Thursday, July 31, 2014

When Someone Else's Kid Throws Your Kid Under The Bus

So I suddenly remembered I was going to revisit the topic of intervening for your children. If you'll remember, I talked before about the witchy nun who'd falsely accused me of cheating, for the entirety of my sixth grade year, and how though at the time I'd begged my mom to let me handle it, as an adult I think she should have stepped in.  And I talked about some times that I'd intervened on my own children's behalf.

I received some interesting responses (not all of them public). One friend raised the question, "What do you do when one of your child's friends throws him under the bus?" You know, the I-didn't-want-to-take-that-candy-bar-but-Teddy-made-me or the she-hit-me-first.

I'm not an expert, but the first thing I think important is to realize that all kids lie. Even your precious darlings that you've brought up from birth to know right from wrong. All kids lie. It's actually developmental more than anything--read the book Nutureshock--anyhow, it's something to keep in mind, because first of all, if your kid lies it doesn't automatically make you a bad parent, and second of all, if they other kid lied it doesn't make them a bad kid, and third of all,  it's always possible that your kid got thrown under the bus because he or she deserved to be thrown there.

In my daughter's middle school years, there were some mean girls who bullied her a fair amount. Eventually, on a day when my daughter happened to be home sick, another classmate paid them back in a fairly dramatic fashion. When my daughter heard, she said, "You know it wasn't me, mom, but if I'd thought of that I would have done it. That's hilarious." Point being: they're always angels until they aren't.

So. It might be that you're the only person who thinks your kid is blameless. But, it's at least equally probable, at least on paper, that your kid has been framed. What to do?

Don't engage with someone else's kid directly. That's no-win; even if you're right, you look like an ass.  Get authorities--teachers, troop leaders--involved. Ask them directly what they know happened, and listen even if they're saying some negative things about your child. Gather what actual evidence exists. Take a deep breath. Put everything in perspective--how much will this matter in ten years? Punish your child for whatever they did wrong, err slightly but not absolutely on their side, and love them no matter what. I mean, chances are that even if your kid did invite the whole neighborhood to watch porn on your iPad, he's still not a sociopath, and you're still not a bad parent. It's up to you to slap Net Nanny on all available electronics, but beyond that--they'll make mistakes. We all do. Help them learn that mistakes need to be corrected, if possible, but aren't the end of the world. And if their friend Susie is regularly at the center of the storm, help them to stay away from Susie. Or-if you've got the time and energy, and you think Susie's having a hard time--spend more time with Susie.

I can tell with that last sentence that I'm opening up either a whole nother can of worms or a whole nother blog post, or both, but let me finish this one first:

The other day I was in a bad mood and let out a complete public snark to someone who didn't deserve it. I'm glad to say she called me out--and by the time she did I'd gotten my act together enough to realize I'd been wholly inappropriate. I apologized sincerely, she accepted it gracefully, and we've both moved on. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty good example for my children.