First of all, THANK YOU so much for your thoughtful and intelligent comments and advice on this!
Thank you to everyone who voted on what I should do.
It’s very possible I may use a lot, if not all of these suggestions before this is through.
Right now, the votes are about 60% talk to the mom directly and about 40% email the teacher. I’m glad no one told me to stay out of it!
(By the way, for the future- those poll votes don’t show up anywhere, it’s anonymous, I just didn’t want anyone to worry about it ending up on their Facebook feed or anything like that.)
I thought a lot about this yesterday, I was lying awake in bed thinking about it with a sick stomach and woke up again wondering what I should do first. Yesterday after school, I got some more information from my child. What came out is that the “bully,” M, as Bex puts it:
“Gives me back my snack bag.”
That’s weird, his snack bag is safe inside his school backpack. I asked Bex if M is taking his snack bag from him? (It’s a “cool” one boys like with the red Angry Bird face on it.)
Bex said sweetly “No, he just gives it back to me.”
He’s so innocent, but this raised a red flag for me, obviously. Stealing stuff from another kid’s lunch is a classic bullying technique. So is taking their things and lording it over them and then eventually giving it back. It’s a power play.
I asked Bex, “Why does M have your snack bag to give it back to you in the first place? Is he stealing it?”
Bex: “No, he just keeps giving it back to me!”
More than once? This sounds fishy and Mama Bear doesn’t like it. Then this morning, after we talked a lot about pushing not being okay, things Bex can say if it happens again, how he should tell the teacher and Mommy and Daddy, etc…
I point blank asked my child “Are you scared of M?”
“Yes, I think I am,” he said softly.
I think that says it all.
Ok, so! What I know today is:
1.) I don’t want to insult Bex’s very nice, excellent teacher by going “over her head” to the Principal, just yet. But that is in my back pocket, fo sho.
2.) I decided to nicely approach the mom of M, the other boy, if I saw her this morning to discuss it. I decided to look for her.
3.) I didn’t want to mess things up for my boy socially, especially since the other boy M’s birthday party is this weekend and Bex really wants to go.
4.) I decided to speak to the teacher in person this morning, instead of sending an email (even though we were told at the beginning of the school year to send concerns via email, because the teachers are busy in the mornings.)
5.) I bought a book (“The Juice Box Bully“) about bullying for kids that I plan to read to Bex to teach him more about this, it includes the term “bystander” so kids understand they shouldn’t silently watch another child being bullied, even when they are not the victim themselves.
You may know the famous quote by Edmund Burke:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
I know that quote is intense, but we are sowing the seeds here for the future adults they will become.
What happened is that I didn’t see M’s mom this morning, so I talked to the teacher.
She said all of the right things, in fact, Bex had told her that M had “Given him back his snack bag” too…
…and now she understood that more may have been going on there than originally met the eye.
She listened to everything, respected my concerns and said she would be watching closely. I told her Bex said he was scared of M and that I didn’t want to mess things up for him socially and asked if the Kindergarteners were being taught anti-bullying.
She said they talk about that kind of thing every day, but the word “bullying” is too broad and vague a term for 5 year olds to understand, it covers too much ground. She said it’s better at this age to address the specific behavior, like pushing, etc.
As riled as I am, I want to give M’s parent’s respect and I hope this gets resolved very soon to everybody’s benefit.
It a teachable moment, right? I’ll keep you posted.
P.S. Coincidentally, I just found out that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month – another good motivation to talk to our kids about this.