Friends Have an Aggressive Preschooler

How should we handle it when a friend's child kicks or whacks one of our kids? Our best friends have a habitually mean and aggressive preschooler about the same age as our children. We try to keep visits short and supervised, but one of our children always ends up getting hit. Is there a way to put a stop to this without offending our friends?

The first question that comes to mind is this: why is your friends’ son so impulsively mean and aggressive? Without knowing more about the situation, we can only speculate, but we’re guessing that his behavior is due either to ineffective parenting, some kind of family dysfunction, or some more severe psychological problems.

Since the parents are your best friends, perhaps it wouldn’t be inappropriate for you to suggest that they have their son evaluated by a mental health professional. This could be a child psychiatrist, a child psychologist, or a licensed family counselor. If it turns out that his aggressive behavior is simply a result of ineffective or inconsistent parenting, your friends should be able to get some good parenting instruction from the professional who conducts the evaluation. Naturally, we also have a wealth of excellent parenting materials available here at Focus on the Family. For more information, you or your friends can visit our
Online Store or the
Parenting page of our website. For referrals to licensed therapists practicing in your area, feel free to call our Counseling department.

In the meantime, you need to protect your own children from harm. It’s your friends’ responsibility to step in and administer consequences when their son becomes violent or aggressive. Since it sounds like this isn’t happening, here’s what we would suggest.

Sit down with your friends and explain that while their friendship is important to you, the safety of your kids needs to be your number one 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 to them or acts aggressively in any way, your kids will immediately need to go home.

Then, the next time it happens (as it certainly will), you should clearly announce that hitting is not allowed and that your family is leaving. Don’t stay to discuss the matter. Leave immediately, even if their son protests or cries. Do this every time he displays aggressive or mean-spirited behavior of any kind. Since he obviously values playing with your children, it will probably only take a few incidents like this to put a serious dent in his negative behavior. If you and your friends are consistent the behavior should eventually disappear.


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