Re: bullying behavior
From: Mac Thomson (
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2020 07:21:45 -0700 (PDT)
My 3 kids, who are now in their early 20’s, all grew up in cohousing. They are 
amazing young adults, at least that’s what their proud papa thinks.  :-)

I believe that kids crave unconditional love and also structure. They want / 
need parents to set reasonable boundaries so they can learn to get along with 
other people (socialization). While I would encourage kids to work it out on 
their own as much as possible, adult intervention is sometimes necessary, 
especially in the case of physical aggression. I used timeouts for my kids when 
they hit another kid or were in some way physically violent. They got 1 minute 
of timeout for every year old they were. If they squawked during their timeout 
or got up and tried to leave, the timeout started over again. The key to this 
and and discipline is that it doesn’t become a personal battle. As a parent, I 
have a role to play, which is to impart these universal socialization lessons — 
it’s mix of compassion and stoic, dispassionate firmness.

My overarching philosophy of parenting was that kids are born making 0% of 
their decisions and when they leave home at about 18, they will be making 100% 
of their decisions. My job as a parent is to gradually give them ever 
increasing freedom to make their own decisions and the skills and values to 
make those decisions. That means trusting them a lot and letting them make 
mistakes, which often turn out to be the best teachers. As young adults, my 
kids now make all of their own decisions and are completely financially 
independent from us, although they know that they will always have a loving 
family to come home to no matter what.

A book I found incredibly useful: Taking Charge: A Parent and Teacher Guide to 
Loving Discipline by Jo Anne Nordling

Of course in a cohousing setting, things can be tricky because of different 
parenting styles. We were fortunate in that all the parents seemed to have 
pretty similar philosophies. We got together once in a while to discuss 
parenting styles and what sort of adult intervention was appropriate and 
expected for the different families. These conversations were extremely 
valuable. I don’t know what we would have done if there had been widely 
differing parenting styles that were mutually unacceptable.

I live right next to the play structure so I often ended up intervening with 
other people’s kids. My standard approach when I saw bullying was to go out and 
engage the combatants in a dialogue. The one getting bullied would get the 
first turn to talk. They got to tell their side of the story while the other 
listened, focusing on what happened and how they felt about it. The other would 
often try to interrupt to correct the story, but they would be told to wait 
silently and not interrupt because they would get their turn. After each got 
their turn, we would explore solution options. A timeout was a last resort. 
This kind of mediated dialogue was generally fairly successful and I’d like to 
think also taught kids conflict resolution skills that they’d be able to use in 
the future without adult intervention.

Good luck. I hope you enjoy the journey of parenting as much as I have.


Mac Thomson

Heartwood Cohousing
Southwest Colorado

"Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock."
            - Will Rogers

> On Jun 12, 2020, at 6:39 AM, CJ Q <homeschoolvideo [at]> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I will check the archives but I think I've looked over all the kid ones as
> much as possible.  Please give us some advice on how to curb bullying
> behavior of small children.
> We have many kids but 90% are preschool and there is a lot of unkind words,
> ganging up, excluding, and coercion.  And, like many communities, there are
> differences of parenting style.  Some parents discuss right away with the
> child, bring them inside, and/or have some sort of consequence. Others, are
> into the idea of complete freedom for their children and are struggling
> with how to change their children's behavior or think fighting and hitting
> is part of growing up and that kids should never get any directions.  I'm
> not against giving kids freedom and helped run a Sudberry Valley/Democratic
> School, however, we did have to ask some children to leave there if they
> were too violent and here we can't (or can we ?)  I have also seen in
> Democratic Schools adults who don't understand the whole concept and never
> set any limits so parents took their kids out since it didn't feel safe and
> a lot of unsafe stuff did happen.
> I appreciate your help since some of our children are hurting and all the
> parents are having a hard time getting along right now (and are hurt too)
> Thanks in advance,
> Carol
> Emerson Commons (still new since Feb 2019)
> you can email me too at homeschoolvideo [at]
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