It's an awkward situation and one where you have to tread carefully, but most parents will experience this with their kids throughout some part of their school life. Is this you?
Before I begin, please note this comes from my own experience as a teacher and my opinion as a parent. This may not be relevant to your situation and I will always encourage you speak to your child's teacher or the school counsellor if you are struggling with this specifically.
So your child comes home after the first day in their new class for the year. By now you know there are certain kids you don't particularly like your child being influenced by or playing with because they are generally disruptive, aggressive, rude and maybe even mean.
I also won't use the term 'bully' because that can sometimes be extremely over used in situations and I don't want you thinking this is the type of child I'm talking about in particular. I am talking about the one's that you know gives the teacher a bit of grief and even their own parents. Children who show these behaviours are also not generally nasty children and can absolutely become a great friend of your child's. You may also find they are just maturing a little slower and are more 'over excited' and 'hypo' which after a few years at school, completely goes away. So if you have a child in the first few years of school don't be stressing too much.
So what do you do? You are kind of thinking you shouldn't really be telling your kids to stay away from them and unless there are specific reasons that you have discussed with your school, I don't think you should be telling your child to do that. The reason is, if you look at it from another perspective, put yourself in that child and their parent's shoes. Is isolating them from friends so kids tell him/her to their face they can't play with them, because their parents said they had to stay away from being not nice or too naughty, really the best outcome or idea? Do you think saying something like this to your child could be encouraging them to be mean to others and point out differences in individual children? Think about the long term effect and damage of what an innocently said sentence will have on your child as they grow up. Aren't we already trying to teach our children that everyone is the same and we should treat ALL people with kindness and respect? Most of us would straight away think of what we look like and what our culture is when we teach our children to respect each other. I think we should also be including children's behaviour and personalities as well.
I get it though. You have your child's best interest at heart and they are your responsibility to be protective of them and give them the best possible experience with school life both socially and what they learn. Other kid's are not your problem and if there is a child in your kid's class that is going to effect your child's learning and happiness, then you have every right to want them to stay away from your child. I get it and there are children I know that make me internally feel the same. I feel the same as you and also cross my fingers at the beginning of the year hoping they are in different classes. I hate having to wipe away tears because my child just wants them to stay away and I feel bad telling my kids off for behaviour that I know has been completely influenced by other kids that they are allowed to get away with. I get it!
It's a sucky situation but the truth is, that's life. You just don't go through life without facing off with people who are challenging. Think through your school life and then work life. Surely there were people that you worked with that you kept at arm's length or stayed clear of. I would even confidently guess you have challenging mums in your community circles of school, mum's group and preschool where you see them coming and want to hide under a rock to avoid the confrontation or embarrassment. It doesn't ever end and before you tell your child to stay away from challenging kids and say things like If they ask why they can't play with them you just tell them my mum said I can't. Would you do that now to a mum in your mum's group? Would you really go face them and say look I just want you to stay away from me because ....? If the answer is no then why are you making your child do it?
You want to protect your child. You want your child to be happy at school. You want your child to have friends. You want your child to achieve all their learning outcomes and not be distracted. You want your child to have a better school experience than maybe what you did. Any I have missed that I haven't written you can add them to my list as well. They are all correct and I want exactly the same. So it's up to us as parents to go about these positive experiences happening in a responsible, respectful way.
I understand there are extremes and this is where making plans with your child's teacher and the school are really important. Make a time to sit down and talk to them about how your feel and what you can do to help and ask what the school will do to help too. That is what teachers are there for and while your experience at school was so different like many of our generation and one's before it, it is so different now.
So aside from chatting to your child's teacher here are a couple of other ways you can help your child out.
1. Teach your child to role model their behaviour. My oldest Jack has a friend who is super rough and can get pretty disruptive in the class. He is a lovely kid but Jack has come home a few times at his wits end and obviously that has also ticked me off. I explained to Jack that not letting him play with their group was the worst thing he could do because his friend wants their attention and friendship so will try anything to get it, even if that means hurting him. Any reaction from Jack is acceptable to him. So I told him to model what good play looks like and state your boundaries. Explain to your friend we can play together but if you get too rough or start swearing and screaming in my face, I am walking away. I also said to plan games where behaviour like that won't come out or will be easier to not do. So Jack and his friends play games like basketball or soccer or they play tip where they can only touch a shoulder to tag or hide and seek. I spoke to Jack how this is an important lesson for him to learn because he will have to do this same thing growing up. There will always be people in your life you have to support or model what it is to be a responsible and respectful person.
2. Find out what programs are on at school that your child can sign up to if they want some space or a break. At my children's school there are programs like activities in the library, lego building, coding on computers, chess, dance, choir, handball and more all run and supervised by teachers and a way your child can tell their friends they want to do this to have a break from playing.
3. As a parent, always model positive talk and ideas to your child. I know inside you are feeling very differently and when your child comes home saying they were punched in the arm by so and so, your first thought is to scream out punch them back. If you have got to this point, I promise it won't help your child and will make the situation a horrible one. Violence is not cool no matter what!
4. Stay up to date with your child's learning and how they are going. Look for patterns of constant unfinished work or dropped grades. If your child is coming home playing with no one everyday when they always had loads of friends or have gone quiet in the classroom, take this as a warning bell about something that is happening and talk to the teacher immediately. Keep communicating about how their day is; what was good and what was not so good. Come up with ideas together about how they can make their day better the next school day.
5. Give your child an outlet for any frustration or stress they might be experiencing over this. Find out what they like. If they like basketball, then if possible put them into a team. Give them activities outside of school they can look forward to doing during the day.
6. I understand life gets busy especially if you are working or running kids around to after school activities but sit down with them some nights and watch them do their homework. If they are struggling with things they are getting taught during the day because they are constantly distracted by the kid they have issues with, then teach them what they missed. If this freaks you out a bit, ask your teacher to help you teach them. Last year Jack was having a few issues with numbers so I went to his teacher and asked what I could do extra at home to help him nail it. She gave me a couple of worksheets and ideas, we spent 5-10 minutes extra at homework time on it and a few weeks later he had caught himself back up. From this, both my kids are now confident to talk to me about what they are struggling with at school so I help them.
I know this doesn't solve your problem overnight and doesn't change the fact that your child will turn up at school tomorrow and every other day having to face off the kid causing them grief, but this is a starting block in a positive direction and can give your child and you the right tools to use to help.
I am here for you not just for a read and a laugh or cry, but as your support and your community. Please don't hesitate to email me as many of you do and ask questions or seek encouragement about how to help your child with this.
©The Realistic Mum
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