To stop seeing a friend because she has a violent preschooler?

(57 Posts)
bt1978 Thu 14-Feb-13 22:26:19

I met a friend at a baby group a few years ago when our first babies were a few months old and we've been meeting up regularly (say 2-3 times per month) ever since - her DS and my DD turned 3 this month. We both now have two DCs around 17/18mo.

Her DS hits and pushes my DD whenever we meet up, and he does it to other kids too as we sometimes have others involved in our meet ups. Sometimes not a hard push, sometimes a very hard one, sometimes shouts in our kid's faces etc. At first I just brushed it off as something toddlers/preschoolers do, thinking he'd grow out of it...she seemed to be dealing with it - naughty step/time out etc....except it has been going on for over a year now and he is getting bigger and stronger, and therefore capable of causing more hurt. For instance, this week he pushed my DS (17mo) over so hard he fell on his face and cut his lip. (It was superficial and he was fine a few minutes later)

I felt dreadful that I had not protected him and actually I am now thinking I will give her and her DS a break for a while.

What would you do? I don't want to over-react. Kids do often go through hitting/biting phases etc don't they? BUt surely not for over a year. It's no fun when my DCs get hurt.

BuntyPenfold Thu 14-Feb-13 22:42:11

To be honest, I would avoid meeting with her and the children for now. I could never bear to see my children bashed by a bully either. Can you see your friend sometimes without the children or is that impossible?

But to be fair (and I work in Early Years) it can be very hard to deal with, and take a long time for some children, if ever. They can't learn to socialise without mixing with other children, and whoever those other children are, they do suffer the aggression sad There is no easy answer.

Impulsive, yes; in need of boundaries, maybe; violent, no.

I would suggest you kind of tail off a bit over the next couple of months, then as the weather improves suggest meeting at the park, or other outside area - less confined, easier for your kids to play without having your friend's child in their space.

bumperella Thu 14-Feb-13 22:47:26

I'm pretty relaxed about my DD and a bit of "rough and tumble". She's going to be an only child, she's nearly 2, and sometimes friends kids throw toys around/at her, push her, etc.

However. The age gap between 17 mnths and nearly-3 is a bit much to take. I don't think her 3-year-old is awful, but neither do I think you should feel obliged to put your 17-mnth-old in that type of unbalanced situation.

bt1978 Thu 14-Feb-13 22:53:46

Yes, we have tried in the past to meet up at the park or for a walk is a little better if we do this but there is still some pushing/hitting. It has been difficult to do this recently because of the snow etc.

Maybe 'violent' was a harsh choice of words, but it feels like it is because he shows no awareness that he's done something wrong and just does it again and again.

I do think that a bit of 'rough and tumble' is normal and part of learning to socialise, which is why I've stuck it out for a year, but I feel like I need a break.

Sorry - my OP was not clear. We both have 3 year olds and 17/18 month olds.

bumperella Thu 14-Feb-13 23:08:15

Ultimately, her DS behaviour is not your responsibility, and nor is it under your control: you can't realistically change her DS behaviour, only how you react to it.
Is it feasible to meet up but as soon as her DS becomes too rough you make a clear "we are leaving" and go? Speak to your freind? Assess how unsettling your kids find the interaction?

gimmecakeandcandy Thu 14-Feb-13 23:14:31

Does she tell him off and immediately take him out of the situation/make him apologise? If not, she is not dealing with things properly. I would ease off too in this situation.

Floggingmolly Thu 14-Feb-13 23:23:48

If your friend is making no attempt to deal with it then no, you would not be unreasonable at all.

ChairmanWow Thu 14-Feb-13 23:27:53

I've got the same dilemma. I took my 23 m o to my friend's son's 2nd birthday recently and my friend's son was awful towards my son the whole time we were there. He pushed him over 3 or 4 times, tried to pinch him, pulled his hair. There have been problems for quite a while. He bit a friend's DD at my son's 1st birthday last March and apparently nursery are really struggling with him. My friend and her partner are really inconsistent in how they deal with it so he's getting mixed messages.

It's hard to know what to do. I'm 36 weeks preg so leaving it for a while.

I would stop seeing them - my "duty" if you like is to my children, bollocks to anyone else's finer feelings. Let her sort her child out and teach him to behave properly, that's her job. Mine is to protect my children.
A year is quite long enough to let your children suffer for the sake of someone else's feelings/politeness hmm

thebody Thu 14-Feb-13 23:40:09

If she's a friend meet her in the evening at the pub.. Much more fun.

Life lesson, u may like a friend and dislike her kids as yours dislike hers.

You choose your friends and let children choose theirs.

Not mutually exclusive.

exoticfruits Sat 16-Feb-13 20:31:02

I would avoid. If you like her meet in the evening without DCs.

mrsbunnylove Sat 16-Feb-13 20:32:14

avoid. if she asks why, tell her.

How would you have her deal with it? If she's using time out etc what more would you like her to do? If he hasn't learned after a year do you think there's a reason he's still physical?

I used to meet friends who had physically challenging children & just supervised very closely.

ukatlast Sat 16-Feb-13 20:47:18

The parent of the 'violent' toddler should supervise said child much more closely in an attempt to prevent injury to playmates. If they see no need to do this, then they have to accept that friends will not be unreasonable to decline future invitations.

The child could have special needs or they might just grow out of it with appropriate supervision and sanctions. At the end of the day you have to keep your child safe.

fluckered Sat 16-Feb-13 20:52:18

how can you call a child that age a "bully" BuntyPenfold hmm

i would try to meet without dc's if possible. if not, then i would give her a wide berth for a bit but tell her the truth if she asks. be prepared for the friendship to end over this though.

MrsDeVere Sat 16-Feb-13 21:00:22

I wouldn't keep meeting up with the DCs.
I stopped seeing someone with their child for this reason. They were a lot older though.

I got fed up with it. They were never going to see the issue (they still haven't) so I just stopped meeting them.

Not my job to give her parenting classes or do the oft suggested MN thing of taking her aside for a little chat. Not worth the stress.

FreyaSnow Sat 16-Feb-13 21:00:27

DS had a hitting phase which he grew out of. I had to follow him around at playgroup and constantly be sat right by him, so that if he raised his arm to hit another child, I could prevent him from doing so. I had a younger child also. I think your children should not be around this DS for a while; it isn't fair on them.

MrsOakenshield Sat 16-Feb-13 21:00:50

how have you suggested your DD deals with this? My DD (3) is often hit by another child at nursery (not seriously I assume as the staff have never mentioned it to me) and we have told her to say, loudly and firmly "stop that X, I don't like it / you're hurting me' and then go to staff if he carries on. She actually quite likes playing with this boy (I get the impression he's quite a 'character', shall we say!) and only mentions the hitting in a rather vague kind of way.

What I'm trying to say in a rather burbled way is, perhaps you could all work together on this - if your DD does actually like seeing and playing with this boy. If his parents are struggling to get it sorted it seems a bit sad for them to lose a friend too - his mum might be worrying that whilst this goes on, no-one will play with her DS.

Sorry, on the red wine, hope I make sense!

Imaginethat Sat 16-Feb-13 21:04:19

I would steer clear. And I wouldn't feel bad about it.

BlackMaryJanes Sat 16-Feb-13 21:04:24

OP is she doing anything to correct her son's behaviour?

Avoid meetings where the children are involved. If she asks, then tell her that her son's behaviour is not acceptable and he hurts yours and other children. She will either cut you or share that she is concerned about him too (which she probably is) and you can talk and try to help.

jinsymaw Sat 16-Feb-13 21:14:07


Please just cool off with this family! You do not need this kind of negativity in your life! Life is so bloody tiring as it is. Make excuses of illness, whatever! Just you protect your babies and don't let anyone upset you. I'm about to hit the big 40 and beginninging to see what my Mum and others are talking about. Don't give a sh@# what anyone thinks! Love your life and those close to you. xxx

ihateconflict Sat 16-Feb-13 21:20:37

i speak as a parent of a past "toddler bully", he is now the kindest and gentlest grown up of 25, and is a doctor. When he was a toddler,he bit, kicked, and was generally horrible to other children, i used to dread toddler groups etc, as i could see the dissapproving glares, and i spent the whole time apologising to parents. I was not a bad parent, I set very definate boundaries, but it was very stresfull. We later found out he had poor hearing due to glue ear, and was in permenant disconfort, his agression was a reflection of his frustration and isolation. He had surgery, and was a new child. I am not for a moment suggesting this child has glue ear, but i am saying spare a thought for the poor parent, i am eternally grateful for my good friends standing by us, and even now, when i see those dissapproving mums in the village, i still remember the horrible looks i got when i walked into a room. I sometimes feel like going over to them and saying how well he has done in life, especially as their children have become troublesome in their later life, but that would be very childish !!! but funny how tables turn

jellybeans Sat 16-Feb-13 21:21:19

I would avoid them. My DC all went through a pushing stage and soon came out of it as I didn't allow it and followed them around correcting them. Yet the kids who were violent age 3 at nursery are the ones still causing trouble age 11+. I know one who grew out of it at high school but the rest are still agressive and bully others.

YippeeTeenager Sat 16-Feb-13 21:30:13

It's really sad when adult friends fall out over their children's behaviour - we all go through times when our kids play up regardless of how we try to manage the situation. I wouldn't dump your friend but try really hard to think of things to do with her that will limit the damage! I had one friend with a boisterous boy that always used to whack my DD on the head with whatever was closest, but meeting them for swimming worked well. And I started suggesting that we went out in the evenings to the cinema and stuff too, so we still saw each other as often, but without the kids so much. Friends are precious, and kids do grow up and out of things smile

SamSmalaidh Sat 16-Feb-13 21:36:47

With no judgement on the mother, I would stop meeting up with the children. You have to protect your children first.

spiritedaway Sat 16-Feb-13 21:41:10

Glad you recognise violent was probably not the best adjective. . but what is the kid like when he is not pushing? Does he say sorry? And most importantly is she on his case. If she isn't YANBU. If she is, your choice, but remember a toddler rarely has reliable impulse control

FreyaSnow Sat 16-Feb-13 21:41:31

Ihateconflict, I don't think it is really a case of whether or not the OP approves or disapproves of how the other mother brings up her children. Of course lots of perfectly good parents have children who go through difficult phases and grow out of it.

The issue is whether the OP's children should bear the brunt of another child's aggressive behaviour by spending a lot of time with this family, and I would say they shouldn't because it is damaging to the OP's children. Being repeatedly taken on playdates where it is just you and a violent child is very different to being in a large group of children in a playgroup or school with one child who hits, where the violence does not always fall on one or two children.

The OP's children may well end up feeling that adults aren't protecting them, that they are being hurt and can't do anything about it. That might lead to them becoming violent themselves because they feel unsafe or them losing their boundaries about what it is acceptable to put up with from other children, and not telling adults when it happens in other situations because they feel adults can't resolve the situation. It really is about the children and not the feelings of the adults; the distress caused to the children who are being repeatedly hit outweighs the feelings of the child who is hitting if he doesn't see two friends for a while. The child doing the hitting can presumably still socialise with others at playgroups etc.

MrsDeVere Sat 16-Feb-13 21:41:31

Ihate but you apologised to parents and tried to contain your DS's behaviour.

That is very different from just allowing the hitting and biting to happen without checking it.

DC5 was a biter. It was horrible. Being bitten is very painful and I know from the threads on MN just what some parents assume about the parents of children who bite! The phase didn't last thank goodness.

It might well of done if we just let him get on with it. Because I knew he did it I would watch him very closely when we were out.

The parent I mentioned upthread didn't just refuse to check her child, she would spend ages trying to find a way of blaming any other child around at the time. She would also use the 'XXXX is the youngest/smallest excuse as well'.

Well XXXX is 10 now and still a horror. hmm

Notfootball Sat 16-Feb-13 21:44:41

Last summer when my DD and my friend's DS were 3, her DS's hitting/pushing/fighting reached a peak. It was sad but I realised that my DC needed protecting so stopped seeing them in enclosed spaces. I felt that she was not doing enough to manage her DS's behaviour but did not want to call her on it, I'm no child expert. The children have since started preschool and his behaviour has improved so we have resumed our meet ups. I think you should do what you need to do to protect your children.

jinsymaw Sat 16-Feb-13 21:47:50

Sorry. Hello spritited away, Sorry love Studio ghibli! Forgive and forget me!x

MyDarlingClementine Sat 16-Feb-13 21:58:22

I have a friend too whose child seems to have gone thru a veryh long violent phase, and to be honest its not so much his behaviour, its the DM ways of handling or rather not handling it.

I just personally feel very strongly that I do not want my child to hurt another, and if they do there will be consequences.


spiritedaway Sat 16-Feb-13 22:15:59

Hello Jinsymaw. and Mydarling, I agree, so long as the expectations are age appropriate.

Minshu Sat 16-Feb-13 22:53:55

I have made a good "mum friend" but our DDs of a similar age have a love-hate relationship - love seeing each other, talk about each other all the time then start squabbling over toys etc. I think we both went through a phase of making excuses not to meet up for a few weeks every now and then, and it really helped. I also gave DD little pep-talks about sharing nicely, not screeching if the other child wanted to snatch share something interesting. They've now moved away :-( hoping to visit very soon.

Just take a break for a few weeks and see how it goes?

jollygoose Sat 16-Feb-13 23:28:44

aside from "ihateconflict" some of you mums are horribly judgemental. Unless you have a toddler intent on pushing others around you cannot know what its like. My own dear sisters c age 2 a case in question. He will push and shove given the chance, she has consistently dealt with this by gentle discipline, naughty step and constant reminding of gentle hands and has often been terribly upset by his behaviour so what sort of friends are they whio then decide to isolate her completely. Of course you ant to protect your own children but surelyh this can be done by keeping a close eye when playing.
some of you horribly smug lot will get a shock when your own dc are not so perfect.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Sat 16-Feb-13 23:51:30

Yanbu to stop meeting up.

quoteunquote Sat 16-Feb-13 23:53:59

make an extra effort to meet up in the evening when you are DC free, she will appreciate the friendship,

PatButchersEarring Sun 17-Feb-13 08:25:57

I think this is so common.

I have also distanced myself from a 'mum friend' because of her DS's behaviour towards my DD. This biting/hitting/scratching phase lasted for over 2 years. During that time, I heard umpteen excuses for the behaviour, but did not see the mother a) being consistent in her approach with following through with punishments etc, b) supervising her child adequately in 'high risk' situations, or c) accessing help from HV etc on the issue (although she was more than capable of speaking to HV on a weekly basis about food/sleep etc).

Truth is, I felt sorry for the mum as she was obviously struggling..and as someone else said, although I didn't like her approach, I'm no child expert, so who was I to judge?

However, bottom line is that my job is to protect my child. I no longer see this mum, and am cross at myself for allowing it to continue as long as it did. Incidentally, I did tell the mother why I was distancing myself- and she continued to be VERY pushy about meeting up.

She clearly therefore could not give a fig about mine or my DD's feelings on the matter, and as such, is not someone that I had any wish to retain as an 'adult' friend in her own right for me either.

I say do what is right for your child, and don't feel bad about it.

Babyblade Sun 17-Feb-13 08:29:26

I had similar problem with a DC biting my DD. I was further frustrated because the Mum didn't really react or try to resolve the situation. She did that ineffectual 'sing-song' reprimand ... 'Don't bite sweetheart, la la la .... '

Anyway, I decided that I'd make it clear with my DD and the other mum before we met them each time that if the other child bit her we would be leaving IMMEDIATELY - even mid coffee/cake/chat/lunch.

I wanted my DD to know I would protect her and remove her from situations where she got hurt AND that behaviour like that from ANYONE wasn't acceptable. The other DC wasn't my concern but I wanted to make sure that I didn't condone the biting, and that even if the other mum wouldn't react, then I would. It was my way of regaining control of a situation with an uncontrolled child.

The good news is that yes, it worked. We only had to leave once & the other DC soon realised I meant business and that the fun/play would stop if they were too rough. I remained friends with the mum although 3 years later we've drifted apart because DC at different schools.

PatButchersEarring Sun 17-Feb-13 08:33:43

oh, and Jollygoose. It is not the responsibility of other parents to keep an extra close eye on their child to avoid them from being hurt by another.

It is the responsibility of the volatile child's parent to watch them like a hawk to make sure that they don't hurt anyone else.

Cat98 Sun 17-Feb-13 09:16:09

We have friends like this. It has been going on for 2+ years now (they are 4). We keep seeing them because my ds loves playing with the boy - they both like rough and tumble. The only thing is, the other boy doesn't know when to stop and often hits and pushes my ds in inappropriate non play situations. My ds understands that the other boy 'just wants to play' but it is still difficult sometimes.
I am sticking it out because they are our friends and from a selfish pov ds does get something out of their meetings. I do feel she is not effective enough with how she deals with things but I also acknowledge he's a difficult child and it can't be a bed of roses for her - also I feel my ds will come across many a difficult character in his lifetime and it will be better for him in the long run to learn tools to deal with situations rather than to completely avoid them while he's young. That's mpo though and related to our situation.
In the ops situation I'd perhaps cool off for a bit especially given the age gap - I wouldn't stop seeing them altogether though.

Actually if you want to protect your child effectively then you should supervise as well. We saw a lot of children with challenging and physical behaviours when my kids were small as do many if our friends have children with learning disabilities. I did not expect the other mothers to do it all and also supervised myself - that prevented most incidents.

If you have a child with physical behaviours you can't fit around and gossip in the way you can when you know they're not going to be bashing each other, but given these are young children, with apparently poor impulse contr

Bloody phone. Apparently poor impulse control it is unrealistic to expect the other mother to be able to wave a magic wand and make it all ok. If you supervise closely as well and pick your child up when necessary they shouldn't get hurt. Yes it is hard work & realistically you have to be prepared to do your bit as well (and put aside any 'it's not fair why should I supervise when it's their child being mean' feelings).

If you can't do that then it's best not to meet. Because you'll just end up irritated at the unfairness of the situation & it's all likely to blow up helping no-one.

I always found it worthwhile because on the whole these were families who were already becoming very isolated & who were trying everything. It wasn't their fault usual methods didn't work. Usually the kids ended up with a dx to be honest - eventually. If you have a child who responds to typical sanctions (time out etc) it can be hard to understand how difficult it is for those with children who don't.

I haven't found it to have affected ds2 or ds3. They're both very caring boys, who are completely unfazed by challenging behaviours and are very very good with little kids.

CockBollocks Sun 17-Feb-13 10:18:19

Well the OP has said that the mother has been dealing with it, so in that case as this woman is a friend YABU.

FWIW I dont believe labelling a 3 year old as violent is really appropriate, appreciate it might just have been a flippant word that you used but not nice.

Maybe the child needs help playing? Maybe you could take some games and play them all together? Does the mum ever talk about it or do you think she is too embaressed?

HelloBear Sun 17-Feb-13 10:30:26

I find sometimes the problem is lack of supervision by parents. This in my experience is due to misguided expectations that their young dc can play happily alongside other dc while they can have a gossip/coffee/sit down etc. If only it was that easy! My DD is going through a 'pinching' stage sad so I have decided to watch her like a hawk. I may look like a helicopter mother but this preferable to my DD hurting another child. Yes it's a pita and I dont get to sit and relax but I would bemortified if she hurt another dc (as she has with her brother!).

So is your friend doing this? If not I would be reluctant to meet up or you have to take on the role of supervising but then you face the tricky situation of potentially having to step in!

ChairmanWow Sun 17-Feb-13 10:30:29

I think some posters have been incredibly judgmental in relation to the OP's friend. Someone mentioned cutting her off entirely. Why? It sounds like she's been trying to deal with this behaviour, unlike some of the other examples cited. Imagine if your child continually misbehaved no matter what you did. Imagine the stress of being limited socially by your child's behaviours, not to mention the worry that something underlying may be causing it.

I think we need to differentiate between those trying to set boundaries with their difficult children and those who either deal with it inadequately or refuse to face up to the fact their child behaves like a little horror. It's very easy to judge when you have a well behaved child.

I think the OP is in a difficult position, but whatever you decide to do in terms of the kids meeting up the child's mother doesn't need to be punished.

HildaOgden Sun 17-Feb-13 10:41:56

Does he interact at all with the other children?How is his speech? Reason I ask is that I was in exactly the same position as you when my kids were about the same age,friend did try teaching her little lad to 'play nicely' for want of a a better expression.Turned out her son was eventually diagnosed with Autism.

If nothing is working with him,despite her trying,and he doesn't even seem to acknowledge anything is wrong...well,maybe there is something else going on with him?Is she worried about him?Maybe suggest she has a chat with the HV?

shushpenfold Sun 17-Feb-13 10:43:21

I would be meeting with her on occasion for a drink or meal instead....

Alligatorpie Sun 17-Feb-13 10:50:45

I have a friend i really like, but her 2 year old is out of control. He hits and kicks other children, runs around other people's houses and destroys them ( open puzzles, throws them on the floor and moves on) his mom doesn't stop him.

I try to only see her outside, but often end up at other people's houses. I really like her, so dont want to end the friendship, but spend most of my time holding on to dd when we see them.

Cherriesarelovely Sun 17-Feb-13 11:01:01

We had a similar situation with a couple our friends kids when Dd was small. They were very agressive and used to thump and push her. In contrast she wasthe most shy, quiet, clingy passive child ever! We distanced ourselves for a little while and bu the time the kids were a bit older one had grown out of it completely and the other was still volatile. In that time Dd had also grown in confidence and actually enjoyed playing with them both.

I think so much depends on the other parents reaction OP.

Many many children grow out of this behaviour but for now, if I were you I would distance myself a bit.

Mrsrobertduvall Sun 17-Feb-13 11:42:27

Offer to have the child for a couple of hours without the mother.
You can discipline him yourself then. Chuck in a couple of deathstares as well.

MerryCouthyMows Sun 17-Feb-13 12:23:16

I cannot socialise at all because my DS3 is 'too rough'. I don't ever get any time away from my DS3, so I don't socialise.

It isn't that he bites, or pushes, or shoves or snatches.

He walks through people as if they do not exist. Which often hurts the people he has barged past.

He is being assessed for Autism in May. It has lost me a lot of my friends, as they all have DC's around the same age, and have decided that they cannot see me with my DC's present.

I physically cannot always be quick enough to stop my 2yo DS3, as I have arthritis (was only dxd 7 months ago, it didn't start until AFTER DS3 was born!).

And they have decided that they need to protect their DC's from being barged through.

While I understand it, it is still upsetting and isolating, because nothing I do helps. My DS3 has a severe speech delay, and doesn't understand me when I say or sign to use gentle hands, or that he has to look for other people.

If he genuinely DOESN'T understand what I am saying to him, then the naughty step is useless. As is trying to explain anything to him. He just DOESN'T understand.

He doesn't even know what his shoes are, he can't get a toy if asked to bring it to me.

When you are in a situation where your friends have had to stop seeing you when your DC is with you, yet you never get any time without your DC, you end up living your entire social life on MN.

It's lonely.

Just bear that in mind.

Does her DS have any speech delay or other issues?

jollygoose Sun 17-Feb-13 14:36:48

I was making the point pat butchers earring tyhat you were all being very smug that your dear children would not be capable of such acts and the poor mother involved is probably at her wits end then to make it worse her so called friends drop her like a hot potato! obviously friends like you are SHALLOW

PatButchersEarring Sun 17-Feb-13 21:48:15

Jollygoose If by being 'shallow' you mean that I will prioritise the physical wellbeing of my own child above a relationship with someone whom I have known for less than 3 years, then I would be delighted to accept that title.

Also, let's not forget the primary reason why most people (and certainly myself) made 'mum friends': for the benefit of their CHILD. If the relationship is therefore no longer benefiting the child and hasn't been for some time, why should anyone be obliged to maintain it?

FWIW my DD has been known to be less than pleasant at times in various ways. As a consequence, I'm aware of a couple of other mother's doing the distancing routine with us. Do I blame them? No. Because I understand that that is there prerogative, and they must do what they see as being in the best interests for their child.

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