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Recently I was in the following situation:

I wanted to pick up my son (4.5 years old) in the kindergarten and another child was throwing bark mulch at him.

I don't consider this especially dangerous, but it is forbidden and my son did not like it.

  • My son was upset, cried that the other one should stop and was hiding behind me, latching himself onto my leg.
  • I calmly told the other one to stop throwing things,
  • but he did not react (he's also about 4 years old and one of those boys who often do not listen to what the kindergarten teachers or adults tell them).
  • at the moment none of the kindergarten teachers was close enough to see what happens and intervene

So I wonder

  • what should a parent do in such a situation?

For sure I want to protect my son (and I do not want to give him the feeling to be lost with his problems although a parent is with him),
but on the other hand he also has to learn to protect himself in such situations.

And it is especially difficult to deal with other people's children which do not respect my authority as an adult at all, but IMHO that should be a separate question.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I gave some thoughts in my answer to your related question. I would also like to react to your comment to Rory:

what do I advise my son to do in such a situation. He currently tends to running away crying (at worst with tears) where I'm not sure if it is the best way. For sure, beating back isn't neither...

That is surely not the best way, as it gives a perception of him being sensitive and easy to push out of balance. Which may easily encourage the harassers to repeat their act again, whenever they are bored. The ideal behaviour would be to stay calm, and either

  • report it to the teacher (if there is a reasonable hope that the teacher will resolve the issue) or
  • just accept it without any reaction for a while (if it doesn't hurt him or make his clothes dirty etc.), to have the offender get bored and leave, or
  • give an unexpected or witty response, to throw him off balance.

Staying calm is not at all easy at that age, but you may help by talking through the situation with your son, making him understand that you fully support him, and that there are better or worse solutions to the problem, most of which take time. You may even want to "rehearse" such situations with him playfully, both to help him internalize the proper way(s) to react to such challenges, and to make him experience it in a safe situation, and realize that it is not the end of the world anyway.

Especially the witty approach usually needs rehearsing some canned answer to the given challenge. It doesn't need to be awesomely funny for us adults, it should work on the kids' level. I can't offer a perfect answer to you for this situation right off the top of my head, but share you a few examples from our life: when our daughter told she had been chased by the boys a bit too wildly in the school, we told her to respond to them "come here for a peck on the cheek". That was sure to embarrass those wild boys just trying to show off their manliness :-) In another case, a higher grade student teased her by saying "pacifier, pacifier" (she just started first grade). So we told her to respond "oh, do you need one? Sure, I will buy it for you" :-)

And another thing you may do is to make friends with the offender(s). Invite them for a party, where your kid may present himself in a well known and safe environment, under parental control. Thus, bullying is explicitly forbidden, but fair games - even more "manly" ones like wrestling, throwing balls etc. - are allowed (or even expressly arranged, if the situation calls for this!), but always with clear rules, and a competent parent acting as judge. This may make your son more courageous and earn more peer respect for him, thus potentially ending the bullying. It did work in one case I read about.

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In relation to the last paragraph, "make friends with the offenders", there is a great book called "Enemy Pie" that might be a good read for the two of you to read together if you plan on introducing this option to your child. It is witty and definitely applicable to the situation. –  balanced mama Jul 22 '12 at 0:29

I don't know where the idea that the behavior isn't dangerous is coming from. Bark mulch can be very damaging if caught in the eye. I don't think it likely, but if you talk to the staff and they think this is acceptable behavior, I would change schools honestly. Outside of that. It seems there is already some great advice in the other answers already given.

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I agree that running away isn't an effective option, and certainly fighting back is even worse.

You might encourage him to stand his ground and just firmly and loudly tell the other child to stop. Then if that doesn't work, to call "Help!"

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Related to my answer on your other question:

If they are in kindergarten, the responsibility should be on the staff there - if you step in and do something you could end up in trouble. Your only real option is to explain to the staff what happened, and insist that they do something about it.

The staff may however say that as it is not dangerous, it is a part of growing up that there will be confrontations and they have a policy to let them happen up to a point. It sounds like you may agree with this, at least in part, from your question.

You should talk to your child to let them know that sometimes things happen which are less fun, but that it wasn't dangerous and was just other kids 'being silly or naughty'

Also be sure to say to your son that you hope he wouldn't behave in such a naughty way - encourage good behaviours by pointing out things like this as naughty.

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thanks - the follow-up question would be: what do I advise my son to do in such a situation. He currently tends to running away crying (at worst with tears) where I'm not sure if it is the best way. For sure, beating back isn't neither... –  BBM Jan 28 '12 at 12:49

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