Editor's Note - Copied an LTE of mine from yesterday that got away from me. I started typing a response, and it blew up. Instead of making a standalone FKB post, when I realized it was paragraph(s) long, I went back and added the cop-out "FKB(?) alert..." and hit "Mail Letter to the Editor".
Context: My daughter is very sensitive & emotional ... like, look at her the wrong way (make a face she thinks is mocking or angry) and she's ready to cry; give her a hug and tell her how amazing she is and she's beaming. Lately, she's been concerned (is certain) that other kids don't like her or are laughing at her. It doesn't take much to break her heart.
We were in the hallway at child care and I was checking her and Niblet into the computer system, when a snotty voice from her classroom (adjacent to the keypad, but out of my sightline) mockingly calls out to her, "What are you looking at!?!" as she's standing there next to me. We couldn't have been at the door for more than 10 seconds at that point. She embarrassedly looks down and away - and I damn near lost my shit. I leaned into the doorway and stared this kid down (7-9 years old maybe? - it's a classroom for various school-aged children, before & after school care) and he sort-of nervously grins in surprise at me, then leans back and looks at his buddy and snickers. Says under his breath, but loud enough to hear, "what's he staring at?" I stand there long enough for it to be uncomfortable, and he just kept grinning at me. So ... I walk into the classroom and over to his table. I stop about 6 feet away, with the table and some other students (and a "teacher") between us, I tell him in my dad voice that it's not okay for him to talk to my daughter that way. Tell him that he better not do it again, either in front of me, or when I'm not there. He stops smiling and just holds his half-eaten toast partway to his mouth. I say if I hear about it from her that he treats her that way again, there will be consequences (I did not define what they might be - pretty sure there isn't anything I could actually 'do' about him being a jerk ... at that point I was working hard not to yell or swear at him). Then I had my daughter come into the classroom, and told him to apologize to her. He did. The two "teachers" and the rest of the classmates eating breakfast just sat there. I was so livid, that I just nodded at his apology and Kernel and I walked out to take Niblet down to his room.
On the way back, her lead "teacher" met me in the hallway and asked if this was an issue that she hadn't been aware of. She seemed very concerned about it being bullying or somesuch. I said, "No," but informed her that my kid is sensitive and isn't very good about standing up for herself (quite the opposite, she shrinks and feels bad about herself). So, if there's someone being mean to her who's old enough to know better, and I'm standing right there, I'm going to call them out on it. I said that no more follow up was needed ... I just wouldn't put up with that kind of behavior.
I'm hopeful it isn't an issue, but man, it was not something I was prepared to deal with. I just reacted to the tone of his voice, and his response to my stare only exacerbated things. I guess I was hoping he'd be embarrassed or something ... I don't know.
There were a few immediate responses:
In my head I'm seeing that video of the guy who starts knock-out slapping everyone in sight after something happened to his kid.
Might be a good FKB discussion, but if our kids are out there among...people, we best prepare ourselves for the inevitability of these situations. For the record, my son is usually the super-sensitive one who is now recognizing that he's an outsider in middle school. Tough place to be. He's an easy target for someone who wants to provoke a little entertainment. Still not sure how we handle it.
Good for you. I know it's easy as a parent to not engage in these situations as we think we may embarrass our kids. I had 2 situations like you describe. One, a kid in the hockey locker room was making fun of my quiet /introverted son. I did get in his face about it not being the way to treat a teammate. I then went to the Dad and explained what happened and described how I handled it. 9 years later the Dads and the boys are good friends. A couple years after that incident a neighbor boy, bullied my son on the bus. We are good friends with his parents, and he is a year older than my son. I called their house and the boy in question answered. I told him that I heard about the bullying incident, and that I was greatly disappointed. I told him that I was giving him one "pass" when it comes to bullying. I told him I would not tell his Dad this time, but the next time he would not be happy with the ramifications. Never had another issue since. Families are great friends. My son was actually proud that I stood up for him both times, which surprised me. Shorty after these 2 incidents, he had a couple situations where he totally stood up and had his own "Christmas Story/Ralphie" moments. Both times, he intervened when a friend or teammate was bullied and fixed the problem. Proud papa moments. I once had a supervisor that told me that as managers, we had to approach conflict like firemen. Rush into the fire and put it out. Don't stand across the street and hope it rains.
Update - No blowback at the school this morning, but Kernel did say the boy had repeated his "What are you looking at!?!" on the bus and indicated both that he is kind of a jerk (her word!) and that she'd told the bus driver. My initial thought was basically, "Well, I can't be with her 100% of the time, so good for her for doing what I'd recommended - tell an adult." On the other hand, we've been noticing a lot more lying from her lately, about really stupid (& easily verifiable) stuff; lies for reasons that make sense to her ... because she's 6. My second reaction was, "Did he really? Or, did she see how angry I was with him and liked knowing [seeing] how much I cared?" or something like that.