Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Run-in With the Bully

I didn't sleep a wink last night, and it had nothing to do with back to school. Jonas had another run-in with the neighbourhood bully yesterday. He came home in tears because the bully had thrown a rock at him and then took his bike, hid it and wouldn't give it back. I don't know what precipitated it, but I asked him to go back and tell the bully that the game is over now and he needs his bike back. The bully's response was "Too bad Jonas. Everyone hates you and you're never going to get your bike back."

I usually let them work things out on their own as long as nobody is getting hurt but this was over the line so I intervened. The bully was swimming in the pool with his big brother and his older friend so I got no end of attitude when I asked him if he took Jonas's bike. "I don't have it!" the bully yelled at me, as his older brother yelled "Don't tell her anything! You don't have to do what she says!"

As the mother of the older brother's friends looked on in stunned silence, I said "I know you don't have it now but you took it and that's stealing. I'd like you to get out of the pool and go and get it now." As the bully climbed out the pool and got his shirt and shoes on, I was serenaded with a chorus of "Don't do it!" and "Don't worry, Dad will take care of her!", while the other kids' mom hushed them and told them to stay out of it.

As Jonas, the bully and I walked to where the bike was hidden, I was stunned. He smugly told me that it wasn't stealing because he didn't have the bike, and there was nothing I could do about it anyway, blah, blah, blah. 

Enough is enough. It's time for another level of intervention. When the bully pulled the bike out of some bushes, I asked Jonas to take it home and asked the bully to introduce me to his parents. He refused and ran off, so Jonas showed me which house was his. I rang the doorbell, reminding myself not to put the parents on the defensive. The bully's mother didn't come to the door, but rather spoke to me through one of the house windows. I told her what had happened and that I just thought she should know. She barely acknowledged what I had said and then closed the curtain. I thought maybe she was coming to the door to talk to me but she didn't. In fact, she didn't seem to do anything. Her sons were left to play in the pool, and we heard them playing in the park later.

I'm at my wit's end about what to do about this situation. Steve and I talked and agreed that we're not going to let Jonas play with the bully anymore. We've asked him to stay clear of him and not try to be friends with him anymore. Yes, they do have some good moments together but it ends in tears and violence every time, and now we're clearly skirting theft. We don't want our son bullied, and likewise don't want him to be blamed getting in trouble because he's hanging around kids who are clearly asking for trouble.

The challenge now is, how do we keep them apart without punishing Jonas. The neighbourhood is common ground for each of them, and asking Jonas so sacrifice his play areas feels kind of like giving into the bullying. Likewise, I don't want to have to chaperon him every time he's out. Kids need their freedom and latitude to make their own decisions, etc.

I sure do wish that parenting guide book was available sometimes!



  1. I was bullied pretty badly as a kid believe it or not. Neighborhood kids (Really two neighborhoods over) who I would've never met unless my mother forced play dates upon me as was the fad in the early 90's.

    Unfortunately my parents never did anything about it. "Let them fight it out." was their motto. Unfortunately three against one is never good odds.

    Looking back through the prism of age I can see the kids did it because they were jealous. I came from a nice home (Two parents, both with jobs...a nice house) and that they didn't.

    Out of the three boys who tormented me. One died of a drug overdose at 23. Another got kicked out of college (He was on a full ride scholarship) because he was using cocaine and hangs wallpaper for a living. The other was kicked out of high school in 2003 for locking a bunch of classroom doors shut and releasing bees into the school! He disappeared after that.

    Little kids who usually act like that with parents who hide behind their front door probably have a lot more...going on beneath the surface and behind that closed door.

  2. I think you're right, Izzy. The truth is that we just don't know what happens in other people's homes. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. That's why I went to his parents before doing anything more drastic, like calling the police. We don't always know what's going on with our kids when we aren't around, so maybe they are honestly in the dark. Besides, it took my intervention but he did give the bike back, so there wasn't any need for the police.

    At the same time, I'm not going to tolerate bullying or theft. It's a tough thing to teach your child to have patience and understanding for other people and also to stick up for themselves. Heck, it's tough to balance those out as an adult.

    This parenting gig is tough!