Prev Next
Playdating With the Enemy

Playdating With the Enemy

By Amalah

Amalah is currently on maternity leave. In her absence, however, she’s just as tethered to the computer as ever, and will be using this space to ask you — our intrepid Advice Smackdown Commenter Crew — questions. What’s been baffling her, as a parent, you may wonder? Why, she’s so glad you asked!

Advice Smackdown ArchivesDear Internet-Wan Kenobi,

What do you do when you (quiet voice) just don’t particularly like your friends’ kids? Or maybe just one particular friend with just one particular kid?

So I do have a friend, an old friend, and said friend has a kid slightly older than my oldest. The age difference is enough that I’ve never expected our kids to be best buddies or anything, but we’ve always been able to get together with the kids, without any problems. (And if you are reading this, please allow me to guarandamntee that it is NOT YOU, we’re talking a completely off-the-Internet-and-blogging-grid of a friendship here. Someone who doesn’t read my blogs, isn’t even on Facebook, and is just generally I-swear-to-God NOT YOU.)

Not so much, anymore. The last few get-togethers have…not really gone well. My friend’s kid has developed a bit of a mean streak, honestly. A mean streak that invariably gets aimed at Noah, no matter if they are together one-on-one or in a group setting, like a birthday party. We’re talking teasing, exclusion and sometimes — OH MY HEART — making fun of him for stuff related to his special needs, like the way he talks or his social quirks.

The kid is old enough — and smart enough — NOT to pull this crap in front of Mom, so my friend doesn’t know. I KNOW, though. And I’ve gotten annoyed enough to scold the kid on Noah’s behalf, because NOT COOL. But then I don’t know if it’s my place to like, tattle on the kid to my friend. Especially since I know some of it is just kind of inevitable and I can’t necessarily protect Noah from this sort of thing all the time but SERIOUSLY. I’M STANDING RIGHT HERE. YOU DON’T GET TO TALK TO MY BABY LIKE THAT.

So this — combined with what I imagine is actually going on between them when I’m NOT present and listening in (Noah isn’t the best witness, but I know he’s not a fan of this playmate AT ALL) — has led me to avoid getting together with my friend. I turn down invites or put them off and haven’t made even the slightest half-hearted mention of having them over in AGES now. Unless we’re specifically talking a sans-kid get-together. Which, of course, is pretty rare. But I just can’t bear the thought of knowingly sending Noah off to spend time with someone so openly mean to him, even if he doesn’t fully comprehend that sort of casual cruelty yet.

What would you do? Just put on your big-girl pants and talk honestly with your friend (oh, GOD) about her kid’s behavior? (For the record, I’m not really sure she’s the sort who will take it well or even believe me in the first place. I’m guessing I’d get told I’m overreacting, most likely.) Continue the avoidance and hope the kid outgrows this and becomes a relatively pleasant human being again at some point? Or until I feel like Noah has the verbal/social skills to hold his own? Sack up and have a supervised get-together? Hover and helicopter more? Or less?

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? Been-there-done-that commiserations? Unleash your wisdom in the comments section, please!

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Crabby Apple Seed
Guest

Sooo…I know probably a lot of people will disagree with this one, but hear me out: If it were my kid being mean like that, I would want to know. But I wouldn’t want to hear it. Because it hurts to see your kid being teased, but it also hurts when your kid is nasty. It feels like a huge failure. Which is why I really do think this is a case where email might be best. (I know you said she’s not on facebook or the internets much at all, but surely she checks her email once in awhile?)… Read more »

Jess
Guest
Jess

Crabby Apple hit the nail on the head. She needs to hear it. And since you’re old friends, she is better off hearing it from you than from a school if this kid turns into a bully, or from a mom she doesn’t know as well and is even less likely to believe. If you tell her and she blows it off or otherwise dismisses it without doing anything about it, then at least she will know why you’re avoiding her. You really don’t have anything to lose at this point, since if you don’t tell her you’re just going… Read more »

ras
Guest
ras

If a kid is acting up when his mom’s not around, and you end up having to discipline him, then it is totally your place to say something to his mom. You don’t need to make a big deal of it or bring up every instance he’s been mean, but a simple “While you were out of the room, I needed to put little Lucifer in time out because of XYZ” is appropriate. You’re not tattling or saying he’s a bad kid, you’re simply reporting something that happened. Most parents I know would be mortified to hear that their kid… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Amy, I know you well enough to know you’re partial to “active ignoring” that is intentionally not giving kids’ negative behavior any attention knowing that will lead eventually (and hopefully quickly) to extinguishment of said behavior. I *try* to do this too. HOWEVER, when it comes to anything similar to teasing and bullying we cannot ignore the negative behavior (that goes for any intrusive behaviors towards others or safety related behaviors, of course). I would definitely let the mom know. However, I disagree with Crabby Apple Seed. I would do it over the phone or in person.

ras
Guest
ras

Sorry, I took so long with my first comment that I didn’t see the other ones until I posted, but… I kind of emphatically disagree with using email to tell a parent about an issue with their kid. It is just way too hard to convey tone in an email, so while it may save the awkwardness of a face-to-face conversation, there’s just too much potential for a friendship-exploding misunderstanding. Sadly, I speak from experience here. In that case, I made what I thought was a gentle comment to a mom I considered a close friend about something she had… Read more »

Momma Fergie
Guest
Momma Fergie

I agree with crabby apple 🙂 There’s nothing I loathe more than a bully. The mere fact that the kid KNOWS not to do it in front of his mom means he KNOWS he’s doing something bad. I would want to know if my kid was picking on someone, so I could stop it from escalating to something worse than verbal taunts. I’d tell her what you witnessed (email would probably be best) tell her you don’t want it to impact your friendship, but that perhaps if the kids can’t play nicely that you should just carry on a one-on-one… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

All the comments sound like great advice, but at the same time, if you know the mom well and you know she would react in an unhelpful way, then I think you are doing the right thing just by avoiding her and the mean kid for Noah’s sake. He doesn’t need to be put in that position for the sake of a play date. I would do the same. Some people in life just suck and as an adult, I’m grateful I can choose not to be around them. Noah doesn’t always have that choice, and yeah, it’s good to… Read more »

Melanie
Guest
Melanie

I like the idea of phrasing it as a “so this happened” shortly after it happened. Maybe you should try getting together again, while being more supervised, and take that approach. I feel that if you said something now, after you have been avoiding this friend, she may take it as a “we’ve been avoiding you because of this, and I didn’t feel like I could tell you” conversation, which may be more of a blow than just telling her something that her child did.

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Even if the mother won’t take it well, I think she needs to be told. Bullying is a huge problem that tends to get worse if it’s ignored. If it were my child (and someday it could be) I would want to know so I could do something about it before my child hurt someone else and/or got into serious trouble. Think about some of the bullying cases we’ve seen in the news. All those bullies probably started out with “little” stuff as children and were never really taken to task for it. We adults need to call out this… Read more »

jodifur
Guest

I think you tell her.  I’d want to know.  It may be a sucky thing to hear, but I think you just say it as point blank and without judgment as you can.  Like, this is what I observed.  

Ally
Guest
Ally

So I have the kid that is mean, the kid that tends to hit and sometime other kids don’t want to play with him. Granted he is three, so some of it is his age and parents tend to understand. It is hard, to have that kid though and I’ve had my friends talk to me about it. I’d rather hear it from them then have them deal with my kid. I know him best and I know how to get through to him and make him understand what he is doing is wrong. It’s easier to hear it when… Read more »

Kari Weber
Guest

I agree with the posters above that the mom needs to know… but I also wonder whether bringing up the event NOW so long after it happened is the best course of action.  If you do decide to bring it up, do NOT do it via email.  A phone call is better, in person the best.  Just mention that the reason you waited so long is because you just weren’t sure how to talk about it.  Good luck.  

And I hope we are getting some updates one day on all these questions we are working so hard to answer!!??

GM
Guest

The problem with not telling her is that the behavior is unlikely to stop. It’s not a parents job to just let their kid go free, abusing other children verbally or physically. This mom needs to know. Personally I’d be ticked if I wasn’t told. If she responds badly then that’s on her but you’ll know you tried.  As a society if we see these warning signs its our job to do something about it. Yes, we can say it’s just kids being kids but then we give the message that its acceptable. We need to teach and model the… Read more »

Tracy
Guest
Tracy

You could try the semi-passive-aggressive approach with something like “Noah told me that your son, Scott Farkus, said blah-de-blah-blah – isn’t that strange? I’m sure Scott has better manners than that! Sometimes I wonder where Noah comes up with this stuff!”. It gives her the opportunity to say “wow, that is strange”. Meanwhile, theres a good chance that you aren’t the first parent to complain about Scott’s behavior, or if you are, you certainly won’t be the last, and your report will validate something she’s suspected. The fact that Scott doesn’t pull this crap in front of her suggests to… Read more »

Muddy
Guest
Muddy

The many parents-many kids dynamic can be so hard, can’t it? I suck at this situation but my husband (thank God) is coming from an educational background and also came from a very large, tight knit group of friends with kids who were also functionally family, so he’s really good at it. I’ve learned a lot. A few things: 1.) First, let bygones be bygones. It may have been a phase that the kid is totally through, anyway. Even so, and this may sound tough, but I don’t believe in cutting off a friendship bc of incompatible kids. I do… Read more »

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I have a friend with a kid that just doesn’t get along with my kid. It is not as bad as you are describing–they are just two very different personalities and not at all interested in the same things. I’ve pulled way back on the friendship because I don’t like to hear the fighting and I don’t like to hear the mom tell me what is wrong with my kid (my kid wants to play outside, her kid wants to sit in the house and do legos, so I don’t think there is anything WRONG with either kid). Anyway, I… Read more »

kim
Guest
kim

I guess saying, “Your kid is an asshole” won’t really work. Honestly, I would continue the avoidance because, like you said, she doesn’t sound like the type to take it well and because her kid’s an asshole.

HereWeGoAJen
Guest

If you think that you might be told that you are overreacting, how about spending some kind making videos of the kids together? Just the “oh, Noah was just being so cute and I was taking this video and then…” That could very easily backfire as an attack though, so you’d probably need to be very careful.

Oh Crap
Guest
Oh Crap

Hi Amy, You’ve been great with advice for me in the past, and I wanted to help out! I’m not a mom so I’m not giving mom advice, but friendship advice. I think if yours is a long-standing friendship and you want it to continue, it’s good to talk about any problem that creates the urge to avoid. I totally disagree with the idea to tell her over email (we all saw how that turned out with me and my friend with babysitting benefits debacle. Here’s a hint if you’ve forgotten: DOOM AND GLOOM, and also, gnashing of teeth), but… Read more »

Jen S.
Guest
Jen S.

I’m 39 and have no children. From my outside view, it seems to me that kids are handled, well, with much softer kid gloves these days than when I was young. When I was a kid, my mom was ALWAYS informed if my behavior wasn’t in line with what was expected. Whether I seemed to be disrespecting an adult, or if I seemed ungrateful when receiving a gift, or if I said something insensitive, the parent/teacher/whoever always informed my mom. And my mom informed me. And I did not exhibit that behavior again. I don’t see any reason why it… Read more »

Grammy
Guest
Grammy

I’d take the approach to not make contact for awhile. Wait until the other mom contacts you and says something along the lines of “It’s been ages since Noah and My Kid got together…” That opens it up for you to say, “Well, last time the boys were together Your Kid was doing X, Y and Z about things Noah struggles with, and I just decided they need to take a break from each other. I guess the way Noah does some things are frustrating to Your Kid, and it’s really not fair to Your Kid to have to spend… Read more »

Stefanie
Guest
Stefanie

This one hits home for me. My mother had a group of friends that she’d known since high school, and every single one of their daughters and their friends bullied me from kindergarten to 8th grade, My mother took the “let the kids work it out” approach. I had to go to their birthday parties, where they spent the time ridiculing me. I had to tolerate them at my home when their moms came to see mine, and they weren’t even nice to me there. My mom may have been trying to avoid hurting her friends’ feelings or losing friendships,… Read more »

Missie
Guest
Missie

So, our little neighbor girl that my daughter plays with is a TURD. A lying turd to be precise. I get that she’s only 6 and that she’s had alot of upheaval in her family, but that is no excuse to be a turd. I am not a big fan of reporting to other parents every single thing their kid does in my  house, because most of the time, I handle it that moment and it’s over. But not with this girl.  Scenario: Last week, Little Girl was playing over here with my daughter A. They do not go to… Read more »

diana
Guest
diana

i am good friends with a neighbor where our kids are just a little too far apart in age to play together.  so we always just meet up at the park and the kids play separately.

but,  regardless, you do need to tell her – otherwise you are just dumping an old friend without telling her why.

Deanna
Guest
Deanna

It’s tough to hear it but I agree with some of the other commenters: when I was a kid–and not that long ago, late 80s/early 90s–our parents got TOLD when we screwed up. Most often we were marched up to our parents by the other parents and made to recount our sins. I’m not saying that’s the best way but it sure made you think twice about ever pulling the same stunt again. She needs to hear it, in person or on the phone and NOT by email. It sounds like the boy knows what he’s doing is wrong and… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

Just wanted to say my Mom had a friend with a daughter a year or so older than me, She was mean, cruel, manipulative, and somehow threatened me into not telling on her every time we “played”. I hated her. I can still feel those horrible feelings of being tormented by this girl. I really dont think my Mom had any idea, you do , please dont leave them alone together, not even in the next room. Tell your friend nicely if you notice it at your next play date, but don’t expect a lot from her. I’m sure its… Read more »

bethany actually
Guest

I think Grammy’s idea is a good one. I definitely think phrasing it in a way that makes it no one’s fault is good. Saying, “Your kid doesn’t get that Noah struggles with some things, and Noah doesn’t understand why your kid doesn’t get it, wait till they’re older, let’s get together for some kid-free time,” etc. Also, re: the email/phone/face-to-face debate, I think it REALLY depends on her and how she handles news. Personally, I would almost always rather get emails. I hate talking on the phone, and dealing with sticky stuff in person makes my heart rate go… Read more »

blackhuff
Guest

This is indeed a very difficult situation and had one like this myself. What I did at first is to talk nicely to the kid and tell her that she is not allowed to put on this behavior around my child. When she did it again, I scolded her. She did it a third time and that was it. I went to my friend and told her exactly what her child do to mine and that this is not acceptable and need to change. I love my friend which was there years before my child but my child is my blood and… Read more »

Lise
Guest
Lise

I agree with Deanna – you should tell the mom, and in front of her son. When I was teaching this was definitely the most effective way to address discipline issues – calmly and briefly recount what happened during one specific incident (Timmy said some unkind things to Noah and I wanted you to know) while all three or even four of you are standing there. The kid knows he’s doing something wrong, and if he’s doing it in front of you it means he REALLY REALLY gets it – he’s making it that much worse for Noah, showing off… Read more »

kat
Guest
kat

My sister-in-law once told me that my son is lucky that his cousins tease him because it is a good way for my son to learn to stand up for himself and deal with difficult people…what the heck kind of response is that!? Be prepared for the mother to not be surprised or sympathic to your good-hearted talk. Also, please turn this around and think about how you would feel if a one of your friends that does not know Noah’s special needs decides to sit you down and tell you (even kindly) that they think Noah needs some extra… Read more »

Emily
Guest
Emily

I’m with Crabby Apple. If you need to, you can always grab your phone and video it and be like ‘I was trying to get a video of them playing and this was all that was happening’.

Tracy
Guest
Tracy

If you decide to talk to the other mom, be sure to tell her the specifics. Don’t just say “Junior is mean to Noah.” Tell her exactly what Junior said/did. Otherwise, she may write it off as you being too sensitive.

Chris
Guest
Chris

I really think you need to find a way to tell the other mom. I understand you’re worried about losing the friendship, but if you’re ignoring kids-included invites and kid-free time isn’t likely to happen…aren’t you potentially killing the friendship anyway?

Bea
Guest
Bea

I don’t really have any advice except to say I’m in a situation like this and my daughter is the “mean” one to my best friends daughter. It is so upsetting to me and I don’t know why my daughter is mean to this little girl. I’ve tried everything to put a stop to it and I’m mortified. I’m so afraid that one day my best friend is going to give up on playdates with my daughter and it breaks my heart. All this to say that being the mom of the kid who’s being hurt is really hard but… Read more »

suzie
Guest

I told a friend/mom once.  She did not take it well, made excuses for her child, lashed out at my child and at me, allowed her child to lash out at me, and her child then made life miserable for my daughter for the rest of the school year, knowing her mom would be proud of her for maintaining the upper hand.

But not everyone is her.  But I would start with a specific incident, like someone suggested above – see how it goes before bringing up more.

Wendy
Guest
Wendy

My thinking is that if you want to keep hanging out with mom friend, make sure Noah and her son play in the same room as you, within earshot. If her son slips up, ask him to repeat what he said in front of his mom. If he waits until she’s out of the room to be nasty, the moment she comes back in, then ask him to repeat what he said in front of his mom.  The fact that he doesn’t do it in front of his mom means that it’s likely that she’s told him off about it… Read more »

S
Guest
S

Agree 1000% with Crabby Apple Seed. If my kid was being a jerk, I’d want to know about it. (And by e-mail, because at heart I’m a conflict avoider.) I would not say that “Noah told me” because if your friend wants to be in denial, that lets her dismiss it as Noah’s imagination; I would tell her what you directly observed. No doubt you are talking to Noah about it, letting him know you’ve got his back. If your friend doesn’t take it well, then so be it. You can’t help it, and Noah’s feelings are more important than… Read more »

yea, that's me!
Guest
yea, that's me!

Crabby apple hit it square on the head BUT be prepared that things will probably change. This happened to me last year and we went the “stopping playdates” routine and said friend and I have drifted apart. It is such a shame b/c I adore her, and her other child but MEAN GIRL has been at it for way too long and I am finally not going to subject my kid to it anymore. She knows there is a problem…went to the pychologist….but chooses to do nothing about it. I was sad at first but now I don’t care. Hang… Read more »

Angela
Guest

Please please please put a stop to it. And in front of Noah would be best. Yes, you’ll have to tell the mom too, but if you have the chance to catch him in the act please go all mama-bear on the bully. I’m not saying you beat him or something, but call him on it, call him on it fast and loud and directly. It is NOT ok to be mean to people. Period. You can say exactly that. And the reason to do this in public, right in front of Noah is that Noah needs to KNOW that… Read more »

Therese
Guest

A lot of great ideas in these comments. I haven’t gone through all of them, but has anyone suggested teaching Noah how to respond directly to this kind of thing? (I’m not a mother, nor am I familiar with the specifics of Noah’s limitations when interacting with his peers, so please take my advice with a grain of salt.) One of the hardest things to learn when you’re a kid is how to deal with bullies. This is true for almost all kids, and most succumb to peer pressure, which is a rather subtle thing most of the time, and… Read more »

Samantha
Guest
Samantha

Hi, I’m going through the same thing with my son and my best friends child, her son is the mean one. Its hard because she basically has no one apart from me she is the nicest person ever but I really can not stand how her child is, I admit my child is not perfect but he doesn’t have a mean bone in him and when he gets upset he stutters and with him starting primary school it’s a lot for him to deal with. But it’s not just a phase with hers he has always been a bully and… Read more »

Tried and true
Guest
Tried and true

This is going to be very unpopular and I know how everyone is going to take it, BUT bullies understand one thing and one thing only. Telling their mommy only makes them meaner and smarter at getting away with it. You want to hang out with your friend and not worry about her sh*++y kid mistreating your boy? You have two options. Don’t let your child play out of your eyesight or when you have the opportunity, you corner that kid, put his bony butt into the wall and tell him if he treats you kid bad one more time,… Read more »

Natalie Rumsey
Guest
Natalie Rumsey

HAHHAHAHAHAHHAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mary
Guest
Mary

I think I would just say that ‘the boys haven’t clicked’ and see your friend without the kids. I have a great kid who can be abrasive and his own worst enemy. I would like to know if he is mean but, for some unfathomable reason, I would not love the person for telling me.

Carebear
Guest
Carebear

The next time this mom invites for a play date answer like this: “I’m sorry, but Noah has been telling me that Billy (or whatever his name is) has been being mean to him. I don’t know what to do or believe. Can you talk to Billy and see if he’s upset with Noah? Thanks!”