Is this appropriate for a mother to say "Don't play with that kid"

My son AA tells me about his "mean friend" (BB) who threatens him with "I won't be your friend anymore if you don't...(usually it is only over a toy).  But this friend reduces him to tears by telling him that AA's best friend doesn't like him anymore, and prefers to be with BB (which is also a lie in addition to being mean).  They tease a mutual friend together and makes this friend cry (this is not what my son would ever do, w/o BB around).  After my son accidentally hit him with a  frisbee last week, he hit AA more than 9 times in the face.  My son told teachers and friends that he fell down instead!

I don't think this is a healthy friendship and do not think BB is a kind friend.  I've been telling my son not to play with BB at recess, and wonder if this is inappropriate for a grown-up to do.  I worry that I am being a helicopter mom, that I'm intervening too much.  And it is difficult for other kids and parents to hear that ""AA's mom told him not to play with BB"

But the alternative is to let my son continue to follow him around like a puppy when the friend is so unkind.  We will start karate lessons and playgroups to learn how to navigate friendships.  But what do I do now?

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You'll probably get a range of replies, but I would say it is TOTALLY appropriate to tell your kid to avoid a kid who is obviously a manipulative bully, outrageous! My kids are a bit older so I don't even have to tell them, by now they KNOW to avoid what my friend would call 'ugly' acting people. Do you hang out with people who are manipulative or verbally abusive? Of course not! So why wouldn't you advise your kid - who needs you help learning how to navigate the world (we are not born knowing how), to avoid people who are not kind? Go for it mama!

Instead of telling your son not to play with a particular child, give your son tools to decide to do this himself. It's an important life lesson that I still struggle with as an adult. Ask him (and teach him to ask himself):

-Does being with this friend make you feel good?

-Is it OK for friends to hurt your feelings or body?

-What are some things you can do instead of play with this friend?

If your son can learn to come to his own decisions about friendships, he will be much better off than just doing what h thinks you want him to do.

I think it's fine to talk to him about what's problematic about the relationship. The danger in saying you don't want him playing with the kid is what I saw with my son's friend. He was instructed not to play with a child at school. No surprise, he would lie. Now, the reasons were sillier than yours but don't set your kid up to want to keep info from you. Good luck!

Oooh your post felt familiar.  Because I have done just that.  I have told my friend that she needs to stop playing with BB.  The only variables that are different than your story are that I know the family of BB and felt there had been a long history of reporting to them various individual incidents that happened over time.  And my telling my daughter not to play with her came after many many incidents and me seeing no change in BB's behavior over time.  It didn't seem to be some passing phase that would end soon.  Also, I told BB's parents what I was doing.  Yep, it was awkward.  But I got a lot of insight out of the conversation.  BB's parents didn't think the behavior was that bad.  That gave me a nice clear indication that the behavior was not being checked at home and was unlikely to change.  Once I talked with those parents and made the decision to tell my kid she needed to stop playing with BB, I felt so much better.  No more tears and sad stories.  Also, in addition to this I got some therapy for my daughter so she could better learn how to deal with mean kids.  It is helping.  Also since that kid is in her social circle at school she doesn't avoid her completely.  They still play here and there usually when other friends are around.  But my daughter no longer seeks her out.  And I'm relieved.  I hope this helps.

You don't state your child's age, which is pretty key to age-appropriate advice. But he sounds pretty young and impressionable and not yet able to navigate this on his own. BB sounds like an alpha who your child desperately wants the approval of, so there's self-confidence and loneliness issues that broader socialization may address.

Probably re-directing your child's energy will be more useful than absolutely forbidding interactions. I'd suggest you talk to his teachers about the dynamic and see if they can steer your son (and the mutual friend) towards other kids and group games during recess.

You can also arrange playdates with just your son and the mutual friend without the troublemaker and see how those go. Don't be surprised if your son continues to act out aggressively because of his identification with BB; without BB around you'll have a chance to intervene. If your son and the mutual friend become more bonded, BB may find himself on the outs--which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Have you talked to your child's teacher about this situation? I have found that teachers are very observant of social interactions and they have an outside perspective, which can be very helpful with this sort of dilemma. If the mean friend is making kids cry, that is bullying, and that needs to be reported.