Friendships ending and parents scapegoating your child

A friend of mine, K, is going through a problem now in which a child in her son's class who has not been taught boundaries and limits is pushing all the kids away by his bad behavior. K encouraged her son to continue to be this child's friend, because she thought her son could help teach this other kid, but now it's all blown up in her face, and the child's parents are blaming K's son for "making the other kids hate" their son. When this all started a few weeks ago, I was going to put it up as a question here so we could all weigh in with some help, but now it's escalated so far that my only advice to K is to make sure the school knows that the parents are becoming irrational toward her family.

This is bringing up a lot of hurt for me though. When my older son (who is now in fourth grade) was three, a mom I'd been friends with since prenatal yoga class called me to tell me they were not going to be able to be friends with us anymore, and she wanted me to keep my son away from her daughter (who was in the same preschool class with her daughter) because they thought he was a "bad influence" on her. I now believe the girl had some sort of sensory disorder, as she'd sometimes freeze up when other kids came up to talk to her. Her mother was convinced my son had somehow caused her daughter to freeze up like that.

That call, in which the woman I'd spent so much time with helping each other through the first three years of our children's lives broke up with us because my son was "bad," was one of those snapshot moments. I remember every moment of telling my then-husband what happened, of telling the preschool teachers the children weren't supposed to hang out next to each other at pickup waiting for babysitters or parents, every minute of how much I cried at the rejection.

I don't think I handled it particularly well (I just shrink into myself when someone hurts me and wait for them to stop attacking me). I still think about them sometimes and wonder if the girl ever got over her freezing up problem, and if the mom ever made it through secondary infertility to have another child. I hope they did.

It hurts when someone thinks your child is "bad." It especially hurts when you know your child was trying to be a friend. I was extremely lucky that a few days after this rejection happened, another mom in the preschool class, J, stepped forward to ask for a playdate with my son (and by extension me). She is funny and confident and snarky and an absolute delight, and we are still friends to this day, even though our children went to different elementary schools and then I moved to the end of the earth in NYC and now to Michigan. I don't think she knows how important her offer of friendship was at that particular moment.

I am hoping that the situation that K is going through, with her child being scapegoated by this other child's parents, is over soon. I hope the other parents just back off and leave K's family alone. And I hope that K knows, like I *didn't* know, that it's not her fault and that plenty of wonderful people want to spend time with her and her family.

And I am hoping that you are all weathering the friendship changes that come with parenting. Have any of you been through a friendship breakup or the rejection of your child? How did you handle it?

41 thoughts on “Friendships ending and parents scapegoating your child”

  1. I hate that happened to you, and as well, that your friend is dealing with a hard situation.So far, I haven’t been through this – oh, and I know it will break my heart. Because of my son’s language delay (he has been diagnosed with mixed expressive-receptive disorder) he isn’t the best at communicating with friends. Now he’s at the age where his peers are starting to notice. Still, we have a small group of friends, and mostly everyone just accepts him and knows “that’s Thomas”.
    I had a situation where I had to tell another mother that our kids couldn’t play together, and it SUCKED. I felt like such an awful person. We weren’t particularly close- but her child was truly aggressive and would hit and hurt my son. We always met at a playplace inside a fast-food restaurant and it was just BAD – mostly because it was hard to keep a really close eye on them and it was hard to get to them if something happened. I felt like crap about it but you have to stand up for your kid. (This is when they were much smaller, only 2 years.) There was a lot of other stuff going on, and I feel sure that the kid’s father was an abusive husband. I honestly wanted to help this mom but when your child consistently attacks my kid, I’m sorry. I’m my child’s mother first and my job is to protect him.

  2. Please know I am not inferring that b/c the child hit, the father/husband was abusive – that was something that was known from the mom. I know it’s perfectly normal for little kids to hit at time (and my child has done it) but there was a definite pattern of aggressive behavior.

  3. Oh boy have I. My very close friend scapegoated my two boys (and ridiculously our dog) for her sons behavior. That was the last straw. My kids are great, easy-going, never had trouble in school or any social settings. Her son had terrible ADHD, probably had sensory issues and was really, really, really angry. He was tossed out of two preschools, had a very hard time in kdg, was repeatedly sent to the principal in early elementary. A really difficult child to parent. My older son is two years older and my younger son was 5 weeks older than her son. They were best buddies, but they always had to tip toe around this boy and his volatile behavior. I worried that one day he would hurt my boys. So when his mom said they were limiting his contact with my boys because they were bad influences, and that they, as parents, were tired of having to patrol behavior because it was just exhausting (I am sure it was)that was the end for me. I just felt so offended. She wouldn’t return phone calls and denied we had been good friends for ten years. I felt so hurt. It took me a long time not to feel hurt and wonder what I could have done differently. I now (five years later) feel relief we are no longer friends, but it was so difficult at first.

  4. I am currently experiencing this, and two weeks ago I was torn up with hurt about it. In this case it’s not scapegoating my child, rather my husband. We we were so close for years, she and I went through pregnancy together and our children are very close in age. It’s all over except for actually being told they don’t care to be our friends anymore. That would almost be preferable. At the moment it’s avoidance, excuses for not getting together, and longer delays between contact. I think I’m getting over it, as I can finally recognize what’s going – we’re being un-friended. The funny thing is, I don’t really miss them in our lives, but am deeply hurt nonetheless. I guess it’s time for everyone to move on. I can’t quite imagine how that would feel if it was my child being wronged in this way, but I’m sure that mama bear instinct would come out in a big way.

  5. I think I would seek friends for the rejected child among peers with older siblings, or among somewhat older children. It’s rather easy for age-matched firstborn playmates to end up with the parents in a competitive dynamic.

  6. I had a friend scapegoat my son. To be fair, I thought that I should talk to my son school to see if they had seen similar behavior (the friend’s son and my son were not in school together). When I told the teacher the situation, she was shocked because she had simply never seen that sort of behavior from my kid.Obviously, I know that my son isn’t perfect, but I thought it was weird that in all these years, my friend’s son was the ONLY kid in which this behavior had occurred. Now that I am distanced from it, I can see that it was simply two, disparate personalities that were involved. It still hurts, though.

  7. I’ve had this happen with an adult friend, though not in a situation which also involved my child. The stress and heartache are terrible.I remember reading that one strategy to “bully proof” your children was to encourage the development of various groups of friends, e.g. not just kids at school, but also from the neighborhood, swimming lessons, church, etc. That way, if a friendship ends or problems develop, the child isn’t without other sources of friendship and support. Maybe we moms need to do that too. Broaden our villages. What with our infinite time to go out and make new back-up friends…

  8. O yes, the [likely] ADHD and associated behaviors has made all three of us pariahs. Because our kiddo is “bad”, we are “bad parents” who obviously lack discipline and let the little guy run roughshod all over our home and every other place on the planet without consequence (which I hope you know is absolutely not true, but which the majority of his classmates’ parents with an opinion seem to think – and yes, I’ve actually overheard stuff or been on the outskirts of a conversation about how awful the disruptive children at the school were and how they didn’t belong with the children who could “behave”, this isn’t *all* in my head.).Fortunately, there are two very kind girls who have become the boy’s friends this year, though I’m not sure that they have been able to exert a calming influence over him in the classroom. We are finally on the cusp of getting some answers, which will – I hope and pray – help us determine what to do next.

  9. Moxie, why is there an assumption that the child with “bad” behavior who pushed away classmates is bad instead of has issues that aren’t known or being addressed? Perhaps his parents know and maybe he’s receiving help that K and her kid don’t see? It still sucks to be blamed and pushed away but to say that the child is not being taught how to behave seems judgemental and too simple. You have a lot of readers of kid’s who might appear to not get how to behave or to respect boundaries and that doesn’t mean their parents aren’t attempting to teach them.As for K and her child, if her child’s help isn’t wanted to “fix” the original kid, let it go and move on. The way you’ve written it, K presumed that her child could teach a peer about boundaries better than the child’s own parents and it didn’t go well. Better next time to concentrate on teaching our kid’s how to respect their own and other’s boundaries, including when to walk away and give someone else space.

  10. I’m in it too. My son, when biking with a buddy, took off across the “no one can cross without a parent” street, forcing his friend to either follow or be alone (and leave my son alone) in a less-familiar part of town. I’m horrified my son put his friend in danger. His friend feels (totally understandably) that perhaps my son is not a good friend, putting him in a situation like that. And the mom of the other boy is one of my best friends.She has made a real effort to not let it affect our friendship (as have I). I hated being the one to make the call, saying, My son–who has never done this before–chose today to do it and drag your son along and thank God they’re ok. I feel lucky. She’s making a huge effort and I am too, but I know how hard it would be to look at me the same way again; I’m having trouble getting past it too. But if it’s this touchy with someone who is patient and making an effort–I can only imagine what it’s like for others.
    Peace to all–

  11. Along the same lines as @Sarah, I was a little taken aback by your description of the child in the class, Moxie. I am mom to a 6yo who has trouble with his peers. I’ve received the looks from other parents, who obviously think I’m not parenting him at all or at least just doing an awful job. I’m trying HARD… therapies, diet interventions, different reward and/or discipline techniques. But he still says and does things to peers that horrify me. I’m trying!–it just hasn’t sunk in yet (I hope).HOWEVER, I do not think I would ever blame another child/parent for my child’s behavior, unless it was blatantly warranted.

  12. Perfect timing for me. My daughter is in the throes of social difficulties in school, complete with therapy, special behavior evaluations, and all sorts of stress and agita. I *know* my daughter is prickly, outspoken, emotionally immature, and defensive. I *hate* being told about it. It is so hard to know what is really going on at school, whether the teacher is scapegoating her, the other girls are ganging up on her, or whether she is inventing attacks and ill-will out of her impulse to protect herself and deflect the blame.I haven’t had any explicit experiences of other parents blaming me or cutting off contact but I have gotten some subtler signals, and I am feeling so awful and guilty that my child is turning other kids off.
    The whole thing is turning into a profoundly emotional thing for me, taking me back to my own childhood and the awful times I had with peers, and not having friends. My daughter’s social issues are different from mine, and I and a lot of other adults are helping her, which no one did for me. But I sobbed in the pick up line today, re-experiencing my fear, confusion, and hurt that other kids didn’t want to be friends with me.

  13. I don’t think I have any useful help on this, but of course I have an opinion. Ignore if not helpful.My boys have had friends who have behaved badly at one time or another. My kids have behaved badly too. For some reason we have all just been able to realize that kids go through phases, that kids will be kids, and not make that big a deal out of it. I’m not sure what I would do if someone scapegoated my child. I imagine I would want to defend them, but how can you? How can you show that your kid is not the problem when most likely it’s both kids somewhat at fault?
    Two of my sons’ friends have behavioral disorders and one of them used to hit them in summer camp. But in spite of telling me about it and being highly indignant, they still loved playing with him and Nicky actually finally decked him once after being hit all summer and I think that ended the hitting (Nicky having a couple inches and about 20lbs on the kid). But they still love this kid and when we run into him on the street, they yell his name and run after him.
    I guess what I am trying to say is that I think this is a parent issue. If you leave the kids alone, they learn to get over whatever problems there are. Maybe parents need to stop hovering so much over the play and let the kids fight and make up (with some coaching if needed) but understand that kids will fight and all kids will do things that are wrong, but they can learn good behavior from each other as well as bad behavior. And even if you don’t like what the other kid is doing, speak to the other parent and see what can be done to work it out. I don’t understand this “breaking up” or scapegoating. To me it shows a lack of imagination on the part of the parents. And some kind of fear.

  14. Woah. You wrote: “I remember every moment …of telling the preschool teachers the children weren’t supposed to hang out next to each other at pickup waiting for babysitters or parents.” Why did YOU have to be the one to tell the teachers to keep your son away from their daughter? If they want to impose this weird boundary (or to say it more kindly, if they want to limit their daughter’s exposure to your son, that’s a special circumstance they’re asking for), why aren’t they the ones asking the preschool teachers to redirect THEIR child away from your son?

  15. I haven’t had a friendship crumble or change because of my child’s behavior but I have a really dear friendship change after my kid turned one. That’s still a tough one to understand because there wasn’t real dialouge about it and I never have really understood why.But its interesting to read all the comments… Maybe this is just part of the parenting realm. I really liked the comment about how to make sure you have friends in several circles/areas of your life. I think that’s important for mom’s too!

  16. My 3yo is doing great in pre-school overall but his teachers, who adore him, say he’s one of the “quiet” boys, not as rough and tumble as most and more likely to sit with books and blocks than to chase and wrestle.He’s had a few run-ins with one particular boy who hits, pushes, and bites him occasionally. I sit on the Board of Directors of the school so I know that the Director and teachers have seen a pattern of this behavior from this other kid, not all directed at my son. They’ve called in specialist observers and have been working closely with the “bully’s” parents who are at their wits end.
    The other day, my son was having a rough morning. His dad is traveling and I am exhausted (8 mos. pregnant). He lost it in the car at drop-off when his toys fell out of his backpack and I didn’t have the patience to clean them up when he wasn’t allowed to bring the toys inside anyway. He screamed and clung to my legs as we trudged into school. The teachers had never seen my son behave this way and quickly rallied some of the kids around us to help cheer up my son.
    Well, none of the kids responded except for the “bully.” He put a firefighter’s hat on and danced and sang around my son, doing prat-falls and giggling until my son couldn’t help but laugh and smile. Next thing you know, the two are racing around the room laughing together.
    The point of my story is that we need to be careful not to label kids and distance ourselves too quickly even when our mama-bear instinct kicks in. The “bully” kid and his parents in this scenario are getting help and I feel like my son is learning how to handle, and be friends with, a variety of personalities.

  17. I’m writing as a teacher and not a Mum for a minute. I have seen this happen way too many times over the years with parents of children in my classes, but I promise you, every single time, it has worked out better for the parents/child being scapegoated in the long run. It’s terrible at the time, for days, weeks, months or years, but truth will out every time. It’s made them stronger as children, parents and as family units, and true friends stay true.

  18. Anna–Exactly my point. No child is actually bad, just having difficulties. And sometimes the difficulties are coming equally from both kids involved. So we should be working together as parents, as long as you see that everyone involved is trying to improve things. Throwing people and relationships away is not the answer.

  19. I’m in a situation where everyone else is backing away from a friend and her 4 year old daughter because of her daughter’s out-of-control behavior. I care for my friend and I want to model kindness and compassion for my son (3.5 year old). I’ve been aware of the likelihood that at some point my son will no longer wish to be friends with this little girl. She is difficult to be around – aggressive, tyrannical, zero impulse control. I am using it as an opportunity to teach my timid son to make boundaries for himself (“let go of me, please” “no, I don’t want to play that”). It’s getting worse as she gets older and our play dates are less and less fun for my son.I’m not sure what I’ll do. Even when people (including me) have tried to tactfully be clear about the kind of needs her daughter might have, my friend refuses to acknowledge a problem. I see other people giving my friend and her daughter the cold shoulder and I just cannot do that. It’s one of those parenting situations where you make the choice based on what will make you feel less guilty in the end.

  20. I recently found out (because the mother bragged about it in mixed company) that a friend laughs at her 6yo boy when he cries. I find this unacceptable and we will not be spending time with them going forward. I’m not confronting anyone, it’s just time to take different paths. I hope she stops laughing at her boy, and she certainly is not going to laugh at my children. She is a huge disappointment.

  21. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple days now, knowing I wanted to say something, but not yet sure how to say it. I’m both a parent of 2 young boys and an elementary school teacher of 15 years. It troubles me that parents with young children seem to think that the best solution to dealing with a child they find “difficult” – emotionally, behaviorally, physically – is to completely separate their child and “break up” with the parents. What does this teach our children? The result is that they grow into older children who have no skills to manage these situations. Please understand me – I am not saying I think you need to keep quiet if a child is consistently tormenting your child either emotionally or physically. Absolutely not. But simply not allowing them to be around that child does not teach them the valuable skills to set boundaries for *themselves*. And yes, this kind of learning can happen as early as 2. I have students in my class who have zero tolerance for anyone who has difficulty conforming to what is considered “normal”, and it manifests itself in some pretty covert and cruel behavior.It seems that K had the best of intentions in encouraging her child to be friends with this difficult student, and it did not work out the way she had hoped. I think her objective was flawed….she was hoping her child could help the other child learn some new skills. And no wonder it didn’t work out – children do not have the skills to thoughtfully do this. It’s difficult enough for adults to do successfully! Instead I think her child (and K herself) learned that sometimes despite our best efforts people disappoint us, and teaching our children how to handle the aftermath of this is incredibly important. In that sense, I do not consider what happened to K to be a bad outcome, but a good learning opportunity for both of them.
    Instead of eliminating or avoiding at all costs these children, I suggest we teach our children that in this world we have varying circles of friendship – and people move between them all the time. If we think about our adult relationships, people go from “simple acquaintance” to “best friend”, and people move from the “best friend” category down to “acquaintance” as well when our life circumstances change, interests change, jobs change, etc. By eliminating these kids from our child’s life, we eliminate the opportunities to practice learning tolerance and compassion for others who are different, or who are struggling. The unfortunate reality is that we often have to work alongside these people in our adult lives – when should our children start to learn how to cope with this if not from early childhood onward?
    I am not at all suggesting that nothing should be done and we should all just sit by while this child torments/hits/hurts our child. My older son’s best friend has some significant emotional issues. There are times when she behaves in a way that is hurtful and confusing to him. We talk a lot about how she struggles to communicate her feelings and that sometimes when she has big feelings they come out in hurtful and unexpected ways. We talk a lot about taking some time away from her to develop other friendships, but how important it is to not eliminate the possibility of being friends altogether, or at a later date. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but sometime in the future it’s possible they could be best friends again (and for kids, “someday in the future” could be next week or next month). He has to learn how to set appropriate boundaries for himself by saying, “It hurt me when you did (xyz)so that is why I haven’t sat next to you at lunch for a few days.” He understands that he can choose not to be best friends with her anymore, but that he must always be friendly to her and considerate of her feelings – even when she is not always considerate of his. I want him to learn that bad behavior by other people means that he must take the space he needs to protect himself and that he can choose the people who are closest to him, but that he should never be unkind to someone else.
    It’s tricky, I know. We want to protect our children from hurtful situations. By working with the teachers who are with the students all day long, we can teach our kids patience and tolerance. They are in a protected environment at school and it is a prime place to teach kids these lessons under the supervision of a teacher. By telling the teacher that two of their students must be kept separate because one parent does not “like” the other student or thinks that student is a bad influence on their child is problematic for everyone – including the children. It assigns the belief that some children are “bad” and will never be “fixed” rather than what is actually true of all of us – we are all works-in-progress, we all have the capacity to learn and grow and change – especially children.

  22. Julie, that is excellent advice.Also: Do not tease or laugh as your child cries, I cannot think of how horribly that affects him. Bad mom.

  23. We are just entering into the whole social landscape now with DS at 3.5. There’s this thing going on in his daycare class where the kids will say to one another (at different times) “You’re not my friend”, and then not play with them. Of course, 20 minutes later (or the next day) they’re back to playing together. But this is a hard one for my sensitive guy to navigate. I’d see him playing with his favorite friend in his class (who also happens to be the son of my good friend), and I’ll see the friend reject DS (sometimes verbally, sometimes physically), who then starts bawling…he’s so hurt.At 3.5, I find it hard to find the right words to help DS cope and manage the situation. Mostly, I’ll tell him that sometimes the kids say that when they just want to play alone, I.e. they really mean “I want to play by myself now”. Or that if someone doesn’t want to play it’s an opportunity for him to play with someone else in his class. I think we’re slowly making progress, but it breaks my heart to hear him say at the end of the day “X was not my friend today”.
    Also, he’s started saying it to other kids and I have to remind him how much it hurts his feelings when friends say that to him. To a certain degree I think the kids are trying the words on for size…they can start to see that their words can have an effect on someon else. Also, as @ Julie says, I”‘m trying to use the situation as an opportunity to teach DS about setting his own boundaries…that he doesn’t have to withstand behaviour that hurts him physically or emotionally, but that it’s usually a good idea to give people another chance, and also to let them know that what they are doing is hurting you. I’m so thankful that the teachers at DS’ daycare are really good about handling all of this as well.
    It’s much harder for DH to maintain some objectivity about all of this. His papa bear instinct comes out hard & strong, I think likely from old wounds from his past…he just doesn’t want DS to live through some of the experiences that he did as a kid. But ITA with others that the labeling the kid as ‘bad’ or ‘bully’ just isn’t helping anyone. As usual, I think the only way out is through, meaning that the best way I can help DS with all of this is to help him have coping strategies. But sadly, I cannot remove the experience (as much as I’d like to sometimes).
    I was amazed at how blindsided I was about these issues coming up so early. But I suppose this is only the beginning.

  24. @ Julie. Thank you. What you said is pretty much what has been trying to take shape in my mind.When things get particularly out-of-hand between my friend’s daughter and my son, especially when her behavior is truly out-of-sync with her age (we’re talking about a child that has less impulse control at 4 than she did at 2), I do say something in the I’m-concerned-about-your-child manner rather than your-kid-hurt-my-kid. I figure that if my friend chooses to distance herself from me, that is her decision. But I’m not going to walk away simply because her daughter isn’t easy to be around.

  25. There’s an awesome book on exactly this topic:Mom, They’re Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems. By Michael Thompson and Lawrence Cohen.
    It’s about social relationships in school, and especially about how to parent through this crazy rollercoaster. Including what skills are needed to make friends, teasing, bullying, how to step back as a parent, how to be supportive without helicoptering and let your kids figure things out, and how/when to step in. And they also honor the ways our past social experiences in school can shape how we parent, and how to stay mindful about those influences. Could be a help.

  26. These situations can be so individual. It’s helpful to know others have faced similar stuff, but each conflict is so unique, it’s hard to gauge what K needs, why that woman was so unreasonable to you, Moxie, why the daycare didn’t provide better intervention …One thing we did was sign my son up for social skills classes; he’s on the spectrum but it’s hard to spot, so he’s often dismissed as being weird or anxious. I’ve been blamed for years for hovering, or not paying enough attention; for being weird, or for caring too much. The classes help all of us a ton, but mostly they give him confidence and tools to handle situations like these. The counselors are great at providing parents with tools, as well, to handle situations positively.
    I was unfriended recently and it’s still painful; I can live w/o her friendship, but the reason she chose – I am too different from her – is patently ridiculous. I’m left wondering what really went wrong, and I can’t just move on, because our husbands remain best friends and workmates. Our kids miss each other and ask to play. She won’t say hello to me in a group setting, or return emails, or tolerate me for a second – after 7 years of fairly close friendship.
    I think this issue is deeper than helicopter parenting, or schoolyard disputes … We’re more attuned to these issues than parents were 30 or more years ago, and more of the responsibility for our kids’ socializing is on us than ever before. There’s more touchiness in the world all over; we’re faced with a challenge to bring our kids up sensitively and compassionately for so many reasons outside our own goals for them. It’s more important than ever to ensure kids can talk to each other and work out disputes. There are days when I feel like I can help my kids with that, and other days where I feel like we’re all swimming in circles together, not getting anywhere.
    At the end of the day, I tell myself and my kids, All we can do is all we can do, to be kind, to try our best, to attempt to make our small worlds a little better. We’re going to be wrong sometimes and misunderstood other times. It’s so hard. I’m 46 and still trying to “get” it.

  27. Forgot to add: There are many days when my kids teach me SO much about how to communicate, to commiserate, to empathize.One foot in front of the other … some days that’s all I can do.

  28. Ugh when I think about the things I went through as a child, and my husband too which was more physical… I can’t imagine how I will keep from killing people if anyone treats my child that way! I’m just kidding obviously, but yowza that mamabear instinct is fierce. Children can be so incredibly mean to each other. It’s like if you had to choose, which would prefer your child be: the bully or the bullied?

  29. My comment got eaten – in short, What @Julie said! We’re all works in progress, and friendships have ebbs and flows. Also, there are 2 sides to every story. In my experience, most people forget to tell the parts where they were unkind, less than truthful, etc (including me).

  30. I also thank @Julie very much for her answer. Much better than I could have done.I wonder if this all different across the pond. If any mother approached me in preschool about my daughter being a bad influence and not to sit next to I would tell her to tell the teacher not me.
    I’m the mother of a bossy drama queen just turned four. Who runs hot and cold to her friends. And she’s popular. That can’t last. She’s had spats with boys already and friendships that blew up and then got back on. I’m aware but don’t get involved.
    I have full confidence in the teaching staff at the Montessori and I must admit that I am cordial to the other parents in the class but have not tried to befriend any and have resisted play-dates etc. Purely because I can easily see that go wrong.
    We do have them with friends! I’m not isolating DD but school is huge in her life and she needs a life and friends outside it for balance as I see it. Friendships end, whether with a bang or a whimper. It’s hard if you still have to work everyday with the ex-friend or go to school with them.
    I think K had the best intentions about making her son befriend the child in question. And sadly no good deed goes unpunished. And put her son in a difficult position unintentionally.
    K had no harmful intent at all and I do think this all will be a nine days wonder soon anyway. Meanwhile keep the head high and take it one day at a time.

  31. My oldest is barely 5 but we’ve already had friends ebb and flow due to a variety of reasons. I’ve been gradually pulling away from an old friend because there is too much verbal abuse/chaos in their family. Too much stress and dysfunction. I don’t mean to “END” the friendship but just to spend far less time in that environment.But reading these comments I’m struck with the idea that very few friendships are forever. Somebody who is going to kick you to the curb for some irrational response to a behavior issue was NEVER going to be a forever friend. I think there will be friends who will be able to navigate problems with you, and they are the good long-term friends. And there are friends who will drop you like a stone the first time your kids fight, or you say something they see as “wrong.” And frankly if that’s who they are, it was bound to end eventually.
    Maybe this is just a good life lesson about relationships that our kids need to learn. Some friends aren’t forever. Doesn’t mean you don’t still care about them or wish them well. Yes it hurts. But life is like that sometimes.
    Of course we’ll see how “serene” I am about the whole issue when it’s my kids crying in the bathroom about it 🙁

  32. @ the Milliner, my 3.5 year old is experiencing the same thing with “I’m not going to be your best friend anymore!” It breaks my heart and I know it is only the beginning. I do have to admit it was so sad but also a little amusing when he told me the other day( with tears in his eyes because I wouldn’t let him do something) “I’m not going to be your mom anymore!”.

  33. so funny that the first post of yours i’ve read in a while is one that hits so close to home, even after my kids have long since grown up.my daughter, 22, has had the same best friend since she was 3. these girls’ friendship is amazing; i would like to say it has weathered all the storms of growing up, but there just weren’t that many storms. the two of them were soul mates from the moment they met.
    at the very beginning, the mom, b, and i were friends, too. very good friends. she once told me that she didn’t need anyone else in her life but me. (uh oh. i should have seen this as an omen.) but when our girls were 6, she decided that they were too close and enrolled her daughter in an after-school class. when my daughter wanted to go, too, b told me that she was expressly not welcome.
    it was horribly traumatic for me. our friendship was damaged beyond repair. i am so grateful that our girls have continued to be the friends they were always meant to be. but i felt so rejected and bruised at the time. it really affected my ability to befriend other parents for many years.
    thanks, moxie, for letting me remember.

  34. While I understand the perspective that we should teach our children to deal with all kinds of people and not cut other children off just because they’re difficult to be around, I also don’t believe there’s anything wrong with telling our kids it’s ok to stop being friends with someone who’s causing you constant pain. Setting boundaries is all well and good, but sometimes the boundaries a child needs to set aren’t the boundaries they can achieve in a classroom setting – and you really shouldn’t underestimate the damage years of “friends” who treat your child badly can do. (Try, not having any friendships as an adult outside your mom and your husband that you don’t consider expendable).Yes, we’re all works in progress, and children certainly grow and change much more quickly and often than adults. But just like I’d never encourage my child to stay with a physically or emotionally abusive boyfriend or girlfriend because “everyone deserves a chance,” I don’t know that I could ask my child to maintain a friendship with someone who was hurting her in some way, especially if it meant she was getting mixed signals that might make it harder for her to cut toxic people out of her life down the road. Sometimes the boundary IS ending the relationship for good.
    I’m obviously for kindness and compassion to everyone where possible, and small children in particular aren’t necessarily hurtful on purpose. But I agree with the idea of diversifying your children’s social experiences so that they’re not dependent on the same friend or group of friends for all their social interactions.
    I come at this as someone who’s still friends with a person who most of my family and other friends think I should have dropped years ago – and who significantly contributed to a fairly sucky period in my early 20s that I really wish I could do over. But I was an adult who was finally able to put some actual, physical distance between myself and this friend while still maintaining the relationship. Kids don’t always have that option, and they need to know they don’t have to put up with crap from anybody.

  35. @Rbelle, I wasn’t saying we should encourage our children to keep attempting friendship with children who cause them pain and/or heartache. I have asked my son many times, “Is that how you think friends should treat each other?” and talked a lot about what real friendship looks like (hiding his shoes while he’s napping is NOT on that list). My point was that they have to learn how to recognize the need for these boundaries themselves. If my child wants to end a friendship because it’s too painful or too difficult or too much work with not a lot of return, then it needs to be something *he* has decided to do – not something I think is best for him. The getting through it and figuring it out is the most important part of the learning process. When I see adults end friendships without going through this process with their children is when I see a loss of a learning opportunity for kids – and this process *helps* kids to be able to discern when they are in an emotionally abusive or toxic relationship/friendship later on. Simply fixing it for them teaches them nothing. And I guess I’m referring to kids who are in the age 4+ category. For little kids I think there is so much variety in how kids develop it seems premature to end friendships simply because you don’t like the way the other kid is acting. For most kids it will all be different in 2 weeks. And for kids with true emotional issues or sensory issues, the parents are aware and most likely working on it.

  36. I hate to say it, but with how busy our lives are, I’m guessing some of the “unfriending” is happening because it’s just easier than trying to work through a difficult situation. IE if your kid and their kid are having problems, it’s just easier to stop doing playdates or whatnot than really trying to get into the uncomfortable place of working it out, unless it was a friendship that is really worth that trouble.Not saying this is good or bad, just that life is too short and too busy sometimes to do the *right* thing @Julie is suggesting, rather than the quicker thing, which is just to stop socializing with that family.

  37. As the mom of a child with Bipolar Disorder I completely feel for both sides. I can’t tell you how many times we went through this is the 1st-4th grade years. It ripped my heart out each time. All I can say is that it absolutely gets better! My son is now almost 18 and is a happy well adjusted young man that has great friendships. He will start college in the fall and I have zero worry that he will have difficulty making friends. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are in the throws of it all, but I promise it DOES get better!

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