Hi Carolyn: My daughter, 7, has a “best” friend who can frequently be mean to her, tell her she won’t play with her, ask for money to be nice to her, pretend to kick her in the face, etc. But at other times, this friend is very nice to my daughter.
My husband and I have both tried talking to our daughter about how this friend treats her, and that good friends shouldn’t make her cry or feel afraid (on a regular basis). My daughter just shuts down and says we are trying to break up her friendship.
I don’t want to see her treated this way. How can I better approach this with her?
At a Loss
Well, you are trying to break up her friendship, so she’s got you there.
Since that’s the limit your daughter is setting – and since this is all about her learning to set limits with people she loves – respect it and shift toward teaching your daughter to handle this friend on her own.
Specifically, ask her questions instead of talking to/at her. Next time this friend is over at your house – and do try to host as much as possible, so you see much more – ask her afterward: “How did things go today with Bestie?” And then listen with a great deal of restraint to what your daughter tells you. After she describes something (good or bad), ask how she feels about that. If it’s bad, and if she says she felt bad, ask how she handled it in the moment. Ask whether she’d handle it differently next time. You can collaborate on and role play some ideas.
I.e., this is Fishing 101 and you’re the teacher. Good luck.
Re: Hurtful friend: My son had a friend like this who was quite aggressive. We made sure they played as much as possible at our house, because the friend’s parents were very lax. Sometimes we enforced a “break” from the friendship when the boy physically hurt our son, but we always let our son feel he was in control of the friendship. We talked with him a lot about how good friends treat each other and how this boy made him feel, and eventually he decided on his own that he didn’t want to be friends with him anymore.
It was hard to see his feelings get hurt over and over and we often agonized about just banning the friend outright. But in the end, I think we made the right choice in giving him the autonomy to decide who he did and didn’t want to spend time with.
Re: Mean BFF: If my kid said another kid was extorting money from him, I’d be on the phone with other kid’s parents the same day. And the school they attend as well. There is the typical impulsive meanness that all kids (and grown-ups) have, and then there is premeditated nastiness. Fishing 101 is all very well and good, I agree, but for the usual dust-ups between kids.
My call-the-other-parents threshold is when something happens that I’d want to know about if my kids were doing it. That’s a flawed standard, since all parents have different thresholds, but it’s something. Thanks.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.