My son Malcolm was a bit of a bully in his younger days. He has been known as the kid who would push your kid in the stomach, sending them flailing backwards down the slide. Sometimes he was known as the kid who would bite your kid in the face, leaving a nasty looking welt and a lasting memory of an attempted mauling. Occasionally, he was the boy who would grab a plastic dinosaur and, if your child got too close to his “kitties,” hit your child over the head with it. Yes, we have a long history in this house of physical transgressions against other children, (and that’s not even counting my abuse of the kids we have locked in the basement making my sweaters. Those kids have it really rough!)
After many years of electroshock therapy counseling Malcolm that physical violence is not the solution to all his problems, he is much better. Our zero tolerance policy made life difficult at times, having to leave play dates early and running away from strangers at the park who wondered why their kid was missing a few teeth. In the end though, he came back from the dark side. He appears to be fully over the biting thing (a HUGE relief) and most of the physical skirmishes appear to be relatively minor. In essence, our kid has graduated from “angry badger” to “family dog” on the aggressiveness scale. (There is a reason people have dogs and not badgers as pets, and it’s not because badgers won’t fetch the newspaper!) The most significant aspect of this development is that I no longer have to keep an eye on him at all times when other kids are around. This freedom means more time for me at the park to hang out with parent-friends and play games on my phone. What can I say, I love progress!
Recently, however I have noticed violence creeping back into Malcolm’s bag of tricks. This isn’t the same kind of violence as before, though. This violence is responsive. When at the park the other day, he met some older kids and began playing with them, a bigger kid tackled him and sat on his chest while taunting him. After trying to wriggle free unsuccessfully for a few moments, Malcolm reached up and grabbed the older kid’s face like he was pulling off some cotton candy. It worked, the kid started crying and ran away. This wasn’t an isolated incident, as there have been a handful of other incidents recently where Malcolm has responded to acts of aggression with a haymaker or two of his own. The question is, do you treat this kind of violence the same as others?