DEAR AMY: My son and two friends spent the afternoon together recently. They are all 8 years old, and I was the supervising adult. I took them to a movie, the playground and then out for a snack. They had a great time, but in the last five minutes my son's two friends got into a big fistfight about a pretend game they were playing. All three of these boys have some social and emotional problems. All get therapy or are in special school (or both), so behavior like fighting takes on an extra meaning. Boy B struggles with the most behavior problems. He started the fight with Boy C by teasing him until Boy C grabbed him by the shirt, but then Boy B threw the first punch. Boy C retaliated, and I got there to break it up. I don't want to report his behavior to his mother because although she is working hard to help her son improve, I do not agree with her methods. I don't want him to be punished for a breakdown at the end of a day that, on the whole, went really well. Surely (unfortunately) there will be many other fights and consequences for him to face. I want to give him a pass on this one. What do you think?
DEAR UNCERTAIN: If you feel you dealt with this successfully by breaking up the fight and prompting Boy B to apologize for his actions, then I share your instinct to focus on the positive aspects of this long day. Certain and consistent consequences are vital for children, but just as important is the idea that if you take responsibility for your behavior and try your hardest to do better, you will be forgiven.
However, you are the mother of a challenging child, and isn't this information that a parent should have? You should tell the boy's mother: "Everything went very well until the very end, when Boy B instigated a fight. I stopped it quickly. I hope you won't be too hard on him for this. Overall, he did great." There is another boy in this story. He was teased and punched. His parents should know this so they can help him deal with his own reactions.