My son, Finley, is significantly bigger than a lot of kids his age. At just 5, he’s outgrowing many of his size 7 pants, his size 1 shoes are starting to get a little tight, and he weighs about half as much as I do. He doesn’t recognize his own strength, and I often have to remind him that he’s too big and too strong to be so rough… with me. I’ve had accidental bruises from playing with him and not so accidental bruises from the rare occasions when he’s lashed out physically.
Knowing his size, his weight, and his strength, I’ve always worried that he might hurt another child at preschool, either accidentally through play or even on purpose, as he lacks the impulse control to not take a swing at someone who’s pushed/hit/kicked him (don’t we all?). I braced myself for calls or being pulled aside by a teacher to tell me that Finley had hurt another child.
I wasn’t prepared to learn that he’s often on the receiving end of the meanness that only little kids are capable of.
At his old preschool, it was handled incredibly well. At his day home, I attempted to approach the other mother when things got out of control. I quickly learned where the offending kid got his hateful spirit, as she launched a full-blown verbal attack on me. (We left the day home shortly thereafter.) I don’t usually interfere in kid stuff because kids need to learn how to handle conflict, but in this case I had to. I want my son to have coping skills and I encourage him to stand up to kids who are unkind to him, or even to his friends. He just… doesn’t. Despite his size and how tough he is with me, Finley is a doormat when it comes to other kids, and it breaks my heart.
We’ve been at the new preschool for a month now. One child’s name is constantly mentioned on our drive or walk home. My son often gets emotional: “Kid X hit me with a stick today and it really hurt.” “Kid X told me he was going to come to our house and hurt Duncan.” “Kid X is really mean to me. I told Teacher and she told me to ignore it, but sometimes Kid X really, really hurts me and Teacher just doesn’t care about me.”
I saw Kid X in action while waiting for Finley to gather his things one afternoon; Kid X first threw a large rock at me and then deliberately hit me in the back with a shovel. When I asked him to stop, he tried to kick me. The preschool teachers awkwardly smiled at me and then tried to distract Kid X. Another afternoon, he kicked one teacher so hard she cried out. My son has a hard time falling asleep some nights, and tells me he’s afraid that Kid X is going to hurt him. More than once, he’s asked to stay home because he doesn’t want to see Kid X. I’m not a professional, but my prior education in Child and Youth Care Work tells me that there’s something wrong – but I don’t feel it’s my place to speak up.
I was raised to treat others — even the kids who were mean to me or who I didn’t like — with respect, and to always be kind. This is how I’m raising my son… but sometimes “killing them with kindness” doesn’t work. I’m debating having a conversation with the director of the preschool and the teachers to address some of mine, and my son’s, concerns. But I want to know… what would YOU do?