Overreacting, Underreacting, or Just Right?

Updated on December 16, 2010
A.R. asks from Keller, TX
12 answers

Had a situation crop up yesterday with my 8.5 yo ds that I'm not sure I handled correctly.

He had a couple friends over, both 9 yo, and the friend's (Bob) little brother, 4 yo (Cody). The 4 yo plays with the big kids a lot, he's a sweet little boy and very 'tough'. The boys were in the backyard playing a game they made up involving throwing balls at each other to score points (semi-deflated soccer balls and one semi-deflated basketball - they had been left outside for a while). I told them the game was ok, but since Cody was playing they needed to keep the balls below the chest & throw softly at Cody - they all agreed. I went inside to fold laundry but could see them all through the back windows. Turned my back for a minute or two and heard yelling. I went outside to my son screaming at the other three to just go home. Here's what happened, based on the stories from all three: Ds threw a ball at Cody and it hit him in the stomach. Cody started to cry. Bob then attacked ds, pushing him to the ground and kicking him. I separated the boys and walked the other three back home. I told Bob that I understood he was upset because Cody was crying, but he should have gotten me and not kicked ds. I told ds that he should have been more gentle with Cody but he did the right thing by telling the boys to leave instead of fighting back when Bob attacked him. I did not tell Bob & Cody's mom; she has a tendency to believe Bob is a little angel and does no wrong so I know it would be useless to say anything to her. Bob's version, repeated to me several times, was that he was defending his little brother. I'm sure that's how it was presented to the parents and the fact that my son was apologizing when Bob pushed him down and started kicking him will have been conveniently lost in the retelling.

The more I think about it the angrier I get. Of course my son was wrong, he shouldn't have thrown the ball at Cody so hard. But he apologized immediately and tried to make sure Cody was ok (this was confirmed by the 3rd boy who wasn't involved) and Bob just attacked him. This isn't the first time Bob has done this kind of thing; he can be very petty and manipulative if he doesn't get his way. I've told ds that he is not to play any type of roughhousing games with Cody anymore, that obviously Bob can't handle it and will lash out if anything happens to his brother. Right now ds is still really ticked at Bob and doesn't want to play with him, but they are neighbors and there is a whole group of boys on the street who all play together so I know he'll be around again eventually. I should say we are friends with the parents, they are lovely people, they just have a huge blind spot where Bob is.

So, where do I go from here? Did I react strongly enough? Or did I overreact?

Thanks Mama's!

ETA: I did tell the other mom that Cody was hit in the stomach with a ball, she brushed it off as she knows he likes to keep up with the older kids. I just didn't tell her what happened with ds & Bob.

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So What Happened?

Thanks Everyone! I just picked him up from school and the boys have made up, lol. I've told ds that if Cody wants to come over and play when they're roughhousing that his mom will have to come with him or he can't come over. From what ds says Bob told his parents he kicked ds so Bob is grounded today, that was nice to hear - both that Bob was honest and that his parents did something about it.

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answers from Tulsa on

you did good boys will be boys and it is good actually that he takes up for his brother. boys have a way of getting mad at each other beating each others brains in and being friends the next day. let it lay.


you did good boys will be boys and it is good actually that he takes up for his brother. boys have a way of getting mad at each other beating each others brains in and being friends the next day. let it lay.

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answers from Modesto on

It's just a boy thing, and brother taking care of brother, and quick tempers. Just let it slide. Taking everyone home made the point.
I was talking to a boy at my front door one day, I didnt really like him, he was a boy from school. I was about 12 and my sister was about 8. I was telling the boy to go home and not come and knock on our door anymore. My sister saw that I was upset so she threw her frest, hot grilled cheese sandwich at him.... I still remember the melted cheese dripping off of his shirt. It was her INSTANT instinct to take care of her big sis who was pissed. So the big brother attacking your son did what just totally came natural to him... guarding his brother (which has probably been his role since his brother was born).... so just keep that in mind. They are young and immature and the fight was a bummer, but I believe big brother was just setting a boundary (dont mess with Cody dangit!). Now all the boys know that big bro loves Cody and they all have respect for that.
It's a guy thing, a brother thing, a kid thing..... and the beginning of boys turning into men one day.
Best way to talk to your friend about it is "Boy oh Boy Bob is sure protective of Cody....". And let it go at that.

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answers from Saginaw on

I think you handled it good, however, I think you would feel better if you had told your understanding of the story to Bob's parents. I think your still thinking about this because you feel your son is getting all the blame in Bob's parents eyes. Had you told your understanding, whether they believed you or not you would at least feel better having explained the story how you feel it went down.

Kids are kids, they will probably get over it quickly.

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answers from Albany on

I think you did exactly the right thing. Well, ALL the right things, in my opinion.

I also think your son and Bob will run into many conflicts if they stay close and will work through (or not) it. I've got older teenagers with MANY long term friends, sometimes they're tight, sometimes they go their own ways.

Your whole story sounds pretty healthy to me!


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answers from Columbus on

I think you handled it well for the most part. I personally wouldn't have allowed 9 yr. old to throw balls at a 4 yr. old and trust that they would be gentle. They get caught up in the moment and forget who they are throwing at. I'm not sure if you have other kids but if a friend would hurt one of my kids (even if it's an accident), my kids would stick up for their sibling too. Not attack them like Bob did but they would be upset that their brother or sister was hurt by someone else.

I would just drop it. I don't think there's too much more you can do since you didn't tell Bob's parents everything that happened. Maybe they would have made Bob apologize to your son and have a talk with him. Their mom brushed off her 4 yr. old being hurt by a 8.5 yr. old, I think you should brush off your son being hurt by a 9 yr. old. I'm guessing you're just upset with Bob right now but he's still a good boy or else you wouldn't allow your son to play with him.

Ok, so after I said all this. I guess I think you're overacting a tad about your son getting hurt but we all do that some times when it comes to our kids :) But I do think you handled it well with talking to the boys right after it happening.

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answers from Washington DC on

i think you did just right. i do understand the belated anger (we are moms after all!) but i'm glad you handled it calmly at the time and do not think you should do anything more at this point.
it's impossible not to intervene when we observe situations like this, but i'm not at all sure that all of the hovering that modern parenting involves is a good thing. for millenia kids have run in wolfpacks and worked things out for themselves. they rarely do so in ways we wish them to. yes, it is our job to impose civilized behavior on the little ogres, but it's also a vitally important skill for kids to work things out amongst themselves with no parental interference. look how well this worked out in so many ways! yes, little brother got nailed, but all the big kids were sorry about it, and will be more careful next time, and little brother will also be a bit more cautious about how involved he wants to get in big kid stuff. (and big kids need to be allowed to play without constantly watching out for little guys.) your son was already apologizing. how wonderfully that reflects on how you've raised him! and big brother flew off the handle, but he did so in defense of little brother. is that so awful?
i think this was a great learning opportunity for everyone involved, and you did good too.
rest on your laurels, my dear.
:) khairete

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answers from Stockton on

I think you did just fine....boys will be boys......

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answers from New York on

Kids are wearing social training wheels - they are still learning how to handle situations. This kind of a thing was a daily occurance in our cul de sac of 4 boys and 4 girls within 4 years of each other age-wise. Some kids are very vocal, some are physical, some are mean, others are timid. In our neighborhood there are two sisters who are sneaky and mean but you'd never see them doing it - but al lthe kids knew. They had many of us parents fooled - until we each saw something by accident that showed us how manipulative these girls were. They're all teens and pre-teens now and are going off in separate directions so it does go away by itself eventually.

The bottom line is that this stuff is going to happen - kids like adults are going to have conflicts. Actually it's nice to see that an older brother sticks up for his younger brother. Kids do "accidentally on purpose" hurt other kids (throwing the ball too hard) or it may truly have been an accident. Boys will push eachother down and slug eachother - but being boys they get past it and tomorrow they're playing and good buddies. That's how it's done in boy-world (it's a foreign land to us moms!!!!) In girl-world they'll be malicious and mean and gossip about eachother for years to come and in high school talk about an offense that happened in 3rd grade. Having a girl and a boy I'd much prefer the punching, slugging and knocking over - and then get over it by the evening.

They will learn better social skills as they get older. They'll earn not to punch eachother - and instead they'll progress to the phase where they'll tell the offender he's an idiot - that will pass too.

Don't get cuaght up in this - they're kids. 30 years ago they'd be playing ball in the sandlot and mom wouldn't be there to intervene - they'd work it out and go back to play ball again tomorrow.

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answers from Los Angeles on

With my kids, their dad tells them they are to watch out for each other. To a certain extent this is true. My DS takes it way to the extreme and has anxiety over it sometimes. So you never know what Bob's parents are telling him for one.

I would have told his mom anyways just so all didnt get lost in translation. Not only that her son got "hurt" on your watch I think I would want to know.

I would explain the rules to the boys, again if you have, and remind them there is no hitting in anger in your house. If Bob does it again I wouldnt allow him over to play.

Im sure your DS will get over it and play with them again in time.

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answers from Dothan on

Keep Cody away from older children, ALWAYS. It may be ok to play with big brother but you cannot control friends. What is the next time he hits him in the head hard? You ready for the guilt associated with almost death or serious harm? How about the legal issues?
I know it seems harsh but no 4 yr old especially rough boys should play with 8/9 yr olds, Im sorry. I would not allow them on my property. I continue to make their mother realize the problems, you can video tape them playing. Let mom see what Bob is really like.

Im sorry but it if it were me that kid would have been pinned to a wall. If you dont come to your kids defense, no one will. I hope you think this one through very carefully. And do not shake off this incident, violence should never be condoned EVER



answers from Los Angeles on

Your reaction was fine and that of a mother protecting her cub. you might want to sit down with your son and ask him what he thought. Did he like that you sent the boys home, or would he preferred to handle it and kept playing? Each age seems to prefer different parental responses. Just check it and see where he is?


answers from Oklahoma City on

You did fine, but i would've told mom and would've told her about the whole kicking thing and probably ban this boy from playing with your son without adult supervision if he has a history of over reacting like this..

i may also start recording them playing together as if making a family video for you and the other mom, and make yourself giggle in the video so it's not obvious your out for evidence for her. then show her the video if her son does that again

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