Your opinion: Bullying and where do you stand on discipling other people’s kids?

The media and blogosphere are abuzz in the wake of the suicide of Rutgers college freshman Tyler Clementi after his roommate secretly broadcast his encounter with another man.

This is an extreme and tragic example of cyberbullying and it makes me wonder 1) Do the two students who committed the crime have a history of bullying and if so, when did it begin? 2) What is our role as parents as it pertains to bullying and/or disciplining other people’s children?

My children are still young–ages 4 and 6. These issues are surfacing and I have been torn as to how to react. Does stepping in overstep our bounds when the boundaries are different with each person? Two recent examples:

A few weeks ago, my son Bode had his second soccer game. His team played another that looked like they had been playing together from birth. Not only were their skills beyond their age but they were almost a full head taller. Undaunted, Bode’s team members played their little hearts out despite being pushed, shoved and kicked the entire game. One red-headed boy in particular on the opposing team was the instigator for much of it.

Following the game, they had a friendly kick-off so all the kids who had not scored during the game would finally have their chance. They stood in line to wait their turn and at one point I looked up to see Bode crying. And noticed the red-headed boy kicking the crap out of his calves and punching him in the back.

I didn’t think. Instinctively I tore out to the field like a mama bear protecting her young. I yanked Bode away, bent down the kid’s level and very slowly, deliberately said, “You. Do. NOT. Touch. My Son.” His reaction? He sneered at me.

His mother, not seeing his trespasses but witnessing the aftermath raced out to the field as well. “What’s going on?” she asked not accusingly. I informed her, upon which she asked her son to give Bode an apology. After refusing, she took him off the field.

The drama unfolded in less than a minute but its echoes still resonate with me. Was I in the wrong to so deliberately confront her son? Though she reacted quickly, shouldn’t she have forced an apology? Where is the line when disciplining other people’s kids?

I have mulled these questions over in my mind to ascertain my line. Mine is I would never strike or even touch another person’s child. However, if they are causing bodily harm to mine, that is when I step in. There are some parents who react beyond that and some who do not react at all to their bullies musing, “kids will be kids.” The problem with everyone’s “lines” is they are all different.

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