Friday, June 11, 2010

Handling a Playdate Bully

Thought I'd try something new here at MommyBrain.  Mainly because I like new, shiny things ... but also because I find myself pondering some of life's big questions ... often through internal dialogue that rather closely resembles "crazy-mumbling-to-myself."  Makes me wonder if my lips are moving during those conversations?  Am I the only mama talking to myself?  Please tell me I am not alone! Anyway, sometimes there are these trivial quandaries that pop into my head and I can't help but wonder ... What do YOU, fellow mamas, fellow bloggers, friends near and far, SAY?  What's your opinion?  How do you handle this situation or that predicament?  Or even, what could I have done differently?  If the question/situation inspires you, please leave a comment :)

How do you handle a playdate bully? Okay, so this week's question happens to be a predicament I haven't encountered to a major extent.  For the most part, the playdates we attend - and we do attend plenty of them -  are pretty tame ... only minimal pushing or occasional toy snatching.  However, I was at a playdate earlier this week, and this was the topic of conversation.  A mom feeling like her son was being bullied.   The mom of the bully was not appropriately responsive to the problem.  The bully was warned by the other mom that if he kicked her son one more time, the playdate would be over.  The kicking occurred again and the mom and her son left.  When she recounted this story to me, she asked, "How do you handle a playdate bully?"   It's such a good question!  Of course, this problem is exasperated by the fact that the moms are friends.  What does a situation like this do to a friendship?

I think she did the right thing.  I believe in advocating for my child in this situation ... even at the expense of a mommy friendship.  Keeping my little ones safe is my number one priority, and I am not okay with the idea of my child being kicked and hit or pushed and shoved ... beyond what I would deem "normal" physical contact with kids her own age. I'll be the first to admit that Natalie is guilty of pushing and toy snatching.  I make it a point to react to her misbehavior because it is not okay or kind to push and snatch.  While we haven't encountered an actual bully, I have been in the situation when pushing and snatching is all but ignored.  That is frustrating enough.  It is a tough conversation to have with a fellow mom; to point out that her child, her pride-and-joy is doing something "wrong" ... and even worse that she is not doing her job by ignoring it.  I  mean, can you imagine?!  I am not really one for conflict, which makes it even more difficult.  But ultimately, I go back to the fact that I want and need to keep my child safe.  How do you do that tactfully?  How do you do that and still maintain mommy friendships and your spot on the playdate circuit?

I am really stuck on this one ... actually, as I look back at what I've written, I notice it's now two questions:  What is the best way to handle bad behavior that goes unnoticed by the parent?  How do you handle a playdate bully?

So ... what do YOU say?

Please leave a comment ... or link up if you feel strongly enough to blog about it.


Oliver'sMom said...

Wow Dana, great topic! Oliver got some "playdate digits" at school yesterday. I was all excited until one of the teachers said "Yeah, X can be a bit agressive, but they seem to like each other a lot". Now I'm in a quandry-do I call this mom for a playdate (never met her or her son, she wrote me a note about how her little guy talks about O all the time), or do I not becuase it's just to "out there"? After this post, I'm really stumped!

You know the teacher in us comes out when we're in public-I can't stand seeing misbehavior by kiddos when some redirection would help. Sigh. I think I'll be "that mom" who always opens her mouth when she should keep it shut. I'll be glad to see what everyone else has to say about this one, I need some tips! Our only playdates to this point have been with NHV (such a hooligan, that one! LOL) and a couple of friends kiddos that we all treat like our own kids.

Ok, everyone else, post up!

Ali said...

Aaa, I have a friend who's son is a year older than mine, at a playdate 2 summers ago her child walked over to mine and smacked him in the head with a cup (4 weeks after his skull was reconstructed) the mom looked and didn't say a word, I picked up my son, said to the host mom, sorry I have to go, I can't have my son in places were hitting goes unoticed, call me and WE can get together soon without some others. The kicker, everyone at the playdate was a teacher.... Even the mom in question!
I know kids are kids and this stuff happens, I just get mor upset with the parents that don't point out to their kids that certain behaviors are just not nice. Case and point, my son was bit at preschool, the mom of the biter looked for me at pick up and appologized to me and made her son say sorry to my son, it had already been handled by the teachers but she felt strongly about her son knowing it was not okay. Totally get that!

natalee said...

This is an amazing topic.. i just encountered that.. my friends 3 year old was hitting my two year old over the head with various objects.. i tried to be nice but my friend never said a word to her kid.. even though i pointed it out.. when my friend went to the bathroom I'll admit I pointed my finger at the kid and said.. if you do that again.. I'm gonna put you in time out..the kid looked scared and was good the rest of the time..(yikes)

Jessica {Team Rasler} said...

This is a tough one that I've only had to deal with a few times. In a group playdate, it was easiest to just direct my child away from the bully, and I could forgive the mom for not noticing it since she was talking to someone else (and we all do that from time to time and miss something). In a smaller setting, though, I think I would pause to see if the parent said anything, then address the child directly like your friend did about the kicking.

Sebastian gets upset if no one corrects other kids' misbehaviors, and I hate to set a bad example by seeming to ignore it when someone shoves or hits, so one time he looked right at me and said, "No hitting," and I said (a bit loudly), "You're right, Sebastian, hitting isn't nice. Tell (other kid) to please be gentle." The mom then took the hint. As our kids get older, it's going to feel a lot more comfortable to me to let them handle things so I don't have to get into it with the parents!

BJ_Mama said...

I say...tell your kis to hit/kick/bite them back...HARDER!

Okay, just kidding. MAMAS! Don't get your knickers in a twist!

I'm feeling a little sassy today...

Shell said...

LOL @ BJ Mama. Is it bad that I agree with her to an extent, even though she was joking?

My kids have done things on playdates that weren't very nice- they do get a warning, have to apologize, and then we leave if they do it again. I don't believe in leaving the very first time they do something.

I did have a mom freak out on me b/c my oldest hit hers- but what she didn't see was that my son was hitting hers BACK. That hers had come up behind him and punched him- so mine turned around and whacked him.

I still told mine that he shouldn't do that, but I was SO annoyed at the mom b/c if hers hadn't started it, mine would never have hit.

I sound whiny- but *he* started it...

Noelle said...

I rarely deal with it at the parent level. I deal with the child in question, if I am the one to see it. My philosophy is that the correction/redirection/whatever you want to call it - should be done right away and will be equally effective from me. If a parent sees what I'm doing and steps in, all the better. I don't really worry about what those other parents think. If they won't take care of it, I will. If it is a reoccurring event, I make sure to let the child know that when I am there, bullying behavior won't be tolerated and that I'm watching to make sure it isn't happening.

When (not if) it is my child, I deal with her immediately and consistently and I expect the same from the parents around me. She has a bit of a dominant personality and is never the quiet one in the group. I personally like that about her. It might not necessarily serve her well in the "learning to play well with others" phase but it will serve her well most other times in her life.

And, from the parent of a child who was bullied a time or two - there is a part of me that really wanted to tell him to hit them back and harder... just a mama-bear gut reaction, I think. I didn't, but I really, really wanted to.

Anonymous said...

So glad you wrote this and I managed to stop by and see it! I have a post scheduled next week along the same lines!

And the answer is: I don't know. That's why I'm so happy to read everyone else's replies! Ahhh! Thanks a ton! haha

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Deb said...

One of my closest friends has a 3 y/o she pretty much just refuses to discipline (at least consistently, which is almost worse than doing nothing). Even though he says nasty things, screams at, shoves, and does the opposite of everything he's told, my son, who's three months younger, WORSHIPS him. But the mom only nitpicks at the low-hanging fruit (even to my kids, just for good measure) and ignores the big picture that her son is a bully (toward her, too) and getting worse by the day.

I am certain, however, that our friendship can't handle a confrontation. So to save my kids hurt feelings and bruises and having to bite my own tongue clear off (and having to spend a few days unteaching my kids rotten stuff), I just don't do playdates with her anymore. Both of our families will sometimes hang out during weekends, but we keep those plans few and far between.

By far, not a great solution. But I hate conflict and think my mom is a good person who is in over her head but absolutely refuses to admit it.

Great post!

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