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Friend's Child is Terrorizing Mine

Friend's Child is Terrorizing Mine


Dear Rachel,

A good friend of mine invited us over for dinner and she has a little girl who is in school with my daughter. When I told my daughter we were going there, she started to cry and said she didn’t want to go because this girl is the meanest girl in the school. And the truth is, in the situations that I have seen her, she really does seem pretty obnoxious. Her mother is the nicest woman and I am sure would be horrified to know that kids are saying this, but I am not sure if I should tell her or not. At the same time, she is really bothering my child. What should I do?

Palm Beach, FL

Dear Torn,

There is no question that hearing that another child is hurting your own is very painful and upsetting. And naturally, as a parent, we want to stand up for our child and right the apparent wrong. Probably if you did not know the mother of this child, things would be much easier for you, and you would either call that mother directly or perhaps explain to a teacher what is happening to speak to the parent about this. Yet, the fact that you are a close friend of the mother seemingly makes things harder, but in many ways, you may find it actually makes things easier.

For starters, before you even approach the other mother, it is a good idea to sit down with your daughter and try to better understand the situation. Often children are quick to see how others are mistreating them, and do not always realize or take responsibility for the way they treat others. I am not trying to imply that your daughter is at fault, but even if in this situation she has done nothing wrong to the other girl, it is a wonderful opportunity to teach her a lesson in how mistreatment causes so much hurt and pain, and hopefully she will be all the less likely in the future to hurt other children.

Also, when you speak to your daughter, as much as you want to comfort her and let her know that you support her, feel her pain and believe her, try to think and to get her to think of why this other child is behaving in such a way. It is no surprise that often the biggest bullies are the children who are most insecure and are trying to establish themselves through negative behavior. Being that there is no guarantee that in speaking to the other mother you will be able to influence this other child or how she acts, the more you can help your daughter see the situation in a different light, the better it will be for her to deal with.

Another important thing is to find out from your child all the things this other girl is good at. Is she a good student? Is she nice to anyone? What does she do that is positive? This will not only be beneficial to your daughter in trying to seek out the good in another, but will give you a better way of approaching the mother.

And yes, you need to approach the mother. Otherwise, it is unfair to you, to your daughter, to her and to her daughter. No one wants to feel that their child is problematic, but worse than having to hear that news, is to not hear it and somehow discover that others are thinking it. Specifically because you are her friend, you have a responsibility to her to let her know what other children are saying about her child.

Yet, as stated before, children are not always objective (who is when we are hurt?) and therefore, rather than stating anything as fact, state how your daughter is feeling and not what you think her daughter may have done. If you can approach the mother and tell her that there is a situation and you would like her help solving it, then she will feel a part of the solution and not just the problem. Explain to her that your daughter is feeling very hurt and feels that her daughter is mistreating her and being mean to her. Never accuse her daughter of that behavior, rather legitimize that this is how your daughter feels, whether or not her daughter has actually done anything.

Furthermore, make sure to mention the positive things your daughter has said about her. Tell her that all the kids think that her daughter is the smartest in the class or the best athlete or most popular or whatever they think about her. You want her to know that you also hear and know good things about her child, and not just the negative.

Hopefully, the mother will realize that you are not only being a good mother in confronting this, but a good friend and will appreciate your honesty and desire to work things out. And maybe, part of the solution, can be for you and your friend, along with your two daughters, to spend an afternoon together, without other kids around, and make a real effort to teach your children how they need to treat one another. I have no doubt that with the sensitivity you clearly have, that you will be successful in working this out!


“Dear Rachel” is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Discussion (16)
February 22, 2017
I Agree with Dr. Cohen
Dr. Cohen, I agree with your assessment. This little girl has learned somewhere that treating others with disrespect is acceptable. Since learning begins in the home, that is the first place I would look. It may be possible that the mother is unaware of her child's behavior, but if telling her damages the friendship, then so be it. You must show your own children that you will 1) be their advocates and 2) hold them accountable if the roles were reversed.
February 14, 2017
Bullying behaviour needs to be addressed
I was rather disappointed reading your article in answer to torn. The onus is being put on the victim yet again. I am not sorry to say, but I would be wanting the child who is bullying spoken to and given some sort of consequences for her behaviour. Why are you soft pedalling around this issue.
What rubbish that the bully is "insecure"! They are not too insecure to cause pain and suffering to another person and believe me if it is not addressed, it will only get worse. The bully needs a lesson.
I would rather stop seeing my friend and her child, than allow my child to keep being damaged. My child is very important to me. the message you are sending the child is franking dreadful. You are saying to the victim, "your feelings do not count. Poor widdle bully girl is insecure, we must understand her." No we do not. That child needs some firm boundaries in place to help her understand that hurting others is unacceptable.
Withdraw your friendship and when your friend asks why, tell her
Ilana Leeds
Melbourne Australia
November 19, 2016
my son was assaulted at school
My son is a sweet and gentle soul, he is 7. Last week, he no longer wanted to go to school and I couldn't figure out why. He finally opened up and told me that 2 boys in his class were trying to push his head in the toilet and flush it. The teacher became aware of the situation and resolved it by scolding the boys, and informing their parents. They also were not allowed to play at recess for some time.

The school did not inform me of the incident, which concerns me. Secondly, I am not sure what to do. I had a meeting with my son's teacher, and she was clearly upset by the situation, but I am tempted to have the kids expelled from school. Sadly, the world is full of people doing bad things. I want my son to stand up for himself, I am really having difficulties and would appreciate some opinions and advice.

Montreal, CA
March 21, 2015
Dear Rachel,

What a load of rubbish! I am experiencing the same problem. My child is being called stupid, a weakling and dumb by a little girl whose mother i consider one of my bests friends. A couple of years ago i encountered problems with her sister and approached my friend about it. It totally backfired. The child was backed by her mother and i got the telling off! It damaged our relationship hugely and it has taken years to get it back. Now i am in a worse position with her sister and i feel have nowhere to go. My daughter refuses to address the problem with this child and suffers the consequences at home in tears.
This mother is a great friend, and i love her dearly and she has always been there for me but she is a soft mother. My daughter is very empathetic of this brat but will not step forward because she does not want to offend any parties. The way i see it is 1 - address the child and lose my friend or let my child go on suffering.
January 22, 2014
My friend daughter is mean
I met my friend when our girls were babies. They are both 10 now. They play lovely together when they see each other every week but occasionally when my other friend turns up with her older daughter they tell my daughter to go find something else to do and just ignore her.I've tried to tell both my friend but they say it's girls for you and I'm being silly!!! I know girls can bicker but I just think this is plain spiteful. Any advice?
December 3, 2012
Rachel, you are wrong!
"It is no surprise that often the biggest bullies are the children who are most insecure and are trying to establish themselves through negative behavior." That is a myth which has been irresponsibly promoted by pop-psychologists for decades. In general, bullies are NOT insecure. Quite the contrary, they tend to have an inflated sense of self-esteem, coupled with a profound lack of empathy. They view themselves as the heroes in their own stories, and as such, everything they do is justified. And before you go running to the bully's parents, you need to ask yourself where the bully's inflated sense of self-importance might be coming from. Odds are from bully's parents. Modern fads which encourage parents to teach their kids that they are "special" have produced a generation of narcissists. Also consider that children tend to learn how to bully from their parents. The parent may be sweet as punch to their child and friends, but how do they treat their employees or service people?
David COhen, Ph.D.
February 7, 2012
I already spoke to my friends about this issue.
My son is 8 years old we know this family since he was only 3 years old, my best friend's little girl is 11 now and about a year ago she started to be a MEAN little girl to my son and i cought her many times, but latly she satrted to be like this to me also I told her mom and this little girl lied to her and told her that i was the one, so her mom called me and told me this and I couldn't beleive it, i have another friend that noticed this behaviour from the little girl but i don't want to bring her in this mess, I am trying to just stay away from the whole family who we love, when it comes to this behaviour I have to stop it. I am doing the right thing? I hate to have to tell my friend again that she keeps her behavior with my son.
clermont, fl
October 19, 2011
My friend took it badly...
My 6yr old son has been close friends with my friends daughter since preschool. I've been concerned about the r-ship for a while & last week things came to a head with a no. of nasty incidents. My son was very upset, was dreading playtime and didn't want to go to school. I spoke to his teacher and then agonised about whether to mention it to her mother. In the end I did but unfortunately she's taken it v badly and v personally & seems unable to accept that her child might have mean. Despite a conciliatory email apologising if I'd been heavy handed and saying I hoped we could work together to support our kids she hasnt' spoken to me since. On the + side my son is much happier & if I've achieved that at the cost of a friendship then it's been worth it. It's been v stressful & upsetting but I do believe I did the right thing. I am baffled by my friend's reaction and if she is unable to come to a mature standpoint I think it will be her & her child that suffer.
June 29, 2011
3 year old boys bully too
My best friend's son is 6 months older than mine and I have only just realized that my child is not oversensitive. Rather her child is a bully. I have told her that her son upsets mine and she has said mine needs to toughen up. Her son spits on mine, splashes him with pool water, sat on another boy, jumps from great heights onto little kids on the moon bounce playgrounds, physically removes a toy he does not want to share, tackles other kids, gets in my 1 year old's face and makes obnoxious faces and loud noise to his face (as he did to his brother when they were both younger), and even threw a water balloon in my face at his birthday party (no punishment, just a mild verbal chastisement). I found in google books a Working Mother 1995 article where if the one child is matter of fact (or lawyerly) and your child is hysterical, then bullying is occurring. If a normal childhood conflict both kids would be upset. This is my friend's son and mine all the time. I am ashamed I did not see.
Salisbury, MD
January 7, 2011
Mean Girl
Is it possible the girl's mother doesn't know her child is mean, and if she did, would she believe it? If she does know her child is mean, why hasn't she done anything about it?

You've got to tell your friend about about her daughter's behavior and hope she listens. NO ONE deserves to be picked on, and you have to teach your daughter to stand up for herself. She has to realize she didn't do anything wrong, and the mean girl at school has serious problems.

You also need to tell the teacher and school principal about this and ask if they have a zero-tolerance policy.
Providence, RI