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my friend's aggressive child rant and advice needed

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hi
I've been lurking around here for a while and due to have my first baby in beginning of September. I've gotten a lot of great ideas and insights over in the Pregnancy area concerning my own foray into parenthood. But I have a different issue which I need guidance on from an outside objective source.
My very good friends have an almost 4 year old son who is well.. kinda mean. I really enjoy kids a lot but find myself dreading interaction with him. He is very rude to adults. He hits and acts in physically aggressive ways towards my husband and I and also towards other members of our social group. He is very ill mannered at the table stuffing food in his mouth purposely so others can't have any or touching all the food on the table 'just because'. We are a small tightly knit group and we enjoy each others company immensely but this child is just so difficult it puts a damper on our interactions. I see our friends as involved and loving parents but I don't see them setting appropriate boundaries with their child regarding how he interacts with other people or teaching him respect for their adult friends. I have said things directly to him in the past (like when he punched me in the mouth with a box on his hand) along the lines of 'hey that's isn't very nice. please don't do that' but he just thinks it's funny and has no problem with then walking over to someone else and hitting them. I see them giving him a time out here and there when it gets really bad but that usually means he goes into his room trashes it for ten minutes and then is back out acting like a terror again. My friends talk a lot about "his temperment" and how 'he's just like that' but I still think it's up to the parents to set limits on behaviors and to follow through with consequences when those limits are ignored. I get a lot of eye rolling and "you'll see" type stuff from the mom when I even dare to say anything about how I feel it is important to establish family expectations early on with your children-ie; "we don't do that in our family". I don't have a child yet and I don't know everything- that's why I come on here and lurk around getting clued into what to expect. I don't want to lose my friends over their child but I also don't like being hit, kicked, spoken to nastily and generally spending every evening with them being in the middle of a 4 year olds aggression. ( I'm not the only one in our group that feels this way. It's a topic we all have expressed anxiety over.)
The parents spend a lot of time with him and he participates in a lot of sports. He is an only child and I don't really ever here of him interacting with kids his own age except in sport situations. He did just start preschool and I'm hoping that being in a learning centered group situation with other kids will mellow him out a bit. In the meantime, how do I effectively tell him to knock it off when he is being inappropriate? How do I not overstep the line with my friends when I'm just fed up with his antics and witness them indulging it? I want to stay and hang out but I sometimes feel like just going home. They OFTEN express frustration with his acting out but I don't really see them making the effort to get it under control.
Help!
post #2 of 24
thats a lot. A couple things come to mind for me. What seems to be happening is that you think your friend's son is obnoxious and you don't want to be around him, yet you can't really be friend's without including their kid. You didn't mention it, but I wonder if you're afraid that their kid will negatively influence yours? If so, then this is another problem. On that note, when your child comes into the world, if you feel that their kid badly influences yours, you will most definitely have to make the decision of whether or not to maintain the friendship. This has happened to me and some other people I know.

Frankly, I think there's not a lot you can do regarding your friend's parenting. At this point, they do what they do and that's pretty much the end of it. Whether or not they do it well enough might be viewed differently by different people. I parent nearly the same way as my friend and my older child is pretty compliant, easy going, and happy...her child is aggressive, angry a lot, and very demanding....but it is very much not her parenting style and ability to discipline--it's just how he is.

One thing I've noticed is that my other friend's boy was very ill-mannered (a lot WAS due to parenting I believe...spanking, endless tv, non-attachment etc.), but from the start, I treated him like my own children and he has converted into quite a well-behaved child...in MY house I don't ever have problems with him anymore, but his parents still do. Perhaps you can do things differently with your friends kid from what they do and get better results (especially if you think their parenting style is to blame)

good lcuk and congrats on the baby!
sarah
post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
i'm not at all concerned about her child's behaviors "rubbing off" on my child when it gets here. by the time he could influence him/her he will be a bit older and hopefully outgrown the more obnoxious behavior. my concern is that in the meantime i will overstep our friendship by telling their son where to step off. a mutual friend and i have had this conversation before and she and i both agree it's not a bad thing for us to want to have our own relationship with their kid. kwim? i feel like there is a point where it is ok for your "village" to tell your kid "uh-uh. not ok" and i'm trying to figure that out. if my kid acts rudely and meanly i'd WANT my adult friends to tell them to knock it off. back me up! you know hear it from someone else...

i'm not going to try and dole our parenting advice to them particularly since i'm not quite a parent yet. he can be fun and cute to be around. like i said, i LOVE kids. but how do i make it very clear that i don't want to be punched, called a poo poo head, and have his hands all over the cheese plate we are all sharing? the last time i tried to explain to him the concept of sharing he started crying and his mom was like, half jokingly, "are you making my kid cry?" jeez. i was just having a conversation with him about why it wasn't nice to eat ALL the fruit off the cheese plate and not leave any for the rest of us and he pulls out the crying card. then two minutes later she overhears him telling me he wants to 'make my baby dead' ( i think he was just looking for a reaction from me which he didn't get. i was ignoring it..) and she tells him to stop talking like that. he responded by he throwing a baseball bat across the patio and breaking a glass. he was sent to his room for 5 minutes. it's apparent they are embarrassed by their son's behavior.

my friends don't spank. they are very calm in their discipline. they are into reasoning with him. i'd say from observation the only thing i've noticed is he doesn't have a lot of quiet time. no time just spent being mellow, coloring or chilling out. LOTS of activities and running around ( and socializing with groups of adults).
post #4 of 24
Your feelings are completely valid-but I'll say this as the mother of a seven year old and a four year old-sometimes a parent is simply unable to redirect a child. An "undesireable" behavior won't go away over night, or with one correction-many times you're talking to the wall with seemingly little impact, then one morning the child wakes up and leaves that behavior behind. Or doesn't.

I really think the only option is for you to police your own boundaries-keep in touch with this friend via the telephone, etc., limit your time around this child (or control the venue-if he's cooped up in a house you're more of a target-would it be better to meet in a place where his attention is completely on something else?) and hopefully he'll outgrow it as he gets older. I'd even be inclined to gently tell my friend that I didn't enjoy being subjected to his aggressive behavior.
post #5 of 24
It sounds like he's the only child at these functions? That's a HARD spot for him, his parents and the other guests. What is there for him to do? Who is there for him to interact with?

I would:
-Bring a board game or other quiet activity that he might enjoy so that he can get some positive interaction.

-keep the food up where he cannot get at it (in the middle of a large table), and give him his own small special plate. Don't mention it, just don't let him at it. If the party is not at your house, and he's touching all the food, etc., ignore it. If you're not the host and you're not his mom, it's really not your place to worry about it. All kids will try to eat all the fruit off the cheese plate (I've caught our ds eating ALL the cantaloupe out of a fruit salad at a potluck -- he loves cantaloupe and at age 4 or 5 could not understand why I kept telling him that he couldn't eat all the cantaloupe when he loved it so! Actually I think at 6 he'd do it if he thought he could get away with it ).

-Tell him directly "I don't like being hit, kicked, spoken to nastily.." whatever he's doing at the moment. If he doesn't stop, get up and move yourself away, saying "I don't want to be with you when you're like that"

Leave all the other parenting to his mom. It's hard, I know, but it's a lose-lose situation. Deal with his behavior relating to you. If he's doing something totally unacceptable, find his mom/dad and say "did you see Jack spitting all over the cheese? I'm thinking you'd rather do something about than have me do it."
post #6 of 24
WOW! I read this thread and was shocked..this child is assaulting other people and noone is stopping him! How would any of us feel if another adult treated us like this child is treating other people? I have 4 children and this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and they have been told that in a loving and gentle way that we will NOT tolerate violence-either physical or emotional (MY god hoping your baby was dead??!! EEK!) in any way. The parents are clearly putting their needs before their child by letting him behave in such a horrid way and visiting instead of parenting! They need to let him know his behaviour is not to be tolerated and then when he acts that way....it's time to go. My children are very well-behaved when we are at other people's houses or restaraunts (we are told this continually!) and when they act out...it's time to go. Manners are a thing not absorbed, but taught and this little boy needs to be taught good manners asap! The violence is very scary. What happens when you have your baby and bring him to an event and this child decides to punch the baby? What if he decides to hit your belly? The violence needs to be addressed...perhaps by all the other couples..in a loving way as friends. This little boy sounds scary and I think I would perhaps risk losing a friend over this behaviour. My children are not perfect, but violence is NEVER acceptable. I wish you luck with this!
post #7 of 24
I think a lot of what you can and can't do depends on where you are. If you are at his house or a mutual friend's house, then the only thing you have control over is your body and your reaction to him. It isn't appropriate for you to try to correct him in general or to teach him manners. You can say "I don't like being hit/kicked/whatever AND MOVE AWAY from him. You can say "Please don't take food from my plate", but that's about the limit of it. It is NOT your job to be a parent to him or to set boundaries for other parents or other people. If he is at your house, then you can add boundaries based on protecting your property and your guests. And you can have a much heavier hand in prevention, which is a real key, as you will soon enough learn. If he's the only kid and the party is at your house, you can provide special games for him, special plates of food or what not, and you can request reasonable behavior (e.g. not bouncing on the couch).

He's 4 - expecting him to share the fruit without being taught why (which you don't do at a party, you do at home) is asking too much. Asking him to find something safe and appropriate to play with in a strange setting is asking too much. Asking him to share his parent's attention is pretty borderline -- asking him to go several hours without being the center of attention while his parents socialize is really really asking too much.

Should his parents be doing more to teach socially acceptable behavior? Maybe. But it is also absolutely true that kids behave differently when others are around. And that it is very hard to discipline when there are others watching. So you need to cut them and the child some major slack and accept that this is part of socializing at their house. If you can't deal, or don't want to, then invite them to your house without the child. Meet at a restaurant without kids (but you'll have to leave your baby too once you get there). Invite them to your house with the child and be prepared to supply diversions and redirect some behavior. But that's about the best you are going to be able to do.

Sorry.
post #8 of 24
Lakesuperiormom, what's your secret? I have high expectations of kids' behavior in public, and am often embarrassed by my four (ages 8,6,4,and 3). They do stuff like start wresting at the store, start fighting with each other, etc. I'm very clear about what I expect, but we leave A LOT of the time. I can't stand it when I'm so distracted by the constant jostling and chattering and fighting, I can't concentrate on the errand I'm trying to run. I would never have acted like they do, but my mom would have spanked me if I did. So how do you have four well behaved kids?
post #9 of 24
Where are you from? To some extent that determines how much defining your own relationship with the child will be tolerated.

If my child was being that disruptive and unpleasant, I would hire a mother's helper to keep him away from the Grown Up Party. So I think some of the lack of social development here is on the part of the 4 yo's parents.
post #10 of 24
It sounds like he needs more supervision at these parties so he can be guided away from inappropriate behavior. Taking all the fruit from a plate on the table in his house seems age-appropriate for a 4 year old-- he's 4, and I'm guessing this is the only time he's not welcome to eat all the fruit he'd like-- offering to put some on a plate for him would have been a kinder response than taking it upon yourself to teach him that he had to share (which was overstepping your role, IMHO). The violence is a problem, but it sounds like he's been put in a difficult situation-- it's hard for me to imagine why his parents wouldn't either get a babysitter or invite another family with kids along, so he had someone to play with. Is there any chance he's trying to play fight?

I do feel bad for him, my kids are the only kids in our family, and it is stressful to be the only ones-- all kids misbehave sometimes, but when your kids are the only ones there, it seems like they're constantly in the spotlight, and nothing goes unnoticed or is forgotten. When we are with the family, I spend most of my time supervising my kids and don't get to socialize much-- as a result my kids aren't terrors, but I don't have much fun.

ZM
post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by stickywicket67 View Post
I have said things directly to him in the past (like when he punched me in the mouth with a box on his hand) along the lines of 'hey that's isn't very nice. please don't do that'

Um. HELL NO! If someone punches me, there's two options. Looking the bugger directly in the eye and being quite firm "You will not hit me" and informing the parents "Your child assaulted me. You need to take him home, now."

Please? Isn't very nice? No way. Those are not words I will be using when someone hurts me. I have my boundaries, and I'm not going to tiptoe around them because I'm afraid of hurting somebody's feelings. I certainly am not going to ask someone to stop. My body, you stop. There's no asking, it's not optional.

Quote:
I don't want to lose my friends over their child but I also don't like being hit, kicked, spoken to nastily and generally spending every evening with them being in the middle of a 4 year olds aggression.
Your friends are living in denial if they think this is acceptable on any level. If things don't change, you need to tell them flat out - you are welcome but your child isn't. If they choose to let their child assault people, they need to understand that personal boundaries are not going to be ignored.
post #12 of 24
I agree with a few PPs who mentioned directly talking to the child and expressing your expectations about what's acceptable in your home. I had a friend's 4 yo who was, sadly, a miserable child to be around due to her parents' zillions of issues that made her act out all over the place. When she was at my house, I did not bend my rules or expectations, and she was a completely different child.

I would start by gently correcting a few of the more minor issues, and see how the parents handle that. If they seem fine about you taking the reins, then go for broke - I consider my home and my family and my body to be my responsibility, and if those things are not treated appropriately by an adult or a child, it is my responsibility to remedy that situation.

If the parents freak out that you are stepping in, well, then, come back and post about that and we'll try to give you info. Sorry you're having to deal with this, it really can be a tense and miserable situation.
post #13 of 24
If my daughter hit someone at a party, we'd go home. I don't understand keeping a child who is obviously unhappy at a party where everyone else is obviously unhappy to have the child there.

I don't think there is anything you can do about it though. They might be really working on the behavior, but it isn't something you can really work on at a party, so you just might not see what's happening "behind the scenes". You do have the right to protect yourself from being hurt. And I think you can ask the parents to please put a plate together for their son so that he doesn't eat or touch the food before everyone else gets a chance at it. And then maybe put the food somewhere off-limits to him but accessible to adults if that's possible.
post #14 of 24
You said the other people you hang out with don't enjoy his behavior either, right? Just plan things and don't invite the parents with the obnoxious kid. Or, make plans that are clearly unacceptable for a child to tag along, and if the kid's parents want to come along they'll have to get a babysitter.
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
thanks to everyone for their insight and comments.
i don't want anyone to think that i can't imagine how difficult it must be for a 4 year old to be the only kid at most of our get- togethers. we all spend LOTS of time playing with him during the evening. us adults just like to hangout and eat food and catch up, it's not like a formal type thing. and i DO think kids should be involved- it's how they learn to interact with people of all ages and expectations. my real concern here is that besides not saying anything am i within my rights to say to my friends child "hey dude, could you stop shoving all the cheese in your mouth. that's kinda gross and your mom's bringing you your own plate in a second." or am i being one of those mean childless people who just 'don't understand'... i do think that his parents put him into these types of situations that maybe he is too immature for but how will he ever become more sensitive and aware of how his behavior affects others if he's never allowed to participate?
guess i'll find out when my own little one shows up!
post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by stickywicket67 View Post
my real concern here is that besides not saying anything am i within my rights to say to my friends child "hey dude, could you stop shoving all the cheese in your mouth. that's kinda gross and your mom's bringing you your own plate in a second." or am i being one of those mean childless people who just 'don't understand'.
I don't think that's mean at all. then again I have the same issues with certain kids. The only thing I'd suggest is that you might phrase it in a more "How to Talk so Kids will listen" kind of way. I find that style of commuication very effective.

I so feel your pain though. I once got to the point where i yelled "Let's use our table manners please" at a kid because I was absolutely at the end of my rope and the parents (as usual) were nowhere around.
post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by LilyGrace View Post
Um. HELL NO! If someone punches me, there's two options. Looking the bugger directly in the eye and being quite firm "You will not hit me" and informing the parents "Your child assaulted me. You need to take him home, now."

Please? Isn't very nice? No way. Those are not words I will be using when someone hurts me. I have my boundaries, and I'm not going to tiptoe around them because I'm afraid of hurting somebody's feelings. I certainly am not going to ask someone to stop. My body, you stop. There's no asking, it's not optional.



Your friends are living in denial if they think this is acceptable on any level. If things don't change, you need to tell them flat out - you are welcome but your child isn't. If they choose to let their child assault people, they need to understand that personal boundaries are not going to be ignored.


Well said. I completely disagree that a 4 year old cannot be expected to behave or be distracted. I have worked with kids for years and have two of my own, it can be done. More importantly it should be done. It is much easier to get a handle on aggression and violence and nip it in the bud with a 4 year old than with a 6 or 8 or 10 year old.


Quote:
Originally Posted by daniedb View Post
I agree with a few PPs who mentioned directly talking to the child and expressing your expectations about what's acceptable in your home. I had a friend's 4 yo who was, sadly, a miserable child to be around due to her parents' zillions of issues that made her act out all over the place. When she was at my house, I did not bend my rules or expectations, and she was a completely different child.

I would start by gently correcting a few of the more minor issues, and see how the parents handle that. If they seem fine about you taking the reins, then go for broke - I consider my home and my family and my body to be my responsibility, and if those things are not treated appropriately by an adult or a child, it is my responsibility to remedy that situation.

If the parents freak out that you are stepping in, well, then, come back and post about that and we'll try to give you info. Sorry you're having to deal with this, it really can be a tense and miserable situation.
I agree with you as well, daniedb! I believe in the 'house rules' and I make it clear that my house, my rules (we do GD). Parents that don't like that and do not enforce their rules learn very quickly that I will enforce the rules and if they don't like it they can meet us in a neutral area.

When we are elsewhere my children are well-behaved or we leave. When my children act out when they have company (esp the neighborhood children) their company will be asked to leave so they can compose themselves and are welcome to try playing again the next day.

I can't even comment on the 'dead baby' thing, as I have nothing UA approved to say.

As far as your friend.......that's a hard one. They need to be doing more parenting and less socializing in social situations. Children cannot be expected to police themselves (especially not at four) and it is the job of the parents to do that. I disagree and yet agree somehow that manners are taught at home. Manners are taught at home but social manners and social etiquette is taught in social situations. You can talk about it outside of the situation but until a 4 year old is in a situation with a cheese tray and they are touching all the pieces or sneezing on them or whatever....they do not innately know how to act. If mom isn't there to teach I think that the host or the friend has the obligation to help the child along.
Retrieving a sampler plate and assissting the child to a sample of hors d'eurves and explaing why we get a plate and take only what we touch and only what we can eat is, IMO, perfectly acceptable. If mom isn't available and the friend is ok doing this you are just assisting mom to get a little break. But then I come from the 'it takes a village' mentality.

You just have to hope you find a village of like minded friends/parents.
post #18 of 24
If only it were so simple as telling kids "Violence is unacceptable in our house." I'm sorry to laugh, but it IS funny. You can say it, you can mean it, and your kids may not agree, or be able to control those impulses.

I can't speak to the OP's friends, as I don't know them, but I'm the mother of an almost 4 year old who was quite aggressive for many years. Thankfully, between parental hard work and her own willingness things have gotten better, but a year ago I wanted to enroll her in preschool but didn't know if she'd get kicked out due to aggressive behavior. : Things were so bad that when I had a behaviorist come to our house to do an evaluation, she attacked the behaviorist!

We're a gentle and loving family, though I must admit to a passionate personality that dd has inherited. We have big feelings. : No spanking, no family chaos. Dh and I are nonviolent people - I can't kill the caterpillars eating my tomatoes for g*d's sake. But big feelings in little bodies combined with low frustration tolerance = Childzilla! Some kids do not know how to deal with the intensity of their emotions except to lash out, and it takes time and effort to help them learn new skills.

Most of my mom friends also have "spirited" kids. They are all different in regards to strengths and weaknesses, but we accept the kids for who they are and work with their challenges. Yeah, its a pain in the butt sometimes. It can be a lot of work to all get together. But "community" takes the bad with the good, and hangs in there.
post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by stickywicket67 View Post
my real concern here is that besides not saying anything am i within my rights to say to my friends child "hey dude, could you stop shoving all the cheese in your mouth. that's kinda gross and your mom's bringing you your own plate in a second." or am i being one of those mean childless people who just 'don't understand'...
Different people have dramatically different opinions about non-parents correcting their kids. If you want to know what your friends think, you need to ask them. FWIW, I'm not sure all your expectations are age-appropriate, and I have the impression you don't like this kid (sounds like a hard kid to like), and for those reasons if he were mine, I'd prefer you just let me know your concern so I could deal with it "hey, your kid is really going to town on the cheese plate, should I stop him, or do you have another for the rest of us?", but they may have another opinion (considering that they aren't paying much attention to him).

If he is hitting and kicking people, I think someone should absolutely go to one of his parents and give them the heads up that their kid is losing it. If they don't react, I wouldn't go to their house anymore (especially after you have your own little one).

HTH!

ZM
post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by stickywicket67 View Post
and i DO think kids should be involved- it's how they learn to interact with people of all ages and expectations.
Yes, but

(1) Not all kids are developmentally ready to behave appropriately at gatherings at the same age; and
(2) One of the ways that the message of how to behave gets across might be that he is excluded until he can pull himself together. There doesn't need to be judgment of character there; it doesn't need to be his "fault" that he acts in ways that harm others, just a fact.
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