Dear Amy: Last night my 6-year-old son was participating in a snowball fight with a group of friends after school.
One of the other boys threw a snowball into my son’s face, which cut the bridge of his nose. My son’s reaction was to punch the other boy in the face, which gave that boy a bloody nose. Both my husband and the other boy’s father agreed that both boys were wrong and they were made to apologize to one another.
What bothers me is that everyone I have told about the incident, when they hear how my son reacted, has said something along the lines of, “Good for him!”
I, on the other hand, am upset that my son responded to violence (which may very well have been accidental) with more violence.
As soon as our son started school, my husband and I told him that if he witnessed or is ever a victim of someone else’s bad behavior, that he should stand up for himself with words, and/or tell an adult.
Others seem to think that when hit, it’s perfectly OK to hit back. But then again, we don’t want our son to be labeled a “tattletale.” What is your take on this, Amy?
Anxious for spring
Dear Anxious: Your son is six. His father (and the father of the other boy) responded appropriately in the moment.
I agree that you and your husband should talk to your boy about the imbalance of responding to a snowball hit with a punch to the nose.
When kids are playing, accidents (and incidents) happen. It should be a universal “rule” to NEVER aim anything at anyone’s head. However, sometimes during play, people do get hurt. When this happens, play stops while everybody makes sure everybody else is OK. That’s all part of being a good sport.
The appropriate response when you’re playing is to retaliate with the same “weapon” that was used in play. In soccer, for instance, you kick a ball – not throw your fist – at your opponent.
In short, this is a snowball fight, not “The Untouchables.”
If you relate this snowball story to an adult, and the adult commends your son for hitting another child, you should ask, innocently, “Do you really think it is right for one child to punch another in the face? Because we’re teaching our son otherwise.”
If you equate telling a young child to go to an adult with a problem with being a “tattletale,” then you should rethink your own equivalencies. Your message to your children should be that they can – and should – ALWAYS come to an adult when they have a dilemma, problem or hurt.
Dear Amy: My 11-year-old nephew was staying with my family (out of town) during his spring break.
Two days into the visit, his mother (my sister) was upset that he hadn’t called her the night before and she couldn’t reach us the next morning, while we were at a museum with no cell service.
I had him call her as soon as we left, but I made the mistake of joking about him not wanting to call her. Her response quickly escalated. She yelled at him, claiming he was deliberately ignoring her, even though it was my phone.
When I tried to speak with her privately, she then decided to come and get him that same night because I questioned her parenting.
My nephew did nothing wrong and my husband and I are at a loss for how her emotional insecurity grew so quickly that she took such action against her son.
We fear that we won’t be able to have him, or his sisters, visit again. How do we move forward after such extreme retaliation was taken out on our nephew for no reason?
Dear Aunt: First rule: Don’t mess with a parent who is separated from her son. Your motivation was to joke with her, and yes – she definitely overreacted. She clearly is not ready to part with her child and entrust him completely to your care.
Apologize to her for your role in this miscommunication, and urge her to move forward from this unfortunate episode.
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