Am I the Mother of a Hitter?

A couple of times a week, we have a teenaged babysitter pick up Sam from afternoon kindergarten and play with the kids until I come home from work.  Two days ago, she was asked to convey a message from Sam’s kindergarten teacher:  Sam had been hitting in class.  We are scheduled for our first ever (10 minute) parent-teacher interview, and Sam’s teacher wants to discuss this issue at the meeting.

I had no inkling Sam was being rough at school, and this information bothered me.  I was very tired that night anyway, and it didn’t help that my youngest threw water at an oily pan while I was preparing dinner and that I burned my hand on a tray of kale chips taking them out of the oven and dropped them on the floor.   But I was also plain off-kilter at the news from school.  My son?  A hitter?  Advance notice of this agenda item for the parent-teacher meeting?

It’s always strange when you love someone intimately but then learn something about them you don’t know.  While Sam has some (fun and not-so-fun) agressive moments with his younger brother, I would easily characterize him as gentle.  In fact, with one of his rowdier playmates, he was allowing himself to be such a punching bag that my husband and I were coaching him on how to ask for help and to protect himself from being hit himself.

I’ve also been consciously revelling in what seems like a pretty idyllic time with Sam at home.  He loves being around me, is cooperative, enthusiastic and participates in most things we do, can be reasoned with, and is a very affectionate child.

And thus begins my initiation into the universal education of parents as we discover that our children aren’t perfect, not even in those special areas we hold dear.  I don’t care about being the mother of the unkempt child or the dusty home.  But I do not want to be the mother of the Hitter.

It helped to talk to a lovely new friend and more seasoned mother.  She happened to have a son who was aggressive when he was five and six and who has since morphed into an engaging, easy-going nine year old.  It also helped to watch my friend’s own kindergartner who, frustrated at having to share her toys, scream with such fury that she made the tantrums of my own boys look rather tame.  My friend has enviable mothering abilities, and I’d love for our kids to be friends.  I felt no judgment at all witnessing the meltdown, but actually appreciation.  Appreciation that kids can get violently mad.  Their emotional toolbox is still small.  They aren’t perfect.

While it seemed strange to me at the time, now I think Sam’s kindergartner teacher knew precisely what she was doing when she gave me advanced warning that we needed to talk about Sam hitting in class.  Maybe she was giving me a chance to acclimatize, so that the honest but unproductive sinking feeling I had in the kitchen upon first hearing the news that night could give way to a more useful impulse.  I’ve had some time to talk to Sam, to observe him, and to know that regardless of whatever he’s experimenting with now, he’s not a latent thug.

The meeting’s today.  Wish us luck.


6 thoughts on “Am I the Mother of a Hitter?

  1. I wished your teacher-parent meeting went well. I have a 8y.o. Sam too. When he’s 5-6, he hit and bit too. It’s so common for the boys to do that between 5-6. Especially for those who are so smart, they can’t verbalized quick enough to get their thoughts expressed out in words before the hitting starts.

    Mine had similar experiences million of times. After years of introducing/giving words to him to express himself, teaching him to understand his own feelings, emotions and physical/body needs, he is doing much better now.

    However, if I may say, don’t take the teacher’s “one-sided” story as bases. Maybe the problem doesn’t lies with your Sam. Have a heart to heart talk with your boy of what had happened in school and classroom. My Sam can be very articulate if he’s willing to slow down his thoughts and uses his words. If you showed him your empathy and understanding, he will appreciate it and be more willing to share his future troubles/thoughts with you. [Learned from “Spirited Child” by Kurcinka.]

    There are times when my son questions me why doesn’t every child be taught with the same value. When he/she sees most other kids/teachers don’t follow the rules, why should he/she? Their instincts of self-defense and survivor skills are natural and sharp. If they can’t beat those other kids, they will join the majority in order fit themselves into that environment.

    Sad to say, often teachers in school are not all skillful, experienced or know how to manage classroom environment well; they may not know/trained in conflict resolution themselves. When they get over-whelmed with tons of responsibilities, they will have to either close an eye, or tell the kids to “deal with the problem themselves” without demonstrating how.

    Children often learn conflict resolution by examples or role models, either through playing or through family members/loved ones. If they spend more hours with teachers who don’t know how to resolve problem using words and alternative methods, don’t expect your kid to ‘figure it out’ himself. In the end, kids will only turn around to look at how other kids response or react, they will think and use that as a solution method.

    If you agreed with me, we, mothers know our kids best. I know mine is no angel, but I also know what ideas/behaviors could have been originated or ignited from him; and I know what he could do are learned from his peers. So, don’t let teacher tell you how your son should behave or how you should discipline your kid. Raise your expectation and question how did they, the teacher, deals with different situation to resolve it.

    When incident happened, if the teacher on duty did not stop the kids involved in the incident for a minute, talk over with them what’s right and wrong, have the kids at fault apologize to other, and finally have them shake hands, make it up and play with each other again. It’s very time and energy consuming!!!! Who cares!!!???? I’m doubtful if any teacher will constantly take the time to do that for our kids these days.

    That’s one more reason why I home-schooled my kid. I think my home-schooled community is like a village, with all parents on duty, they could actually help to model to kids about how to talk things over without hurting/shooting/killing each other. It’s a real life model that schools should adopt. Just my ten cents worth. Sorry about the lengthy reply though. 🙂

    • Hi Rose,

      My goodness, don’t apologize for your lengthy reply; I’m glad and grateful to hear your views!

      Like you, I do feel that I know my son best, although I appreciated his teacher’s input (in the end it was quite restrained on the hitting issue). I’ve volunteered in the JK classroom and know she is a responsive and skillful teacher, as much as being in charge of so many children in one setting can allow, because of course she can’t despite her best efforts monitor all that’s happening in her class. You’re right though, a less motivated teacher could easily make lots of quick impressions of the children that aren’t accurate.

      Congratulations on homeschooling your son and finding supportive resources in that adventure! It sounds like he will benefit so much from those choices. I think about homeschooling often, and wonder if it will be right for us at some later stage.

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