Q: Our good friends have an aggressive pre-schooler who is always kicking, hitting and hurting our children whenever we visit. He likes playing with them, but he’s too physical. Is there a way to put a stop to this without offending them?
A: We appreciate your feelings and the challenge you’re facing. Although this situation is touchy, it could actually serve to deepen your friendship if everyone approaches it with thoughtfulness and in a spirit of supportive concern and humility.
There could be a number of reasons for this child’s aggressive behaviour. Since the parents are good friends, it wouldn’t be inappropriate for you to suggest that they have their son evaluated by a mental health professional. If it turns out that this is simply a result of ineffective or inconsistent parenting, your friends will likely get some helpful instruction as part of the process.
In the meantime, you need to protect your children from harm. Sit down with your friends and explain that their friendship is important to you, but that your children’s safety needs to be your priority. Then ask them if they will agree to this plan: the next time your children visit, they should inform their son that if he is mean or acts aggressively in any way, your children will need to go home.
Then, if he gets rough, his parents should remind him that hitting is not allowed and that your family is leaving. Leave immediately, even if their son protests or cries. Since he values playing with your children, it will probably only take a few incidents like this to put a serious dent in his negative behaviour. If you and your friends are consistent and work together, the problem should eventually disappear.
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