“Excuse Me, But Why Is Your Child Such a Bully?”

I could have asked the soccer mom that. Or I could have asked if she could make her kid stop terrorizing the other children. But instead I took the Mean Girls route: I glared at her.

Let me rewind. It’s Saturday morning soccer practice for Logan and I was flying solo with both boys. It was my first time at soccer since usually Hubby goes. And Hubby had warned me that one of the kid’s was very disruptive.

It didn’t take me long to spot him. His mom dragged his limp body onto the field. She hissed at him to get up. The kid, I’ll call him Ivan, labored to life and joined the rest of the 3ish year olds.

Enamored by my own child, I didn’t pay much attention to Ivan. Then half way through the class, Ivan started to go rogue. He refused to participate in any of the activities. Meh, he’s 3, no big deal, I thought, obviously my Hubby was exaggerating when he spoke of this kid.

Hubby told me a story of how Ivan was “going crazy” one day and then as Logan was drinking from his water bottle Ivan decided he wanted it. He snatched the bottle from Logan and Logan quickly swiped it back while giving Ivan one of my signature white-hot glares. Ivan looked at Logan and slowly backed away. (I’m secretly proud of this.)

On this Saturday, Ivan had kicked it up a notch, yelling at the coach, who was trying to corral him. I stole a sideways glance at his mom to see her reaction. She slowly turned her back to the field. That’s strange.

Things quickly devolved. Ivan started throwing balls at the other kids. I looked at his mom. She was looking at the ceiling. Seriously? I looked at the other parents. They all looked uncomfortable. It was the elephant in the room.

Logan was staying away from Ivan the Terrible. OK, my kid’s safe, but what about the others? When the coach’s back was turned, Ivan cornered a shrimp of a kid against a wall and pummeled him with balls.

“Excuse me!” I called to the mom. She ignored me. Meanwhile, the coach stopped the attack and sequestered Ivan for the remainder of the class.

I kept looking at the woman in disbelief. I try not to be judgmental, but sheesh, I’d never seen a parent so deliberately not watch their child. She might as well have started whistling and twiddling her thumbs. I tried to compel her to look at me, thinking if I caught her eye, I could strike up a conversation.

I switched on my white-hot glare, known for causing fear in the hearts of men. (It’s true! Ask my Hubby.) And nada.  Then I softened and for the first time I truly saw the woman.

She looked at her wit’s end and that this soccer class appeared to be her escape. I’m not making an excuse for her checking out, especially at the expense of the other kids’ safety, but I do understand when you’re just spent and want someone else to be in charge.

I remember once when Logan threw a huge, screaming, arm-swinging fit in the train station, I didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to give him to one of the passengers. Instead I just grabbed his arms and confined him.

Next soccer practice, I’ll try to position myself closer to her and start chatting it up before Ivan releases his reign of terror so that when it comes hopefully I can gently prod her into action… We’ll see.

Or maybe I’ll talk privately with the coach about it. I don’t want to be a meddling parent and I’m new to the etiquette of children’s sports, but it’s just not in me to simply sit there and watch this kid push, shove and scare the others.

What would you do?


12 responses to ““Excuse Me, But Why Is Your Child Such a Bully?”

  1. I’d feel the same way you do. For the mother to idly stand by while her kid is hurting others (I don’t care how spent she is) is inexcusable. I see this kind of thing all of the time. Kids need limits and if the parents don’t set them…who will? We can’t rely on teachers and coaches to do our job.

    • So true about limits. They are important. I know my parents don’t think I’m strict enough, but we do set limits and “Ivan” certainly had absolutely no limits and it was more than him just having an off day. He just seemed to be searching for some/any structure.

  2. My opinion is that if she won’t step up to the job of controlling her kid then someone else needs to. I would have no problem with that being mean. I can take a lot, but I don’t let other kids push mine around. And if they other parent is obviously aware of what is going on and doesn’t want to do anything then she needs to step aside because I don’t have a problem with it.

    • I hear you on letting other kids push yours around. I wasn’t present for the water bottle incident, but I kinda want to address this problem before it gets to that point because I’m not sure what I’d do if a kid pushed mine around. I’d like to think I’d handle it with dignity and class, but there’s this tiger mama inside me and when she pounces I’m just as surprised as the victim.

    • That’s an ineginous way of thinking about it.

  3. I too am new to sports, and from what I’ve seen so far, it seems most 3 year olds just aren’t ready for organized sports. It sounds like Ivan isn’t that into soccer yet, if his mom is dragging him onto the field and he is having a hard time following rules. He’s just a 3 year old boy, I don’t think he can be a bully yet.

    • I can see your point, but I do think this one’s a bully. When you’re happily pummeling a kid who’s cowered in a corner, that’s not a rambunctious 3 year old. I hope he turns out to be a well-adjusted person…

  4. I am surprised that the coach doesn’t nip that in the bud. I’ve seen it many times where the kid approaches the mom for whatever reason and the mom sluffs it off responding with “I’m not in charge, ask your coach” – in my case its the boy scout leader. Truly if other children may be in danger because of this child, something needs to be done. I can’t believe you said something to her and she ignored YOU – that’s some good ignoring skills. I may have said something to the child after the parent didn’t respond – sometimes having someone out of their normal circle say anything will set them off course and back to what they are supposed to be doing…my son stopped a bully by just telling him he was being a jerk – now they are friends (well they get along and my son is not being called names or threatened anymore). I am curious to see how the next practice goes.

  5. This is why I say that I don’t like kids (really I guess I don’t like parents). I can’t stand bullies, or kids that are mean, or just plain rude. And I hate when parents act like their kids never do anything wrong. We went to the zoo two weeks ago and several older boys nearly knocked Adaline over while they were running to see an animal. I actually had to stop walking put one arm around her and hold the other one out towards them while saying, “Watch out, boys!” Arrrggg. (Because a lack of discipline in children turns me into a pirate.)

  6. Wow, this is a tough one. I would have done the same as you, and my first reaction would be to get upset with the mom. I’m not sure I would have softened right away, though. I can’t stand bullies. I just confronted a playground bully that was twice the size of my daughter and her friend at the playground…He got a piece of my mind…and HIS mother was nowhere in sight.

  7. Thanks for this! Sounds just like the little guy who’s bullying my son. I was frozen with. flabbergastedness? today when my son, who is younger and smaller, came running off the field crying after being pushed down. This came after two weeks of him toughing out being yelled and grunted at while being charged with a pointed finger. Today the Mom decided her son should apologize. When mine didn’t respond with, ‘That’s okay’, he started yelling at him again. I couldn’t believe it! For us, any such behaviour would result in losing the right to play soccer for the day and a big conversation. My husband and I love soccer and our 2.5 year old has a budding passion and I’m afraid if this continues he’ll be turned from the game for the wrong reasons. I’m going to talk to the coach before the next game but after some extensive reading tonight I’m certain if this happens again this Mom and I will be having some words! It’s heart breaking to see your child go through this experience at such a young age…It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for him anymore…heart breaking. On the up side, so proud of my little guy. We talk about his day at bedtime and tonight he said, ‘Talk about Joe Mommy, about what happened at soccer today, I was scared’. We’ll get through it all, I hope, as long as we keep talking 🙂

  8. Man, what a great blog! It must be that impressive college degree. M-I-Z!! Or maybe it’s that impressive maiden name… C-O-F!! I have to say -and this could very well be the eternal optimist in me, who shuts up after a healthy dose of stress, of which I am blissfully free at the moment- that I think Ivan the Terrible just needs some freaking attention. I don’t have kids, and I don’t pretend to understand all of the complexities and demands of parenting, but I have worked with kids since I was one; I got my first paying gig coaching gymnastics when I was 14. In my (admittedly limited by my age) experience, and this is pretty conventional wisdom, so I’m not claiming a breakthrough here, these kids act out, especially at this age, because they are desperate for some attention at home. While it shouldn’t by any means fall entirely on the coach to restructure the entire way by which he is disciplined and reared, the coach could take this opportunity to redirect the child’s plentiful energy towards something more constructive. If, for instance, Ivan the Terrible were given a weekly responsibility, like gathering the cones, or picking up trash, or even a made-up duty like ensuring everyone’s shoes are tied, I bet he would take the coach’s trust in him as a compliment, and try to live up to his new title. My most recent job as a head coach and day-camp supervisor required a lot of child-psych reading, and we focused primarily on Kenneth Blanchard’s “Whale Done” method of positive reinforcement. It’s modeled after SeaWorld’s technique of training its whales (hence the uber-punny title), which is very reward-heavy, and teaches you not to faint at the sight of your pupils falling short of your expectations. The coach needs to redirect or lower the bar here with Ivan, and then praise progress. This praise will probably go a long way for a kid who doesn’t seem to be getting much appropriate attention at home. I hate to make it sound like the onus is entirely on the coach, because in a perfect world this *should* be taken care of at home, but in a perfect world there are no bullies or taxes or vegetables, so if none of the above works, march right up to mommy, snatch *her* water-bottle away, and scream “How do YOU like it?!” THAT would be tough to ignore!!

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