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Friend with 'really difficult' child needing therapy and I can't bring myself to tell her

(67 Posts)
DoTheRightThang99 Sun 17-Sep-17 23:03:52

Help! Advice needed!

I have a dear friend (who lives in Germany) whom I've known for >20 years who, at 38, had a much-desired little girl. The couple have always been anxious parents and the dad (sometimes!) gets stressed out really easily but is otherwise really laid back and great fun. The little girl is now 9 years' old. The family is professional and well off and the mother does not work.
Over the last 5 years, I have been increasingly reluctant to visit my friend as her daughter is really 'difficult'.
At first I thought there was something wrong with the child, then I thought it was just terrible parenting (since they seemed to take action which exacerbated the issue), but now I am beginning to realise that there is something seriously wrong with the child and the parents are not dealing with it well.
The child seems to be incredibly spoilt and to have very little regard for the feelings of others, poor social skills and displays extremely narcissistic (and often rude) behaviour, whilst at the same time, showing signs of considerable anxiety in situations which, for her age, should be quite ordinary (e.g. staying over at a friend's house) or being asked to help wrap a surprise present for her mum's birthday.
The little girl's behaviour is really upsetting for both parents, but the mother tries to logicalise it away and constantly tries to placate her increasingly despotic daughter. I have to bite my tongue and be really careful as there is absolutely NO WAY my own children would get away with a fraction of what this increasingly manipulative and down-right nasty girl does. It is shocking and yet goes completely unchecked.

Saying something to her mum
In mentioning the situation to others, many have suggested that it is none of my business and that, in saying something to her mother, I risked losing someone who is a very dear friend for me.
(I once had the misfortune - when the child was just a toddler - to mention that putting orange juice in a Tippy Cup for the girl to sip all day was a bad idea (from a dental perspective) and that I was always careful to only give water in these cups for my own children. I suffered almost 2 days of slightly stand-off-ish silent treatment from the mother, before it was mentioned and I found myself apologising for having said anything!)
It has also placed considerable strain on my friend's relationship with her mother, who she is very close to emotionally (though not geographically, sadly). She has often fallen out with her mother and I believe has collapsed criticism of her daughter as criticism of herself.

My own children (now teenagers) do not like the little girl and request to be absent when she is a guest in our home and have not wished to come with us when we have visited them in Germany.

I have just returned from a 4-day visit which was really fraught when the child was not getting her way. (I am treading on egg-shells around the girl at that point and try to have as little to do with her as possible. I busy myself with other things, like cooking etc. as I have to admit that I find her unpredictable, uncooperative and unpleasant to play with. She has always been this way.)

When describing the child's latest behaviour to my 16-yr old son (who is interested in psychology and mental disorders (he has weird friends!) and seems to have a good grasp of this stuff), he has suggested that, at best, the child has a quite significant anti-social disorder and I must speak out. (If I don't, he says, he is prepared to, for the child's sake.)
I've researched it a bit on the internet and the child's behaviour does seem to chime alarmingly with this. She is increasingly despotic, selfish, manipulative and narcissistic and my concern, on reading what this turns into, is that it is only going to get worse and their only and much-loved child will have, at best, a very difficult life and at worst, ... well, anyway!
The mother tries very hard to cope and is filled with unconditional love for her, inventing seemingly rational reasons for what is clearly 'abnormal' (not to mention unpleasant) behaviour.
My son explains that, for the child's sake, I must say something. The child clearly needs therapy and this will not end well.
I am terrified of lifting the lid on any of this, but at the same time, I fear what my friend will ask me, in 15 years' time, when the problem was so apparent to me now, why I stayed silent.

*What can/should I do?
Should I say something?
How can I stay silent?
How can I brooch the subject?*
(We recently met an English pediatrician mum in Germany (by chance in a coffee shop). I could ask her to say something, but then I fear that would be such a betrayal of my friendship with the girl's mother.)
Does anyone have any experience of this kind of situation?


Slightlydizzydaily Sun 17-Sep-17 23:22:41

I can see you are really worried and that you want to help.

I think the difficult is that there could be many reasons this child is struggling.

One thing that struck me is that (for example) some of the things you see could be rigidity related and this little girl could have as yet un dx asd. In other words this could be SN related rather than MH related.

If she struggles at school surely they will raise it. It doesn't sound as though your friend takes any perceived criticism well, so I think any attempt to comment might be friendship ending.

It may be better to be there for her and suppport her without saying anything. She may already be very worried herself?

Slightlydizzydaily Sun 17-Sep-17 23:27:27

Just to explain what I mean about asd, rigidity about staying elsewhere or about a surprise, demanding certain routines and bluntness perceived as rudeness plus anxiety could be potential red flags for asd. Obviously these would be matters for qualified medical professionals to comment on.

LilyMcClellan Sun 17-Sep-17 23:29:42

Where did your 16-year-old son get his medical degree then?

flatpopcrapcrisps Sun 17-Sep-17 23:36:59

LilyMcClellan, he got his MD from his weird friends!

OP look at the language you've used to describe the child - incredibly negative and overwhelmingly insulting.

There may be something going on but there also may not. The rigidity of thinking and oppositional behaviour made me think of PDA and if she DOES have some sort of ASD, it'll be the mum that needs the therapy, not the child!

If you feel that she wouldn't take feedback well then don't give it. She has to live with this and will either be concerned or not, she won't need a third party wading in with "therapy" and "parenting".

easterlemma Sun 17-Sep-17 23:41:19

Please do not let your 16 year old 'diagnose' a child, especially as the label he has come up with is controversial and highly stigmatised. Wait until you see the mother struggling and sensitively offer to help her look into some support, perhaps a GP or paediatrician.

TripTrapTripTrapOverTheBridge Sun 17-Sep-17 23:48:21

I don't think you are in a position to say she needs therapy, you are asking our advice yet you give no actual examples of behaviour that is concerning and requiring help! Then you and your 16 year old son (lmfao) go and 'diagnose' her. To make it better, you just spout a load of negativity about her that is actually quite meaningless.

My main advice would be to ignore your 16 year old uneducated son, because asking his opinion is just fucking stupid, and think properly.

Certainly nothing says she needs therapy. What are the actual problems?

upthewolves Sun 17-Sep-17 23:48:25

Your 16 year old son is not in any way qualified to diagnose this child and it is bizarre that you give his opinion so much weight. Having an interest in psychology and "weird friends" (hmm) is not enough for him to comment and if someone's 16 year old son decided to "speak out" about my child as if they were any kind of authority I would be baffled and tell them where to go!

I had to look up the word despotic and was surprised by its meaning (tyrannical if anyone else was wondering!) Seems a strange way to describe a 9 year old. Do you just mean she is demanding and likes to get her own way? Because 9 year olds can be like that especially if they are used to being given in to. Tbh I find your post quite strange because on the one hand, you say there is something "seriously wrong" with her but then you also describe her as "nasty". You seem to really dislike her which is very unfair if you believe her behaviour is down to undiagnosed SN.

Honestly, I think leave them to it. She's 9. Presumably she is attending school and concerns will be raised by her teachers that see her every day if they believe there is a problem. As she lives in Germany, I'm guessing you don't see her often enough to make any meaningful judgement. It is really nothing to do with you.

Also, I wouldn't have commented on the orange juice thing. I agree with you in principle, but people will parent differently. It isn't your place to comment on their decisions.

flatpopcrapcrisps Sun 17-Sep-17 23:49:01

increasingly manipulative and down-right nasty, incredibly spoilt and to have very little regard for the feelings of others, poor social skills and displays extremely narcissistic,unpredictable, uncooperative and unpleasant,increasingly despotic, selfish, manipulative and narcissistic

I've cut and pasted from your OP. It's you that needs the therapy if you think it's ever ok to use terms like this when describing any child, especially one whom is clearly so unhappy. I wonder does she pick up on your negativity?

I revise my earlier opinion, and urge you never to breathe a word to the mother because you won't be able to do it in a balanced way. As for speaking to a stranger in a coffee shop, that would be a GIANT betrayal, as well you know.

SealSong Sun 17-Sep-17 23:51:13

As a CAMHS clinician, I can honestly say that I have never heard of a child aged 9 being diagnosed with anti social personality disorder.
The child (and patents) may have some issues, but you are very negative in how you describe the child and that may be colouring your perception of the problem.

JasmineOill Mon 18-Sep-17 00:02:58

When describing the child's latest behaviour to my 16-yr old son (who is interested in psychology and mental disorders (he has weird friends!) and seems to have a good grasp of this stuff), he has suggested that, at best, the child has a quite significant anti-social disorder and I must speak out. (If I don't, he says, he is prepared to, for the child's sake.)

Who the hell do you and your son think you are? How bloody arrogant of the two of you. You both need to keep your beaks OUT of this family's affairs and let them sort things out (if there are indeed any MH problems) themselves. Your DS need to face his studies and hopefully go to medical school to achieve his dreams and desist from the path he is currently on that leading to quack doctor avenue.

Clankboing Mon 18-Sep-17 00:04:30

What does the little girl do or say?

NoSquirrels Mon 18-Sep-17 00:19:23

You haven't given many examples, OP - it's quite hard to see if this 9 year old is outside the bounds of "normal" or just a challenging personality who's also a bit spoiled.

Has the mum ever mentioned to you getting extra help from school etc? If neither of her parents are worried by her behaviour, I'd assume it can't be that bad? You can't really suggest something is wrong if her parents are not open to the idea even in a small way - so have they ever given you any indication or opening into that sort of conversation?

tellmyfriendsiminlove Mon 18-Sep-17 00:22:01

Your 16 year old sounds like a narcissist, he clearly has delusions of grandeur regarding his ability to diagnose people.
I hope someone directs your difficult child to therapy.

Ttbb Mon 18-Sep-17 00:41:26

While it is u deniable that the little girl displays many antisocial disorder traits all children do. By their very nature children are self centred. Most grow out of it in their own time. While it is very much possible that she is a future sociopath, it is also possible that she is just a spoilt little girl who will learn eventually how to behave properly. Even if she does develop an antisocial personality disorder-so what? There are many people with that disorder who are highly successful, by their very nature anti-social disorders can lead to great success in life and if it really bothers her she can seek professional help when she gets older. Her mother clearly isn't going to accept any advise from you at any rate so why bother? At best she will not speak to you for a little while, at worst she will put an end to your friendship.

BackieJerkhart Mon 18-Sep-17 00:53:47

When describing the child's latest behaviour to my 16-yr old son (who is interested in psychology and mental disorders (he has weird friends!) and seems to have a good grasp of this stuff), he has suggested that, at best, the child has a quite significant anti-social disorder and I must speak out. (If I don't, he says, he is prepared to, for the child's sake.)


What the actual fuck?? This is a joke right? He is playing with you?

BananasAreGood Mon 18-Sep-17 01:00:24

Gosh some 16 year olds get very puffed up with their own self importance; they read one book (or one Wikipedia article) and think they're an expert and want to test out their skills on everyone. I believe professionally it's called Adrian Mole Syndrome.

Does the child show any ability to display empathy, for example being upset at seeing another child or an animal in pain? Is she capable of expressing affection? Does she enjoy seeing or inflicting pain? Those are bigger red flags for potential ASPD, not being spoiled and wanting her own way.

GrockleBocs Mon 18-Sep-17 01:03:17

I've got a degree in psychology and I took my dd to more qualified people to get a diagnosis.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
You have no idea what's going on with this child. Her parents may be indulgent princess makers, they may be seeking a diagnosis of issues they are aware of or they may know far more than they're willing to share with judgemental friends.

Logans Mon 18-Sep-17 01:14:24

Can you give some examples of her behaviour OP? I'm wondering what she could be doing for you and your DS to regard her as seriously mentally disturbed?

TanteRose Mon 18-Sep-17 01:32:48

All I get from your post is that you really don't like this child much (fair enough, I don't like many children apart from my own), and you disapprove of the way your friend is parenting her child (none of your business).

I'm guessing the child can sense your negativity about her and plays up even more when you're around.

Sorry but you really should keep your son and his armchair diagnoses away from your friend and her family .

As others have said, the girl's school will pick anything serious up.

Paperdolly Mon 18-Sep-17 02:02:51

Are you jealous this child is taking your friend's attention away from you?

Cavender Mon 18-Sep-17 02:28:03

It's not your business.

It's very hard when your good friends have challenging children but it's not your business.

If there are serious issues (and a 16 yo isn't the person to diagnose) the school will raise it with the parents.

I have personal experience of how difficult this is, but I keep my mouth shut.

Advise your 16 yo not to embarrass himself by raising it.

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 18-Sep-17 02:50:04

I also have a psychology degree and have worked for many years with people with MH and addiction issues. I also took my DD to a professional for diagnosis. Your 16 yo would not have been my first choice hmm

FWIW the child may need some help. But your assessment of her parenting is awful. Often parents of children with SEN are judged and talked about. Because we all have to parent the child we have and sometimes people have to pick their battles. People with biddable children are very quick to judge, and attribute their child's behaviour to their excellent parenting, instead of understanding that it is normally the other way round.

EmmaGrundyForPM Mon 18-Sep-17 03:12:46

OP you've not given a single example of this child's behaviour to explain what you're so worried about. What exactly is the issue?

The idea that you want to speak to your friend about her child needing therapy because your child has diagnosed her with a psychiatric disorder is laughable.

Please don't speak to your friend.

JWrecks Mon 18-Sep-17 03:31:22

I understand you are likely reticent to give specific examples as they could be outing, but unfortunately you've not given us anything at all to go on. You've described types of behaviours, but no actual behaviours or examples, so we can't tell you what we would do in your situation.

Specific incidents will help us tell the difference between a serious problem and a girl who is simply a bit spoilt, and from there we can help you figure out whether you should speak to her mum or remain silent.

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