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My son has always been kind and never got us worried before. Never had any issues.

We recently relocated and he had to change school. The school assigned buddies to everyone because they had merged two Reception classes and thought that would help the kids settle in.

My son's buddy turned out to be quite bossy: he tells my son off, sends him to do "errands" and so on.

We tried not to pressure my son to much and being supportive because we understand he's going through a big change.

Last week we received a calls from school that he'd thrown a stone into a door and broke the window. He was actually throwing the stone back to a class mate that had missed him. So the outcome could have been worse. My son was very sorry about the broken glass and was sad. We decided not to punish him. We asked what happened and explained why his actions were wrong. The teachers too were quite (maybe too much?) understanding.

Today he's received another note because he slapped another child, without reason. When asked, my son said he doesn't know why he did it. The other child did not provoke him.

Me and my wife don't know how to handle this. As said my son has always been kind and had never hit anyone before.

I'm afraid his new friends are having a bad influence and spoke with the teacher but she replied "let boys be boys". If from one side I agree this will help him handle that kind of people when he gets older, I worry he could end up being violent and bullish.

What should we do?

UPDATE: Turns out my son didn't actually "slap" the other kid. The boy didn't respond to my son's call so he pat him to get his attention. Also I've seen my son throw apricot stones in the garden the other day and he almost hit himself. I asked him to throw a rock and still it didn't go that far. Definitely not enough to break a decent glass door. It looks more and more like the school is excessively strict on small mistakes while failing to address actual bullies.

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To some extent, this comes down to what your values are. I think refraining from violence sits well in a very narrow set of core values that are non-negotiable. Someone with a "let boys be boys" attitude, as you're citing, may think less of it. I'm not here to tell you what your values should be, but I'm answering from a point of zero tolerance for violent behavior, and it's perhaps useful to keep in mind that that's not the only possible stance.

In line with that zero tolerance on violence, I think most forms of punishment, besides being mostly ineffective, are also expressions of violence, and hence off the table for me. So while I don't agree with the "let boys be boys" sentiment, I think you're lucky to have teachers around your son who are understanding. There's a line between tolerating and understanding, which from the question I gather is a bit blurred here.

It is entirely possible to be adamant that violent behavior is absolutely not acceptable, while still being understanding. There's nothing about the situation that necessitates punishment. You're already saying he was sorry and sad about the broken glass. If you can get to that point without violence or coercion on your end, a lot is already won, compared to expressing your opinion through punishment. If he feels seen and understood, and is sorry for reasons unrelated to fear of consequences, it's likely that the remorse is genuine. So that's a lesson learned.

Now you've had a second incident, unprovoked, and I think how you address that matters greatly. This is not something I'd shrug off as boys being boys, that to me sends all the wrong signals. Tell him that this is not acceptable, use a personal language, tell him it makes you sad. But do it lovingly and with understanding. Don't make him feel like he's a bad person, make him feel he did a bad thing.

It sounds to me like your son has come from a protected environment and is just coming to terms with a more violent atmosphere, and figuring out how to adapt to that. He tries what he sees, but he doesn't appear to be enjoying it. If you keep being understanding, and at the same time keep insisting that violence is always wrong, there's nothing about the behavior described that I find reason for too much concern. Unacceptable, yes, but not on an obvious destructive path. Keep doing what you're doing is my advice.

  • Apparently he apologized immediately, so he knew he did something wrong. What worries me is that my son says he doesn't know why he did it. – algiogia Oct 2 at 8:33
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    @algiogia: What would be an acceptable excuse for an unprovoked slap, though? Things being what they are, I think not having an excuse is preferred. If he could tell you a reason for using violence, I'd be more inclined to think he thought the behavior was somehow justifiable. – David Hedlund Oct 2 at 9:12
  • @algiogia I wouldn't be too concerned about not understanding why - he's 5, he doesn't understand why he does most of what he does. David - great answer. – Joe Oct 2 at 19:04

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