Q: My best friend’s 6-year-old daughter is an only child and a spoiled brat. She screams at her parents when she doesn’t get her way, always wants to be first at everything and is extremely bossy with other children. For whatever strange reason, my children want to play with her. How can I discourage the friendship? Should I talk to my friend?
A: You should talk to your friend about her daughter when you no longer want her friendship. You should know that today’s moms don’t take criticism of their children with aplomb. Best friends are hard to come by.
When our daughter, Amy, was in elementary school, she had a friend who was absolutely obnoxious toward her parents. She sassed them, belligerently defied them, and even called them names like “idiot” and, if you can believe it, worse. The parents did nothing but act helpless. Willie and I noticed it was difficult for Amy to play with this child without becoming “infected” with her misbehaviors and bring them home with her.
We decided not to interfere with the relationship, feeling Amy needed to learn to think for herself, and the earlier the better. We told her she could play with her friend all she wanted, but the minute we saw her mimicking the child’s disobedience and disrespect, we were going to send her to her room for the remainder of the day and put her to bed immediately after supper. It only took two or three such confinements before Amy was able to play with said brat without becoming her “twin.”
As a general rule, I recommend parents not interfere with their children’s friendships unless those friendships constitute some real and present danger (which does not pertain to the relationship in question). Oh, by the way, your children will probably always have friends you don’t particularly like. You need to get used to it, especially when the playmate belongs to a bestie.
Q: At least twice a week, my second-grade son brings work home that he should have finished in class but didn’t because of dawdling. The teacher doesn’t, and won’t, penalize for this. I feel we should penalize him at home. Do you agree?
A: Yes, I agree. Obviously, lack of ability is not the problem. You have an opportunity here to “nip in the bud” a problem that will, if left unchecked, only get worse over time. Make a rule that if he brings unfinished work home one day of the school week, he’ll be restricted one weekend day — i.e., confined to the house with no television, activities or visitors. If he brings unfinished work home two or more days through the week, he’ll be restricted through the entire weekend. That should constitute an offer he can’t refuse (but because he’s a child, he will refuse it, at least until he becomes convinced you mean business).