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Sorry about the long post, but I need to rant. I have a 9 year old son who loves to socialize, so we were regularly hanging out at the park pre covid days. With the current situation, we have taken a break from the park.We now have a bunch of his friends visiting us to play with him in our backyard. We have another kid in the neighborhood (older by two years), who used to be good friends with my son. But because of some differences with the kid's family that involved having the kids grand father hit my son, we completely stopped mingling with them. The kid's parents apologized to us, mentioning that the man had some health problem because of which he lost his temper, when trying to resolve some issue between my son and his grand kid, when they were playing in his house. On probing further, I found that my son was playing pillow fight with the other kid, and the old man tried snatching the pillow from my son's hand, which my son resisted. I must add that my son would visit the other kid only once or twice a month while that kid would hang out at our's with complete freedom to do whatever he wanted. The kid's parents have never minded my son being as free in their house, but apparently the visiting grandparents were not on the same page, so they felt the need to discipline my son by hitting him. The parents profusely apologized for this and mentioned that they spoke to the grandfather as well, and promised that the incident wont happen again.

We still decided to wait for the man to leave before agreeing to have our kids play together again. Fast forward a couple months later, when my son went to this kids house, apparently the subject was being discussed between the kids casually, and my son commented that he was hurt because his grandpa hit him. At which point, the kids' parents were quick to jump in and tell my son that it was his mistake for resisting the old man when he tried snatching the pillow, making it seem like it was my son's mistake to begin with. When my son narrated this story, I was shocked at how mean it was of the parents to have coerced us into getting the kids to play again, but very conveniently guilt tripping my son, that too in my absence. Apparently, they claimed that they have a video footage of the happening. That same evening, their boy dropped in to our house and told us about how he was wondering why his parents accused my son of doing something wrong, when he already got punished more than what was needed for that little mistake (apparently the man hit my son on the back, the nerve!).

The description of the incident matched what my son told me earlier, so I knew it was not being made up. At that point, I texted the mother of the son, asking her if she could share the footage she talked about with the kids. The mother however conveniently dismissed it off saying how kids could say random things and how the footage got erased.

In my opinion, this was in poor taste, as not only did the husband and wife accuse my son and made him believe he was wrong, but they also claimed the existence of a footage which they were not even willing to back up!

It took a long time for us to recover from the fact that the old man had the nerve to hit our son. This latest incident was the last straw on the back, and we decided that the kids will not play together again.

Fast forward a few months, my kid moved on, as he had another set of friends who became good friends over time, but the other boy apparently has no friends still, and his parents have been asking us again to reconsider our decision. I politely turned down their request as I am still not comfortable with all that happened. However the kid found himself another kid at the park (11 years) who is a bully and has a bad reputation in the neighborhood. The two kids are now ganging up against mine, by constantly ringing our doorbell, and asking my son to drop by at the park, when he has clearly told them multiple times that he is not interested in going to the park. The bully still wont stop. He keeps sending the neighbor kid over to our house to check if my son can come, to test if we have been avoiding the park because of the bully.

When I asked the kid if the other kid set him up to do this, the kid lied that it was just him interested in playing with my son. In minutes of turning down that request, we saw the neighbor kid teaming up with the bully who was stealthily watching the interaction between the other kid and us. When I called out to confront the neighbor kid about the lie, the two kids just ran off.

I am now concerned about sending my kid to the park occasionally, because as soon as the two kids see him him at the park, they keep inviting him to a fight (verbal so far) and it gets frustrating. I dont want to have my son avoid going to the park altogether, as there are other kids in the park who are friends with my son. Even when my son tries mingling with those kids, ignoring the two troublemaker kids, they find ways to pull my son's friends from his circle and start spewing venom saying things like my son is mean etc.

How do I address this? Talking to the bully'a parents is useless as they are not approachable. The bully has confessed to having some anger management issues which I don't the neighbor knows. Also, the bully acts up only when he has the neighbor kid for support. Should I let the neighbor know of the bully's anger issues, so she stops her son from mingling with the other kid? I would not have cared if my son was not in picture, but given he is, it changes things.

Will talking to my neighbor help? Would they want to risk their son having to forego relations with the one friend he has (referring to the bully) if they figure out about the anger issues? Or will they brush it off as not concerning, since their kid is not the victim? BTW, I must add that it is not just the anger issues.I have also caught the bully using foul words such as the F* word, and mention things like stripping, pole dancing etc with another kid in the past, so I am not exactly looking to have my son gel with that kid to solve this problem. Would appreciate any inputs on this. Thank you.

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As I see it, you have a couple interrelated problems here.

First, you stopped your son from playing with his former friend, not because of anything the young boy himself did wrong, but because of issues between the adults. This is understandable, and I can't confidently say that I would do any different in your place, but the obvious result is that the neighbor boy is deprived of his best (only?) friend. He probably doesn't really understand why, he may be confused, he is almost certainly hurt and feels unjustly punished by the adults and cruelly rejected by your son. (In my experience the fact the separation was 100% an adult decision is meaningless to him-- as far as he's concerned your son was mean to him. You know reality only means so much to kids!) He wants your son's attention and friendship back. He wants to be noticed. In the usual way of children, if he can't get positive attention, he'll settle for negative. He's lonely and desperate for friends.

Enter the Bully. He's more than willing to team up with a lonely kid with a bone to pick with someone. He's probably driven by insecurity. He's happy to make your son a victim in the interest of bonding with neighbor boy. (Maybe he's more than happy to make anyone a victim for any reason). He was looking for someone to make him feel important and let him be in charge, and neighbor boy's resentment and loneliness made him a perfect buddy - willing to go along with teasing others, unwilling to stand up to The Bully because then he might lose his friend and be alone again. He probably bullies neighbor kid as well, when your son isn't available.

After the way bridges have been burned with your neighbors, they probably won't be interested in hearing negative reports of the child that stepped into the best friend role while their son was mourning the loss of the close friendship with your son. It might still be the right thing to do to inform them, but if (and how) approach them about it is probably more an interpersonal skill than a parenting one.

On the parenting front, I think your best move is to allow neighbor boy back into the fold (if he and your son are willing), but only permit them to play at your home or outside, so your boy isn't exposed to the parents or grandparents that were really the issue. If the boys can still get along well when the Bully isn't in the picture, it may reduce the neighbor's dependence on the Bully as his primary friend, and repair your son's image in his eyes. Both should contribute to reducing his motivation to pick on your son, or gang up and go along with bullying.

Just as you observed, the Bully isn't as likely to start anything if he doesn't have backup (or someone to show off for).

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    Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to me with SUCH details. I appreciate it, and will definitely consider some of your suggestions. – MomOfTwo Oct 16 at 19:35

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