Love my friend, not her problem child

March 18, 2011 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION

Hi, Irene.

My husband and I are good friends with a couple and enjoy their company. However, they have a 5-year-old child who is completely unmanageable. He is mean to my daughter, violent toward other kids, loud, and demanding. The children of the other parents in our group of friends hate to be around this boy (he is the youngest of the group) and the parents hate to be around him as well.

 

We have started excluding this couple from group events due to his horrible behavior. There is very little discipline from the parents. In fact, they seem to ignore his antics most of the
time.

 

What, if anything, can I do to politely address the issue of his behavior without offending or alienating the parents? The child has terrible problems in school so it’s not just when he’s with our group. We don’t want to lose their friendship but being around this obnoxious, violent, mean child is no longer an option for us and our child.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Signed,
Tricia

 

ANSWER

Dear Tricia,

My heart goes out to this parent and to their son. It sounds like the boy is out of control and his parents are unable to manage his behavior. If he acts out like that in school and in public, it can only be worse at home.

 

Sometimes, outsiders have the impression that serious emotional or behavioral problems in a child stem from permissive parenting but this usually isn’t the case. Perhaps if they set stricter limits, their son might even be more antagonistic and hard to handle. His parents may be baffled by what is happening and be at a total loss for figuring out how to modify his difficult behavior. There also may be some denial involved.

 

In terms of your role as a friend, since you enjoy this couple’s company, you may want to make plans for adult-only evenings without kids. It certainly would be more relaxed, especially since you want to keep this kid away from your daughter.

 

Perhaps, you can broach a conversation with the mom when you’re alone and tell her you realize that her son’s behavior is very challenging. Listen to what she says and make it comfortable for her to be candid with you. Hopefully, you’ll find an opportune time to suggest she have the child assessed by a mental health professional to find out why he is behaving like this and what steps she and her husband can take to help him.

Hope this helps.

Best,
Irene

 

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Comments (3)

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  1. Irene says:

    Laura,

    Can you please contact me…

    Thanks,

    Irene

  2. Laura says:

    I don’t think the child’s behavior should be off-topic discussion because it’s clearly affecting the other kids. I really think that there should be a discussion when it comes up that these parents of the problem child want to be part of a group and someone then has to say “By the way, we would love to have little so-and-so as part of the play group but these are the ground rules for behavior…” Spell out the consequences of misbehavior and highlight that ignoring the child’s problematic behavior will just end up isolating him as they have to protect the other children. If the parents don’t fess up as to him having some kind of conduct/behavior problem, then clearly it’s time to cut down on association with them. Parents need to be humble enough to accept that their child is sometimes the problem; when they don’t, you have children who become bullies and act out even worse.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tricia,
    you are a very difficult and delicate position. I would not bring up the subject unless your friend does. Yes, her child is very challenging. Yes, do listen to her. Only you can decide if she is making excuses or if there is something really off with her child. Sounds like this child’s parents need to take him home when he acts up. Would she be will to establish some ground rules when your daughter and her son get together? You have to go with your gut on this one, which may include a brutally honest conversation with your friend. I hope this helps.

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