I have two wonderful neighbors whom I love. They have a son who is now 3.5. I have a daughter who is 2.5. They have played together since birth and are like brother and sister.
As soon as the boy was big enough to walk and run, it became apparent that his energy level was very high. I believe he is completely normal, but very high spirited, and requires a great deal of attention from his parents. He easily becomes very frustrated, also normal, and he hits a great deal to get his will through - normal for his age, but NOT acceptable social behavior.
My daughter gets hit every time they play, it never fails. We are with them 100% of the time, and yet it happens. He gets disciplined in the following ways: he gets a time out, they leave or he gets a serious talk from his parents and then must apologize to my daughter. We try to catch him before it happens, but he is so fast.
This has now been going on since the boy was 2 years old. I have given them 1.5 years to work with him on it. Nothing they do seem to work. I can't stand to see my daughter getting hit one more time, and I will stop the play dates if that is what it takes.
However, first, I would like to bring this up with the parents. This is what I need your input on. How do I talk to them? It is a very touchy subject. The mother has already made it clear to me that I have nothing I should have said, since she 'has a son and they are much harder to raise than a daughter.' She also has said that it is 'very annoying to get advice from mothers of daughters, on how to raise a son.'
In 7 months we are going on a 4-week vacation together. I would love for the kids to be able to just play without violence by then. And for us adults to be good, communicating friends.
There are very few resources out there for people in my situation, and plenty for people in their situation. I am very concerned about what this will teach or do to my daughter.
From: Susanne, Brooklyn, NY
My first reaction is to tell you to distance yourself from these folks: cancel the vacation and stop the play dates.
You ask, what is this is teaching your daughter, and what it might do to her? My answer is, nothing good. It's one thing for a child to have a playmate lash out once in a while, quite something else when it happens every time. She's certainly got to be learning that hitting is an OK way to resolve conflict. It's one thing for her to to see adults once in a while being ineffectual in setting limits on a child, something else entirely when adults are never effective, and especially when her safety is involved. At the very least, she's learning that she can't count on adults to protect her. (As he gets bigger, mustn't his hitting hurt more?) That can have lots of unhealthy ramifications.
Obviously this friendship matters a great deal to you. I would argue that it's time to put your child ahead of the adult friendship and ahead of any hurt feelings. The parents need some professional help to deal with their child, perhaps something as simple as learning to do a good job with consequences and limit-setting, perhaps something more. And -- for your daughter's sake -- you need to opt out.
You ask how to talk to them, but it sounds like she has effectively shut you down. If you want to try one more time, get them a book for Christmas, specifically, "Raising Cain," or any other title by Michael Thompson about raising sons. Tell them you hope they can figure out a way so that their son stops hitting. Until then, playdates are over, and the vacation is on hold.
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