Is that where you learned to bite?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Andy, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    difficult child has been playing with a girl from the next neighborhood. He and L have been trying to avoid another girl E and I told them that when E is around they are to include her in whatever they are doing so they have been tolerating her.

    L is 10 years old which really surprised me, she is very mature and I really thought she was closer to difficult child's age. E is about 12 years old.

    The other day, difficult child comes home and tells me that E attacked L. He knew E was angry so was trying to get L away from the area but before he could explain, E stated she felt like jumping someone and choose L. When difficult child tried to pull E away from L, E bit difficult child. difficult child took L home (it was her supper time anyway) and came home himself.

    When L came back after supper, I called her mom. She said L had not said a word. I asked her if she knew E or E's mom since I did not. I asked if E's mom would be open to a visit or how she would like to handle this. She told me she should would first talk to L and then get back to me.

    We have been busy all weekend and have not had a chance yet to touch base again. Yesterday afternoon, E came over while difficult child was working on preparing a flower bed for me. I asked difficult child if I should say anything to her and he said "no". She soon left but was back shortly with a very small bucket (smaller than an ice cream pail) that had a turtle in it. She showed me the turtle and I told her that she needs to take it out of the bucket soon since it needs to be able to move around.

    I then warned her to be careful of snapping turtles along the lake and stream that they play at. We have seen some huge ones nearby. She told me that she knew all about snapping turtles, she has seen a lot of them. So, I asked her, "Is that where you learned to bite?" She looked at me questionably. I said, "difficult child came home with bite marks on his arm the other day. Did you learn to bite from snapping turtles?" "No", she replied, "I learned to bite from my little brother."

    I told her that in this neighborhood, kids do not physically fight and if she is angry at someone, she is to use her words or ask an adult for help.

    difficult child was a little ways away working on the flower bed. He text me with, "What? Is that all? I thought you were going to really yell at her!"

    There may be a reason difficult child and L and other neighborhood kids are avoiding E. She is mean. I will keep an eye out for what she is doing when involved with difficult child and let other parents know if difficult child tells me any harm to their kids. I think if she knows that as a neighborhood this behavior will not be tolerated than she will take more care of how she behaves with the other kids.

    She went to another neighbor's house to see if H would play. She told him she was bored and he just shut the door in her face. His mom did talk to him and told him that no matter how mean E is, he is not to shut the door in her face. She is bored and is looking for kids to play with. We will let her get involved in the neighborhood play as long as she is respectful. If she harms anyone, then she will be grounded from seeing our kids for awhile. (I did this with another kid in the neighborhood who attacked difficult child and the next day came to play. I told him that I didn't think the two of them knew how to play well together and needed a week to think about how to treat each other before playing again).
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Andy, I am one of the first to try to include all kids, but I have learned the hard way, and now see my friends learning the hard way - TRUST your children's judgement when it comes to who they want to play with. It is generally a bad idea to force kids to spend time with other kids they don't like. The unpopular kid will know it and resent it; the kid forced to be nice will not learn anything positive form the experience either.

    I remember being the unpopular kid when I was younger. I was only unpopular with this particular girl because I was several years younger and a nerd. The girl's mother wanted us to be buddies, because she wanted to cultivate my mother and having daughters as friends would help. Frankly, I wasn't impressed with the mother, either, I felt she was shallow and manipulative. I was about 11, the other girl was 14. We all went on a shopping trip to the city, now isn't that nice? Two mothers and two daughters, the older girl sullen and resentful and constantly looking over her shoulder lest a friend see her in company with a much younger nerdy girl. Oh yes, I knew. I felt sorry for her; I would have preferred to stay home and read a book.

    And I saw the same thing again, with difficult child 3 in Kindergarten. A classmate of his was often dropped off to play with difficult child 3 because the boy's mother felt it would be good for her son to learn tolerance and acceptance of disability. Yes, she actually said that to me. If she wasn't such a genuinely kind person, I would have got angry with her. Unlike my childhood experience, this woman is NOT shallow. But despite her efforts, her son is and always was; he hated being made to hang around with difficult child 3. Even at 5 years old, it was obvious our boys had absolutely nothing in common. I finally managed to convince the boy's mother that it was only going to damage our son's friendship with one another, to force things.

    As time has gone on, the other boy has at times been able to support difficult child 3 when he's been hassled. Or other times when there was a practical problem (difficult child 3 lost a toy at the beach, his friend dived down and found it for him) this boy has been kind. I do feel that if we'd allowed the ongoing relationship to continue to be forced, they wouldn't get on so well now.

    A close friend of mine has a very bright, gifted daughter. An only child, she is doted on, petted, indulged, loved. But also raised to have a social conscience, in the extreme. As part of this social conscience, her mother has insisted on her befriending all the children in the class and has even encouraged the girl to invite home the unpopular kids, to show them a kindness. My friend has been horrified sometimes at her daughter's reluctance to be friendly to one girl; she couldn't understand why her loving, compassionate girl was rejecting this other classmate and as a result, mum became even more insistent on her daughter showing kindness and welcome.

    Well, it has backfired. The daughter was not surprised when the gossip began, but it has been nasty. The unpopular girl has been telling everyone about my young friend's sexual practices (my friend is 11 years old). The details are graphic, other kids are named including their family pets! Yes, my 11 yo friend has been accused by a classmate of bonking everything male with a spine. And my young friend knew about this girl's tendency to say this sort of nasty thing, but was still being made to befriend this nasty girl, by her mother. But the social conscience in my young friend meant she would not tell her mtoher about the nasty gossip, because that would be telling tales and spreading gossip and she's been taught to not do that.

    Sometimes our children have wiser heads than we give them credit for.

    I have told my young friend's mother to please recognise that she already has raised her daughter to be a kind, compassionate and wise person and to value this in her girl and give it validity. Involve the daughter in her choices and reasons for asking her to befriend someone, and recognise that if a kid says, "I would rather not hang around with that child," they deserve to be listened to. A kid's instinct is often better than we give our kids credit for.

    We want our kids to learn to listen to their gut feelings about whether someone is good or not. When Uncle Bobby wants you to give him a hug, is it OK? If Uncle Bobby isn't wearing any clothes at the time and the child feels it's a bit ooky, then we need our children to trust their own feelings about this, to value those feelings and to act on those instincts in order to keep safe. So we shouldn't undermine these lessons by forcing our kids to ignore their feelings, their gut instincts and reservations about others, purely in order to "be kind".

    As I said right in the beginning, a kid who is being selected out for special treatment, someone to "be kind to", WILL almost always know about it and probably resent it. If the kid is unpopular because he/she is a sociopath in the making, then having that child resent your child is NOT good. Your child could find himself victimised or in a lot of difficulties, purely because of a misguided act of kindness.

    I know saying all this probably makes me seem a heartless, cold cow. But I do often go out of my way to do kind things for people. However, you should always do it because you choose to, because you can, because you feel it is right. And you should do it with a glad heart, not a reluctant one.

    If you want to teach your children to be kind to others and to include someone who is otherwise being left out, then the best way to teach this is NOT to make THEM do it, but to let your kids see YOU doing it. Involve your kids in baking a cake for an elderly neighbour, then take your kids with you when you deliver it.

    You do it first. And you do it better. Because you are the adult, it is easier for you to remain safe (and you are more experienced in life, so you have a better chance of it not backfiring badly on you). But you should never require anything form your kids, tat they don't already see you doing yourself, to a greater extent.

  3. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I refuse to allow my children to be rude to anyone. They can avoid her all they want but when she catches up to them, they best be polite. If this girl shows up and wants to join in with a group activity than they should let her. I refuse to let my children tell her to go away and that they want nothing to do with her. In our neighborhood, ALL kids get along and are not rude to each other. She will soon learn how to fit in. It is very good for all kids to learn to have patience with each other. If her behaviors continue, then I will tell her she is not welcomed until she can behave respectfully. Until that time, she should be able to join the group.

    The activities the neighborhood kids do are catching minnows, riding bikes, playing baseball, ect., all GROUP activities. It is the beginning of the summer and she should be allowed to join in. She is only 11 or 12 years old and needs the chance to discover that if you are respectful to everyone, you can have fun. I trust this group to send her a strong message when she is out of line. They WILL send her home but as long as she is nice, she can play.

    I am not asking difficult child to go looking for her to invite her into group play. I am asking him to be tolerable, a lesson of great value to anyone of any age. He is able to tell her when she is doing something not acceptable to the neighborhood style of play. He is able to walk away and tell her he doesn't want to play anymore when she is mean. When the neighborhood kids are doing something together, I will not allow the entire group to be rude and tell her they will not let her play. They can tell her that she can play IF she is nice and can follow the rules but not to tell her to go away while everyone else is having fun.

    It sometimes takes a village to raise a child and as long as the neighborhood kids are respectful and the parents are aware and can mediate issues, it will be far better for this girl than to have everyone turn their back on her. I would hate for the entire neighborhood refuse to play with my child even if he was mean. That would call for intervention, not ostracizism.

    Who knows, maybe in a few months it may come to ostracizism but that is NOT the first step.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2010
  4. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Andy, I think you're doing the right thing. Just make sure that difficult child knows what acceptable and what's not and be willing to publicly back him up. There are valuable lessons to be learned by all the kids involved.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Oh yes, I agree here. But that isn't what I was talking about. There IS a difference.

    But there always need to be rules in interactions. There could be a simply explanation as to why she is so difficult, and this could show up, plus your kids could work out a way to get along with her that reduces the problems. Kids have a better chance with this, especially kids who are more inclined to be inclusive anyway.

    What I was talking about, was the problems that can come when we as parents get involved and insist on our kids including someone they would rather not, for reasons of their own.

    Teaching your kids to be polite and friendly, and allowing someone to join in, is not the same as telling your child, "I know Jackie hasn't been very kind to you; maybe she's unhappy. I have invited her over this afternoon so we can make her feel welcome."

    We have the same experience as adults - there are people we will chat to on the street but who we would rather not invite back home, because for whatever reason, we don't get on well enough. We know we get on OK as long as we can walk away when we need to. I'm not talking about the misfits here, I'm talking about the people we know can be very unpleasant and difficult to get on with. If you want to work on yourself to build a connection with someone like that, it is important to go about it the right way and for the right reason, or you risk causing even more offence.

    Mind you, with people I don't know, I often invite them back home even though I haven't got a clue what to expect. But that is different, to trying to force a connection with someone where there is already a feeling of "I need to keep my distance from this person."

    Andy, we may have been talking at cross purposes. My concern is for those kids whose parents try to force their friendships with kids their children have privately decided to avoid.

    I think you did a great thing in how you talked to the girl.

    Letting her join in - that is good, especially on the terms you make clear. Teaching your children the same guidelines is extremely healthy for their long-term social skills. Having rules and following through is putting your own family rules to practical use in the wider community.

  6. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Marg, There is NO parent setting up play dates. I don't even know her mom. I could care less if difficult child actively avoids her but if they do cross paths and she wants to join in a GROUP activity then the GROUP had best let her in. We live in a neighborhood that GROUP play is so common that there is no way of not spending time with everyone at some point throughout the week. The kids do not have to be "friends" with each other but they do have to respect each other. If they are angry, they do not bite or otherwise fight.

    The issue here was not me making difficult child play with someone, the issue is that this girl was inappropriate and as a neighborhood, we will not allow that. I don't believe in ostercising a child over bad behavior. I am not forcing them to play together. difficult child does not have to be friends but he does have to include her when she comes around wanting to join in whatever outdoors game is going on. And he always has to be kind. I will help him out from time to time if he wants to avoid her but it will be on the quiet where it will not hurt her feelings. She will never be made to feel we do not want her around (unless her unwanted behaviors grow too big). Those will mostly be when she comes to the door asking for him and there is no group play going on. He doesn't want to be with her one on one and that is perfectly o.k.

    I will make a point of touching base with her from time to time when she does come over - letting her know if she is angry with difficult child she can talk to me about it - and communicating with difficult child daily on how things are going in the neighborhood. We should be able to keep an eye on things and get control before anything gets out of hand.

    difficult child went through a year of bad behavior when he was 11. He came very close in being physical a few times and it frightened his classmates so I think he understands how her frustations make her feel. He has also learned how to deal with that anger without hurting others. He remembers how he felt that year and I think that is what gives him patience with other kids. I was proud (though not at all surprised) when he didn't end up hurting her. Many kids who jump into help their friend will beat up the kid hurting their friend. difficult child's goal was to get both of them away from the angry girl.

    She does have a mean streak in her but I see enough good in her to allow her to continue to play with difficult child in outdoor neighborhood activities. The more time she can spend in healthy play time (riding bikes, building forts, catching minnows, ect.) the more time she spends away from whatever activities she may find to bring out the mean streak. :)
  7. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Andy, awesome idea about talking about the snapping turtle teaching her to bite! I would have never thought of that.
    Funny that you got an honest answer--no, my little brother taught me. :) Kids are so honest sometimes.
    It does sound like there isn't a lot of parental involvement here. Sounds like an uphill battle on your part. Sigh.
    I can imagine why people are shutting the door in this kids face. Still, I can imagine what it feels like to have a door slammed in my face, too.
    But you've got your hands full with-your own difficult child.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I find that interesting also (the honest answer from her, I mean). At 12 she really is too old to be biting, unless there's something else very difficult child going on.

    I just wanted to stress - I wasn't having a go at you. I think it's a good thing you're doing, on a number of fronts, I was just asking you to be careful, for your sakes, your kids' sakes and for E's sake. But it does sound like you are already doing this carefully.

    It is a shame when rejection (such as the door slamming in her face) perpetuates further aggression and GFGness. So it is good to try to break the cycle.

  9. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Andy - my $0.02 - I was the unpopular kid. In fact still am to an extent, though it no longer is so hurtful... I know who I love, and who loves me, and to heck with everyone else.

    I never understood why I was left out. I wasn't mean. I didn't hurt people - in fact I was the one who GOT hurt a lot of times.

    I do understand now. I went to an exclusive parochial school through eighth grade. My parents scraped to get together the money - we were actually "poor" according to the other girls. I was socially ostractized because of money.

    Later I did have friends - a few on scholarship. Then in high school, a few more. But not usually close friends. Mostly just "good acquaintances". By then, I'd developed the "love me or hate me" personality I wear to this day. As a result, I have a few "best" friends... And very, very few others. I don't bite, I'm not physically aggressive or disgusting... I just don't sugarcoat ANYTHING. It can be very, very annoying. (Yes, I am aware of this... That's who I am, though.) Tact, I do have.

    All that said - keeping E involved if she wants to be and can behave appropriately - is wonderful. But if she cannot - she goes home. I mean, what happens if you walk into work one day, someone makes you mad so you BITE them? Um. Can we say... Looking for a job? Possible court involvement???

    OK I think that was more like $0.10. Sorry!
  10. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    StepTo2, I love the "love me or hate me" personality. I really think all kids should develop that. Maybe there would be less "followers" and more respect of each other. I also was unpopular for whatever weird reasons the kids could think of. None of them really made sense, could just be they didn't like my personality of "I am who I am and I like who I am so get over it." No one was ever able to sway me to do things their way if I didn't agree with them. Popular kids don't like to be told "No, I am not going to behave like that just so you will like me." or "Please like me, what can I do to make you like me?" I wasn't going to go against my values just to fit in so I didn't get to "fit in". Peer pressure never worked on me. I had a very strong sense of what was right and wrong and never ever allowed anyone around me to be mean to anyone. I lived with a "their loss" attitude while I enjoyed who I was. I never hurt anyone and no one ever hurt me (I would not allow it - I did throw a boy in the snowbank one year when a group of boys were teasingly going to throw me in - I picked up the leader of the pack, threw him in, and walked away leaving them standing with eyes and mouth open - I knew they meant no harm, just goofing around but I was NOT going to end up in a snowbank - I didn't like horseplay and I was not going to be part of it so I put an end to it.).

    Yes, as long as E wants to be involved - no one will force her to join in (I can't see difficult child and L asking her to come over and play) - and as long as she can behave. That is the rule for all kids not just those who have a harder time fitting in. No special treatment. It is E looking for a friendship on her own, in her own way. I think she is out to prove something that she does not have to prove and pushing a little too hard to fit in. A little bit of "in your face" attitude. If she backs off a little I think she will be fine. I really hope the kids can work this out without anymore biting. It will take a little time to see which way this goes and of course, if she continues to bite, she will be grounded for awhile from play and if that doesn't work, than she will not be allowed to play. I did that with another neighbor boy who tried to attack difficult child and showed up the next day to play. "No, I don't think you two are able to play together until you can learn to be nice. You can think about it for a week and if you think you can be kind then you can ask difficult child again if he wants to play with you. He showed up a few times over the week, "Nope, the week isn't up, are you thinking about how you will play when you can?" This one was several years younger than difficult child and difficult child did not want to play so after the week was up, we came up with ways of avoiding him such as difficult child had homework or another kid was over playing a video game the boy was too young for (I wouldn't let him in the house anyway since his parents didn't really know me), or we were leaving soon. He soon stopped asking.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We actually found that with SIL2 when he moved in. It's partly cultural - people from his part of Sydney are very working class and feel it keenly, even though the rest of the country doesn't give a rat's. But THEY have this "You all think we're inferior" chip on their collective shoulders (well, some of them do) and he had an attitude of "I have to prove I'm smarter than they are" all the time. He would brag constantly, and would make sweeping statements about stuff we knew wasn't true. We liked the guy, plus he was the love chosen by our daughter, so we had to find a way to accept him (and live with him!).

    What we did - every time he made a statement such as, "It's not really X, it's just Y in disguise," we would say, "Oh, I didn't know that. I'd like to know more - let's go look it up."

    And we would go look it up and check it out, then report back. "Well, you were close, and thank you for mentioning it because it made me go look it up; I found it very interesting. But the real story is..."

    That way it wasn't us showing him up. If anything, it was the collective knowledge of the world. He learned that we have no problem about admitting we don't know something. He also learned that it's good to check things out for yourself before simply repeating what someone else has told you. And when we met his father, we understood where it came from. I like his father, but he has a HUGE need to prove himself to you and to lie if he has to, to do it. Very sad, because he really doesn't have to prove anything to me. I like a person if they're genuine, and kind, and caring. I get put off if they're fake. Not just fake to me, but fake to themselves.

    SIL2 these days is great. He has learned to ask questions (and it's no shame to) and also to check things out for himself. As a result, he is learning (which we all should do) and has a chance of lifting himself out of the mud wallow the former attitude had dug for him.

    We saw similar things with SIL1 (his whole birth city has a chip on their shoulder, very similar - equally unnecessary). Interestingly, SIL1 & easy child moved back to his home city for 18 months and couldn't get out of there fast enough. He's learned there is a lot more to living than grumbling about everyone else keeping you down.

    It all comes down to people trying to prove something that really doesn't need to be proved. And if you reject these people, it perpetuates the problem. But if you accept what they do, it also risks allowing the problem to continue because you have enabled it.

    We need to find a balance, so we need to keep a door open for people like this, but on our terms.

    Andy, I think you're doing this the same way I would.