2nd grade daughter's aggressive friend

There is a classmate / neighborhood kid about the same age as my daughter (2nd grader). When they are together, this boy is "mean" to her. At least, I perceive it as mean, aggressive, and not appropriate. He shows up at our front door to play with her sometimes. I like the idea of having neighborhood kids play, and we don't have many kids within an easy walking distance. I turned around to tend to other stuff while they were playing outside. I heard commotion and saw my daughter running away from him who was trying to shoot her with a toy bow and arrow. We ran into him at a pool and he started shooting water at her. The boy was with a sitter who was not nearby at the time to supervise the child. At both times, I heard my daughter clearly and firmly tell him to stop. I think he thinks it's funny. When I heard the commotion, I ran over and told him sternly that it was not appropriate. I asked my daughter if this boy does similar things at school, and she said "sometimes he gets a little crazy". I am not a boy. I do not have boys. I do not have brothers. I have mild tempered kids who like to paint, sew, sing, cook, garden, decorate her fairy garden, and dance. So, I am a bit stumped on how to react to kids whose first reaction is "throw stuff around, shoot/throw stuff at other kids, decorations and flowers immediately become target practices." I hung pretty bows and ornaments on a tree on our front lawn, and I did not anticipate that it would become such an attractive target for this boy to jump and grab, thereby breaking some branches. I have not spoken to the parents but I'm not sure whether it's even worth bringing it up to the parents or if I do, how I should bring it up. This boy has 2 other brothers and when I have seen the siblings together, I can definitely see that they play rough and the 3 boys fight pretty intensely. I would love to hear from the perspective of parents of boys. I am kind of nervous about this boy coming over to play, because of his big energy.

Am I overreacting? Any advice?

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Just say no to playdates, unless your daughter wants to play, in which case supervise them.  Ask her.

My boy gets similarly picked on by other girls and boys. I think if you stopped focusing on his gender you might get better advice or be able to come up with a solution for yourself. Because please. This is not a boy thing. It’s how parents raise their kids and what other influences the kid could be exposed to thing. In these situations I’ve talked to the parents, teachers, and worked with my kid to build resiliency, in addition to finding ways to keep them apart. 

I have a 5 year old boy. Sometimes he (like most other kids I've encountered, including my 11-year old daughter) needs to be reminded that when someone asks him to stop "playing" with them in a way that isn't fun for them too he needs to respect their feelings and stop.  Same for being respectful of other people's property.  It's probably going to take a lot of practice/reminders before he nails it, but hopefully he will eventually internalize these ideas.  

The parents can't do anything about it if they don't know what's going on, so my advice would be to at least try to have a conversation with them.  I am always grateful when people let me know about my children misbehaving so that I can address it with the kids.  Most people just say I wanted let you know that ... 

We've also encountered kids that are out of control, some to the point that I don't want to have them over.  I agree with the other poster that if you daughter doesn't want to play with this kid you can just tell him no ( I would tell him why too -- e.g. she would like to play with you, but last time you did x, y, z which made her uncomfortable/unhappy, I know you can do better if you try hard and when you are ready to change that behavior maybe she would like to play, but she's not going to play with you if you don't listen to what she is telling you and respect her feelings, so let's take a break until you straighten that out).  If she does want to play then I would offer a playdate in a nearby park instead of inside and give him ground rules before the playdate. That way they can run around and burn off some energy and you won't have to worry about them messing up your place.  

Hi. I'm the parent of a 2nd grade boy who could be described as energetic. Definitely some of the descriptors you used for your neighbor sound familiar. He's not quite as destructive as you describe, but he will turn any pointy toy (fairy wand, etc.) into a weapon. I didn't teach him to do this, and I try to discourage it if the other children in the room aren't playing this kind of game. And yet. Every stick is a weapon, and every game is a super hero battle. I work on it, I promise I do.

I think it's important to keep in mind that there are a lot of kinds of kids in the world. Some of them are really active and take a long time to learn impulse control. It's okay for your child to come to the conclusion that she doesn't actually like playing with this boy, or for you to decide that you'd prefer not to have his energy in your house. It seems like for this boy and his brothers, the physical way they play seems to work for them, and maybe their parents feel like it's in accordance with their values. It's possible to place boundaries for your house and family without placing judgments about other kids' behavior.

If it involves destroying your property, or if your daughter is afraid to go outside, then checking in with the parents seems like a good idea. I think it's most helpful to approach the other parents as peers who you want to work with to solve the problem. They might not think his behavior is a big deal, but they might listen to reasonable requests. I think asking him not to touch your decorations and also stopping a game if your daughter says no or if it is not fun for her are two reasonable requests. You can't really control how he acts at school or whether he roughhouses with his brothers, but I'd say you have a say how he treats your yard and family.

This isn't a boy thing - it's a kid thing.  It might be helpful to check those ideas that boys throw stuff around, shoot/throw stuff at other kids, decorations and flowers immediately become target practices and that girls like to paint, sew, sing, cook, garden, decorate fairy gardens, and dance.  

Ask your daughter how she's feeling about her interactions with this child and if she'd like to continue them. And also feel free to just say no if you don't want this child to interact with yours.

My boy has always been gentle and fairly quiet, so it isn't completely a gender thing.  Regardless of gender, your daughter is saying "no" in order to protect herself, and that should be enough.  Tell him kindly but firmly that he'll have to go home if he can't respect other people.  Those are the rules of your house.  If there's no immediate change, then follow through and politely show him the door, assuring him his is welcome back when he can make better choices including being gentle with your daughter's toys, others' feelings, and your home (right down to the lawn ornaments).  I would definitely be polite because he may not be getting good directions at home.  It does take a village and you may be the one to start teaching him that there are boundaries and rules for healthy friendships. 

I have two rambunctious boys, one who is seven. Thank you for recognizing that your perspective might be skewed. The behavior you describe is normal - it’s not “mean” or “inappropriate.” The only problem is if the play isn’t consensual. The boy should be learning not to engage in this behavior with someone who doesn’t think it’s fun. The problem is that many children, especially the mild mannered ones, do not clearly communicate their preferences. I know you say that your child clearly communicated that she didn’t want to play, but I’ve witnessed this happen to my son so many times that my first instinct is to be doubtful. So often the children are laughing and playing and then one suddenly changes her mind and complains to an adult without saying anything to my son. My son is genuinely confused, because he thought they were having fun. If it is being clearly communicated to this boy that your daughter is not enjoying this kind of play and he persists, then that indicates that he has some impulse control issues that probably need to be addressed.

I have a mild-mannered boy (and girl) and don't invite over friends that I know will trash the house. If there is a gathering of such gregariousness, we know to head to a park where they can be who they want to be and the tribe of kids will police themselves. Parents of 'wild boys' know they have them and some will perhaps notice that their kid will or won't get invited to things that other kids are doing. I've seen some parents of 'wild boys' connect w/ other parents of similar kids, finding ways to get them together, and appreciate their boys can be themselves in some 'safe' environment free of criticism or judgement.

My advice to you: AVOID parenting another family's child (unless they have asked you to) and focus on raising girls that know how to advocate for themselves in various environments. I wonder if an analogy would be a visiting parent to observe your daughter and sarcastically say "well, you're quite the delicate introvert, aren't you? But it's OK, not everyone needs to athletic." If a parent of a wild-child of any gender were to ask me for advice based on what i've observed about the various kids in our community (now that mine are in Middle School) I would say that if 'like-ability' is important for your child to have as they get older, they should find ways to direct their child's energy into athletics (or organized outdoor pursuits) where a great coach can be an amazing force to help them channel active-ness into goals and success. 

It sounds like the kids' play style are not a great fit so maybe they should not be playing together, or at least not without supervision.  Some boys are great at playing with girls and some boys have a very "active" type of play and very energetic which does not work for a shy or quiet kid -- those boys are not mean and are not doing anything bad on purpose they just get into the game in a way that often seems too much for others.  I have an elementary aged son that is similar to that boy (minus the shooting pretend arrows, though he does sword fights instead).  He likes to play loud and rough games and my daughter is basically not allowed to play those games with him since she always gets hurt and ends up in tears and the rule in our house is if you willingly agreed to play a game that was rough and which had a high chance of you getting hurt, you are not allowed to complain if you ended up getting hurt.  I taught my son that the games themselves are not bad but that he needs to think twice about who he can play those games with and be selective about the group of boys he invites over for playdates if he intends to play that game and to only invite kids that like these type of games or know in advance he won't be allowed to play them.  I think it is up to your daughter to tell the neighbor boy that she does not like those type of games and then it is up to him to either play with someone else or play different games with her. 

Instead of asking “Is this normal boy behavior?” you might want to ask “Does my daughter enjoy playing with this child?” Even if the answer to the former is yes, if the answer to the latter is no, then don’t play together.

HI, parent of 2 boys here and I'm constantly shocked by how they play and how different they are from me at that age.  That said, I think it's really great for kid of different play styles to figure out how to be together, especially neighbors, and my guess is that this kids' mom is happy to get a break!  This type of play is common among the boys I see, however what all kids need to learn is how to both respect boundaries and state their own boundaries, and that's where this little guy could use help.  Your daughter needs an adult to help her when she states a boundary and he crosses it.  Step in and re-direct their play and be that boundary for her until he gets it.  If he doesn't adapt, he goes home.  My kid will often start to act more aggressively/over the top when he feels like he isn't able to connect with a playmate.  What has been helpful for my boys in connecting wiht other kids is to help them find things they like to do together.  Say they both like legos, or biking, or pretending to be tigers, or dancing to music, or putting on plays--help them structure their play to something both enjoy. my guess is that will help this kid redirect his energy into constructive play and once they've established a 'way' they both like to play they can move on from there.  If you know the parents, involve them in this conversation, my guess is that they also may be struggling with his respect of limits.  If you don't know them/they have different parenting philosophies, it's not your job to teach this kid to respect boundaries, but everyone benefits, so I recommend if you have the capacity to be that stand in parent for him. 

It just might not be a good fit with the neighborhood boy. I don't think you should bring it up with his parents, unless they're asking for play dates and you decline, because there's nothing wrong with him either.

I am a girl, grew up with only sisters, we were the docile kind, and from what I gather quiet and easy to raise.

I have a son, imagine the cartoon Tazmanian devil twirling around, that's kind of like my son. I'm still getting used to it, but I have had many folks (other Moms with boys, preschool teachers, nannies, pediatrician) confirm for me that this is within the range of normal. "Big energy" is a good way to describe it, some boys are full of life and raw energy and do everything kind of big and uncontrolled. But because I know this, I monitor him more carefully around girly girls. He once put an older girl in a choke hold by accident due to vigorous hugging from behind. He's also chased after girls and hit them because he wanted to play with them but didn't know how, and hitting them got him their attention, so he kept up the antics. One last funny boy story - just yesterday, he and my partner were sharing a very sweet moment by our Christmas tree, and out of nowhere my son whacked a ball ornament off the tree. Just because it's there, and it was too tempting. I can't imagine doing that myself, ever, but to him that was just the thing to do...

One thing that works for me with my son is that when his friends don't look like they're enjoying the rough play, I tell him if he keeps it up we're leaving. In other words, saying "stop" to the neighborhood boy requires him to do something he might not be able to right away because he's too wrapped up in play. But saying "stop it or else I'm going to leave" is something your daughter can control, and if he wants to keep playing with her, he might stop. After a while, he will get it.

Ps. And no, not all boys run around throwing things. Some play very quietly and can be very subdued. I’m not making a value statement as to which type of play is better. It’s just that they are different. So that’s why it’s more important to ask whether your daughter enjoys this boy’s company than whether this rough play is “normal”. If she doesn’t like playing with this boy, it doesn’t mean she won’t play with any boys. 

Sounds like pretty normal 2nd grade boy stuff to me.

I think this is a great teachable moment.

First off, I have two boys and one girl. I feel your pain; and I often feel divided between raising a girl vs boys. My boys are on the low end of the rough housing factor...but there are times when I am not able to deal with the physicality and noise levels involved. The truth is, boys tend to have more testosterone and get a surge around the second grade. They need to somehow play. It’s likely they aren’t playing hard enough, running around outside, or this boy needs a little more guidance on how to disperse his energy. The opportunity for you might be to have a conversation with your daughter about the behavior she sees and to give her some language on how to deal with him, “I will not play with you when you are rough” (which she did when you heard her tell him to stop - perhaps reinforce that was a good choice and let her know the “no” means just that. These small conversions can be so empowering for children, so I’ve learned). Instead of just writing off this boy, if you have the energy (and choose wisely), allow for another day of play, see how it goes (it will probably be the same) and coach her through areas she needs help on. With the underlying message of: “I show people how I want to be treated.” Personally, I’ve come to love (after a period of initial hate) these times because when they’re not at school, I can’t coach my kids (that sounds really helicopter-y), but the more practice the better...with guidance. 

I suggest that you try having the boy over at least once more. Make some rules, like no weapons, no fighting. What ever you think may be a problem. Set a time limit. And watch them closely. Or set them up with some quiet activity like a game or coloring. Make rules. Limit the time. Good luck. 

It is so nice that you are second guessing your gut response to these behaviors. I am a woman, but had only male siblings and male children. Maybe because of this,  I love the rough housing, physical contact and sheer energy of young boys. Some boys (and girls) are filled with so much enthusiasm it comes out physically. That said, they should not destroy your property or make others (your daughter) feel unsafe. Let them know that you worked hard to put up the decorations, and ask them to leave them be. Remind them that your daughter said no, and does not want to play that roughly. Be sincere, kind and offer an alternative activity. It may be that your daughter and this boy just like different forms of play. I think it’s okay for kids to know and understand that. 

Hello! I don't think you're overreacting, and I'd love to *try* to give advice. I have a six-year-old boy, and he is active and sometimes his preferred play is odd to me. My kid loves to wrestle and chase and call names and such, and he doesn't see calling each other names as mean, but just funny and likes when it happens back-and-forth with another kid. I think it is liking a style of play rather than boy vs. girl -- I've seen boys who are intimidated or dislike that kind of play, and last weekend my kid was at a birthday party where a girl his age and him started wrestling and running riding toys into each other, and pulling at each other and pushing each other over and screaming, and they both were having a super fun time, whereas I was like, are they going to injure each other? So I think it is just a major difference in play style, and just as you and your daughter seem confused by his style and think it is mean, he is probably just as confused about her style and why you don't want him to play, especially if his brothers play that way too and they are his primary playmates. If he and your daughter want to play with each other and have playdates, I have a few ideas:

1. Explain to your daughter that he isn't trying to hurt her or be mean, that's just how he's trying to play with her. (First, make sure this is true by observing -- does it look like bullying or trying to hurt, or just playing? Might be hard to tell the difference if you're not used to it...)

2. Explain to the boy that your daughter doesn't like rough play / fighting play and feels attacked by it. Be aware that this might make him feel bad, like his kind of play is "wrong" and he might be sensitive about it. Try asking him what else he likes to play. (For example, my son also likes art and building things with blocks and playing hiding/finding games like scavenger hunts and easter egg hunts). Attempt to find common ground. 

3. If the boy comes into your yard/house for a playdate, expect that you may need to supervise pretty much the whole time. He won't be familiar with the boundaries and rules of your home, which you and your kids probably take for granted as obvious. For example, it might be obvious to you not to try to hang on the curtains/drapes, but that might not be obvious to him if he has blinds/shades at his home and doesn't know the rod would pull out of the wall. This might be an extreme example, but you get the idea. Be ready to let him know in advance that there are some rules at your home that might be different, and you'll try hard to let him know about those rules. 

4. It is entirely reasonable not to be comfortable with an active kid (or any kid) you don't know well coming into your home to play partially unsupervised. You can always keep them outside or invite his parent to bring him over for supervised playdate & coffee/tea with you. 

5. It's one thing to be active and another to be destructive. Don't be afraid to tell the boy to be gentle with the plants, not touch the breakables, etc. 

6. I think it's quite reasonable to talk to the parents. You can ask their advice. Let them know your daughter plays calmly/quietly and you're not used to a more active kid but want to facilitate a healthy play relationship. You'll get a sense of whether the kid is just active, or out of control. 

Good luck! Hope this helps!

There are lots of boys (and some girls) with big energy like that. I wouldn’t say it’s inappropriate. He doesn’t sound like a good match for your quiet child/household though.

If your daughter wants to play with him, I’d suggest going to the playground & supervising. Intervene if there’s actual danger. If your daughter asks you for help because she doesn’t like the physical way he plays, teach her how to stand up for herself, move away from him, or end the play date.  

I wish I had advice, but I think all I have is a reflection on my own experiences. As the mother of a boy and a girl, I do find mine to be wired differently. My son is big-energy-wild at age 4, but also very sweet, thoughtful, caring, flexible and remarkably reasonable.  I did notice early on that when he and I were around parents of only girls (especially in close quarters), they often seemed taken aback by his energy - for example, in the midst of his happy excited dance, he will knock into someone or something; he likes to jump on me when I'm sitting on the floor and climb on me like a jungle gym. He is also sensitive, and will cry or growl when he feels slighted, hurt, or frustrated. Although I'm happy to cater to his big motor needs within our family, I do struggle with how to help him "code switch" in other social situations. Sometimes it has made me feel like a bad parent. I envy my parent friends who say their boys only have girl friends, but my son gravitates toward the big, gross motor play that mostly only other boys seem to like. I have pretty high standards for kindness and he can talk quite eloquently, and reflect on and connect his experiences; he is very affectionate, and he loves cuddles, and he is very social and friendly, so it's not like he doesn't have a ton going for him, and I love him dearly as he is. But since my daughter has turned one, it has become increasingly clear that they are just different. She already has opinions about clothes which he still doesn't particularly express. She will patiently hand me blocks to stack a tower higher whereas he was years older than she is now before he transitioned to building instead of toppling.

All that said, I don't subscribe to the "boys will be boys" philosophy - or I think comes from some kind of true experience, but it doesn't mean that we have to leave it unchecked and untrained. But just know that for that boy's parents, it is almost certainly so much more effort to check it than it is likely to be for you with your daughter - they likely would need to be near-constantly on him in order to influence the direction of the play. And I've noticed that some parents give up to some extent, and pick their battles with frugality because they just don't have it in them - especially if he is the third of three boys.

I think in the end you need to support your daughter and do what feels most comfortable to you and her. Maybe that means cutting off the playdates. Maybe it means supervising closely. Maybe it means getting the other parents involved to set expectations. Maybe it means your daughter practicing shouting no as loudly as she can at him (when I taught girl's self-defense years and years ago, that was one of our first lessons). If you do continue to let them play, I think you should feel totally within your rights to set limits and boundaries (e.g., they can't break the tree branches, they can't play guns in your yard), and be ready to enforce consequences if they are broken (e.g., playdate is over, time out, whatever). I would hope that if you approached the other parents with compassion and explained that you don't have experience with boys, and asked for their support and tips on what to do, they would support you back, and maybe they would pay a little extra attention to this child to try to work with him on it a bit more. However you proceed, good luck!

It sounds to me like he would like to play with your daughter, but doesn't know how to engage with her. If he has older brothers and there is a lot of rough housing, to him inviting someone in play is being physical with them. If your daughter wants to play with him, the next time he comes over, perhaps you could suggest they play something your daughter likes to do. I would help them begin the game before walking away to make sure they are getting along.