When Your Kid and Your Friend's Kid Fight

May 30, 2006

I was bummed to read “Prudie’s” (aka “Dear Prudence”) response in a Slate column today to a parent who complained that his close friends’ four-year-old son regularly bullies his also preschool-age daughter. I read it because I am eerily in a similar situation where my 2.5-year-old son Ari is beating up on Amy’s son Jude.

It’s been especially heartbreaking because Amy and I and our husbands are all very good friends. Our husbands went to college together more than 10 years ago — so we share much history. When Amy and I became pregnant at around the same time three years ago, we had the expectation that our children would grow up together and forge their own friendship with one another. They have spent almost every day of their lives together.

As for the case mentioned in Slate, Prudie recommended to this individual “Fuming” that he separate his daughter and the boy “when necessary and guiding your girl toward playing with other children.”

You’ve already brought up the problem with the boy’s parents, and nothing’s happened (in their defense, it’s no easier to get a 4-year-old to change his relationship dynamic than it is a 40-year-old)…

Then plan an evening out–adults only–with your friends, and talk about something besides the emotional dramas of 4-year-olds.

Ouch. A four-year-old is as versatile as a 40-year-old? Ask people not to talk about their children to their close friends?

Maybe I am feeling defensive because it is my son who is the bully. But this advice seems rather harsh. And I am at a loss for what to do next: One minute the boys are exemplifying brotherly love, the next they are fighting and in tears — with Ari as the culprit. He just freaks out at Jude for no reason and hits him or yells at him. Amy understandably is upset and anxious for September to roll around when the boys will part ways for preschool.

We also concocted yet another plan in which I ask Markos to give Ari a “heart to heart.” Ari has hit this phase in which he wants to be just like his Papi who hasn’t been around much in recent months. Now that Markos is home for good, the two guys are inseparable. I am hoping this will alter Ari’s attitude towards Jude and not cost either of our friendships.