HELP. Please! A friend takes away things from my kiddo. How to stop this? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 11-02-2012, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
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So one of her friends who is one year younger then her will just grab her thing

at any given time and not give it back. Purposefully in front of everybody and

she will just look around for the reaction of my child, her parents and us

and she will just hold to the object for dear life.


It happens most every playdate. It comes out of the blue and that pretty much

turns my kid into a emotional mess and parents of the other kid into a

disciplinarian crisis and we leave.


I really don't know what to do. I don't feel it is my place to talk to the other child

to return the item that belongs to my child. I would assume it is up to the other parents to negotiate the return.


What buffles me is that the other parents will stand like across the room from her and keep saying "give it back to her" and wont' do much beyond that and when the child won't cooperate which is like.. never.. they simply leave along with the object that the kid clings to. We get the object eventually back... but my child is left behind crying, upset, and full of anger at the other child.


Other parents thought although very nice and likeable across the board can't manage the kid and I have this struggle.


I really like the parents and the kid is nice most of the time except for those acts of reposessiing for no reason clear to me.


I also struggle because my child does really like the other kid, is very forgiving and forgets quickly and moves on but this just happens over and over again and each

time she is left in bigger emotional mess afterwards. She however keeps coming for more and I fear that this creates unheatlhy circle of her putting up with someone's abuse for no apparent reason.


I really need someone to shed some light on this for me. Do you have any clues on why would the other child be doing it? Why despite the deep friendship to my child and enthusiastic and euphoric awaiting for palydates with her she would do something like that that she knows will cancle the palydate on the spot even if it is at the beginning of it?


I am wondering if I am making or was making a mistake here by letting the palydates go beyond the first act of that kind because maybe I helped the other child to create the pattern.. that it is okay to act like this because my hcild will forgive and forget and there we go again?..


I don't quite knwo what to expect from other parents how they could approach the issue. I know I would NEVER leave the place without acutally reposessing the object back to the child in question who lost it due to my child grabbig on it.


I would probably appreciate the same from them and they are acting like the child always wins and even if they negotiate it later it somehow does not seem just or enough to me. Am I wrong here?


Also, is it wrong to fogive and forget and hope for better each time since my child really likes the playdates otherwise? I mean, I told her that that other kid is the way it is and I can't change it and I can't do much as it is not my place to educate her or adjust her in terms of behavior, so therefore the situation is that if my child wants to play with the other child she must be prepared for this kind of situation (but what kind of message am I sending here really? that it is okay to expect abuse?)

I am really loosing it here in terms of what is right and what is wrong.


Now .. worse part is.. that we could really easily do without as my child has lots of other kids to play with , but .. you guessed it right the other kid does not as not many parents have a degree of patience, understanding and willingness to help seeing that other parents do struggle with difficult child and lack of skills to handle her and so she has no friends. So we are tyring to help.


This is really puzzle to me how to solve this being kind, generous and yet not to damage my own child in the process.


I struggle to understand why is the other child doing it to her best and pretty much only friend? Is it because she wants to tick her? tick me? tick her parents? is it because she wants to be the center of attention? is it because she wanst attention?

Is it because she is trying to gain some power over my child?


Also, strangely enough the child likes me a lot and this might be beause I am never openly angry at her even if she does something wrong and it is my turn to speak I try to be kind and understanding and each time we meet next time I am warm and caring towards her.. is it that she is trying to somehow try me? in front of her parents and see how much I can take?


Lastly.. I really don't get it but when that child will take something from my child those other parents will refer to it as "not sharing" .. WTHF????..

we are not talking here aobut sharing.. she takes MY childs item whereas she has the same item of her own usually and it is about reposesing, taking over, stealing .. for the lack of better words but it is NEVER sharing..


so if they suggest their daughter that she is NOT sharing with my child by actually

taking her object so what is that we are seeing here? are they confusing her and maybe possibly not naming things the way they should be named?

We are talking about kids who are in second grade for goodness sake!

and this kind of thing done at school would warant a disciplinarian action,

would be called bulling and would have consequences and possibly would

teach something at the end.


However on the socila ground when we like eachother and the kids like eachother

it is very delicate situation and I don't want to overstep my boundaries

be rude or insensitvie but I don't want to break my own kid.


Please help.

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#2 of 17 Old 11-03-2012, 07:53 AM - Thread Starter
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bumpity bump. help anyone?

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#3 of 17 Old 11-03-2012, 09:32 AM
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So your child and her friend are in 2nd grade? I agree that at his age they shouldn't snatch things from each other, but if they do, I would let them work it out between themselves. Both your dd and her friend might be making a huge production out of it just to get some attention from the parents. See what happens if you pretend you didn't see when Friend took her toy. Will she ask for it back? Will she just play with something else? Will she get upset? Only then I would intervene. If the other parents don't do anything about it, I would go to Friend and ask her directly and firmly: Friend, dd was playing with this, can she have it back please?

Or, if you are at your house, I would tell them: Please find a way to share the toy or take turns, if not, I'll have to put the toy away.


I find that if I'm policing playdates with school-aged kids I usually escalate the situation.


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#4 of 17 Old 11-04-2012, 05:29 AM
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I was surprised at the age of the children, but I guess what I think still applies.


I think this kind of behavior expresses tension in the child.  It is driven by feelings.  I doubt very much (particularly with an older child!) that it is driven by conscious thought or intention.  It is impulsive ("driven") behavior.  She probably would be at the same loss you are if pressed to "explain" the logic of behaving this way, given all that she "knows" will happen.  But tension from upsetting feelings (fear, powerlessness, anger, frustration) is what interferes with children's flexibility and causes them to "act out" in such ways as taking/grabbing.


Given the age, I imagine the feelings are pretty big and entrenched and if she were finally to encounter a limit around this (which is what I'd suggest), a LOT of emotion would be expressed.  That seems pretty unwieldy to me, for a playdate situation.  Particularly since her parents are there, and probably are in no position to navigate that (which is probably why it has built up---lots of avoiding upsets, compensating, etc.)

They sound like they care a lot and they probably are miserable and confused, feel helpless and also responsible, and frustrated.  (I would be, in that situation!)  They probably are hoping, miserably, that "this time" it won't happen.


I would guess, too, that the child does feel some safety in the situation with you, particularly since you have remained warm and caring toward her in spite of the bumps you all have endured.  I'm sure that is a relief to her.  I think kids tend to act out when they DO feel some safety, acceptance and connection (because their off-track behavior signals that they need help.  It's an instinct to heal or work on what is hurting them.)  So instead of being on her "best behavior" because she likes you, she might actually be more vulnerable to "acting out" because of that sense of safety and caring that she appreciates.  The unhappy feelings can rumble closer to the surface at those times when she's not threatened.


I am guessing that her parents don't know what to do (and are hoping that it goes away, or when it happens that it "resolves" on its own, which probably is wishful thinking at this point.)  I am guessing that they miserably repeat instructions to her, and don't know what else to do (besides leave, eventually) and just have not had the awareness of how to intervene (more than verbally) in a way that could have supported her in this when she was much younger.


My thought with children is that when they grab, they need to be limited, but loved/accepted right then.  It's not a time for instructing them to share, not to take/grab, etc.  It's not a time for punishing the behavior.  It's a time to connect, to really empathize (they behave this way for good reasons) but to limit the behavior physically and warmly.  With the least amount of force possible.  (I wouldn't and don't pry fingers off the contested toy.  I do put my hand on the toy or on the child's hand.)  I have twins so I have some extensive experience with these kinds of conflicts.


My thinking on this reading through (imagining that these are preschool children, when I was reading your account) was that I WOULD intervene but not in a punitive or reproachful way.  I intervene to facilitate interactions, so if it's my child with the problem behavior or another child, it really doesn't matter.  I am not seeing one as "wrong" or "bad" and the other as the victim.  I'm just dealing with a situation in which a child (or children) need help.


If parents are there, and seem uncomfortable or distressed (worried about my possible judgment, being upset about their "mean" child), I try to convey my beliefs and general attitude by recognizing aloud that the child needs help, some support.  This stuff is hard.  Negotiating toys & play together is hard.  She just needs help.  The same when there are lots of feelings coming out, a tantrum--acknowledging it in a way that conveys that, to me, this is not some kind of problem (the upset "shouldn't" be happening.)  Big feelings make sense.


This can go a long way to clarifying that I am not judging their parenting, their child, the situation.  


You could also do this in the way you speak to your child, validating her feelings and acknowledging what was upsetting about what happened, even as you acknowledge that it's hard for the friend.  She wanted X, it looked fun, and she grabbed it.  (Normalize the impulse.  It's human.  It's immature, but understandable.)  It's also dealable.


From there it probably becomes a matter of modeling and offering guidance.  Not in a "You don't do this!  You do this!" kind of way, but in a way that communicates understanding and acceptance.  "You wanted X?  Did it look fun to you?  That makes sense; you probably wanted to have it yourself.  When you feel like grabbing something, you just need help.  So ask for help, instead."  You can model "asking for help" as literally engaging your assistance to help facilitate, but also model the process.  Telling the friend you like that, and asking for a turn, is "asking for help" instead of grabbing.  Etc. Etc. Etc.


There is a lot more to this but caring connection, a limit (dealing with the issue, showing tolerance for it---it's not an offense that necessitates a hasty exit, but something you can work through), and guidance through modeling, is key.  If she gets REALLY upset and screams/cries, that's good too.

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#5 of 17 Old 11-04-2012, 09:07 AM
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My daughter has playmates (and family members) who do this to her.  They're all about the same age - kinder through first grade.  It is 100% a dominant behavior.  I can do whatever I want, I can make you cry, and no one is going to stop me.  I can't really limit when she's around them but I have talked with both sets of parents and said either you can step in or I will.  "Letting them work it out" has not worked because both other kids just have no limits.  I do not want to teach my daughter she has to give over to the most aggressive person, but I don't want to teach her to be aggressive either.  My advice to her has been for her to say, "I was still playing with that, you can have a turn next" and try to take it back OR get an adult (me, not the other parents who will both say, "oh...honey, give it back?  ok.  well, maybe she will give it back in a minute" while my child falls apart because once again, the rules only seem to apply to her) and I will handle it. 


As this is a friend and these kids are in SECOND grade (we're not talking pre-verbal toddlers, here), I would just end playdates and tell them why.  It's just too stressful and your daughter always comes away feeling bad.  Perhaps if the parents and child have to deal with the negative results of their choices, they'll make different ones.

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#6 of 17 Old 11-04-2012, 09:56 AM
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The big thing that jumps out at me is that they leave with your DD's toy. I wouldn't let that happen. I'd say "if you don't give back DD's toy then she gets to have something of yours to be fair." that may be enough to throw the focus off the toy in question. I would talk about this with the other parents first but be firm that my child wouldn't lose her property for an extended period without having some collateral. Maybe it's simplistic but that's the approach I would take. Most kids tend to want what another kid is interested in so if your DD is now eyeing friend's teddy bear, that could be enough to make friend forget about DD's monkey and want her own teddy bear instead.
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#7 of 17 Old 11-04-2012, 01:48 PM
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How old are the children?  Oh, I see 2nd grade - so like 6? I suggest you have a playdate without the other parents and discipline fairly and gently to both children. By age 6 both kids should be able to articulate an arrangement where they share a toy. Do some active listening with both kids. Ask the friend who takes the toy to use her words to ask the other child to share. Ask the other child to say what she heard and respond with her wishes. 6 is plenty old for that. 


Treading gently here, 6 is also old enough for your DC to decide who she likes to play with. If she likes this kid, who always takes her toys, I may be tempted by that age to allow them to work it out how they choose.  Edited to clarify: When my DC was 5 and in kindergarten she had a friend that I thought was often rather mean spirited. Of course, I helped them work things out as best I could but in the end I felt it was DC's choice whether she wanted to play with this friend. This was not a case of family members or anyone else that DC was "stuck" with. This was a friend who she 100% voluntarily played with. I felt that it was not really my place to judge too harshly because my DC chose to play with this kid. I'm not sure what sort of GD that is and I acknowledge that it may be rather unconventional advice but I would say that experience may have served my DC rather well over the years. At 11 she is quite able to stand up for herself and decide who she wants to spend her time with. 


Also, while I do think looking into motive and etc. for our own children is the way to go, I think you should be cautious about applying motive to this child. Also, get really clear on why you have her around. Are you trying to help her or does your child genuinely want to be friends? By 6 I would think that a "natural consequence" of playing like this is that you have little to no friends. I sympathize with wanting to help her, and I would be inclined to do the same but I would have to be really proactive in how I structured play and etc. It's a lot of pressure at 6 to be friends with a child who is having troubles with friendship - as I'm sure you know all too well. 




  • Help your child back away from playdates if she doesn't enjoy them 
  • Find other more engaging activities to do with this other child if you feel the need to help her or if your DC wants to continue to play with her
  • Practice some pretty intensive discipline during activities including lots and lots of active listening (this involved BOTH children) 
  • Consider a playdate without the other parents 
  • If you involve the other parents don't be afraid to intervene - it takes a village and all of that 


One last thing, I will often use the phrasing, "She does not want to share right now," when it comes time to help another child realize that they have just taken a toy that another child is playing with. I think that's a fairly common phrasing and it's generous and clear while emphasizing concepts like sharing and choice. 


Good luck! 

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#8 of 17 Old 11-05-2012, 02:09 PM
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Hi again.  I agree that micro-managing interactions at the age of 6 or 7 is usually more intervention/intrusion than necessary, particularly when there's a lot of (parental) emotion & opinion going into the involvement.  But it sounds like some intervening with the goal of facilitating (so both children are helped to move their interactions past the point of this frustrating impasse) would be helpful in this situation.


I think if your "discipline" or intervention takes the form of facilitating their interaction AS an interaction, (or helping in a conflict by modeling how to proceed when facing that particular dilemma), then it's not likely to be or become a matter of "stepping on toes."  (As far as the parents or the "other" child are concerned, I mean.)  You are not "disciplining" someone's child as much as interacting with the children in a way that helps negotiate their conflict situation.


I think the times when interceding is problematic is when a person's "discipline" involves punishment, or establishing a wrong-doer and a victim and trying to enforce some kind of consequences.


So if you don't see how interceding is possible without there being some guilty party, and someone left to suffer some consequence, then taking action to facilitate non-punitively may be challenging for you in the moment.  (When I am feeling very triggered because one of my children is hurt, then facilitating an interaction between two children who both are mine can be challenging for ME in the moment!  So I can relate.)  But if you can see it as a situation where the child (children, really) just needs help, and could be helped majorly simply by being understood & accepted (something which really hasn't happened in this situation, to this point), then you might be able to gain a lot by the active listening and modeling suggested by IdentityCrisisMama and NiteNicole.


Simply verbalizing what's going on (in a way that normalizes or contextualizes the offensive behavior, and models a better way to express the wish, and at the same time prompts your own child to respond, which moves the interaction forward) would likely give huge impetus instead of the usual logjam, right at the time of the conflict.


Personally, I highly doubt that she REALLY needs/wants whatever toy your daughter had.  (If, by some fortune, your daughter moved along and got involved with something else, it's likely that her playmate would find herself wanting THAT toy before too long.)  I don't think this indicates anything in particular about this child except that she likely has a lot of distressing feelings that she's carrying around, for which she has little outlet.  So they interfere with her relationships, behavior, flexibility, and her joy in life.


Addressing the conflict (over the toy) more proactively as it comes up and not making it a punishable offense OR an abrupt end to the playdate (which suggests it's some kind of unworkable problem or situation), probably will bring some of those feelings to the surface for her.  (Since it's not too likely, particularly at this age, that it's really all about this or that toy.)  That's why, if you hold a limit (as in, go through the steps of guiding her through making a request, and then you solicit an honest answer from your daughter about whether or not she's ready to be done with the toy, and then support the child in waiting for the time when her friend is done with her turn), you may find that the child gets really upset about waiting, and protests and cries a lot.


Younger children (toddlers, preschoolers) who are still very impulsive might not be able to cry or tantrum without also trying to grab/take or hit or kick, so that is the only thing I can see possibly being tricky with an older child, who may be relatively immature/helpless around this issue (therefore might "act out" her frustration), and who is not your own child.  (I would hold my own child if needed to prevent hitting or attacking, while validating the upset itself.)  


So that could be tricky, depending.  But to me it's ideal to handle impulsive aggression with that kind of simple, non-punitive kind of prevention...the only response to the actions being not letting the hitting/grabbing happen (a physical limit of some kind, even just moving between the children or putting your hand on the object and reiterating that the other child isn't done with it yet), but otherwise not "addressing" the hitting verbally at all.  Just verbal acknowledgment of how hard it is to wait, and how she doesn't like it, accompanied by taking clear action to keep both children safe.  This is "holding a limit" and it lets the feelings all come out.




As far as other ideas for responding "in the moment," remember that modeling what you DO want in the situation (how they could better handle the issue) is a matter of directing them to their own feelings & reactions.  So you could ask your daughter, "Did you like that?"  When she answers "NO!" you can give her the information:  "You can tell her, 'I wasn't done playing with that yet!'" And so on.  ("I was still playing with that; you can have a turn next."  Or whatever.)


Or you can connect with the other child, stating what you can imagine/infer about her feelings by her actions.  "Did that look fun to you?  She was having a good time playing with that, wasn't she?  Were you starting to feel interested?"  (etc.)  Then let her know what she can do when she feels that way:  "You can tell her, 'That looks like so much fun.  I'd like a turn.  Can you let me play with it?'"


This kind of exchange is what makes empathy possible between playmates in this situation, because the children begin to understand what's behind actions (interest, excitement, feeling left out, eagerness) and they can relate to those things.  Also, when they know you are not going to "enforce" sharing or taking turns (in the sense of YOU deciding it's time to "share" or that one child has had it long enough), they can be more flexible & generous because they don't have that defensive tension, and so they can be more responsive to the waiting child's impatience and eagerness.  (This is VERY true of my twins.  Affirming that it's one child's turn until he's done, and that it's his decision whether or not he is EVER done, lol, is the surest way to relieve tension around possessiveness.)


Active listening in that way (responding to the "negative" behavior by reflecting back the feelings or wishes that seem to be driving it) can open up alternate possibilities, such as playing together in some way, or doing that same thing WITH the child (finding some alternate object that is not to "placate" her but to facilitate her wish to join, and participate, which you connect to when you validate her feelings of wanting, of being inspired and intrigued by what she sees her friend doing.)


I suppose it takes some vision & skill, but still I'd say it's way more exhausting to try to type it all out than it is to do it in the moment!  lol

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#9 of 17 Old 11-05-2012, 05:02 PM
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#10 of 17 Old 11-06-2012, 06:26 PM
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I would cut the playdates out or have true ones where the parents actually leave. It is much easier to redirect a child effectively when their parent isn't there and they aren't behavng to seek.attention from them.
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#11 of 17 Old 11-07-2012, 06:21 AM
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Second grade?  Wow.


O.K, first, you guys micromanaging the play of 7/8 yr olds is weird.  They can play alone without being watched.  They can work out their problems between themselves.  


A 7/8 yr old is also old enough to hear "No, sorry honey....every time you come over to our house, you take our things from our home, and that is stealing,so I can't let you come over anymore."


I'd work VERY hard at helping my child make new friends.  If her parents can't pry a toy from her hands at this age, life in their world is going to get so much worse.  I wouldn't want to be around to see that.  

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#12 of 17 Old 11-18-2012, 04:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. The story continues, different places the same outcome...

Does anyone have a sure and point by point strategy?

I am having trouble to sort though all different thougths

as there is lots of insight and precious but It would be really

huge help if someone has step by step approach of howto

 address it as I sometimes get lost in the long descriptions

of all possible outcomes and approaches.

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#13 of 17 Old 11-18-2012, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by nextcommercial View Post

Second grade?  Wow.


O.K, first, you guys micromanaging the play of 7/8 yr olds is weird.  They can play alone without being watched.  They can work out their problems between themselves.  


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#14 of 17 Old 11-18-2012, 09:05 PM
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A couple thoughts.

First, I had a wonderful AP mama group when my kids were young. Somewhere around our oldest children becoming 4-6 we started to realize that while we were all friends, some of our kids would not choose each other as friends of their own accord. Over time we transitioned, and now we only occasionally see each other with our kids. For the most part we had to come to accept that our friendship should not dictate the friendships of our kids. We are still great friends, we just transitioned from playdates to girls night out. It's ok to embrace the fact that we as humans are not always entirely compatible with every other human. Open communication about incompatibility rather than behavior blame can keep it from becoming a discomfort between friends. I'm not saying the friendship should be over, just saying that is an option. 

And then... 2nd grade is old enough to work with your daughter on strategies and coping skills. I know the problem is the choices of this other individual, but we all have to find coping strategies for when other humans do not behave how we expect they should. What do you think is appropriate for her here? For me, I'd want my kids to be able to assert themselves tactfully and appropriately. So I'd teach her phrasing to handle these scenarios. "When you come to my house, and take my toys, I feel like I don't want to invite you over anymore." "Let's play fairly. I won't take your toys, and you won't take mine. Deal?" "If you are going to take things from my hand, then I am going to go read alone instead of playing- because that isn't fair play." Whatever language you think is appropriate, but she needs strategies to stand up for herself and the right to deliver the natural consequence. Side note: she also needs to know the difference between using this language appropriately, and using it as leverage to get her way in play. 

Then to bring these two concepts together, I would help provide my child with the skills to handle this independently and give her the power to know that if it does not improve, and her new skills do not work, SHE has the power to decide to look for other friendships. At her age, you don't need to manage this or decide if you should take a hiatus from the relationship. She is old enough, I think. 

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#15 of 17 Old 11-19-2012, 08:31 AM
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If the kid is leaving actually bringing your daughter's belongings with her, she is being rewarded for her rudeness.  At the very least I would make sure to get your daughter's stuff back before the kid leaves.  You walk up to the kid, hold out your hand, and say, "You'll need to leave that here."


Otherwise since the dynamic is so stressful and the other parents don't set good boundaries, I'd look elsewhere for playdates.  Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

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#16 of 17 Old 11-21-2012, 09:36 AM
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so if I am reading this right, at any time while at your house the friend grabs the toy, won't give it back when asked by her own parents and then the parents immediatly leave and take your daughter's toy with them!  I honestly thought this was going to be about  preschoolers. Why don't they take they toy away and give it back before they leave? I assume it is becuase they know their daughter is going to throw a great big gigantic fit.  It sounds to me like this whole thing is a power struggle ither with your duaghter or with the parents. Does she do it at school?


I think the next time they come over, as soon as they get their explain the rules that you do not grab things away and take things home. I think I would coach your daughter on standing up for herself and demanding it back, and then when it is not given back either have her physically grab it back (that is probably the wrong thing to do, but these kids are old enough to know not to do this that I would be really really tempted to let my daughter do this and back her up on it) or get you to get it back. Since standing back and waiting for the parents to handle it isn't working I would tell the child to give it back, and reach out my hand so she knows I am serious. If she won't, tell the parents you want it, they cannot take it home with them, let them grab it out of her hand and leave with her screaming. If they ulimatley refused to return it to you, I would probably just take it myself and neverhave them over again.  You might find you get a totally different kid if the parents do not come along for the visit.

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#17 of 17 Old 11-22-2012, 10:49 AM
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Um I thought this post was about preschoolers, not 7-8 yr olds. I absolutely would step in and tell this other child that the item needs to begiven back. This kid goes home with your child's item? I would not allow my TWO year old to do that, much less my 2nd grader. I agree you don't have a right to punish her but you do have an OBLIGATION to stand up for your child. If the other parents don't like out, tough. No one it's doing this girl any favors by slowing this to continue. And your child will learn that you will help her when things are above her ability to negotiate, and she will learn that life goes on if she does have to experience the loss of this friend because her parents disagreed with you standi Ing up for your child rights.

lovin DH since 1/04, SAHM to 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), and one 13 wk (10/13) just your average :ha ng multigenerational living family!!
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