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Unconditionally parenting friend with terrifyingly behaved child - not sure how to deal with it. Longish

(78 Posts)
AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 21:50:31

I have namechanged!

I have been spending time with this friend and her 5yo DS (and now baby DD) for a while and while I like them, the5yo can be very violent, as well as difficult in various other ways (eg screaming and kicking everything if he doesn't get his own way, being verbally extremely rude etc.) His mum has only ever responded by comforting him - I have never once heard her explain to him that any kind of behaviour is undesirable, let alone tell him not to. Often when he has behaved violently or nastily he is very upset and wants a lot of comfort and attention.

I do realise he may have SN (though nothing officially). In fact I am not sure whether the parenting has led to or encouraged his behaviour or is perhaps partly a result of it - ie he can't be controlled so she doesn't try.

However I'm finding it really difficult that both I and DS are the victims of his violence and nothing is done. She will say sorry to us but she won't tell him to say sorry or tell him it's wrong.

She hasn't said she is doing UP as such but she has talked about her parenting views conflicting with other people's and it is definitely a deliberate policy. I have been reading up on UP to try to understand it and while I agree with many of the basic tenets eg mutual respect and understanding, it does seem to me that it can be taken too far. What really upsets me is the message being sent to us, especially my DS - that it is OK for this boy to hit him, throw sand in his eyes etc. I have to reassure my DS that it is not, while avoiding openly criticising what's going on. It is also of course difficult that my DS gets very different responses from me as I am more of the "Oi! you do NOT hit, that hurt X, say sorry and if that happens again we will have to go home" school of parenting - not aggressive but a lot firmer and clearer. (BTW I am not saying I'm better than her. obviously I choose the kind of parenting I think is best but who knows what is best really - I'm not claiming to be an expert, i just want to be able to manage this)

I know that some other people have started avoiding them and she is becoming isolated, and exhausted with the baby as well, and I wonder if she is actually depressed (from other signs I have noticed).

I would love to hear your advice if you've been in a similar situation - should I ever say anything, to him or to her, and how? How would you deal with it when he's violent?

IlanaK Wed 08-Jul-09 21:53:22

Truthfully? I would not be around them anymore. I have been in similar situations and when it is a deliberate parenting choice that impacts so badly on my own children and I know the parent will not change what they do, I just stop meeting up. I have to put the interests of my children first.

allaboutme Wed 08-Jul-09 21:56:46

if a friends child hit my child i would automatically say something like 'NO X, we do not hit, thats not nice'
How would your friend react if you started standing up a bit for your DS in that way?

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 21:58:44

Ilana - that is one of the options and one I have been considering tbh. I feel bad about it because I feel I have been tolerant of all this and she now thinks of me as on her side IYSWIM. I also feel it is not her DS's fault he's like this and I feel sorry for him. But yes I must protect my DS too and one thing I have decided I will not do any more is let them be alone together (eg playing in another room while we have coffee).

BananaFruitBat Wed 08-Jul-09 21:59:30

I agree with IlanaK, sorry. You have to put your child first.

The best I would hope for (if it was me) would be for her to confront me at some point with the Are you avoiding me? line. Then I would be able to tell her, and help move the situation forward.

DollyPardonme Wed 08-Jul-09 21:59:46

I shouldn't be so sensitive about parenting styles to be frank. His behaviour isn't acceptable and he's old enough to appreciate that, and she's waaay old enough to realise that. I should speak up or ditch'em.

IlanaK Wed 08-Jul-09 22:01:11

allaboutme - she will not react differently just because you say something. If it is a parneting choice/style then she clearly believes it is wrong to tell her son not to hit/shout/etc. Truely, I have been in this situation - they do not change.

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:02:04

allaboutme, I don't know how she would react and I feel like I have been a bit of a wimp for not doing this before. I am scared of upsetting her tbh but that is no good for my DS. I think I am usually so shocked (especially when it's me getting whacked) that I take a moment to gather my thoughts and think about how to react, and by that time he's wailing and she's comforting him, and if it's DS who's been hurt I'm comforting him, and by the time everyone's calmed down I don't know how to bring it up.

But your posts are telling me what I think I feel inside too, that I do need to respond immediately.

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:06:59

I am terrible at negotiating other people's children's behaviour and daring to say anything. I am terribly oversensitive about it and I need to get over it.

The fact is I am fine if someone else ticks off my DS (within reason obviously) but I have tried it once or twice and got my fingers burnt. One friend left me with her DC for a few minutes and they fought, I told them to stop and the older one was hysterical and wailed to her mum who was distinctly off with me for days (although I explained). I have got this very strong message that you do not interfere with other peoples parenting, even though I actually don't agree with that truth be told.

saintmaybe Wed 08-Jul-09 22:08:57

can you talk to her about it, do you know her that well?
tell her you want to understand, and that you're finding it hard to deal with, that your ds is afraid of being hurt.You're right, your ds needs to know that it's not ok for im to be hurt, but I'd concentrate more on stopping it happen than expecting an apology

Especially if she's got a new baby and is dealing with challenging behaviour, or the possibility of a sn dignosis, she might have just lost perspective a bit

you could ask her if you could come up with an appropriate response together

You sound non-judgemental and straightforward, and that might be just what she needs

ravenAK Wed 08-Jul-09 22:09:08

I have a similar problem with the dd of a good friend.

In the end I took to telling her off myself ('No, J, you mustn't hit ds & if you do it again your mummy will have to take you home')

I was all geared up for a discussion row with my mate, but in fact she ended up copying my approach (I think she simply lacked confidence tbh) & her dd is now considerably less awful. grin

It could absolutely have gone the other way - but probably better an honest exchange of views, even if she takes offence, than backing off & letting her become increasingly isolated.

Heated Wed 08-Jul-09 22:10:05

Maybe you can be preemptive and get in early - so if her ds is about to do something wrong, intervene with a firm "Uh uh XX, hitting hurts..." and then encourage him to verbalise what the problem is. Sort of model more effective parenting really,I suppose. He may have an SN but he still needs to be learn by being shown the appropriate responses if he's going to function alongside other children and adults.

EldonAve Wed 08-Jul-09 22:11:50

I agree with IlanaK
If you can't bring yourself to challenge the behaviour then you need to limit your time with her
Maybe only see her without kids?

Heated Wed 08-Jul-09 22:12:20

Oh and the 'Uh, uh' bit is actually quite firm and loud, a bit like Victoria Sitwell training a dog and showing it her disapproval!

sweetfall Wed 08-Jul-09 22:14:55

You need to tell your friend that whilst you love her and respect her decision to raise her child in her own way it is putting you and your children in an uncomfortable position as your children do not see her ds being reprimanded or corrected.

Tell her that for the sake of your friendship / your children you cannot continue to see her en famille whilst her child is in the acting out violent phase but that you would like to see her without the children if she can.

This is not an SN issue, this is a lack of parenting boundaries issue IMO.

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:16:22

I'm debating whether to talk to her about it. One issue is that she has already had problems with other families because of it, so I'd feel like I'm ganging up on her, but yes we are close enough to have the discussion.

I'm not particularly hung up on the apology, it's more just giving him the message that it's not on. I know boys get aggressive sometimes and fall out sometimes and you can't avoid all bad behaviour - what riles me is that he doesn't even really know it's bad, no one's ever told him.

This thread is really helping me see things more clearly though (and that I have been a wimp - poor ds )

bosch Wed 08-Jul-09 22:22:50

AirPie - its not surprising that other friends of your friend have chosen to remove themselves from the situation rather than deal with it. Well done you for trying to find a way to deal with it, not easy but hopefully worthwhile. I agree that there is nothing wrong with telling children that you love them but hitting is wrong, there is never a good reason to hit. Good luck with friend.

ahundredtimes Wed 08-Jul-09 22:24:51

Hang on there a minute. It's not your job to tell him what is right and what is wrong though.

I feel ever so sorry for that mum now.

If you've really read up on UP then why don't you say,

'when you throw sand in ds's face it hurts him and upsets him' or 'OW. That hurt when you hit me!'

you could say that. That'd be alright.

You don't have to say 'NO. We do not do that. You must say Sorry. One more strike and we're going home' type thing,

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:25:08

Heated you're right - on some occasions I have had time to pre-empt but I have not really believed he'd actually do it - one time I could have shielded DS from something he threw but I was just standing there in amazement. It was completely unprovoked, they were getting on OK and then wham.

I think I have posted this this evening because after the last time we saw them I've finally realized these really are not one-offs, he's capable of dangerous behaviour and as he gets older he's getting worse. And I need to do something.

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:29:44

Well actually 100x I do think hitting people is wrong. If we're going to get down to the nitty gritty of ethics on of the most solid bases for deciding what is right and wrong is that it's wrong to hurt other people unnecessarily. If you abandon any mutually agreed idea of right and wrong then how can you have a society? This is what worries me - he's growing up thinking that he's allowed to really hurt people. The fact is, in our society, he's not. So what's going to happen when he leaves home?

I really, really have read up on UP including several long MN threads. I have to say I have my doubts but I understand the bit about expressing feelings. However I do think this child should be told not to hit. And I really don't understand how it can help him learn about life in general if he's not.

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:31:42

I feel sorry for her too btw. I sometimes make my excuses and avoid seeing them. But she can't opt out of being with him and it must be very stressful indeed. I am worried about her, I am resentful too but I do care.

ahundredtimes Wed 08-Jul-09 22:32:17

Well, I think if you're going to be a good friend to her then you stick up for your ds and yourself, yes.

But you show her how much you like him, what a good kid you think he is, and you say 'hey, if you throw stuff, it'll break or if it hits someone it might break them, and then they'll be sad'

then you say to her 'he loves to throw stuff doesn't he!' and see what she says. Perhaps she is feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole business, what with the baby too

If you do feel a bit judgy about the whole thing, then I don't think you are going to be quite such a good friend to her tbh

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:37:44

I am trying not to be judgy, but yes, I think she is handling this wrongly, but that is just an opinion. I'm sure she thinks I am wrong too when I tell my DS off. Is she judgy then? The trouble with parenting is that you can have your opinion but there are no instant results, it's not like "this is the way to make a cake, do it wrong, flat cake" - same result every time. Children are all different and it's very hard to say how much of a child's personality and behaviour are down to the parenting. I could be fucking my DS up royally even though I try my best in all sorts of ways. That is precisely why I find it hard to intervene or say anything, but the issue here is that I'm exposing my DS to harm.

ahundredtimes Wed 08-Jul-09 22:41:43

Yes, but it's working out what is the best kind of intervention isn't it? If you can't intervene in a kind way, then perhaps don't be friends. She'll probably end up feeling rubbish anyway

I don't think you have to transpose your way of parenting on to her. That'd be wrong, and like you say - who knows what's best? Everyone is just trying their best, and some parents are more confident or more voluble or more effective than others.

If he hurts your ds, or you, then I'd say things like I said before. I'd probably have already done that tbh.

but then I wouldn't see her not saying 'NO HITTING, NO' as the end of standards in our society as we know it wink

AirPieandWindyPudding Wed 08-Jul-09 22:46:59

But if you just state that it makes someone sad or hurts them, full stop, so what? What if the perpetrator doesn't give an arse if they make someone else sad? If you cannot ever say No, only "these are the negative consequences for the other person, now make your decision", what if they think OK then great I'll keep doing it?

I am not being snarky, I would like to know as I don't get it. I agree right and wrong are often fairly arbitrary but think actually there are fundamental human values and one is philanthropy. It doesn't always happen of course, but societies strive to eliminate harmful behaviour because it is wrong. If you can't have the concept of "wrong" how do you get a handle on anything?

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