How do I get my friend to discourage her kid's aggression? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 11:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Back story:

My husband and I are good friends with another couple. We both have 23 month old daughters who have known each other since they were 3 months old. Our friends just had a new baby last month and I think that the little girl is having trouble adjusting.

Our friends are VERY difficult to talk to, as they feel that the way we parent makes us self-righteous and smug, simply because I feel so confident in the fact that we're still breastfeeding, are vegan, cosleeping and are general 'crunchy' folk.

They are very, very not that way. Elective c-sections, formula from the get-go, cry it out, etc. Basically, any suggestions or even mentions of what might help them when my friend complains about any kind of problem is completely ignored or even taken as us being judgmental, when I am trying to be VERY DIPLOMATIC in how I talk to them.

At their cores, they are very defensive people, and I personally feel it stems from an insecurity they have from parenting in a way that they were told, and not in how they feel, instinctively.

Anyway. The problem:

Their daughter, likely in the face of dealing with a brand new sibling, has taken to pushing and hitting our daughter. They're the same age, but their daughter is quite a bit bigger and more aggressive in her manner to begin with. Kind of a determined, 'bull in a china shop' type.

Annabelle, my daughter, is something of a 'wuss' in comparison, or at least, that's how they see it. She's incredibly sensitive, watchful, and passive in her way. If a toy is snatched from her, she'll come to me to 'talk' about it, which is really just her babbling and pointing with a furrowed brow - instead of snatching it back or screaming.

Their daughter is pushing and hitting Annabelle CONSTANTLY. It's to the point that they're hardly playing anymore, Annabelle is just spending her time trying to get away, or find toys that the other girl has forgotten to play with, only to have them snatched again.

The parents make very little attempt to stop the behavior and I don't know what to do. I can't easily be like, hey, maybe DO SOMETHING TO STOP THIS.

How do you help in a situation where your kid is being bullied and the parents aren't doing much? They don't even seem like they're on the same page as far as discipline is concerned - the husband tries to address the issue, only to have the wife yell at him in front of us for being 'too harsh' on her.

I'm so frustrated. What would you do?

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#2 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 12:37 PM
 
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Lots of toddlers go through aggressive phases, especially, like you said, they're going through a stress like adjusting to a new sibling. There isn't too much that can be done about it other than the parent tailing the toddler and trying to protect innocent bystanders while reminding her to be gentle. They do outgrow it, but if they aren't addressing it, you might want to find excuses for a few months and see if she's outgrows this phase in the mean time. If she's still aggressive at that point, make excuses for a few more months and see if she's past it. The toddler aggressive thing doesn't usually last terrible long.

As far as having friends who parent differently, what works best for me is honestly to not give suggestions or comment on their parenting at all. People aren't open to them anyway and it just creates tension. It's so easy for people to misunderstand motives, even when you're being diplomatic, and parenting is an area where people are really defensive. And their defensiveness doesn't necessarily come from feeling insecure about how they're parenting. I think all parents are defensive about parenting. I know when someone questions co-sleeping or extended breastfeeding, I get defensive. Anyway, if they're generally good friends, I'd try to let go of that kind of thing because it'll just ruin the friendship.

So that's what I'd do! Hopefully you'll get some more input here. smile.gif
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#3 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 01:17 PM
 
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I would likely put off socializing, at least with the children present, for several months and see if the child's behavior changes. Basically as pp said.
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#4 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 02:01 PM
 
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Yep, I'd stay away for a little while too. That or always be with your daughter when the kids are playing. Gently, jokingly, calmly redirect their daughter when she is aggressive. Also, when the hitting happens, give your daughter words and actions so she'll learn how to respond.

So yeah, stay away or always be there when the girls play. Hope it improves soon!

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#5 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 05:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ha. Interesting.. We've received the same advice (avoid) about another, unrelated issue with this couple. Mostly the fact that they argue and the wife completely berates and belittles the husband while we are around.

It really really sucks that all signs are pointing us away from spending time with them. We have very few friends and I have a hard time making sure my daughter gets as much social interaction with other little ones as it is - I deal with some significant social anxiety and I don't have a vehicle to attend play dates hosted outside of walking distance. This couple lives 5 minutes down the street.

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#6 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 06:33 PM
 
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greensad.gif Dang that sucks. I've been able to find a group of moms on Meetup.com, some that are one car families. If the social anxiety is an issue preventing you from doing that kind of thing though, I understand. Maybe a close park will yield little playmates? A library story time?

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#7 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 10:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Not an easy situation at all! I have a few mom friends but my husband is even more socially awkward than I, so he pretty much only has the husband of this couple. Still, he recognizes the negative situations we're in when we're with them.

The story time at the library down the street is a good idea. Annabelle is a little young for the preschool age one but at least she would encounter other children.

I want to teach Annabelle ways to cope with the bullying. Most of the time she's resilient and won't cry but once in a while she gets whacked really hard and gets sad. I just have no idea where to start. She can speak but not sentences.

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#8 of 23 Old 05-20-2013, 11:20 PM
 
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I think that you should take a break from the friendship. My daughter and I used to spend time with a family where she would get hit or have her toys taken away and the mom never did anything. She sees my daughter as the one having the problem, not being strong enough,

and suggests that my daughter hit back.  I regret continuing the playdates for as long as I did. Now my daughter talks about how she doesn't want to play there so the decision is really easy.


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#9 of 23 Old 05-21-2013, 03:55 AM
 
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Originally Posted by herbivora View Post

I want to teach Annabelle ways to cope with the bullying. Most of the time she's resilient and won't cry but once in a while she gets whacked really hard and gets sad. I just have no idea where to start. She can speak but not sentences.

 

Honestly, I don't think a 23 month old should have to deal with bullying. Yes, school aged children do. But that's a far cry from a not-yet-two-year-old. Toddler aggression is not bullying, it's acting out. And most toddlers will get hit or bit or hair pulled at some point if you're out there being social. But there is a limit and I would not keep seeing these people for the next few months at least. I think it's beyond lame, and totally irresponsible that they don't do anything about it. I mean, WTF?! dizzy.gif Really? Do they just let her whack other kids on the playground and everywhere else they go?! Aggression is one behavior that, across the board of parenting, requires some sort of response from the parents. To me it seems very anti-social that they find this acceptable. Do they even apologize to you guys about it? Or are they just like "tee hee, how cute!". I am really baffled here.

 

If that were people I knew, I would drop them for awhile. It sounds like you are only friends with them out of desperation, and those are not the most fulfilling friendships. It's good to have friendly neighbors you can have playdates with. We have those too. But if you're looking for real friends and / or likeminded parents, please do a search on meetup.com, or on the Finding Your Tribe forums here. Maybe someone has a car and can come to you. Or, do you have a bicycle and can cycle places? Or, is there a bus anywhere reachable? Or, do you have a car weekends and can plan stuff around that? I would just try really hard to find a way to meet other people. It doesn't sound like real friends to me. At the very least just take a break. Or, dump them and find better friends who take responsibility for their child's misbehavior. Good luck!


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#10 of 23 Old 05-21-2013, 05:39 AM
 
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It sounds like your daughter and you aren't getting much out of this friendship. I would feel very uncomfortable with a wife belittling her husband in front of us, frankly that's not the kind of friend I want. I would also be uncomfortable with the girls. My DD is big for her age but she's very thoughtful and docile and at times her little friends snatch toys or push around her in a rush to use the slide, etc. My mom friends though are all very attentive and although from time to time an incident escapes their attention, 95% of the time they deal with the behaviour (gentle reminders, distraction, etc). If they didn't, I'd be taking a break to give the kids a chance to mature.

It sounds like your DH is the only one getting a positive experience from seeing this family so why not "be busy" as a family but give the dads a chance to hang out since they do get along?
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#11 of 23 Old 05-21-2013, 06:33 AM
 
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I have the same problem! I became good friends with someone, only to realize her child was pretty violent and she does almost nothing when he starts acting out and beating up my kids. irked.gif

 

Unfortunately, after tons of redirecting this child by me, I had to stop the play dates. My boys started referring to him as, "The One Who Hits" and it just didn't seem fair to them. 

 

I kept using the excuse, "I am not having a good week, it's been so hard getting out of the house for some reason!" over and over when she would ask to hang out. After a while, she kind of has stopped asking. 


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#12 of 23 Old 05-21-2013, 07:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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No, you're right, I probably shouldn't have said bullying. You're right. It's not out to maliciously hurt her feelings, the little girl just doesn't know how it affects Annabelle. I guess that probably doesn't count.

It sucks to admit that we're friends with them out of desperation. I have very little in common with the wife, except that we have our daughters near the same age. That's literally it. She's been a good friend to me in the past, we share our problems but it's more because she's there... I'm finding my tolerance for her behavior toward her husband is at an all time low. Maybe the fact I'm pregnant again just makes me want to shed negativity. My husband and I literally look at each other and sigh every time we pull up to their house. I guess we've just been hanging on more for Annabelle than anything else. I don't think we would have been friends with them this long if it weren't for her needing some social time.

I have lots of hobbies that she's expressed interest in, and has mentioned wanting to try new things and I'm always there to encourage her and help her get a hold of resources and information.

For example when she mentioned she wanted to learn photography, her husband bought her a camera and I repeatedly offered to help her learn it.. it languishes in a closet completely untouched by her.
It happens over and over again. I guess in the end it's me trying to change her into someone I can relate to.

Some days I feel like I'm just bad at friends.

I'm going to make an effort to hang out with the few other moms I know, and their children. All of them seem to be attentive enough to see if their little one is being aggressive, and I do like them.

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#13 of 23 Old 05-21-2013, 07:46 AM
 
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So you're friends mainly just because you live near each other and you have kids the same age? Maybe you need some more sources to make friends. I know a lot of moms make friends at La Leche League. Have you ever gone to an LLL meeting? That might be a better source to find like-minded parents.

I'd be more bothered by the dynamic between the parents than with the aggression, personally. Toddlers generally outgrow aggression, but that dynamic is probably permanent. I wouldn't want to be around the negativity either.
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#14 of 23 Old 05-21-2013, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It really is AWFUL.

I've tried to talk with her and the defensiveness springs up immediately. It's startling to see how fast it goes. She blames everyone but herself for whatever happens. She once slammed the door so hard leaving for work that she split one side of the door frame halfway up. I asked what happened and her answer was "I slammed the door because of [husband]. He made me angry."
So it was his fault that she slammed the door and broke it.

The mind boggles.

Then we all spent a Saturday while she was at work trying to fix it. Me, watching the girls in the basement all day, while the men tried to fix the front door in the winter. The whole time, her husband was getting texts from her telling him that they were idiots if they couldn't figure it out. My husband. An idiot for taking one of his days off for helping a friend for NOTHING in return. She called him an idiot.

She's critical of her husband all the time, criticizes the way he chews his food, the way he jokingly repeats jokes on TV, the way he tries to comfort their daughter, the way he does his hair, the way he dresses for formal dinners, what he talks about in regular conversation, his jokes...the list goes on. These are all things that I've seen and heard myself. She's scolding him the way I wouldn't even scold my dog. It's embarrassing to see him treated that way.

I'm so tired of it, but I was more willing to deal with it before it started being unpleasant for my daughter. We had a backyard fire at their house a couple days ago, and while both girls know not to go near the fire pit, they were sitting on a chair together and she got angry and pushed Annabelle off, and she landed on the paving stone beside the fire pit. It could have been a disaster.

I just need to figure out excuses now. We usually visit them weekly for Game of Thrones night, and sometimes once more during the week. I think I might be feeling some 'all-day morning-sickness' coming on.

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#15 of 23 Old 06-02-2013, 08:20 PM
 
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Personally, I would just take a break from this family for a while. I know it's hard to make friends and socialize, but as you said, you want your daughter to feel safe and happy with her friendship. I had a similar problem, my husband's cousin had a baby the same week as my DS and I really wanted to have playdates with her as our kids were the same age and none of my pre-mariage friends have kids. But she also had a 2yr old who was extremely aggressive towards everyone. He would hit their dog, throw wooden blocks at the new babies, punch adults. And the parents did nothing about the acting out. It was alarming. I stopped hanging out with them because I was uncomfortable with having my son in that environment.  

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#16 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 10:29 AM
 
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If you make excuses up to not go to their house, then she gets off scot-free - in other words, she won't have consequences for her behavior (I'm talking about the mom here) than if you were forthright and honest about why you dont want to come over any more. I think giving excuses is not going to help this woman see that her behavior affects other people. It may be one of the only chances she has of being made to face her ugliness and seeing a need for change. If you're "sick all the time" then she doesn't have any idea that it is HER behavior that is the reason.
 

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#17 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 11:23 AM
 
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If you make excuses up to not go to their house, then she gets off scot-free - in other words, she won't have consequences for her behavior (I'm talking about the mom here) than if you were forthright and honest about why you dont want to come over any more. I think giving excuses is not going to help this woman see that her behavior affects other people. It may be one of the only chances she has of being made to face her ugliness and seeing a need for change. If you're "sick all the time" then she doesn't have any idea that it is HER behavior that is the reason.

 

I can understand the reasoning in this but I don't think it's the OP's responsibility to fix this woman. It sounds like that would only create a lot of drama while not changing anything, other than to make the lady incredibly defensive and create a bad situation with neighbors. Not really something a pregnant woman should have to deal with!

OP, I think there is value in being honest with her, but timing is everything. Perhaps when you are past the pregnancy and newborn phase, she will give you a window where good communication can happen, such as actually asking your opinion and so forth. With very defensive people it is crucial to wait for them to "reach" for help. Pushing it on them is futile.

For now, being preggo seems like a great excuse to avoid unnecessary drama. :-)

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#18 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 11:27 AM
 
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She says her peace and then separates from this person completely. Done. I dont see how it'd be drama. I don't know, as a teacher I always feel it is my responsibility to teach people what they need to learn.
 

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#19 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 11:36 AM
 
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She says her peace and then separates from this person completely. Done. I dont see how it'd be drama. I don't know, as a teacher I always feel it is my responsibility to teach people what they need to learn.

 

But she can't completely separate because they are neighbors. Seems like it would just make things so uncomfortable, especially since she stated that she has a hard time socially as it is. I think there are people who are meant to be teachers in these areas, but some people aren't ready to take on that responsibility and that is okay, especially while pregnant. Maybe the OP thinks differently, but this is just my take on it. :-)

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#20 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 11:51 AM
 
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She says her peace and then separates from this person completely. Done. I dont see how it'd be drama. I don't know, as a teacher I always feel it is my responsibility to teach people what they need to learn.

I think you made great points but I do agree with Dalia that pregnancy isn't the time to take on this additional wrinkle. I'm expecting and there are days when EVERYTHING seems like too much drama, even while I know on a rational level that it's nothing. My 2 year old whining a bit seems like a huge conflict even if she's really not being excessive. Tantrums feel like the end of the world. In the OP's shoes IF I felt like lending constructive feedback, I'd wait until my I felt like myself again, weeks/months after baby is born. Just my two cents as someone in the thick of it with pregnancy/toddler.
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#21 of 23 Old 06-06-2013, 08:52 PM
 
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I'd totally understand why someone would just remove themselves from this situation, but I personally wouldn't be able to resist confronting the mother about it. And be really blunt, "Hey, you let your kid pick on my kid, and if you want us to continue to hang out you have to do something about it" It doesn't have to be dramatic or anything, but I also agree with a PP that certain people really do need to be told what they are doing wrong. She has probably been chasing friends away for years who just stop talking to her, instead of telling her "I'd like for our families to keep hanging out, but you gotta stop being a jerk or its not gonna happen. Later"

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#22 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 06:34 AM
 
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You can't get your friend to discourage her kids aggression unless she sees it as a problem. Apparently she doesn't see her DDs aggression as a problem. Now its really your problem because she isn't parenting her kid properly and its making your kid miserable. The way I see it you only have 2 options.

Man up and stop hanging out with her. If she asks why you can be a wuss and make up excuses or you can be blunt and say ... 'Well Annabelle's doesn't want to go and she's not really been enjoying herself that much at these play-dates (with all the snatching and pushing that's been going on...you don't have to add this part unless you're feeling particularly snarky that day) so we're taking a break for now.'

or (if for some reason her friendship is SO important to you, you must salvage it)

Man up and start pointing out the problem. If you see her kid snatching and pushing then step in. Its really simple all you say is, 'UHAHUH that's not very gentle... Don't push Annabelle, or Wait till she's finished - don't snatch. Thats very rude.' and look at one of the parents and ask if they are watching their kid or WHAT?.

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#23 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 10:16 AM
 
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Just to give you some additional tools should you decide to continue hanging out with her right now: When another child hurts my son (or if my son hurts another child) if their parents don't do anything I will say to the other child, "Gentle hands, please." Or "I can't let you hurt him." Then I will give attention to the one who was victimized. It's a gentle approach that addresses the problem while communicating in a way that is non-threatening. :-)
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