Our next problem comes from a mom with three daughters. Her issue relates to one of her daughter’s neighborhood friendships that is encroaching on her daughter’s relationships at school negatively. Discussions with the neighbor parents have not been positive as they have a different parenting style. She says her block is full of close and supportive people, and she doesn’t want to create a “stir”. Read on for her question and my real life advice.
Who knew when we became parents that we would have to be so up in our kid’s business about their friends. It is certainly something I never thought about, but I now realize just how important it is. First it was teaching them how to make friends, then being concerned they form appropriate friendships, dealing with friend fall-outs, worrying about frenemies… It is a constant thing.
Recently I realized that Cady had one friend that seemed to be a little jealous of her relationships with other girls. When Cady would have another friend over, Jane* would get a little catty and stand-offish. If it was a group sleepover I could see and feel the tension between the girls. Cady has always had a “why can’t everyone be friends” unicorns, rainbows, and sparkles philosophy about life. She didn’t get what was going on at all. It sounds like your daughter’s relationship with Sally* is similar.
One of the things I’ve learned about life is that we can’t make other people do, think, or be the way we want them to do, think, or be. Having already attempted broaching this subject with your neighbors, it isn’t likely that you will get them to come around to your way of thinking or that they will change their parenting style. If the relationship between your daughter and Sally hasn’t reached the point of being toxic, then I would exit that strategy of dealing with this problem in the spirit of maintaining neighborhood harmony.
I’ve found that subtle orchestration works better than blunt openness in these situations with Cady. I suggested that she start inviting other girls over for sleepovers and tried to limit the amount of time she spent with this one friend. I don’t think she should end the relationship by any means. I want her to be friends with Jane, but I also want her to have the opportunity to form relationships with other girls without feeling bad about it.
If I were you, I would have an age appropriate discussion with your daughter about why it is important and acceptable to have several friends. I would also invite some of her friends from school over for sleepovers and play dates. I know that is more work for you, but it allows your daughter the opportunity to not fall into the “I’m so bored I guess I’ll just go play with Sally” routine that might encourage more bonding from Sally’s perspective. You can also come up with some ideas for activities that will stave off the “I’m bored’s” for your daughter that will keep her busy.
Another option (because I know you have three daughters and I’m assuming there are other children in the neighborhood), is to come up with group games that appeal to different ages that all of the kids can play together like Simon Says, Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, etc. Organize a scavenger hunt and team a little kid with a big kid. Talk to the older girls about being “mentors” to the little ones and see if you can encourage more mixed age related play.
If the issue progresses to a more toxic level where there is physical or emotional bullying or your daughter becomes more upset about the situation, you will have to broach the subject with your neighbors again. Hopefully that won’t happen, but if it does it will help to have written down specific examples of the behaviors you want to discuss and try hard to keep emotion out of it. Ask them for suggestions of dealing with the situation as well. Because another thing I’ve learned about life is that we learn more from the people that are different than us than we do from people that are the same.
Hope this helps,
Advise This is a real life advice column that I started at the encouragement of a few friends. Read more to find out what it is all about. If you have a problem or situation where you’d like a little guidance or an independent opinion about something going on in your life, leave me a comment or send me an email. All questions will be kept anonymous unless you specify otherwise. Don’t want me to know that it’s YOU asking the question. Set up a generic email address with Yahoo or Gmail and ask away.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist or professional advice giver. All thoughts and opinions are my own and should only be considered anecdotal. Any physical or mental harm that comes from taking my advice is on you.