Thursday, December 02, 2010

Instinctual Response


Today, as I was walking to pick up the kids from school, I encountered a little, blond hellion of a boy who had just spit on another child and was inciting general violence. It wasn't his first time. I've caught him kicking and hitting at the same group of kids in the past as the sidewalk streams with kids on their way home.

This afternoon, without thinking, I caught him right after he had spit on another child and was dashing away.....and by "caught" I mean that I swooped my arms out and physically stopped him.

Automatic reflex. I didn't even think about it.

He began talking about how the other kids had said something mean to he and his sister on the "first day"...whatever that meant. I replied that it's not OK to spit on people, or hit them, or kick them just because they say mean things. I told his sister, who was older, to take him home and make sure that he stayed away form the other group of kids.

They left, and I finished walking to the school thinking to myself that I had done a really stupid thing by physically stopping the boy. I didn't grab him, or roughly handle him, but I did stop him.'s never a great idea to touch another person's child, no matter how completely awful they're being or how gentle the touch.

As I wondered whether or not I had made a huge mistake in intervening in the situation, I figured that I had better talk to one of the teachers and let them know what has been going on for some time.

This is when things get slightly worse. I approached the PE teacher, "Coach", and asked if he knew these children, who I described as a short, little, blond boy and went on to describe his older sister as taller, with blond hair and who is a little bit chubby.

Let's could this go wrong?

Well, in the midst of my description, I hear a woman from about 5 feet away say, "Those are my children!"

Open mouth, insert foot. I hadn't said anything horrible, but who wants their child described in terms of being a "little bit chubby"?

I told the mother what had happened and she left pretty quickly, saying that she was looking for her children anyway.

Later, I went to the office and spoke with the Assistant Principal and told her about the escalating incidents and she took some notes and said that she would work on it.

Now I am sitting here wondering if this is all going to backfire on me and if I am going to have an irate mother in my face tomorrow.

Hopefully, she won't spit in my face and run away.


Retriever said...

I've done similar things. Remind yourself that people act instinctively when they sense danger. You were acting to protect the other children AND all the kids to prevent a volatile situation getting worse. THere are some times (particularly with kids who can't read others' signals, or who have not learned limits) where it isn't safe to let kids just "work it out themselves". The mother probably will be defensive, because the kid probably had some kind of issue. Probably something that might even make you feel sorry for him (and her) and therefore feel giulty. BUt you shouldn't feel bad for assuring safety in a bad situation. In some situations, we grownups assume a certain amount of liability to assure the safety of vulnerable kids near us.

If you want to use the lingo (if the mom whines about you touching her kid) just look disingenous and look stricken and say "OMG , I don't know, I was just so WORRIED THAT THINGS weren't SAFE, that somebody would get HURT...etc .(the principal will realize that he could have had a lawsuit).

ON the other hand, schools are insane these days. A mom here who stopped some bullying boys from harassing a girl by forcefully ordering them to quit it got some incredible accusations of being cruel or something.

You'll probably be fine. The kid probably has at least ADD, perhaps something worse. IF he has an autism spectum disorder he is probably peculiarly susceptible to flying into rages when teased and the typical kids will have figured this out and will have made him a target.

Either way, you can't let kids do what you saw.

I SO sympathize.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I echo Retriever. You can't know the background, so it's best not to extend your thought into whether you provided some much-needed limit-setting for an undisciplined child or undermined a child who already has enough on his plate. You stopped an incident, and it is best to hold it in memory that way. Whatever the child's story leading up to the incident, he shouldn't spit, and you communicated that this one simple thing was not acceptable.

As for the mother, that is also a roll of the dice. Focusing on the single incident, without drawing conclusions about the child's general character, will be helpful if it comes to any confrontation. You can even reverse it and ask what she thinks generic mothers should do about generic children assaulting (and I wouldn't necessarily shy away from that word) others in their presence.

As for school rules, they will indeed make you crazy. Schools are in an impossible situation, and make one-size-fits-all rules as their only defense. They aren't allowed to have common sense.

terri said...

Well so far, imminent confrontation in yay for that!

I honestly won't presume to know what is going on with this particular child. He definitely seems to have an explosive anger...but I don't know why or what kind of pathology is isn't behind it.

I think Retriever is right being a parent automatically puts you in a position where you have to act.

SO...I don't regret acting.

Anonymous said...

Tortfeasor! Battery, assault, false imprisonment...

terri said...

I had to look up "tortfeasor"!

So does that apply to me...or the little blond boy!?


I guess if a four year old child can be sued in New York for the accidental knocking over of an octogenarian...who wound up breaking her hip and then dying....then I guess I might qualify as a "tortfeaser"!

Maybe not "false imprisonment"...but "false detainment for 30 seconds to receive a talking to".

What's the penalty for that?

20 years in the pokey?