We have this one neighbor, who is nearly eleven. He picks on the younger (but not the youngest) kids, but it's not precisely bullying; it's just bad decision-making.
I want to dislike him for my kids' sakes, but I don't.
I don't trust him, not one bit. But there's very little malice in these bad decisions, just stupid and impulsive.
He's not like those other two, the twins who moved out last year, the actual bullies, who did mean things just for... well, for the feeling of power, I guess. Those two were awful. When they moved out, my older two and neighbor girl Kiki wanted to have a party and I actually encouraged it. We watched The Ant Bully and ate popcorn and had a sleepover. I was that relieved those two twerps moved out of state.
But this kid - call him 'M' - never intends to hurt anyone; he just makes bad choices and doesn't realize it until either someone - usually one of mine - bursts into tears, or an adult calls him on it.
Today was a case in point. Abby came in flanked by a couple neighbor boys, in tears, because M had thrown her scarf in the creek. Now this is a scarf her Nana - her dad's mom - made her for Christmas, and she had taken it off when she got too warm and laid it on a bush near the creek where they play. Later on M came by, spotted it, and tossed it in. When asked by an adult (me) what he was thinking, he hung his head and said he didn't know it was Abby's.
Not the point, kid. Leaving aside for the moment the issue of littering, it doesn't belong to you, so you don't dispose of it. Period.
"But I... yeah, I made a bad choice. I'm sorry."
"Don't tell me you're sorry."
"I'm sorry, Abby."
So then he and I and Abby and three other neighbor kids went to try to retrieve the scarf, but it had either sunk or floated so far downstream that we couldn't find it, and we came home rather glumly, although no longer in tears.
But before we left the creek area, I laid down the law. This sort of thing has happened too often, and I'm afraid my girls can't play with you for... oh, two weeks. We'll see then whether we can go back to playing together. Yes, I know you don't do it on purpose, but I can't trust you to behave nicely with my girls, so they can't play with you for right now. Got me?
So we're home, and we called Nana, who will make a new scarf for Abby, and M will be not hanging around here for a couple weeks. We shall see whether this is enough for him to understand that his decisions affect other people.