The Accidental Bully.


I’ve written about sibling violence several times over the last two years or so, and Lara just mentioned it in her recent State of the Union. But we’ve started to see a new level of it over the past weeks, and it’s becoming a bit more one-sided.

Having the Y chromosome and the testosterone that comes with it, Jack has been the primary culprit. I’m sure this is unsurprising. I’ve heard over and over again that boys will be the real problem when it comes to aggression (apparently, they’re a nightmare to potty train, too). So maybe this is just normal hi-jinks that seems more severe than it is to a pair of rookie eyes like mine.

But then I see Jack literally run over his sister as if he were stampeding down the streets of Pamplona. Or clothesline her as he zooms past going 70 miles an hour. Or yesterday’s scene when he apparently picked up two plates that were stacked on the kids table after lunch and struck Emme in the head with them. I wasn’t home, and Lara was in the other room, so it’s all based on circumstantial evidence and the victim’s eyewitness testimony. But the telltale clink of ceramic Lara heard immediately before the assault and the level and sincerity of the tears that came after it paint the picture pretty well.

As a result, I have become merciless in applying time outs early and often for any violent acts. Despite Jack’s howls of protestation and seemingly contrite apologies, this appears to be having zero impact on the situation. I’ve recently moved to distraction tactics, such as holding him or taking him into a quiet room until he calms down. It works, but once he’s released back into the same environment, the effect is short lived.

I understand that kids rough house; I know that it comes with the territory. But Jack doesn’t seem to realize that running at me full tilt and running at Emme full tilt will have different outcomes. Or, at least, I’m choosing to believe that. The other option is that he knows but doesn’t care.

Malice, however, has never been Jack’s style. I’ve rarely seen him act “mean.” The violence usually stems from the frenzy he gets into when overexcited. Unfortunately, he tends to get overexcited when he’s having fun, whether playing with his sister or enjoying a visit from his relatives. I don’t want to rain on his parade just to stave off his Hulking out, but there is a dread that washes over me when his laughter suddenly shifts into this manic, almost drunken, bark. This has become a nightly occurrence after dinner when a combination of fatigue and the looming threat of bath time put him into Carpe Diem mode.

Part of the problem is the Golden Rule: He’s acting unto others precisely how he would have them act unto him. The boy’s mass has always rivaled a neutron star, and he has a skull made of iron. Jack could probably take a 2×4 upside the head, stand up giggling, and ask for more. He loves the wrestling; only on a few occasions have I seen him get upset, even when Emme is winning. But as they continue to grow up, Emme’s victories become fewer and farther between.

It’s this resilience that makes him so dangerous. He’s been doing full body drops on me that hurt like hell.  I can only imagine what it feels like to his sister, especially if he’s covering her face with a couch cushion at the same time. I’m really worried he’s going to do some damage to Emme, who is so light that I’d swear her bones are hollow.

So we have a runaway train of a little boy who doesn’t get that he’s hurting people and is only confused by any discipline meted out. We have a little girl who eggs on this behavior with rough play but is increasingly terrified when she realizes that she can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And we have an unsuspecting world of toddlers just waiting to be fresh meat for my son, The Accidental Bully.

I’m open to suggestions.

wendi - May 23, 2013 - 6:48 pm

okay…so I’ve been checking back in on this entry cause I have No idea of any “suggestions” to offer and have been curious to see what others might offer. the silence is very telling. so I just want to say…your thoughtfulness and attention to this issue will go a long way. at some point Consequences will become more real to jack and his behavior will reflect that I Think. as for poor delicate and fearless emme, welcome to the terrors of being a sister (as lara previously noted). I have many memories of running fast from one brother out of self-preservation (and he was 4 years older) while the other brother tried to play interference and protect me. but Both brothers were and are invaluable, irreplaceable. and I hold no grudges (only deep psychological scars…). and who doesn’t love the Hulk?