Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Angry Young Man

Caitlin has a problem at school. There's a boy in her class that has:
  1. Punched her.
  2. Kicked her.
  3. Shoved her to the ground.
  4. Pulled her hair.
  5. Tickled her when she didn't want to be tickled.
  6. Attacked her friends.
The school has called me for every episode that they are aware of and have put him on some sort of monitoring action. His day is documented in 15 minute increments.

I have moved from Enraged Bear Mama for Caitlin to sad and worried about the boy. Today, however, when Eric went to drop her off, she didn't want to go into the classroom and threw a fit bad enough that he had to carry her into the school.

OK. Play time is over. What am I supposed to do if this is related to dreading going to school because the AYM (Angry Young Man) is there and not because she was being a brat? What if this dread is what's causing her to drag her heels every single morning and make us all miserable?

I'm looking for advice here. What can I do? What can I ask the school to do - short of kicking him out of school entirely - can I do that? He's in therapy. He's seeing some sort of doctor. I don't know what his home life is like other than his mom is an only mom and he has an older sister. Personally, I suspect that either he is/was being abused or was watching it happen to a family member, but I don't know if that is actually the case. That's my empathy coming out. How else do you explain an explosive and violent temper that causes him to physically attack my child?! She's an easy going, popular kid. She's not instigating these episodes and she's not the only person he's doing it to, either. She just happens to be a regular, or something.

Argh! Isn't it too soon for bullies?


Missy said...

Unfortunately no, it is not too soon for bullies. My daughter is also in Kindergarten and she has similarly behaved child in her class. I would suspect that you are correct in that he is being abused or has certainly witnessed abuse. If I may state the obvious he obviously has little to no control over his impulses and sadly that may be something that will require medication for him to be able to manage. Knowing there is not much you can probably do for the boy, but I wonder if they have things like psychosocial groups, or attendant care providers through the local community mental health center.
For your precious one there are a lot of books out there for kids about being bullied, there is a particular series that is good and addresses a lot of those kinds of issues, but of course I can't recall the name of the series right now to save my life. (You might try typing Bullies in the search box on Amazon) Reminding her that she should tell him to stop and that she doesn't like it when he hits, etc her, and of course keep her distance whenever possible. Having her draw how she feels about it might be helpful too, and you can also use the drawings as a springboard to talk about ways that she can cope. Hope I am not being too pushy seeing as I only know you from the Blog-thing, but my day job is as a therapist who works primarily with kids under the age of 6, so when I saw the entry I got a little fired up. That is a tough thing to deal with, and I do feel for the boy as well, I never stop being sad for kids who are that unhappy.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

No, I don't think you're being pushy! Besides - a professional opinion? I like professionals!

Good thought on drawing it out. I'm worried that I may be more upset than she is or that I'm causing her to be upset when I talked about it this morning. Sometimes when I ask her about stuff the story morphs into something that never happened. A fine line between embroidering the truth and misremembering!

I'll go look for some books on bullies at the library. Caitlin loves reading and has also been particularly forgiving of the boy, so far. I don't want her to fall into being a victim, though or believe that she has to put up with it.

And thanks! I'm sorry that your kid is going through the same thing, too.

Missy said...

Not a problem. It is hard to reign in those feelings sometimes when someone is upsetting your baby. It says good things that she is able to be forgiving, but you are right on about making sure she understands she doesn't have to put up with it, and he needs to hear from his peers that what he is doing is not ok. That peer influence can be mighty sometimes.

Anonymous said...

In my view we can keep telling girls to use their words, but if we don't back them up with some good hard accountability then we are teaching them that they are powerless. This kid needs the equivilant of a classroom restraining order. He should sit on the opposite side of the room and not be allowed to approach people he's hurt. That gives the boy consequences that matter to him (social isolation) and gives Caitlin knowledge that her words really do mean something.


Woman with a Hatchet said...

How do I get that enacted at the school, though? They've told me they're all working on it, etc., but how would you get the school to comply with a restraining order?

His mom talked to me the other day and I feel bad for them both, but I need to protect Caitlin.

Cindy said...

1. Go to the Principal, it sounds as though you have already talked to the Teacher till you were blue in the face. Ask about how quickly they can arrange an Aide for him in the class room so that there is always someone with him.
2. Second ask about either Him or Caitlin being reassigned to another class, extreme I know but if they can't expell him/remove him then maybe you should move Caitlin?
3. Caitlin might have to "assert" herself and tell him directly that she doesn't want him to touch her again. Maybe if he realizes that she really isn't likeing what he is doing to her he will stop.
4. Squiky wheel get the grease right?, Keep expressing yourself to the Principal and Teacher, let them know you won't drop it till they do something. He has a right to a free (and safe) education so at 5 the likelyhood of him being expelled isn't likely, but... your child also has a right to a free and safe education too!
-Caitlin's Aunt!

Scylla said...

Okay, time for my two cents.

Marlena dealt with a huge bully in her preschool class last year. From my experience working with abused and neglected children, she was indeed a victim of some sort of violence. She was a bully to everyone in her class, and would regularly hit and push and tease Marlena.

We started with the school preferred, "I don't like that statement." It didn't work, turns out, she only hit Marlena again when she said I don't like that. Then we tried telling the teacher each time, which resulted in long glares and hitting when backs were turned. We tried sympathy, having Marlena outright ask her if she was having a bad day and needed a friend instead of a punching bag. More hitting.

Finally, after working with the teachers, my kid, and every option my therapist could come up with (She was an expert in child psychology and an invaluable resource), I told Marlena to hit her back.

I am not a fan of hitting, it is my least favorite response to any situation, but it was the only thing we hadn't tried, as we couldn't move to another classroom.

So we had a long talk about hitting, how it is not okay, that there is usually a better option. We also talked about how it is okay to defend yourself, and when someone is attacking you, you can fight back.

The next time the bully hit Marlena, she hit her back. It stopped. She didn't bully Marlena anymore.

I am not saying this is the magic answer, because many children who are victims of violence are not going to stop if they get hit back. However, it may be an option to consider.

Good luck fighting this battle. You are a wonderful mother, Caitlin is a wonderful kiddo, and she will get through this, most likely with additional character reserves with which to face future battles.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Cindy, we haven't actually talked 'til we were blue. I'm still kinda stunned and haven't figured out the best plan of attack, yet. Just called to set up a meeting with the teacher to see where we can go/what we can do and have mentioned the aide idea in the message.

Misty, Eric loves the "punch him back" idea. I'm secretly prone to it as well but am not certain that Caitlin actually would. I think she's repeatedly just stunned that anyone would offer her violence, and doesn't know how to respond.

Kate, I think an Aide might help with a restraining order sensibility.

Who knows?

Eric is currently mad, I am currently worried and I don't know where Caitlin is at, she's not talking about it. Does that mean she's not disturbed?

Cindy said...

By all means talk to them until "they" are blue in the face. Bullying is very common, we just forgot because it's been so many years since we had to deal with this sort of behaviour. I almost agree as a last resort about hitting back. No one can "save" this little boy, you can watch for signs of abuse/neglect and report them to CPS but only if you are 100% sure. If at the end of the day the school has tried everything to stop it but it continues and it keeps upsetting Caitlin then I fully agree you should have a talk about self defense, even the difference between self defense and bullying. Caitlin is certainly assertive (she totally gets it from you! lol), so I don't think it would upset her the way you think it might. I hope that it doesn't come to it but if it does then let me know I teach her how to throw a mean left hook(lol-joking really).
Let us know how the meeting goes.
-Caitlins Aunt

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