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Parenting Bringing up the shorties so they aren't completely messed up

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Old 07-30-2008, 05:43 PM   #1
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Lil Lookout's version of justice

Yesterday I received a handwritten letter from Lil Lookout's teacher. He's in a summer school program run by someone I know from soccer. Kids aged 6-10 years are all together. He was nervous when handing it to me as it was in a sealed envelope with Mr Lookout, in very formal writing across the top. LL hasn't really be in any trouble there, but as usual he has proven to be a bit energetic for the teacher's liking. As his dad for the last seven years, I can fully appreciate that.

Anyway, I read the letter and actually had a tear in my eye afterwards. Apparently a new student had entered the program. This student is autistic, to what degree I don't know, but enough so that an additional staff member had been assigned to the class to smooth things along. Lil Lookout apparently rendered that staff member unnecessary and they released her from the class. The letter went into great detail about what LL did during Monday and Tuesday this week. He, for lack of a better word, adopted this child and never left his side. He showed him around, helped him with the rules, took him to lunch, had the new child "help" him with his classwork, and acted as a barrier when another older boy made a couple of comments about the child's condition. He even picked the kid and made him the goalie for their soccer game at free time. That may not sound like much, but if you can imagine LL's competitive nature on the soccer field that is HUGE. The letter went on to praise LL's caring for the boy in incredible detail. I literally had tears in my eyes because while I know LL is sensitive and caring, sometimes it is easier to see his less positive attributes.

When I talked to LL about the situation and what he was doing he was a bit embarrassed at the praise and really quite confused about all the attention. As he put it, "XXX's brain doesn't work quite like ours does so I helped him". It's as simple as that. LL is quite the little manipulator, but in this case he made his choice not based on what he would get, but just because he thought it was the right thing. I couldn't be more proud.

Anyway, about an hour ago I was sitting at my desk when in walked the director of the school program. This is a guy I rarely see outside of soccer and never in my office, so I knew something was up. He got a cold drink and sat down. He went on to tell me that Lil Lookout is not in any trouble but I have to have a talk with him when I get home. LL was sent home about an hour early today (Mrs L mentioned she picked him up early but didn't say why) because of a playground incident. Apparently LL had continued his role with the autistic child with no changes between them, but one of the older boys decided today was a good day to pick on the "weird" kid. The teacher says there were a couple verbal exchanges throughout the day. The older kid would make fun of the autistic kid and LL would step in play the protector. The teacher just moved them all along and nothing much came of it until free time on the playground. They were, predictably, playing soccer and the older kid kept making comments about the autistic kid and LL kept telling him to knock it off. The teacher would tell them to play and be nice. Then the bigger kid knocked the autistic kid down in what all witnesses described as an unnecessary foul. He cried and LL got mad. The teacher took the autistic kid to sit with her on the sidelines and LL quit talking. He stepped up to the ball for the free kick and crushed it with only one small problem. The bully was several feet away from the expected path of the ball for a normal free kick. The bully went home with a broken nose. The teacher saw the whole thing and although she says LL just kicked the ball and missed the goal - and all the kids agreed - the director and I both know that LL more than likely intentionally hit the kid. The director asked LL about it and all he would say is that he kicked the ball and the other player blocked it with his face. While it isn't a lie, I doubt it is the whole truth.

I'm torn on this. I will absolutely go home and talk to Lil Lookout, but in my heart of hearts I don't really feel the need to do much more than remind him there are better ways to deal with things. LL doesn't get by with much as I'm pretty strict but we have only a couple of hard and fast, penalty of death rules in my house: (beyond the basic safety and authority rules)
1) Take care of those around you who you are in a position to help
2) It is never wrong to do the right thing even when it costs you something. Know the consequences but live by your belief.
3) Never ever lie. (the punishment for lying is always double what the punishment for the infraction being lied about would have been)

That is pretty much it. So, with that in mind I have a hard time doing much more than just talking to him about his methods. I seriously doubt he meant to break a kid's nose. He has kicked literally thousands of soccer balls and hundreds of kids who have walked away uninjured so even intentionally hitting a kid with a ball wouldn't carry an expectation of serious injury.

My devil's advocate, a.k.a. my sister the teacher has another view though. She feels I should lecture LL on the importance of turning these matters over to the authorities for them to deal with. Her point is that LL should have gone to the teacher and made the case that the bully was picking on the autistic child and then trusted the teacher to handle the situation with wisdom and maturity. While I fully appreciate that and see the wisdom and direct correlation to adult life, I just don't agree. LL saw the teacher observe the bullying throughout the day with no repurcussions for the guilty party. LL was patient throughout the day using words to express his displeasure with the bully before finally stepping up and delivering a clear message that the bullying won't be tolerated.

I don't want my kid to grow up and become some nutjob vigilante but I (internally) applaud his decision to mark his ideas of right and wrong on the situation by protecting someone he viewed as unable to protect himself. (with the understanding that injury was not a likely prediction)

Ideas? Thoughts? Insults?
Getting knocked down is no sin, it's not getting back up that's the sin
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Old 07-30-2008, 07:45 PM   #2
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Mr. Clod and I disagreed vehemently on your scenario (I on your side, he on your sister's,) and by the end of dinner we had come up with the following common ground:

LL can't be told he should have trusted the teacher to take care of the situation, because obviously she wasn't handling it. He will write off that suggestion as stupid. However, he can be shown other ways of escalating the situation--i.e., go to the next higher authority. If the teacher just says, "now now, play nice" and isn't protecting the kids in her class, then LL can tell the principal what's going on, or tell you and have you contact the principal, or the bully's parents. It will require slightly more patience on his part, since he'll have to get to the end of the day, but is ultimately probably a more effective solution, both in making the bully behave long-term as well as informing the teacher that it's not acceptable to simply "separate" a bully from his victim and consider the situation handled.
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Old 07-30-2008, 07:53 PM   #3
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I'm the Director of IT. If you told me about how something was screwed up with your computers at work, I'd tell you to have your IT folks deal with it.

Your sister's a teacher. She's telling you to let the teachers deal with it.

We're both right, up to a point. But only up to a point.

I personally would tell the kid that you can't go around handing out vigilante justice, no matter how richly deserved, and it's wrong to blast somebody in the face like that. But it's also wrong to stand aside if something bad is happening to another person. And I'm proud of him for choosing to stand up for his new friend. And if it sounds like I just gave him two completely contradictory instructions, well, that's the way life is sometimes.

Originally Posted by Clodfobble View Post
LL can't be told he should have trusted the teacher to take care of the situation, because obviously she wasn't handling it.
Yeah. She took the austistic kid out of the situation, but left the bully in. Not the best situation.
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Old 07-30-2008, 07:56 PM   #4
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LL is The Batman!
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:05 PM   #5
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Alternatively, accept that in the kid world, fights do happen, bullies do exist and no word from a teacher will ever be as effective in stopping a playground bully than another kid hitting back (preferably in a clever way, which is what LL did). The bully came away with a minor injury no greater than any other risked when playing football (even at that age) and a very useful lesson in peer-justice.

More importantly, to my mind, LL handled the situation with a serious degree of control. He did not fling himself fists first at the bully, he quietly took advantage of an opportunity to settle a score, protect a very vulnerable friend, and send a message to every boy on that field that the autistic boy is not to be treated as the yard punchbag.

Personally I would leave it at that. Don't make a big thing out of it, but talk about it if you get the impression it's playing on his mind. If he does something like that again, it may be worth exploring with him why he is doing and explaining why it's not appropriate in most circumstances. A useful lesson to learn in life, though, is that sometimes it actually is appropriate.
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:25 PM   #6
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When my kids get into situations like this and they feel their teachers aren't doing any good, they usually come to me and tell me what the problem is and I stand up on their behalf.

It's not good to let it go by the wayside with regard to the broken nose. I think as you know you need to point that out, but keep in mind, your son has witnessed you snot one of his team mates fathers before hasn't he, or at the least he probably heard about it? (I can't remember the specifics of the thread but you posted one about an abusive father a while back)

Just keep in mind that he takes his cues from you. Think about what you would have done in an adult situation which was similar and then ask yourself if you really think what he did was wrong, or do you think you need to discipline him simply because you wish for a world where no one needed a good hiding from time to time, just like the rest of us.

Maybe it's time to acknowledge that the world isn't perfect and nor is anyone in it. We all do good and bad things, and sometimes we do bad things for good reasons, but that it doesn't make it right to do so. Tough concept for most of us and even tougher for kids, but worth thinking about.
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by SteveDallas View Post
She took the austistic kid out of the situation, but left the bully in. Not the best situation.
Well put, Steve. I agree. If thats the case then the teacher who readily admitted to seeing things develop throughout the day did not "handle" the situation at all - she let it fester until someone took some well needed action. Depending upon how you look at it, your son took action - he actually did something to resolve the issue. Thats a lot for a child his age. Me, I'd be damn proud of him.
I had a similar situation with my sons and I supported them while stressing the importance of using a physical solution to the very end and only when completely necessary.
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:40 PM   #8
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I think LL did the right thing. I just wish we had it on video.
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:59 PM   #9
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I'm sort of on the fence on this one, but I think, in the end, I'd make sure that he knew that I knew that it wasn't a miskick, that I also knew that he felt there were very few other options in the circs and that i was proud of his sense of justice if not so much the way he went about getting it. Telling your parents when you get home ain't gonna cut it in that sort of situation -it's too late, and appealing to higher authorities only works if there are there at the time.

That said, there's also the chance that the bully is also in summer school because he also has a few social behaviour "problems". Maybe the teacher knows more about what they are than is obvious to the eyes of the students. One of the most common areas of mental impairment is social functions -the stuff that you learn in school and especially in those self-conscious prepubescent years -what is and isn't appropriate, what is and isn't OK to say. Still doesn't excuse the poor handling of the situation, but if the bully's brain doesn't fire on the normal cylinders, the ball in the nose may have served no purpose other than to make LL feel better -the bully may not learn anything from it, and it's pretty certain that the autistic kid would not understand the "revenge" aspect, abd might not suffer any feelings of loss through being withdrawn from the game.

It is a tough call.

But definitely make sure he understands that you know he did it deliberately, that you understand why he did it, and then tell him why it wasn't the perfect solution. But you need to offer him a "next time this happens" scenario and that's tough. How about "next time, pick up the ball and before taking the kick, ask the teacher why the victim was removed and not the offender"
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity Amelia Earhart
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:14 PM   #10
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I have to agree with every word monster typed here.
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:53 PM   #11
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hmm. thanks for answering. this one really is a struggle for me because I know my way of seeing things doesn't line up very well with our current society's desire to go along and get along at all costs. my job is to help my kid learn skills that will serve him well throughout his life, not just the imaginary world i wish we lived in.

i got home, had dinner and watched him. he didn't seem nervous or afraid of some impending doom at all. afterwards we went to barnes and noble for some starbucks and reading as we often do. while there i asked him what happened at school and he told me the whole story with no deviation from the way i'd already heard it. he filled in a few of the things that the bully had done though, such as his repetitive use of the word "retard". I asked him about the kick and he told me with no hesitation that he meant to hit the kid in the stomach, not the face. i asked him why he would want to hit the kid. again with no delay he answered, "i warned him not to pick on _____. when he used words, i used words and talked to the teacher. then he knocked _____ down and hurt him and the teacher didn't do anything so i wanted him to know what it felt like when you can't stop someone from hurting you."

well there you go. I talked to him about it some more and in the end I just couldn't bring myself to reprimand him for something I don't think was wrong. We talked about the injury and I truly believe he didn't mean to hit the kid in the face, but he did show remorse for that and said he would apologize to the kid. I asked him if the same situation happened again would he respond in the same way and he said, "no, i'd aim better". OK, honest answer that I don't object to.

In the end I decided my rule number 2 still stands strong so I just reminded him that he needs to remember that there are consequences to his actions and sometimes doing what he feels is the right thing will cost him. He got lucky this time and I think he gets that.

At the end of the day I'm ok with my kid getting in scraps. I don't want him to embrace violence as a positive part of life but I don't want him to fear it either. I want him to use his brain to avoid the situation but if things get that far and he sees no other way, then he should do what needs to be done and take his lumps as they come.
Getting knocked down is no sin, it's not getting back up that's the sin
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Old 07-30-2008, 11:02 PM   #12
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Just worth considering where the kid learned the word "retard" from....
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity Amelia Earhart
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Old 07-30-2008, 11:14 PM   #13
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I can't really give you an opinion or advice. I'm probably a bad parent figure, but I think the story is awesome and so is LL.

Looks like he is growing up to be a true sheepdog.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Or, as a sign in one California law enforcement agency put it, “We intimidate those who intimidate others.”
"Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards!"
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:16 AM   #14
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That said, there's also the chance that the bully is also in summer school because he also has a few social behaviour "problems".
It isn't that kind of summer school. This is a private school program that has some refresher work for normal age appropriate classwork, but it's really to give them exposure to things they don't get in school anymore. This week LL's big project is baking a cake. They found the recipe, went to the store, bought the ingredients, prep, bake, etc. A couple weeks ago, it was wilderness survival. They learned things that desert kids just don't get normally.

this is definitely not a program full of behavior problems. I was surprised, but not upset, to hear the autistic child was even there.
Getting knocked down is no sin, it's not getting back up that's the sin
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:33 AM   #15
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LL did good , he stood up for a friend who couldn't !
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