's all giggles all the time. i have two brothers, so we did it all the time. my husband is the youngest of 5. his brother 10 years older and 3 sisters. he never wrestled. it's a fun time for us.

getting other kids involved is difficult when it happens outside of the home. like in your situation. they are just meaning to be mean. i teach them to remove themselves from the situation. it's tough to walk off of a jumpy thing, but they will eventually learn to not favor the bully. i also use those situations to remind my boys that they don't want to do those mean things in return because then they would be a bully.

i'm not saying that these work. but i keep repeating them in every day talk and when situations arises. my oldest is almost 10 and he is learning how to handle situations on his own. he will report back to me about how he has handled things.

it's good that you allow them to wrestle. i have girlfriends that have 2 girls and 1 boy and to them the boys is just plain wild. i don't see it like that. i will wrestle with the 1 boy or they wrestle with my boys and i teach them the rules of our house. the mother is like, oh that's not so bad. boundaries. gotta have them!

Kate said...

The bullying issue has come up for us in a couple of different ways. My oldest never had problems with being bullied or bullying others. My middle son got in trouble in Kindergarten for hurting a 1st grader. The boy was considerably smaller than Nathan was, and Nathan was just playing and not realizing that the other boy wasn't. Later, Nathan (who is now a 6'3" 14 year old and has always been tall) was being emotionally bullied by a much smaller boy in his class. I had a hard time getting his teacher to take it seriously because Nathan was so much bigger than the other boy.

At our school, my students have a WIDE variety of different backgrounds. Quite a few have been taught that you hit back if hit. Because of the home situations that some of them are in, I hesitate to tell them that's always wrong (because it might in fact be necessary at times), but my rule for school is that first, they need to attempt to use words to solve the issue. If that doesn't help and there's an adult around, they should tell.

We work a lot with the kids who are aggressive on learning appropriate ways to express feelings and resolve conflict. Because my classroom frequently includes students with behavior problems, we have many opportunities to do so. We first review and then rehearse alternate (and more appropriate) responses. I think that's something you can use with your child who is being picked on or just being played with in a manner they don't like. When they've rehearsed some responses, then they've got a little tool kit at hand to choose from.

Shannon and Carey said...

Go P or R. Whomever it was. lol.
-Shannon in Austin

SarahJenkins said...

what do you do about your bf son that is 12 and smarts off to you????? she does not want to talk to me now?? I only have 1 well mannerd 4yo girl !

Tasha said...

Hey Jennifer! It has been a very long time! I love your blog and you have such a beautiful family. I think when we worked together, my boys were very young. They are now 22, 18 and 14.

We have had a few opportunities to deal with bullying through the years. Our rule was always, try to ignore the person or talk it out first, then try to get help from an adult and then if the bullying continued, they had our full permission and support to do whatever they needed to do to end it. Most of the time one of the first three options was enough. However, there were a few times when it did come to blows and in every instance, once our boys "unleashed" as my husband likes to say, the bullying immediately ended.

I hate the roughhousing that boys/teenagers/men engage in (probably b/c I am a girl), but living in a house full of males, it is definitely something that I have learned to accept...to a point. There are times that I have to insert myself and end it b/c it just gets to be too much. But what I have learned is this, that IS a BIG way that boys show affection with each other...especially family members (with some exceptions). It drives me crazy sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, I want my boys to learn to communicate verbally and be able to express their feelings, but if push comes to shove, I also want to know that they can defend themselves, me, their girlfriends or one day wives and family.

My boys were typical boys growing up. I didn't try t make them act like grown ups, and I didn't try to push them into acting or thinking like I would (a girl) but I let them respond and react to things more like their dad...sometimes gentle, sometimes hard. Today, they are and are well on their way to being three of the finest men I know.

Tara said...

I completely agree with Renee's earlier comment, but my situation is with two girls. My girls know that we don't hit, kick, pinch, etc. However, in this world we live in, I fill it necessary for them to be able to know when action in a physical way is needed. I have told them to tell them not to do the behavior. If they continue and don't stop, they can do whatever they need to get them to stop. It's not about getting even, it's about being able to protect themselves.