January 18, 2011

Fighting Back

In the three years my daughters have been in preschool, they have rarely been sent to time out. In fact, I can only think of two instances and it was the same daughter.
Last year, Sue Sue received a time out, along with a few other students (none of my other daughters), because they refused to come in from recess. They kept playing. The teacher gave them a warning. Then she made them sit in time out the next day during part of recess. Sue Sue also lost some privileges at home. 
Last week Sue Sue received her second ever time out at school. I guess I should be upset, but mainly, I'm delighted. You may remember a few months ago when I wrote a post about "Becky." Becky is a little girl in preschool who causes problems. On a regular basis, I hear tales of Becky's wrongdoings. Becky pushed Tortilla. Becky took toys from Cakes. Becky yelled in Sue Sue's ear. Becky bit Roo. So what do my girls do in return? Nothing. After the biting incident, I reached a decision. Since Becky has continued to be aggressive toward my girls (and pretty much every child in the class), I instructed my girls to fight back. If Becky pushes you, you push her. If she hits you, you hit her. Normally I wouldn't condone this, but the teacher clearly doesn't have a handle on Becky. When I expressed concern, her answer was "I'm working on it." I could be that mom and call the principal, but I wanted to see what happened if my daughters tried to take care of themselves.
Sue Sue's time out? Becky pushed her. Sue Sue pushed her back. They both went to time out. Sue Sue was not the one to tell me about her time out. Neither was the teacher. It was her sisters. I sat Sue Sue down, asked her why she went to time out. "Because I pushed Becky." "Why did you push her?" "She pushed me." Sue Sue clearly thought she was in trouble. I told her that I agreed that she should go to time out at school because she broke the rules, but that there would not be any further punishment at home.
I know some people are reading this, shaking their heads. How could I possibly encourage my daughters to fight back? At some point, all children need to learn to stand up for themselves. In my opinion this was a last resort. I don't want my daughters to resolve disputes by fighting, but I don't want them to let other people walk all over them. I know I'm sending them mixed messages. It's OK to be naughty sometimes, just not all of the time. That's a lot for a preschooler to grasp. But in this case, it seemed to work. When I asked Sue Sue what happened to Becky at the end of the time out she said "Becky and I played and she was nicer."

6 comments:

MaryAnne said...

I have no idea how I would deal with this type of situation. I know the contemporary wisdom on bullying is to use words and tell them to stop, but looking back on childhood bullies I have a hard time seeing that work...

Quadmama said...

I should probably clarify that their first line of defense is to say "Stop (fill in the blank)" and not to immediately resort to fighting back. But that wasn't working here.

Holly Ann said...

Life isn't black and white. I'm not sure how I'd handle the same situation, but I'm certainly not shaking my head here. That's a tough one.

Sadia said...

I believe that our job, as parents, is to equip our children with the skills to navigate life. When all else fails, they need to know how to defend themselves without having to find a knight in shining armour to protect them.

This might be the perfect time to discuss with all your girls ALL the options that there are to resolve conflict before resorting to physical self-protection.

Kim said...

It's tough! My daughter had a nemesis in kindergarten and first grade—IMO, the other little girl was a real bully, but I suppose her mother thought the same of my child. I don't know. It finally got to the point where they were no longer placed in the same classroom. I did notice that my daughter never had any trouble after that, but the other girl continued to get in lots of trouble for harassing other kids.

Marilynne said...

This is the first of many times you will stand behind your girls when they are punished for doing the right thing. In this case, I think what you said and did will have more effect on your daughters than what the teacher did. I never wanted my children to be passive, not aggressive, but not passive either. I wanted them to stand up for themselves and for what they thought was right.

The little bully may learn to leave your kids alone. That's progress.

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