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thread: WWYD - other people's kids with challenging behaviour

  1. #1
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber. Love a friend xxx

    Sep 2008
    Melbourne
    1,424

    WWYD - other people's kids with challenging behaviour

    Now just to clarify up front... there is NO JUDGEMENT here. The mother I am talking about is doing a stellar job under very challenging circumstances and I don't know how I'd cope in her situation. She does her best to manage her DD's behaviour but I strongly suspect that her DD has developmental (language delay and impulse-control) issues that are driving her behaviour. She's a lovely kid under the chaos and defiance and I know she doesn't 'want' to hurt my kids. I'm just trying to weigh up my own children's welfare versus the needs of a friend...

    My friend, not a close one, but a friend nontheless, has a daughter the same age as my DD (3 years) and a 6 week old DS. She has absolutely been through the ringer over the past 4 years. She's a single mum, the dad is no help whatsoever, her mother has advanced cancer and she has minimal social support. Both kids have/had severe reflux and, well, her daughter is a handful to say the very least.

    I really want to support her and I know she needs company. BUT... every time we have spent time with them her DD's behaviour has meant that the whole experience is extremely stressful for my kids and myself. Her DD will shove my DS (11 months) and scream in his face until he cries, snatch his food and any toy he touches. She will scream at, push and snatch from my DD... last time she upturned my DD's lunchbox all over the floor, took away everything she tried to play with, ripped up the craft she had made and was generally in her face and confrontational over everything. My DD is, for the most part, a very 'good' girl. She is pretty shy around others, tends to be cooperative and loves nothing more than playing tea parties, dress-ups or dancing with her little girlfriends. She gets so overwhelmed by my friend's daughter's behaviour that she ends up crying if she is even looked at and over the course of our visit, it builds to her getting over-sensetive and hysterical and me having to work pretty hard to keep her happy and calm. After we visit... she's revolting. She talks back to me like she's seen her little peer do to her Mum, she's moody and defiant and melodramatic... I think part of this is a reaction to the stress, and part of it is that she's interested to see what will happen if she tries on these kinds of behaviours.

    Things are marginally better if we go to a play centre or park, but my friend finds that managing a newborn and her DD is too much in these environments. Her DD is prone to running away, taking huge risks, getting into trouble with other kids and refusing to leave, kicking and screaming all the way to the car.

    I'm so torn. Frankly, I don't enjoy spending time with them at all and neither do my kids. I really care about my friend and want to be there for her, but don't want to stress/harm my kids in the process. I don't know if I have the courage to say to her "sorry, we can't catch up because your daughter's behaviour is too stressful for my children", and I know that this would really hurt her / further isolate her. I just don't know what to do.



    Thoughts??

  2. #2
    Registered User

    Jul 2007
    Rural NSW
    491

    Is there anyway that you can catch up with her without the kids.

    I have a friend who is similar, in that both she and her kids stress my DS out. To the point that he gets very tense just hearing her voice. Just a different family dynamic they are screamers we are not.

    So now when we catch up I do it without taking DS.


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  3. #3
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber. Love a friend xxx

    Sep 2008
    Melbourne
    1,424

    Does she know that you leave DS out of the equation on purpose? I could catch up with her on a weekend occasionally (though this is tricky as I work Sat and therefore Sundays are precious!) but I know she'd question why I was leaving the kids. She still hopes that our DDs will be friends and is keen for her DD to have social opportunities.

  4. #4
    Registered User

    Jul 2008
    summer street
    2,708

    Tbh I would be pushing for one on one time too without the kds. it's so hard when kids don't gel well and even harder when it's one sided!

    I also think it will improve when her baby is older, so you can go to more parks etc.

    I think we all have friends like that and I agree it's hard work to keep the friendship going.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber. Love a friend xxx

    Sep 2008
    Melbourne
    1,424

    Thanks. It seems that it's pretty black and white - just see her without kids. Guess I was hoping there was a shade of grey in there I'd missed. Anyone with a little person who can be the 'challenging' one? How would you want a friend to approach it?

    Really not sure how to go about broaching it with her. I'm tempted to just put it as 'I want to get to talk to you which is easier without my kids'.

  6. #6
    Registered User

    Jan 2007
    7,197

    You could also do it by explaining in gentle terms why you have left the kids, as a way to approach her about the behaviour that is affecting your kids - something along the lines of "I know both our DD's get a bit overexcited and hypo when the see each other" and see if that is a lead in for her to talk about it. Sounds like she is already doing a fabulous job and even if you bring it up she wouldn't know what else to do about her DD, and she probably sees it as well?? Not much help sorry Tough one hun, my DD gets super excited with her best friend around who she only sees every 6 mths or so but they just get loud and silly at worst so Im not really much help. xoxo

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Add Starfish on Facebook

    Apr 2007
    Sydney
    1,759

    Do you have other friends with kids so that you could all catch up in a group? That way there will be more kids to play with so your friend's DD won't be in your DD's face all the time, plus your DD won't feel so put on the spot. Maybe someone who has a boy the same age as your two DDs? While it's hard to tell never having met this child, it could be that she does have developmental issues, or it could be that she is just a rough tomboy and maybe it would be more appropriate for her to play with a less gentle child?

  8. #8
    Registered User

    Apr 2008
    Adelaide
    1,741

    I was going to suggest a group so your children aren't the only ones for her to focus on. Could you suggest a playgroup? In my area there are a couple of community playgroups facillitated by OT's and speech therapists that are open to everyone. This way you could still see your friend, there would be someone facillitating play which may help your ffriend while she is coping with the new bub and they may also have some stratagies for dealing with any unwanted behaviours? It may also open the possibility for more socialising for your friend, even if you don't go all the time

    Sounds like you are doing your best to be a great friend xx

  9. #9
    Registered User

    Jun 2007
    Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.
    5,673

    my friend's DD went through a stage like this and tbh, i just didn't want to see her. she especially picked on my younger ds which got me really upset.
    i am happy to say that she is completely over it now (she is 4 now) and is nice to them both.

  10. #10
    Moderator

    Dec 2006
    Smidgen-ville
    3,736

    My son was the 'difficult one'. It's awful. But i know it was awful for the other mums too. After all they want to protect their children first and foremost. He is/was different to the little girl you describe, but still a handful in his own way. I would always acknowledge it though, and never pretend to others that it wasn't happening.
    I can't tell you what to do because each situation is so very individual. But i do think that if it was me, in my shoes, i'd know why you suddenly wanted to meet sans kidlets. And i'd feel embarrassed. But, it would still be nice too. I think we all know children go through stages and phases, and it's nice to know that we can still have mum friends who don't judge us too harshly or want to cut ties altogether.

    Hopefully you can keep being a friend to her, but you'll know when it's the right time to reintroduce the kids to the mix - or not at all. FWIW my son was a super star today and played for nearly 2 hours without me intervening once! It was amazing, and we both went home stress free and happy.

  11. #11
    Registered User

    Jan 2006
    8,369

    My DS has been described as "hard work" and "challenging". And yes, he can exhibit these bad behaviours. But I don't ignore it. DS is stomped on. I encourage him to be himself and enjoy life, but be mindful of others and a young gentleman. If he threw food, tore up others' work and made a baby cry, I would be having serious words and DS would sort out the consequences. What is the mother doing about her daughter's behaviour? Sounds like very little or your DD wouldn't be trying it on for your reaction. (And why are you ignoring this too? I have no qualms in telling other children off if they're upsetting my DS, just as I'd tell of DS for upsetting another child.)

    But then that's part of the reason I didn't have a baby to deal with when he was younger!

  12. #12

    Jul 2009
    Australia
    5,102

    Is she aware that her DD is like this? What does she do when her DD is being awful to your DD, does she say anything? If not i think its probably best to some how gently tell her. Its an issue she will face when her DD hits school, if its not stomped on now then she will have even more challenging behaviour to deal with later on.

    I find it hard to keep my thoughts to myself. I have a friend with a DS who is almost 5 who can be very rough and quite mean to my DD and i find myself snapping at him and saying no a lot to him. My friend as far as i am aware doesn't have an issue with it.

  13. #13
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber. Love a friend xxx

    Sep 2008
    Melbourne
    1,424

    Starfish and Sararose - I do like this idea. She doesn't know any of my friends but I could just organise a general get together. It would probably mean that I would get barely any time to talk to her if I was 'hosting' though as I would be looking after everyone else and the kids. Might diffuse things a bit at a park though and give her DD some more 'boistrous' kids to play with. Formal playgroup's not so much an option as our schedule's pretty packed already.

    Lenny - thanks for sharing your story. I was really keen to hear the other side. I know that it'll probably hurt but I'm hopeful that, like you, she'll understand and know that I'm trying to maintain the friendship. I hope so much that she can say the same about her DD too... that the behaviour was 'past tense' and she's much happier and more relaxed in the future. Good on your DS for a great play today!

    TFB & LMS - yes, she is well aware of the behaviour and does her best to discipline her DD. I don't agree with all her methods but respect that she's doing what she thinks is best and she does intervene and provide consequences every time. Her DD spent about a third of our visit in her room and her Mum did try re-directing her frequently. I too was trying to position myself between her DD and my kids / her DS and followed through with the consequences / feedback her Mum is electing to use a few times myself when her Mum was making lunch etc. I appreciate that I left the details of the management of the behaviour out - I didn't feel that it was relevant to my question - but TBH, I feel a bit put out to be asked why I was ignoring the behaviour. I don't ignore when my children are in harms way. It was sheer chaos and not all the behaviours could be anticipated and prevented. My friend's DS wailed in my arms for a good part of the visit too as he has reflux and is also probably feeling the stress from Mum and his sister and her DD was quick and all over the place - smiling at my DS one minute and screaming in his face the next.

    I'm not sure this behaviour can or should be be 'stomped on'. I personally think a thorough assessment and Psych and Speechie intervention is actually in order - I have gently suggested this some time ago but it seems she's not ready to go there or wants to handle it her way.

  14. #14
    BellyBelly Member

    May 2008
    1,110

    I'm wondering if you can also try the preemptive strike - before anything goes wrong asking her DD not to touch your little one. And praising the heck out of her when she does keep her distance. I think lots of kids respond to requests from people that aren't their parents much more than they take notice of a parent.

  15. #15
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber. Love a friend xxx

    Sep 2008
    Melbourne
    1,424

    Kmn - she does cooperate with me better to some extent... I can get her into my car seat without her kicking me. But she will also purposefully do something I've told her not to do and look me in the eye, wanting my reaction.

    Again, thanks for the tips but behaviour management isn't really the question here. Her Mum is doing her best but what she's doing + me trying to block/intervene as much as I feel is appropriate is not enough to curb the behaviour. It's more about managing our relationship with things as they are.

  16. #16
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber. Love a friend xxx

    Sep 2008
    Melbourne
    1,424

    Siiiiigghh.... I take my sweet time sometimes, but the penny has finally dropped.

    Noticed I was being fairly contrary with suggestions and generally feeling quite rattled by this thread and finally thought to have a look in my head... and I've realised that this should never have been a 'WWYD' thread. The answers are pretty simple. Put up with it, or don't and find another way to maintain the friendship. I just WISH there was something else. But there's not really, and so ultimately this is better suited as a vent. It just SUCKS. For my friend, for our friendship, for my kids who have endured some stress while I grappled with this...

    I think I have a fair bit of survivor guilt. Our girls were born on the same day and we met in special care. Superficial similarities, i know, but it kind of felt like we were on the same path. But my friend's life has been pretty tough ever since and she's always been the one with the reflux/crying/non-sleeping/tantruming child with health problems, speech delay, still in nappies and the absent Daddy. My DD slept more, met milestones earlier, spoke earlier and has no speech problems now, eats well, was TT by 2 and is pretty easy-going and cooperative. And my DH is around and supportive. And none of this is because I'm the 'better' parent or more deserving person or because my DD is somehow the 'better' kid... I was dealt a very kind hand nd whilst I have worked very hard to parent DD well, I clearly didn't make her walk, talk, eat or TT before she was ready. And I'm lucky she has such a placid temperament (though oooh I think my DS has other things in store for me!). My friend often makes these comparisons. Not in a super negative way, just in a kind of 'sheesh, I really can't seem to catch a break hey?!' kind of way and wistfully commenting on my DD just cooperating, being polite or taking herself off to the toilet.

    It just seems unfair and it makes me cringe to be the one who got the relatively easy road, and who now feels the need to pull away from her hardship ITMS?

    Thanks so much for all replies. Even if I wasn't all that agreeable to suggestions, working through the situation did really help. xox

  17. #17
    BellyBelly Member

    May 2008
    1,110

    This is probably incredibly tactless, but here goes:
    You asked WWYD.
    I want my child to know that if someone is mean to him he should walk away. That means that I do my level best to never put him in a situation where he can't walk away. And it seems to me that having to visit an aggressive child in a house is that sort of situation.
    To an extent your DD will meet aggressive kids over the next few years in kindy and school - but that is a bigger group, and she can choose not to play with them; it's not sustained stress.

    So I think you need to ensure that your DD can 'escape' - either by there being other kids, or spaces where she can be on her own, or by not taking her in the first place, or by there being enough adults that someone is always watching your friend's DD like a hawk so she can't cause grief to other kids.

    Sorry - we were writing these together - feel free to ignore.

    I also wonder if it would help your friend to meet older kids who have been really difficult toddlers - so that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

  18. #18
    Registered User

    Apr 2008
    Adelaide
    1,741

    Sometimes life isn't fair, sounds like she got lucky having a friend like you. As a Mum you need to do the best for your children first, as others have sugested maybe for now the best you can offer your friend is a kind ear on the phone and the occasional catch up without your children. Sorry you are having to make such a hard decision

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