Have you ever used your child to bully another adult? My family lives in a nice little cul-de-sac filled with all kinds of interesting neighbors. We refer to the cul-de-sac as the “circle.” All of the neighborhood kids gather in the circle to play. The kids range in age from three to seventeen. They all play together and for the most part they all get along. Addie knows that she is allowed to play in the circle and that she must get permission if she wants to play with someone outside the “circle.”
Over the last couple weeks, I began noticing that when I arrived home after work the kids in the circle would stop what they were doing to stare at me. I did not pay much attention to the change in behavior because they are kids. Kids can be, and often are, weird. After a week or so of fairly frequent glares from the neighborhood kids, the kids began taking it a step further. The kids not only stopped to stare, but a few of the braver kids, and by braver I mean twelve year olds who do not know any better, began yelling comments at me. I thought it was a bit strange that these kids would start acting like this all of a sudden. After all, we have lived in this neighborhood for nearly three years, and I had never seen this behavior from them before. But again, they are kids and kids can be weird.
Yesterday Addie went out to play in the circle. I was busy watching Vivi and cooking dinner since my wife did not feel well. I noticed that Addie was playing with one of the nine year old neighborhood boys who has had a tendency to bully Addie on occasion. I checked on Addie every ten minutes or so just to make sure no surprise bullying was happening. About an hour later, Addie burst into the house in a panic and the following conversation ensued, and by conversation, I mean Addie was nearly hyperventilating because the words were coming out of her mouth so fast:
Addie (yelling): Dad, you aren’t supposed to be a tattletale.
Me: What are you talking about?
Addie: Dad, it isn’t nice to be a tattletale.
Addie: John said that you were a tattletale.
Me: Okay, it is time for dinner.
Addie: Dad, John said that you tattled on his dad for having stuff on the side of their house.
Addie: John’s dad told John that you were a tattletale and that you are the reason he can’t have a swimming pool anymore.
Me: John’s dad said what?
Addie: John’s dad said that you got him in trouble and that that was wrong. Dad, it is wrong to be a tattletale. I told them you were a lawyer and lawyers wouldn’t tattletale, but John said his dad knows it was you. Dad, that was wrong. You shouldn’t be a tattletale.
Throughout this conversation, Addie was giving me a look like I had kicked her favorite cat in the stomach–on purpose. Addie was really concerned that I, her dad, would stoop to such a level.
I have no idea what this neighborhood father was talking about. However, I fully believe that this father knew exactly what he was doing when he had this conversation about me with his son. He knew that Addie and his son play in the circle regularly, he knew that their conversation would likely be relayed to Addie, and he knew that my daughter would then relay the story to me. What other purpose could he have had for telling his son that he could not have a swimming pool this year and that it was all Addie’s dad’s fault? The change in behavior from the other kids in the neighborhood now makes sense too. These kids primarily hangout in front of this neighbor’s house and play with his sixteen year old son.
This bullying tactic has left me a little lost. Do I continue to let Addie hear this stuff from the neighborhood boys? These boys have a history of bullying Addie, I can only see this escalating to the point where Addie herself is being bullied. Do I relay a message through Addie that I don’t know what this guy is talking about? Or, do I do the adult thing and have a conversation with the neighbor?
What would you do?
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