How to deal with your friend's misbehaving child
You might have a friend who you love spending time with — but whose kid always misbehaves. Read on for one mum's tips on how to deal with this sensitive situation.
A mother’s story
I enjoyed my friendships with the other mums in our church.
We took our children to the movies, the park and spent a lot of time in and around our backyard pool. An idyllic situation… well, it could have been if it wasn’t for Zach.
There’s just no other way to put it… Zach was a brat.
He wouldn’t share, he broke toys, he didn’t listen to his mother, he was disruptive no matter where we were or what we were doing, and he was forever hitting, pushing or antagonizing one of the other kids in some way or another.
We all loved Rene, Zach’s mom — she was thoughtful, caring, and had a great sense of humor.
The truth was, we all felt a bit sorry for her, too. She and her husband had a less than stellar marriage and she’d had a difficult pregnancy with no help or encouragement from him.
We tried to rationalize Zach’s behavior and connect it to the lack of nurturing from his dad and the fact that Rene had had such a difficult time having him.
Still, it was pretty challenging to have Zach around our own kids — after all, how do you deal with your friend’s misbehaving child, without offending her?
Most of you probably have a friend just like Rene.
But like me and the other mums in our group, you’ve probably gotten to the point when you just don’t know how much longer you can hold out.
You may already be wondering how to deal with your friend’s misbehaving child… and looking for practical things that you can do.
You may be tired of your children’s toys being broken, tired of your children being mistreated, tired of your friend’s lack of discipline and control over her child (no matter how much you like her)… and you are afraid that the misbehavior is going to start ‘rubbing off’ on your kids.
So, to help you out, here are a few tips on how to deal with your friend’s misbehaving child:
What to do in public
If you are in a public place, there is really nothing you can do about how your friends handle (or don’t handle) their children’s misbehavior. The only option you really have is to not go out in public with them.
If you feel this isn’t an option for you, then suck it up and go on — go out in public with them.
You should, however, explain to your children before you leave the house that even though your friend’s misbehaving child has rules different than the ones in your home, you expect them to follow the rules and expectations you have given them.
However, if your toddler or preschooler starts to imitate their playmate’s misbehavior, it is perfectly acceptable for you to calmly and firmly remind your child (within earshot of the other child’s mother) that his or her behavior is inappropriate and not allowed.
Hopefully, the misbehaving child and his mother will take the hint!
What to do at home
To deal with your friend’s misbehaving child in your home — say, during a playdate, for example — there are a number of things that you can do, especially if you want to avoid any trouble:
- Put any special toys, collectibles or other similar items up out of reach and out of sight.
- If you have a yard, fill it yard with toys and keep the kids outside.
- Don’t serve snacks that could possibly ruin or permanently stain walls, floors or furniture.
- Once everyone has arrived, take a few minutes to gently, yet firmly, remind the children of your ‘house rules’ for playing nicely.
- When the child who usually misbehaves makes his/her first move, gently correct him/her in the presence of his/her mother, reminding the child once again of the ‘house rules’ for playing nicely.
- In extreme cases where you feel it is necessary, you can even enforce a ‘timeout’.
- If imposing a ‘timeout’ doesn’t alleviate the situation, tell your friend that it is not fair for her child to be held to a different standard as the other kids, and that she will need to ensure that her child acts as the other children in your home do.
Now, if you just can’t bring yourself to confront your friend about her misbehaving child, you have two choices:
- Just grin and bear it. — Keep quiet and let him/her be, but this can be at the expense of your own sanity (and your kids’ too!).
- Don’t invite her to your home. — This may put a strain on your relationship with your friend, but at least you’ll know that there won’t be any child ‘wreaking havoc’ in your home!
At the end of the day, ask yourself these questions…
Will insisting that your friend mind her child cost you your friendship? It might. Or, at the very least, things may be a bit frosty between the two of you for a while.
However, in the long run, isn’t it more important that you demonstrate to your children the character traits of fairness and consistency, and provide them with a fun, safe, nurturing environment? Don’t you need to teach them how to choose good friends?
Also, don’t you owe it to your friend, too, to let her know how her child is behaving? Won’t she be grateful to you for being concerned about her child (and her, too)?
These may be tough questions to ask, but ask them you must. They will certainly help you the next time you need to deal with your friend’s misbehaving child — but, hopefully, you won’t need to do so again!
Do you have other suggestions on how to deal with your friend’s misbehaving child? Please share them with us by leaving a comment below!