It had to happen sometime.

NOS, the angelic one, the kind one finally had his first moment of fury. He was playing with some friends outside, and he came in with tears in his eyes.

Uh oh.

We asked what happened. He was playing fine with Friend A and Friend B and their friend Co-Friend C. As best I could piece it together, A&B wanted to show off to C and started making fun of NOS. This went on for quite sometime when NOS just.F'ING.snapped and hauled off and slugged not one, but TWO of them. Mind you, all of the other kids are a good half-foot taller than he is, so the possibility they might have decided to turn NOS into a jelly was not an indistinct, remote contingency.

It took the better part of 20 minutes because NOS was so sad/livid/betrayed that he couldn't talk straight. "First [sniff] B [sniff] said [cough, sniff] that [sniff, sniff] I had to [sob,sniff], etc."

Oy.

It is an article of faith with me that parenting ought be done in a weed-and-seed approach. You provide appropriate feedback when you want a behavior to continue or develop, and another appropriate feedback when you want to extinguish a behavior. Socking people in the chops -- as opposed to socking them back, a wildly different thing -- even when provoked, is not acceptable. I impressed upon NOS that we simply do not hit people first, no matter what. "Oh, if Whatshisface, say, punches you, then you have my blessings to respond in such a way that Whatshisface will consider it wisest to cease and desist." But that is a matter of self-defense. To get so upset the response is a haymaker or uppercut is not a pattern I'd like to see blossom in through the years.

So NOS was, ahem, escorted to A&B's house and he duly apoologized for resorting to force in the face of teasing. A&B's mom was duly horrified at the teasing and a few moments later A&B* were at our doorstep apologizing for having teased and provoked NOS. All apologies seemed sincere and contrite and little hands shook and play resumed organically with, as of this morning, no incident worthy of comment.

In the moments of calm I drive home the point of the difference between acting in self-defense and being aggressive and how to determine whether something crosses that certain line, and to absent yourself if needed and defend yourself verbally without escalation. Granted, this is pretty difficult even for grownups, so I'm not expecting miracles or flawless behavior. Still, it's important for NOS to know what standards we strive to maintain, and why and what the consequences are for not doing so. After all, if there are rewards for being kind and gentle and caring and generous, then there are also equivalent consequences to being aggressive or impatient or ill-tempered. In this case, he had to march two houses down and apologize, and do without TV for the evening. Both of which he accepted and understood.

But, oy.

How I'm not cross-eyed after this episode I chalk up to the overtime put in by my guardian angel.

-J.

* C, the likely Iago of the piece, had been picked up and gone home some time before apologies started flying.

Comments

Tere said…
I do agree, there's a diff between being the aggressor and resorting to force, as opposed to self-defense.

Oh, and I need, for a point of reference, your sons' ages.
Joke said…
8 & 9-and-a-half, Your Honor.

-J.
Badger said…
Oy, indeed.

After the bully incident in fourth grade, the boy child has adopted a policy of "shoot first and ask questions later". He lacks the social savvy (because of the Aspergers, you know) to determine whether someone is just playing around or seriously intending to do him harm or make him look a fool, so he just clocks them and sorts out the apologies later.

So yeah. I just love it when the school's number shows up on my caller ID.

(As an aside, though, these incidents have gotten fewer and further between as this school year has progressed. Whether because the kids are giving him a wide berth or he's learned to control it a bit, I don't know.)
Joke said…
I'm thinking Boy Child has that whole Peace-through-Strength thing down.

I wouldn't worry unless and until he starts quoting Marcellus Wallace, though.

-J.
Sarah O. said…
A couple of years ago my son dealt with harrassment by a genuine terror of a boy by punching the kid in the face.

Liberal old peacenik me secretly applauded.

My boy had tried to deal with this kid peacefully for weeks to no avail. I appreciated his proactive and finally effective manner of dealing with the situation.

And thanks for indirectly reminding me to join the NRA.*

* Joking!!!!
Joke said…
Ironically, as a right-wing maniac, I'm a bit horrified. Mind you, this wasn't weekes upon weeks of merciless taunting and verbal abuse, but still.

As of today, there are no relapses in question.

-J.
Tere said…
Thanks, helps me follow along more easily.
Stomper Girl said…
This post gave me a disturbing mental link to that Kenny Rogers "sometimes you have to fight to be a man" song, which I did not want in my brain ever again, and indeed, I didn't even know it still lurked there.

Anyway.

It's awful when ganging up happens, especially if you have a kind, angelic child. I always think kids without native rat-cunning are more likely to hit out in these situations because they just don't have the coping mechanisms. Poor NOS. I agree about all the reinforcement stuff and have absolutely the same views on socking people in the chops but my sympathy is still with the sweet boy who got teased...
Joke said…
SG,

Agreed. The hard part is explaining to a 9 y.o. that wanting to turn the child who is teasing him into a vermilion stain on the pavement is natural and understandable, acting on that impulse -- absent any other factor -- isn't.

To be honest, I don't particularly care about how the children who got slugged feel/felt about the natural consequences of their unacceptable actions. I just don't want my son resorting to force unless it is to respond to unprovoked force.

I mean, yes, my heart goes out to him becase he was being his usual sunny self and all of a sudden kids who had been his friends started teasing him for no discernible reason. But because I love him I don't want him to think of force as a first resort; force ought be undesirable, albeit not unthinkable.

Fortunately, all seems to have been mended.

Just glad he hasn't started judo yet.

-J.
meggie said…
ALWAYS YAY! to the Ghandi approach!
Joke said…
Precisely. I have, therefore, sent him marching off to the sea to make salt.

-J.
My float said…
But how do you KNOW all this stuff?

I have no flipping idea, I've figured. No clue at all.

I'm so conciliatory that I'm almost a doormat. I don't want that for my son. So how do you teach that balance - be strong but not aggressive?
Joke said…
MF,

Given his age, the rule I have (until he is of such an age as he can discern nuances, etc.) is that he is not to hit first, period; but, if someone hits/attempts to hit him, he has my blessing to use whatever means short of criminal violence to defend himself.

NTS, though, doen't get teased, probably because he has been an assiduous follower of Badger's "Boy Child System" of dealing with provocation, thereby forestalling any. In his defense, NTS doesn't -- as opposed to NOS -- brood on grievances.

Someone snatches away his toy, he thrashes the malefactor, and can immediately resume the closest of friendships with the child in question.

In sum: "Don't hit first." That doesn't mean be compliant or wilting, it means that unless things reach a breaking point ("then Billy hit me, so I hit him back...") the response has to be commensurate with the provocation; and sometimes (i.e., not "invariably") the wisest thing to do is walk away with a few choice sarcastic asides.

-J.
My float said…
I can see I'll be asking you a lot of questions!
Joke said…
Feel free. I'm a veritable font of knowledge on myriad subjects spanning the whole spectrum of usefulness.

-J.

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