Q. My 7-year-old home-schooled son, whose personality is generally sweet and somewhat goofy, goes to a 4-hour class once a week with five other boys. He gets along fine with all the boys, but one in particular constantly attempts to intimidate him. Since all the moms are required to be in the room, this boy's behavior can't get too out of control, but it's on the edge of bullying. He pushes my son aside when they get into line and does other equally physical things.
When these sorts of things happen, my son looks at me as if he wants to cry. I try to encourage him to be strong and stand his ground and have also told him that being in the back is no big deal. I am trying to let him work it out but it is hard to watch at times. Advice?
My first suggestion would be for you to ask the boy's mother if she would help her son resolve his “boundary issues,” but since she's in the room too, she has surely seen what you've seen. Since she hasn't put a stop to it, she is either a typical bully's mom who denies that her son is doing anything inappropriate, or she sees this as simply typical boy stuff.
My second suggestion is to stop giving your son conflicting messages. Either he should stand his ground or he should accept that being in the back of the line is no big deal, but he can't do both. Personally, I'd tell him to ignore the boy. In fact, I'd tell him to wait until the boy gets in line, and then get into line at least two people behind him. In other words, I'd encourage him to stop giving this boy opportunity to knock him around.
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The fact is that in any group of boys, a pecking order will emerge and there's not much one can do about it. Having been a boy, and having been subjected to more than my share of pecking, I can tell you that any attempt to solve this problem for your son is not going to work and may make matters worse.
If you can't remove your son from this group, then I think you need to become resigned to the fact that this sort of stuff between boys is something your son is probably going to have to work out for himself.
Stop lavish gifts from ex
Q. Both my husband and I have 7-year-olds from previous marriages. My husband's ex-wife routinely sends her daughter home from visits with new presents. The last few involved a new iPod, cell phone, and a video game system. This is stoking rivalry between the two girls. Do I have a right to ban the use of some of these things in my house?
You not only have the right to ban the use of these electronics in your home, you have the right to tell your stepdaughter's mother that gifts you feel are inappropriate – gifts that you would not have purchased – will not be allowed in your home. She can keep them at her house.
But is your husband on the same page? Since you hardly mentioned him, I suspect that he is trying to walk the fence between upsetting you and upsetting his daughter. The bottom line is that you aren't going to succeed if you act unilaterally. You need your husband's support.