Author Topic: Where to politely keep your eyes when someone's kid is being a brat? (long)  (Read 7115 times)

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JaneJensen

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  I would pull back from this friendship. I know that sounds cold, but I simply don't have time in my life to be stressed out by the lifestyle/parenting choices that my friends make. If each time I get together with my friend and her children or the way she parents them stresses me out and makes each gathering unpleasant,  then maybe we aren't compatible as friends. Close friends anyway.
There's really nothing wrong with that. I realize that you are in a living situation that you are practically on top of each other, ( I am too! )  but there are ways to pull back, stay politely but generically friendly and move on.
  I learned my lesson, much like you did that just because you are neighbors, doesn't mean you, or your children have to be best friends. Would it be nice? absolutely,. I desperately wanted that myself. But some people don't mesh.

    My story is extremely similar to yours. Brand new neighborhood, everyone is building their houses at the same time, moving in, having kids. The gal next door has a baby girl within a few months of mine. I was ecstatic: Neither of us worked. We were around the same age.  I had visions of us doing cool stuff with our kiddos. It started out ok.  Then I realized this woman had serous problems with having a spine. Her kid, like the child you mention, walked over her. There was no discipline. The girl hit and bit my child, was rough, ill behaved, and generally a menace. The mom was always incredibly  overwhelmed and pretty much put her hands up in the air over anything. It made me not only constantly annoyed and irritated at her kid, but moreso at her that she was just so weak about the whole thing. It made me think less of her as a parent, and I couldn't continue hanging out with her.

I gradually pulled back. Found ways to be "busy" with other things. Slowly started joining new groups and meeting new people. She got the hint. We have lived next door to each other for 15 years. I haven't talked to her in 11. No fighting, no spats. She simply does not exist. And because our girls have such vastly different personalities and upbringing due to parenting style, they don't run with the same crowd or do the same activities anyway. All the worries I had about " oh my gosh, they have to be friends, we live right next door to each other" were unfounded. Even if they were bff's as children, I highly doubt that, as high schooleers they would have anything to do with each other. They are that different.

I'm relieved I pulled back and cooled off. I don't' regret it. Do what's good for you and your child. There's a million people in the world to make friends with and your world will get so much bigger when your child goes to school, joins a sport, does scouts, takes music lessons, etc.  I bet you'll find that being friends with the neighbor boy really wasn't all that impactful by then.   
Good luck. I've so been there. :)

EllenS

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If you are such close friends with Paula that you have kept the child for her, and they are going to be in your life on a regular basis, can't you just *ask Paula* how she wants you to handle it?

"Hey, Paula, I was wondering how I can support you when you guys are over here? I know being pregnant and having a preschooler is exhausting times 10, and I want you to know I have your back.  I see Joey is at that age where he is always testing limits - how do you want me to react? I want to follow your lead, so he is getting consistent messages."

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bah12

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I'm going to go against the grain a little bit and say that it seems that you are being awfully judgemental of Paula's parenting.  Joey is 3 and I've yet to meet a 3 yr old, including my own, that doesn't act out or isn't "strong-willed".   Yes, Joey behaves better for you, but you will learn that most kids tend to challenge their parents where they wouldn't other adults.  Perhaps Paula is struggling with finding the perfect technique to curb Joey's hitting (and I'm not saying that his behavior isn't a problem) and if you feel that you can't deal with the stress of her child, then you are well within your rights to pull back.  I do think, though, that you will find, as you parent your own child, that having the support of other adults when your kid is acting up will be helpful to you.

So, as far as what to do now, I think that since you do watch Joey on occasion, then you should tell Paula when he's acted up and how you chose to handle it.  This might be advice that she's willing to try herself.  And when he's acting out in front of you, I also think you can acknowledge the behavior.  "Paula, would you like to use the den to talk to Joey alone?" or "Paula, if Joey's is tired and needs to go, we certainly understand."

And if Joey is still acting this way when your own child is born, then yes, please don't have them together.  I think you will find that you will go through the exact same thing that Paula is going through when your child is a toddler, and that the techniques that you use with Joey probably won't work so easily on your own child.  Please keep that in mind when you talk to Paula.  All kids are different and it is insurmountably more difficult to parent your child than you might think.

mbbored

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I'm going to go against the grain a little bit and say that it seems that you are being awfully judgemental of Paula's parenting.  Joey is 3 and I've yet to meet a 3 yr old, including my own, that doesn't act out or isn't "strong-willed".   Yes, Joey behaves better for you, but you will learn that most kids tend to challenge their parents where they wouldn't other adults.  Perhaps Paula is struggling with finding the perfect technique to curb Joey's hitting (and I'm not saying that his behavior isn't a problem) and if you feel that you can't deal with the stress of her child, then you are well within your rights to pull back.  I do think, though, that you will find, as you parent your own child, that having the support of other adults when your kid is acting up will be helpful to you.

So, as far as what to do now, I think that since you do watch Joey on occasion, then you should tell Paula when he's acted up and how you chose to handle it.  This might be advice that she's willing to try herself.  And when he's acting out in front of you, I also think you can acknowledge the behavior.  "Paula, would you like to use the den to talk to Joey alone?" or "Paula, if Joey's is tired and needs to go, we certainly understand."

And if Joey is still acting this way when your own child is born, then yes, please don't have them together.  I think you will find that you will go through the exact same thing that Paula is going through when your child is a toddler, and that the techniques that you use with Joey probably won't work so easily on your own child.  Please keep that in mind when you talk to Paula.  All kids are different and it is insurmountably more difficult to parent your child than you might think.

POD. I think he sounds like a three year old. A challenging one, but a three year old nonetheless. If he tries to hit you or your child, by all means, step in and do something, but otherwise I'd take a step backwards.

Shoo

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The OP's friend's 3 year old sounds like one of those children who is just hard to like.  Let's face it, some kids just grate.  Whether it's their personalities, their "neediness"...whatever.  I have known 3 year olds who were typical, and fine to be around.  And I have known 3 year olds who were typical, and made me want to get away as fast as I could.  It sounds like friend's child is one of the latter.  Doesn't mean he's not normal or typical, it just means he's one of those kids adults don't like. 

OP, I think he might outgrow it, but in the meantime, you'd probably be better off distancing yourself from him and spending time with your friend alone, when the child isn't with her.  And you definitely shouldn't let him be around your new baby.  At least until he's old enough to be able to control his emotions a little better.

sammycat

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The OP's friend's 3 year old sounds like one of those children who is just hard to like.  Let's face it, some kids just grate.  Whether it's their personalities, their "neediness"...whatever.  I have known 3 year olds who were typical, and fine to be around.  And I have known 3 year olds who were typical, and made me want to get away as fast as I could.  It sounds like friend's child is one of the latter.  Doesn't mean he's not normal or typical, it just means he's one of those kids adults don't like. 

OP, I think he might outgrow it, but in the meantime, you'd probably be better off distancing yourself from him and spending time with your friend alone, when the child isn't with her.  And you definitely shouldn't let him be around your new baby.  At least until he's old enough to be able to control his emotions a little better.

Very true.  I've had one of those kids in my life, and years later I still don't like him. Thankfully I very rarely see him, which is a very conscious decision on my part.

Knitterly

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If you are such close friends with Paula that you have kept the child for her, and they are going to be in your life on a regular basis, can't you just *ask Paula* how she wants you to handle it?

"Hey, Paula, I was wondering how I can support you when you guys are over here? I know being pregnant and having a preschooler is exhausting times 10, and I want you to know I have your back.  I see Joey is at that age where he is always testing limits - how do you want me to react? I want to follow your lead, so he is getting consistent messages."


This.  Totally, totally this!

The thing is, this is a friend, not a stranger.  It's not like Paula is going to be surprised that you've seen Joey acting out.

As for your kids hanging around, etc, consider this:  Every child has a different personality.  Paula's next child isn't going to be Joey, and Joey isn't going to be a toddler forever. Is her next child even going to be a boy?  You aren't going to have much to worry about with Joey spending vast quantities of time with your son - it is unlikely Joey will have much interest in that. 
By the time your son is old enough to really engage in play with another child, Joey will either have no interest, or may have significantly mellowed out.
So maybe your kid and Paula's next kid will have more in common, or maybe you'll end up with a strong-willed child and Paula's younger will have a less dominant personality.  Or, maybe, Paula's next will be Joey the second and you simply won't want your child exposed to that.

Any way it goes, that thought is quite some time off.  For now, talk to your friend as a friend and let her know you have her back.  It could be that just knowing that will help ease some of Paula's anxiety about seeming like the big mean mom and let her address Joey's behaviour more firmly as she might want to.

jaxsue

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The OP's friend's 3 year old sounds like one of those children who is just hard to like.  Let's face it, some kids just grate.  Whether it's their personalities, their "neediness"...whatever.  I have known 3 year olds who were typical, and fine to be around.  And I have known 3 year olds who were typical, and made me want to get away as fast as I could.  It sounds like friend's child is one of the latter.  Doesn't mean he's not normal or typical, it just means he's one of those kids adults don't like. 

OP, I think he might outgrow it, but in the meantime, you'd probably be better off distancing yourself from him and spending time with your friend alone, when the child isn't with her.  And you definitely shouldn't let him be around your new baby.  At least until he's old enough to be able to control his emotions a little better.

Very true.  I've had one of those kids in my life, and years later I still don't like him. Thankfully I very rarely see him, which is a very conscious decision on my part.

Well said (both of you).  :)

Lynn2000

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Some very wise thoughts in this thread.

If you officially babysit Joey, even just once in the future, I think that gives you some leave to say to Paula, "While Joey was with me, he tried to do X, and I responded with Y. I just wanted to check with you that this was okay, and consistent with how you treat him." That might lead to a productive discussion. Though, as you say, when it comes to giving Paula advice I would err on the side of caution and NOT give it unless she explicitly asked. Of course, it also might lead nowhere--you'll have opened the door, but she has to be the one to step through it if she wants.

If Joey is making your interaction with Paula unpleasant for you (dinner, even just a conversation in the yard) I think you can acknowledge it, and end the interaction. "Well, seems like Joey needs you for something, I won't keep you. Have a nice day!" If this means you end up spending less time with Paula because of Joey's behavior (and her response), so be it.

As for teaching your child to stand up to a bully, I think you have it right when you said, "maybe the first step of equipping my kid to be strong is showing him when he's still small that he has the right to be protected by me." That is absolutely true. I often think of children being told to go off and play with someone, and quit making a fuss, the grown-ups are busy talking. Make sure your child knows that being quiet/nice does NOT mean he has to put up with bad treatment, and that you will take his concerns seriously.

And that he knows that just because Joey, or some future bully, is there in the neighborhood, that doesn't mean he has to put up with him, in the sense of playing with him. I always hated it when adults said, "Oh, you two need to play together, because you're the only girls and you're the same age," or "because you live so close," or "because you're cousins," or something like that. Yeah, it's nice when kids get along in those situations, but sometimes they don't, and forcing them to interact closely anyway can lead to trouble. Make it so that if your son says, "I don't like playing with Joey," your reaction is, "Okay, that's fine. How about we call Bob?" As your son gets older you can get into things like how to deal with bullies that you have to be around, like in class or at work, but let him know that his free time, and his home, are safe zones where he can escape from that.
~Lynn2000

ThistleBird

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Thanks again for all the advice.

Yes, Paula's next child is going to be a boy. I don't know his name yet. Within our community there's also another girl a little older than Joey and a boy a little younger, and then there will be Paula's second boy, my boy, and a girl who will be born around the same time. Because of the connected community having so many kids of around the same age in relative geographical isolation, I rather expect that they'll form a group, which is why I'm regarding it as likely that my son will be involved with Joey at some point and in some way. (I don't know how I am going to explain this to you all, actually... this is not a suburban situation. The best way to picture this is, imagine this is a farming commune. It's not quite, but that makes an effective picture. The kids--once they're old enough--run around the place freely, often together, go fishing for crawdads in the creek together, etc.) As you say, Lynn2000, I want him to have every clear right not to interact with him if and when he doesn't want to and not to have expectations placed on him that "of course" they will be friends. It's just that I anticipate nature taking its course in the form of "the group"--but making it very clear up-front to him that he has a choice will be a good idea.

I do find it encouraging on the other hand that there are other kids--I am glad my son will likely have the opportunity to form closer friendships with people of his choice, and it's quite possible the dynamics will work out quite well.

As for being judgmental, perhaps I haven't explained myself well but I don't think Paula is a crappy parent and I don't think Joey is significantly worse than other kids. Maybe I made things sound too strong when I used the word "bully": I have worked and interacted with many kids and what I am specifically seeing in Joey is a higher-than-average tendency to dominance behavior. I am anticipating him trying to be the alpha, basically... I actually think this is simply part of his make-up, and that if she does get her training down and teach him not to hit he will probably try it in non-violent ways!

bah12, do you suppose you could explain a little bit more how to have another parent's back without stepping on her toes? This is a bit complicated honestly. Part of the issue is that I suspect we may have a genuine disagreement; I know I said she's tired and I think she is, but what I may not have adequately explained is that Paula is a highly effective person with the steeliest spine of any woman I know. (And as I said she's trained him very effectively on things she's prioritized, like cleaning up. I am going to ask her for tips on that.) She taught me everything I know about growing food; she was my boss for a year, and boy did she get the job done. She's been known to arrive at the hospital in labor and immediately start ordering the nurses around. So I have a feeling she must have some belief that a stronger response to his hitting would be wrong in some way. (Similarly, and this is interesting: I've heard her say "please" to him often and never heard her require him to say "please" to her. This is so consistent that my guess is that this is a choice, that she believes in modeling it rather than requiring it. This is another issue where I differ. My point here though is not just that I differ but that it appears to be a choice.) And I know she's embarrassed about his behavior when it's in front of others, and I think that as a strong person in her own right with a decent share of pride, she's very much someone who--although a good friend--I want to be careful not to offer any hint of patronizing to. So it's a ticklish business offering to back her up, but I would indeed like to if I can.

I also wanted to say, I do indeed anticipate having lots of trouble with my own child. If I'm going around thinking hard about parenting, it's because I want to have a lot of tools for what I think is a very hard job, not because I am imagining I will be so great at it.

Finally, Lynn2000, thanks for the confirmation on the importance of taking my child seriously, having his back, not pushing him to "not make trouble" by letting someone step on him. I think this is something I'm going to want to meditate on and ingrain in myself as deeply as I can.

SlitherHiss

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I think the very best thing to do is really ask her, like EllenS suggested. Her wording isn't patronizing, it comes from a place of friendship, and then you'll know how much involvement she's comfortable with and can make decisions to pull back or step in from there.

ThistleBird

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Surprise update! One of our mutual friends babysat for Paula (who has had her baby now) last week, bumped into me on her way home, and couldn't restrain herself from quietly voicing her concern over Joey disrespecting Paula. (It seems it got extreme that day, and started as soon as Mutual Friend brought him home.) I agreed that I was concerned too, and said I didn't feel like I could say anything.

And then MF came over for tea today and told me she'd spoken to Paula about it! And after hearing her say "I don't like to see your son disrespecting you," Paula actually asked MF for advice on what to do! And she gave it to her.

Now I realize this might not all be strictly etiquette-correct and MF might sound like a busybody for telling me about it, but I am actually very relieved and glad this happened. MF is a woman with some tact and with her heart in the right place, and she has two kids herself, which makes her both more experienced and easier to take parenting advice from. (Her two kids are not without the occasional issue but she's obviously training them pretty well.) I think this will probably turn out for good in the long run and I feel grateful that she did it.

I'm also getting hints that part of what is happening with Paula is that she's overcompensating for her husband's parenting style, which is authoritarian.

Anyway, now that this has happened and Paula may, hopefully, be embarking on a fresh attempt at discipline, I think I may be able to ask her in a friendly manner how she would like to be backed up. You were right, SlitherHiss, by the way, about EllenS's suggestion; my hesitation is that the wording sounded unnatural between me and Paula, not being the way we talk to each other; but I can work on how to say it the way I would say it to her. I feel hopeful about all this.

jane7166

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Fascinating story.  We don't always get to see how such bad parenting turned out so I am wondering:  what kind of girl did Neighbor Girl turn out to be?  I am hoping other influences perhaps set her straight. 


  I would pull back from this friendship. I know that sounds cold, but I simply don't have time in my life to be stressed out by the lifestyle/parenting choices that my friends make. If each time I get together with my friend and her children or the way she parents them stresses me out and makes each gathering unpleasant,  then maybe we aren't compatible as friends. Close friends anyway.
There's really nothing wrong with that. I realize that you are in a living situation that you are practically on top of each other, ( I am too! )  but there are ways to pull back, stay politely but generically friendly and move on.
  I learned my lesson, much like you did that just because you are neighbors, doesn't mean you, or your children have to be best friends. Would it be nice? absolutely,. I desperately wanted that myself. But some people don't mesh.

    My story is extremely similar to yours. Brand new neighborhood, everyone is building their houses at the same time, moving in, having kids. The gal next door has a baby girl within a few months of mine. I was ecstatic: Neither of us worked. We were around the same age.  I had visions of us doing cool stuff with our kiddos. It started out ok.  Then I realized this woman had serous problems with having a spine. Her kid, like the child you mention, walked over her. There was no discipline. The girl hit and bit my child, was rough, ill behaved, and generally a menace. The mom was always incredibly  overwhelmed and pretty much put her hands up in the air over anything. It made me not only constantly annoyed and irritated at her kid, but moreso at her that she was just so weak about the whole thing. It made me think less of her as a parent, and I couldn't continue hanging out with her.

I gradually pulled back. Found ways to be "busy" with other things. Slowly started joining new groups and meeting new people. She got the hint. We have lived next door to each other for 15 years. I haven't talked to her in 11. No fighting, no spats. She simply does not exist. And because our girls have such vastly different personalities and upbringing due to parenting style, they don't run with the same crowd or do the same activities anyway. All the worries I had about " oh my gosh, they have to be friends, we live right next door to each other" were unfounded. Even if they were bff's as children, I highly doubt that, as high schooleers they would have anything to do with each other. They are that different.

I'm relieved I pulled back and cooled off. I don't' regret it. Do what's good for you and your child. There's a million people in the world to make friends with and your world will get so much bigger when your child goes to school, joins a sport, does scouts, takes music lessons, etc.  I bet you'll find that being friends with the neighbor boy really wasn't all that impactful by then.   
Good luck. I've so been there. :)