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l The Dude l
l The Dude l asks:
Q:

What do you do when your child is bullied by a close family member & the other parent ignores the bully's behavior or does not appear to be concerned?

My son is 7 yrs old and has two female cousins that are very close to his age, and very aggressive/mean.  The problem is they play well 99% of the time and we see them quite often.  To give two examples, I'll call the younger cousin Sarah.  Sarah is an only child of a single mother with little to no discipline at home.  When things don't go her way, she reacts physically.  That can be a very hard slap or punch, or sometimes biting that leaves a mark.  She actually punched my 2 yr old so hard that it made her scream in a way I've only heard once or twice.  The older of the 2 cousins, I'll call Maggie.  While Maggie & my son were riding on the back of a gator (like a go-cart with a bed.. used on farms to haul things) she pushed him off the back.  We thought he jumped off or something to that effect.  When they got back we laughed a little and asked him what happened.  His eyes watered up immediately & said it wasn't funny because Maggie pushed him off.  We asked exactly what happened & he said that he was joking while riding that he could probably jump off if he wanted too & then out of no where she simply pushed him off.  When her parents confronted her she said it was on accident and they told her to apologize.

I was very upset because my son could have been extremely hurt if he fell akwardly, it just so happens it didn't happen this time.  

So my question is, what do I do?  I'm trying to avoid what would likely be a uncomfortable conversation w/the parents of both cous
Member Added on Mar 30, 2009
edit.. it cut off the last sentence.

I'm trying to avoid what would likely be a uncomfortable conversation w/the parents of both cousins or outright refuse to allow them to play together, but I see few alternatives.  

Any help/advise would be more than greatly appreciated.
In Topics: Bullying and teasing
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
Jun 16, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

It sounds like you are dealing with a difficult situation regarding your nieces behaviors toward your son. I'm sure you would like to avoid offending your nieces parents, but you also recognize the need to address the bullying. It's great that you care enough to seek out help for this situation without hurting anyone's feelings.

First, it would be helpful for you to limit the time your son spends with his cousins until you have addressed the issue. If they do spend time together, make sure you or your husband are there to supervise and intervene if any bullying should occur.

Addressing you concerns with each parent will most likely feel a little uncomfortable for both of you, but it needs to be done. Ask them to meet with you when you both have a quiet moment in which you think your concerns will really be heard. Use a non-confrontational voice tone and explain your feelings using "I" statements, such as "I have a concern about Maggie's behavior when our children play together." Be prepared to offer clear examples of times when the girls have engaged in bullying. Explain how difficult this is for you and your son, and how much you would like this situation to improve so that your families can enjoy time together.

Hopefully their parents will be open to your thoughts and be willing to work on the problem behaviors. If this is not the case you may have to decide how much time, if any, you are willing to let the children play together.

With your son, continue to be supportive of his feelings and open to listening to his concerns about being bullied. You may want to have your child practice how they should react if they are bullied again. Also, have a few conversations about what a good friend should act like, and how a friend shouldn't treat him. Encourage your son to stay calm and ask for help if he finds himself in an uncomfortable situation.

If you talk to your niece's parents in a loving way, things will go great!! Good luck!

Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000

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Additional Answers (6)

tink
tink writes:
Well this is a tough subject. You really have to talk to them and I beleive it is all in the way it is presented. You can play it off like your a little overprotective or just say it the way it is. Just let them know that you love them but you don't approve of the behavior. I would try to find an instance where your son may have used poor judgement (or make one up) and tell them that you want the behavior to change in all of the children and that it can be a good learning experience for them all. Good Luck
> 60 days ago

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EducationWorks Academy
EducationWo... , Child Professional, Teacher writes:
Dealing with family makes the situation extremely difficult. Put the "shoe" on the other foot for a moment. If it were your children that were the "bullies"...what would the parents of the children being bullied do? In this case, you need to firmly take a stand by not allowing the harrasment of your children. If these cousins severely hurt your children and one ends up with a serious disability for the rest of their lives..you will never forgive yourself. SPEAK UP...even if it means that the parents may not like it. Those children who are bullying know very well what they are doing..don't let them get away with it by being afraid..that's what bullies thrive off of...FEAR.
> 60 days ago

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l The Dude l
l The Dude l writes:
you guys have hit the nail on the head.. it's a very tough call & one I would not forgive myself for if I made the wrong decision & something happened.  The go-cart issue really bothered me the most, because he really could have been hurt.  they were not going fast at all, but he was riding on the bed, basically w/his back to the driver.. so if he fell out flat, he could have easily slammed his head.  And this is not the 1st incident on the go-carts w/'Maggie'.  Earlier this year I was teaching my son how to drive one.. his grandfather has 5 acres so there is plenty of room for the go-cart & the gator (we have one of each).  So Maggie was driving the go-cart & she kept turning sharp in front of him, riding very close almost like she was trying to make him crash.  Before I could even say anything when we got back, her mother had already & removed her from the situation.  That was the type of reaction I was expecting this instance & just didn't get at all.  In my mind, this (pushing him off) was just as bad.

I told my wife the next time they are together & want to ride that I was going to say loud enough for everyone to hear, that there better not anymore "accidental" pushing.  I am still considering whether or not to even let them ride together anymore.  

As far as Sarah goes, things have cooled down a bit here lately, but I know better than to think the issue has been solved.  People have tried to give her mother (my step-sister) advice, but it's rarely followed through.. so the last option is to no let them play together unsupervised if at all.  Which I would hate to do.  But as I told my wife, in the end if the other parent will not act it's upon us to do something if our kid's well being is put in danger.
> 60 days ago

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NY Gal
NY Gal writes:
Boy, this sounds like it could be a story of my life. My son, too, was bullied by his cousins when hewas younger.  And their parents always said that the kids should just work it out. Well, when the emotional and physical health of your child is involved, you need to step up and defend your child!! Set some rules with the other parents for when the kids get together, and also allow each other to correct the other's children if you see something mean or dangerous going on. If the other parents want a hands off approach, then tell them that you will not be attending any more family functions. I would even get the grandparents involved. They certainly should side with you.
> 60 days ago

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NY Gal
NY Gal writes:
when the emotional or physical safety of your child is involved, you MUST step up and interfere with the bullying. Set rules with the parents for the kids, and make sure you are all open to others correcting the kids if they misbehave. Get the grandparents involved, too if necessary.
> 60 days ago

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tracyjean
tracyjean writes:
Your children have to know that you are on their side, that you are their protector. Their future (and present) sense of loyalty depends on it. This is different than if the kids are having an evenly matched game where roughhousing tends to take over. There is no place for bullying, and it not something the girls will be proud of looking back. It shows a lack of compassion for the little ones and total disregard for their feelings. It seems they have it a bit rough at home, but they should know how to behave when they are at yours. Just because they can overpower a smaller child, doesn't mean they have to. Let them know it is unacceptable. The parents might not want to hear it, but if family sees it and finds it necessary to remark on this behavior, you could be doing them a favor before these little bullies have trouble with their not so understanding friends and classmates down the road.
> 60 days ago

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