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Backstory: My 8 yr old son is a bright, gentle, etc, kid who attends public school. My wife and I have no TV, we disallow violent games (simulated killing is not allowed), we don't have video games, we teaching proper custodianship of the earth, respecting other people, religions and cultures, and encourage physical activity and exercise. In other words, we're a pretty typical middle class family for our neighborhood.

My son has recently befriended another boy from school who also lives 5 houses down the street. He has a different family culture: his parents allow him to watch R-rated movies, he has at least 20 plastic guns, has a a Wii and an XBOX, knows an array of profanity that my kid doesn't know, eats food I would consider "junk", etc.

So far, this is really just a different set of values and if the list ended there we'd be fine. But when this kid comes over for a play-date (which has happened about 5 times in 2 months) he has said things:

  • "Let's pretend this stick is a gun. I wish it were a real gun so I could kill myself!" (My son responded with "Noo.. don't kill yourself, you're my best friend!")
  • "My dad took me to a shooting range once so I could shoot I real gun. I wish I could take one of those real guns to school and kill all the stupid teachers!"
  • "Death to AMERICA!!" (Yelled while riding his bike home from our house. The neighbors were visibly shocked.)

All this little boy does is talking about guns and killing. He's obsessed. He has been repeatedly in trouble at school and suspended a few times for violent behavior.

Sooo... my wife's reaction is: "he's 8 and he's clearly not serious about what he's saying. If we reject him then he's just further isolated. He needs love and understanding, not further rejection. Our family can help him. It's just a phase."

I sort of see her point, but I am having a visceral instinct that tells me "GET THIS CHILD AWAY FROM MY SON." Worse, my 5 yr old recently said "I'm gonna kill you!" to a friend, and said he learned that from this other child.

My wife and I are now fighting about this.

Question: What should I do?

  • I have talked to the kid and warned that if he cannot stop this kind of talk, he won't be welcome in our house. That didn't work... the talk continues.
  • I have told my son that his friend is no longer welcome here, which of course caused a lot of drama.
  • I have not approached the friend's parents; I have met them a few times and I sense that such a discussion would have a very bad outcome.

Edit: This is a total cop-out, but we're moving away for a year (I'm a college prof going on sabbatical in California for a year). I have to admit, a huge benefit of this move is getting my kid away from this friend for a while. Hopefully things will improve by the time we get back.

Second Edit: Based on comments, I have misled people into believing that my kids don't get video time at all. That is not true. We limit it to one hour per day max (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians), and we limited it to zero before age one (as recommended, again). This was not easy: the temptation to "turn on the magic lights" and go take a nap has been strong at times...

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In your first paragraph, you seemed to believe that your family is "typical." I do not mean to say your neighbors are typical at all (that behavior from an 8yo is outrageous!); your family seems to be on the opposite extreme of typical. I don't think you can expect your child to not experience toy guns or (at least cartoon) violence. That said, I wish you luck on restoring your child's behavior to its former glory. –  Puddingfox Jun 6 '11 at 1:06
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The suicide and homicide comments are the most concerning and I think even "bad" parents would be concerned about such comments. Personally I would talk to the kids parents about those comments in particular leave out all of the minor stuff about swearing/TV/guns etc.. Just because they let their kid do a lot of things you or I would never allow doesn't mean they don't care about their son. –  stoj Jun 6 '11 at 3:38
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"knows an array of profanity that my kid doesn't know" You only think he doesn't know (he is probably smart enough not to use it around you). The kids talk is a bit concerning (to say the least) try talking to the school about the kid maybe they can get him into a counseling program while in school. –  scrappedcola Jun 6 '11 at 4:43
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I would argue against breaking them apart; if you do, it is almost certain that they will meet behind your back outside your supervision without telling you. Enforce your house rule to both child, but don't ever suggest to him that he is unwelcome at your house, that will be an incentive for him not to go to your house, but it is not a disincentive for both kids to hang out outside your house. –  Lie Ryan Jun 6 '11 at 6:42
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@Fixee, did you decide to move away specifically to get away from the neighbor boy, or did you have that sabbatical upcoming anyway? Will you come back to the same house/neighborhood afterwards? In any case, I think it will be a healthy break in many ways. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 6 '11 at 7:43

13 Answers 13

up vote 149 down vote accepted

I think there are two problems here:

  • Your child is friends with a kid who has learned some maladaptive behaviors/ideas and is passing them on to your child.

  • You and your wife are apparently unaware of the social and cultural realities outside your own family.

This isn't to say that you can fix the situation, but you'd have a better chance of doing so if you understand the situation. I say this as someone who spent nearly a decade working with "at risk" kids.

First of all, your family is not "pretty typical" outside your neighborhood. 38% of US households have at least one firearm. 98.9% of US households have television sets. More than 2/3 of kids have video game systems at home, and 92% of children and adolescents ages 2-17 play video games (pdf). 61.5% of children aged 9--13 years do not participate in any organized physical activity during their nonschool hours and that 22.6% do not engage in any free-time physical activity. I don't have stats on profanity usage, but asking around to a couple of teachers I know from middle-class neighborhoods, their 1st-3rd graders frequently require discipline for using profanity that is considered "okay" at home. I could go on and on.

I'm not saying that your family's values are wrong, just that they are not typical. Most people walk around with the illusion that their values are the norm, simply because we tend to surround ourselves with people who share our values. You need to be aware of this because you seem not to recognize how foreign and hard to navigate your family's social scripts and values are to this kid.

Imagine that you were 8 years old, and dropped on some remote island. Everyone there spoke English and their houses looked about the same as yours, but their behavior was absolutely confounding. These people gave wet willies as greetings, never ever used words like "hey" or "wow" or "cool" (and were terribly offended if you did) and thought you were potentially criminally violent because of your firm handshake (which in your culture is a sign of confidence and strength). That's essentially what this kid feels like coming to your house -- your social rules are so different from the ones he was taught at home, even if he were 100% motivated to adapt it would take time and many mistakes. How easy would it be for the islanders to convince 8yo you that "wow" is a horribly offensive cuss word, and handshakes are threatening?

From this point on, I'm making some big assumptions because I don't know the child or the situation first hand, but here's what I suspect is happening:

  • That an eight-year-old is mentioning suicide and homicide at all is concerning, but keep in mind that if it hasn't been explicitly taught to him, he doesn't really understand the gravity of those statements.

  • You tried to reason an eight-year-old into making drastic behavioral changes based on cultural values he doesn't understand because he's had little to no exposure to them.

    To put it in perspective, my then-7yo, who'd studied martial arts for three years, was born on a military base, and whom I have taught to respect both barehanded martial arts and weapons could not wrap his head around the fact that the 6yo girl in his class who talked about getting a knife and stabbing people wasn't really going to try to kill anybody; she'd just seen a violent movie at a friend's house and didn't grok that knifing people was any more real than the energy weapons or space aliens in the movie. She had no idea why my son was upset by her comments, even after the teacher explained it to her. Some adults can't bridge those kinds of cultural disconnects -- almost no young children can.

  • The child is probably acting the way he does for some combination of the following reasons:

    • This behavior is being modeled for him at home.
    • His parents' approach is to take the path of least resistance, so he's learned that the best/only way to get noticed is to do or say outrageous things.
    • He's not getting enough contact from his parents, so the only behavior modelling is the unrealistic examples from movies and video games.

Without having nearly enough information to jump to conclusions here, I'm going to give some advice based on the conclusions I just jumped to above -- take it with a grain of salt:

You can't "fix" a kid who has a very dysfunctional home life unless you remove him from that home life -- something you obviously can't do. You can probably mitigate his behavior in your home, which might even help the kid a little, but doing so will be labor intensive.

No matter what you do, this kid will probably be a bad influence on your kids in some small ways. He can't magically undo your parenting and turn your children into sociopaths, though.

If you decide that you can live with the bad influence because the friendship is that important to your son, you need to take a two-pronged approach: take steps to keep this child's behavior from being adopted by your children, and take steps to improve how this child behaves around your family.

  • Sit down with all three kids (the neighbor kid and your kids) and explain to them your household rules, and that everyone in the house must follow them. Explain that you want to do fun things with them, but that that will not work if they keep getting into time-out over bad behavior.

  • Never, EVER allow your children to go over to this kid's house. Who knows what is going on over there.

  • Make play dates structured play dates, with a parent participating at all times. Do things this kid probably wouldn't get to do at home, like bake cookies together, build a bonfire outside and roast marshmallows (S'mores++), have a cool craft project ready to go, put up a tent in the back yard (or living room for that matter) and tell ghost stories. This way the kid has real incentive to love being at your house despite what he will see as weird and pointless behavior rules, you can easily monitor behavior and nip problems in the bud with a time-out the instant they appear, and you are modelling good behavior and providing responsible adult attention in ways he probably doesn't get at home.

  • DO NOT let bad behavior go in the name of "love and understanding" -- anything you allow to happen you are implicitly endorsing. The same goes for your kids -- if you don't hold them to the same strict rules this kid will see it as persecution rather than enforcement.

  • Watch and listen and try to figure out what is important to this kid. Maybe he wants to be a scientist when he grows up, maybe he just wants to learn how to fit in at school -- every kid is different, but if you put the time in you can usually find the motivation for them to want to be and do better, not just to please you but of their own accord.

  • Enroll your kids in a good martial arts program. In addition to discipline, dexterity, diligence, the ability to take criticism well, confidence, and a bunch of other great things kids can learn in martial arts, kids learn things like how to identify the difference between playfighting and real aggression, the same visceral aversion to even suggestions of inappropriate violence that my son has, and a good frame of reference for how to handle the kinds of situations this kid has put your son in with his comments.

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+! I agree completely. Asker's family is not typical, but also not at all wrong. –  Puddingfox Jun 6 '11 at 1:08
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I think HegdeMage addressed your "keep him out of our house" decision in a very practical manner with the ideas about structured playdates. This might help bridge the disagreement between you and your wife? The reasoning behind martial arts training is something I would consider for my own child, too. Great answer. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 6 '11 at 7:08
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Dear @HedgeMage, Please write a book. Thanks. –  kivetros Jun 6 '11 at 15:14
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@bpgergo Most 8yo kids, especially raised in as sheltered an environment as the OP described, would have no idea how to handle a situation where an adult (in their mind an authority figure) led them to do something unhealthy or outright dangerous. It's not a situation I'd want to put that 8yo in, because I don't think he'd know when he could/should stand up for himself and just leave (or if he would be prevented from doing so). –  HedgeMage Jun 7 '11 at 20:37
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@bpgergo That implies a level of social awareness that most 8yo kids -- especially those from American upper-middle-class suburbia -- just don't have. Most parents are so worried about having obedient kids that they don't teach them when to blow off an apparent authority figure. This is why a molester can tell most kids not to tell anyone, and they obey, no matter how wrong it feels. –  HedgeMage Jun 7 '11 at 21:07

Talk to your son.

An 8 year old is mature enough to understand a lot of what is going on here and choose for himself. What he needs is your guidance & wisdom.

My wife and I have no TV, we disallow violent games (simulated killing is not allowed), we don't have video games, we teaching proper custodianship of the earth, respecting other people, religions and cultures, and encourage physical activity and exercise.

These are all admirable behaviors, and they may also be beneficial to your son. It's just as possible that restricting access to TV and video games, while pushing for exercise will backfire - that TV & video games will become a fetish for your son, and that he will hate exercise as an adult. Trust yourself as a parent, but recognize that you may be doing it all wrong!

Similarly, if you deny your child access to the neighbor kid, that rule is going to create a focus of attention. Your child might not like it, and that will become a rift in your relationship. He may try to get around the rule, creating an environment of dishonesty. He will learn a lesson that it's OK to separate two people because of what one might learn from the other.

In other words, we're a pretty typical middle class family.

You need to get out more! Most folks don't do much exercise, and they do watch TV. Anyone with open eyes can tell that we're destroying the earth in a big hurry, so that custodianship thing hasn't caught on widely. What you're doing is OK, just don't assume that everyone else is like you.

So far, this is really just a different set of values and if the list ended there we'd be fine. But ... he has said things:

You see yourself as respectful of other people, religions, and cultures, but clearly that doesn't include these violent statements by the neighbor kid. There's no absolute rule about which of these behaviors is "acceptable" and which is "unacceptable". Your are drawing your own lines. That's fine, but you would do well to recognize them as yours.

Now, as for what to do:

  • Ask your son how he felt when he heard these things. Ask if he has questions, or needs help. He may not realize that severing his relationship with this other child is an option; you can't point that out to him.

  • Explain your concerns to your child. Tell him you're worried about his safety and well-being, and ask for his help in addressing your concerns.

  • Trust that your child wants to take good care of himself, and can recognize risks he wants to avoid.

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-1 The point here is to answer the question asked, not to criticize the OP's parenting choices. –  HedgeMage Jun 6 '11 at 2:19
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True, but many difficult parenting problems become trivial with a shift in perspective. I hope to encourage that shift, but if the OP perceives my answer as criticism, than I have failed. –  Jay Bazuzi Jun 6 '11 at 2:40
    
I talk to my 8 yr old son constantly. Perhaps an hour a day or more... believe me, he knows my feelings about his friend. Also, our exercise consists of hiking, swimming at the community rec center, playing out back, etc., and they LOVE it, so I don't think they'll resent exercise. And finally, my parents also disallowed any kind of guns in our house when I was young, and I never developed a fetish... although that's anecdotal I suppose. –  Fixee Jun 6 '11 at 4:28
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+1 for "You are drawing your own lines." especially when continued with "That's fine, but you would do well to recognize them as yours." –  Ilari Kajaste Jun 6 '11 at 11:34

We're pretty much on the same page as you. We don't have TV or video games. I have a 6 year old boy. However, I don't mind that he play war games or pretend fight (we do that together and have a lot of fun). That is just normal boy/male behavior, it's quite natural. And some amount of that is healthy since it is a form of exercise and develops body coordination.

But the other boy seems over the top. So I suggest you keep the advise to surround yourself with other people that are like what you, and your boy, want to be. Your wife is right in the sense that some love can help, but only in the form of rigid limits on behavior that only the parents can supply. She is wrong in thinking that she or you have any power to do anything about it.

So, I suggest you make an effort to set up some play dates with other friends instead of that one, or go spend the day at a park or at the beach on weekends, etc. Just be "too busy" for the other boy.

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Thanks. My son plays with Pokemon cards and legos, has pretend wars and battles, etc., we just don't have guns or violent movies in the house. I regularly schedule play-dates with OTHER kids, but my son openly whines about not getting to see this favorite friend. Finally, I have used the "just too busy" excuse, but I feel awful not being honest about it, particularly when the friend's mom is calling. –  Fixee Jun 6 '11 at 4:30
    
Well, it sounds like you already tried everything then. ;-) But these things just take time, be persistent. –  Keith Jun 6 '11 at 4:34
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People are different. Isolating yourself into people who only shares your values gets sectarian and is not helpful for the child in dealing with real world issues. –  Lennart Regebro Jun 6 '11 at 14:12
    
@lennart I wholeheartedly disagree. –  Keith Jun 6 '11 at 14:53

First of all, I'd like to make a few comments. Do with them as you will. Ignore them if you disagree.

  • While there is a lot of trash on TV, there is also a lot of gold. In my country, we have lots of channels on cable based around science, history, geography, nature, etc. I assume it is the same where you live.
  • While a lot of video games are senseless, many will develop his hand-eye co-ordination and logic abilities. For example, real-time-strategy games such as Starcraft or Sid Meyer's Civilization will develop his strategic thinking, logical thinking, and hand-eye co-ordination in one hit, while also letting him have fun.
  • While "profanity" is not always appropriate, it has its purposes in the English language. You will never be able to shield your children from swear words. They will hear them at school whether you like it or not. The best thing you can do is teach them that it's not appropriate to say them unless something extra-ordinary has happened.
  • "Junk food" should be discouraged, but I don't see anything wrong with eating sweets/cake etc, or drinking soft drinks on special occasions - like birthday parties, especially if he is getting a balanced diet all other times. Completely banning them will probably make him resent you for alienating him from his friends.
  • I agree that guns should not be toys under any circumstances as they are no laughing matter.

As for the friend, you might find your son will react badly if you suddenly forbid him from being friends with this boy.

Don't underestimate the subconscious influence a parent has over their children. If you and your wife discuss the boy at the dinner table, something like:

You: "That boy, Danny, is a trouble-maker. He is not going to get far with that attitude. With all that junk food and video games, he will end up a fat slob in ten years."

Wife: "Yes, I agree. I'm glad our son isn't like him. As long as he keeps his grades up, he will end up with a great job which he loves."

You: "Yeah, that's true. I think that boy is going to end up in jail someday..."

Overhearing this conversation, the wheels will start turning in your son's head and he will start to re-evaluate whether he really wants this boy as a friend. He may even end the friendship from by his own decision.

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Though they don't address the problem that much, your points are mostly good. But, uh, somehow I just don't see intentionally degrading a child's friend in front of the child as a good example! Effective, could be. But it also teaches a model of social behaviour I wouldn't want to encourage myself. –  Ilari Kajaste Jun 6 '11 at 11:21
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I appreciate your response, Thomas, but I have never and would never engineer a conversation for my son to overhear. Both my wife and I prefer to talk to him directly, and he responds well to that approach. –  Fixee Jun 6 '11 at 21:23
    
While I agree with your general message, the engineered conversation is a little over the top. A discusson with the son about the consequences this friend's behaviors may lead to for the friend WOULD be valuable. –  balanced mama Oct 29 '12 at 0:04

My parents enrolled me in a private christian school for kindergarten through second grade (along side my older brother). However we picked up "dirty language" and really were not learning much from the teachers. We were learning a LOT from other pupils.

In my situation my Mom was able to home-school us until age 11 or so (which I think is optimal). Not everyone is able to do that. However, I am convinced that it is the best solution (Im 22 now).

If regular school is the only option, it is still important to screen your kids friends. I remember one of my neighbors had Nintendo 64 w/ mario-cart and other games. He was our age (7 or so) and we wanted to go play video games. My parents didn't approve. My older brother still went... he got disciplined appropriately.

We become what our friends are, and so do our kids, so choose your kid's friends carefully.

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My wife's sister homeschools all 8 of hers (she's not human), but it isn't practical for us. Nor can we afford private schools. Our school is actually amazing; the teachers are simply wonderful. This one child is making our experience a challenge, however. –  Fixee Jun 6 '11 at 4:42

While I'm apt to agree with @puddingfox on the 'typical' tag and the almost extreme control over experiences, I understand where you're coming from, and your concern for your child is of course well founded.

Your son is eight years old, not in his teens...he's not about to hold grudges over something so trivial. What matters right now is the support of your wife. Her heart may go out to the child and his circumstances, but the issues arise out of his family life and are not something her kindness is going to drastically alter. She needs to look out for her son first and foremost, and to be your partner in this.

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As I get older, I have come to believe deeply in the idea that who you are friends with, and who you choose to associate with, profoundly influences your behavior. If you hang around with hoodlums, you are more likely to become a criminal.

That however is just my opinion. I did find one study about smoking that corroborates this, at least in that one single dimension:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/x753723132081763/

Smoking among peers was the best predictor of smoking for White adolescents (accounting for 23.5% of the variance) but accounted for only 15% of the variance for Latino youth, 9.6% of the variance for Asian youth, and none of the variance for Black youth.

Thus -- at least if you are white -- if your child hangs out with kids who smoke, he is statistically much more likely to take up smoking as well. I have no reason to believe this is different for any undesirable behavior {x}. If their friends do it, they're going to absorb it to some degree.

I am planning to be a total jerk about this with my son if necessary. He's only two, but I will be absolutely interceding on his behalf if he starts running around with bad crowds. (Note that I don't mean kids with whom I mildly disagree, but kids that get into serious trouble or have other major behavioral problems.)

I wish I had more peer influence studies to cite here -- but I support you 100% in this, based on the dangerous behavior of the friend you described.

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are you sure you're not confusing correlation with causation? Reading from the abstract of the paper you cited, I've seen nothing that imply that making friends with smoker will turn you into smokers, only that smokers tend to hang around together (which isn't surprising, smokers meet and talk with other smokers in the smoking area). –  Lie Ryan Jun 6 '11 at 8:11
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@lie "how do we first start to covet? We covet what we see every day". imdb.com/title/tt0102926/quotes?qt=qt0334794 –  Jeff Atwood Jun 6 '11 at 10:46
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This perspective is totally consistent with an abundance of criminological theory. A good place to start would be with the work of this guy, but if you take my word for it there is an incredible amount of research demonstrating your belief. –  Andy W Jun 6 '11 at 12:14
    
I have a huge amount of personal, anecdotal evidence to support what you say here, Jeff. And although I'm a scientist by day, I can't help but listen to what my gut is telling me. My brothers hung out with druggies, and I did not. Guess who made it out of that neighborhood? –  Fixee Jun 6 '11 at 21:16
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This book, The Nurture Assumption, posits that the Nurture influence on our personalities is Peer, not parents (for a wide range of non-abusive parents). It was a good read, even if you are not convinced. –  Lou Franco Jun 7 '11 at 15:58

All I can say is; while I understand your deep feelings of concern - you have to be realistic - you cannot shield your child from the realities of society forever.

You could keep him locked in a bubble till he leaves home - but then I'm afraid when that day comes the world will eat him alive.

So by all means disapprove of the other family; by all means do your best to keep your child away from the other one. But if the other child is as bad as you say they are; then eventually your child will grow tired of them or, even better from your point of view, actually dislike them.

Mind you - I played with fake guns as a kid, though, and I'm not a serial killer.

That said; I didn't watch 'R' films (18 over here in the UK) or play uber-violent games.

But I do now.

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Just to clarify, I never said the child was bad. I just said I was shocked and dismayed at the things he said in my presence and in my son's presence. To contrast, the child also is refreshingly polite at times, and he is fairly charismatic (he obviously attracted my son). –  Fixee Jun 6 '11 at 21:18

Fixee, as the things you write about your son's friend are (from my point of view) really, really extreme, I also think you should try to talk to teachers and other people, which should be (made) aware of this attitude.

Could you find out, why your son likes his friend so much and why he wants to spend time with him?

In general I would also suggest (like some others did) to talk to the parents of that child, however I know from my own experience how difficult it is to discuss with someone who has such a different opinion and approach to live his life and raise his child(ren). So I can understand very well that you don't want to do that. :-(

It's difficult to raise children in this world - I'd like to know how your story goes on.

I can understand your question and your concern quite well. We have a similar problem, but much less extreme and already at the age of 3, where I wonder:

Why does my son choose this guy as his older "friend" which

  • treats him very bad quite often,
  • forces him physically to do things he does not want,
  • tries to lock him up somewhere
  • does not allow other children to join in and play with the two of them?

Our child tells me about things, he seems to do not like (which his "friend" does), but on the other hand he also copies much of the bad behavior (not everything, but enough). However, he also seems to be a bit anxious about saying "no" to his friend or reject him, because the other boy is bigger, older, stronger and willing to use his power.

I have been talking to my son a long time (also this morning) and I wonder how I can help him, because he also isolates himself from the others which are excluded by his "friend" and might also avoid my son, if he wants to play with them.

I'll talk with the nursery school teacher again and see what she proposes. Last time when I told her about my concerns, she said "[the other boy] is a good child, he is just quite strong and we have an eye on him".

The topic about killing, arms and so on is also difficult for us. We always tried to avoid that at home, we don't have toy weapons and we tried to show our son how to be peaceful and friendly. (We also did not let him watch TV up to now, and I don't think he's missing something.)

In the nursery school he learned very quickly about shooting and pistols, so now every stick becomes a "pistol" and he is (sometimes) fascinated about "making dead" animals or people. We then try to explain him, that the animals also want to live and that as well as he want's respect for his own health and wellbeing, he also has to respect this right of other creatures. That seems to be hard to understand.

I fear this (interest for arms, fight and violence) is to some extent "normal" in the evolution of a child, finally our ancestors very long ago depended on hunting and killing animals (and maybe their enemies). I also have been playing "cowboy" etc. as a child, had (from my actual point of view) too many toy weapons at home and I am now considering me a very peaceful and pacifist man. :-/

I wish you all the best

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You may arrange a divorce in this situation and that might be helpful locally. But that is not a global solution.

Basically, as he grows older and older, you can control less and less other people's influence on your kid.

You have to teach him how to protect himself from negative influence, how to stay clear of trouble.

How you do it?

  1. you treat him correctly all the time
  2. he will respect you for this
  3. once he respects you, you do not have to worry about seemingly significant, but temporal negative influence of a random guy on him. In the long run, only those will have significant, permanent influence who are well respected.

Your son will see some odder things or weirder people. He won't cover his eyes or run away. He will listen to obscure bullshit told by controversial guys, and for a second maybe he will even believe it. This is because he is free and open minded.

You have to trust his judgement, which is built on the judgement of those who he respects the most.

(i hope it makes sense, I'm not native English)

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Why not just speak directly with the son about what he likes and doesn't like about this young man? It sounds like he is getting some help (counselors etc) even if it isn't making enough of a difference yet to make fixee comfortable with the boy, calling the authorities is probably an over-reaction based on other information that has been added and given.

Your son might have more and better judgement about this than you think. He is probably looking to you for guidance in how to interact with this boy - there is obviously something about him the son likes, admires or just means the son feels a certain amount of interaction is required. Find out what that is. Ask your kids what they think of this other kids behavior and how they have already tried to deal with it. They will appreciate you having given them the credit.

My dad was a police officer and because of that fact, he cared very deeply about troubled youth. When he retired, they started taking in "at risk" children and foster children. (And No. Foster parents are NOT paid! At least not in our state). At the same time, when a boy DAD had apprehended for substance abuse returned from a drug rehab program, Dad was nervous about the idea of me tutoring him at school, but understood and saw that I was doing my job as a "student helper" at the school. When we became friends and the boy asked me to prom, of course Dad had even more reservations. When I responded to Dad that I was this boy's only friend that wasn't into drugs and a part of the past the boy was trying to leave behind, and that I thought he stood a better chance of staying clean if he had some new friends, Dad allowed it - with a few caveats. I appreciated that he trusted my judgement. That young man and I are still in touch and he has sole custody of his two daughters and has stayed clean and sober. Not because of me, but because of understanding from me, my Dad and others like us. Obviously, your situation is different, but the concept remains that your son may just need your trust, help and guidance along the way. It sounds like your son is well aware this boy has troubles.

Hedge Mage's advice is fabulous advice, but I would just add you should include listening to your kids and their reactions as part of that "discussion" she mentions. A lot of parents wouldn't.

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I was almost appalled when I seen the question how to stop your 8 year old from playing with a neighbor child.first of all your child is 8.not 18.at this age you are the parent and he is a child.I also seeing if you try to stop them they will sneak around and play behind your back.at 8 years old he should not have the opportunity to be playing anywhere where you do not know where he is.I also wouldn't care what the other parents said or thought if that job was talking about killing is so the teachers at school and all the friends.so in other words you have no clue what his parents are like at all.when I choose my childs friends,you may believe he's choosing them,its called giving them options,but also knowing that if something is inappropriate you take it away.you also spoke of no TV in your home.they do make controls for your TV nowadays.there is not one job that I know of that doesn't have a television and watch TV in my neighborhood.all that my son is supervised on what he watches.please find the courage and the backbone.to stand up to your 8 year old.I don't mean it in a bad way what I'm saying is.you cannot let an 8 year old run your life.it seems to me as he has picked his friend.the child is not appropriate. To be pla making comments like that.and if I were you I would take it one step further and let his parents know what he is saying.as if he does this in school he will be arrested.I know of an 8 year old girl who just got arrested for saying she was going to get hurt with a knife.it was a butter knife and they were innocently trying to break open a box a day that was filled with jewels start setting the rules and boundaries,I hope you do not take offense by this,but an 8 year old should not be in control you should be .

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That's a very strict approach, though I think it has some merits. –  Dariusz Sep 15 at 10:41

Even good kids are attracted to dangerous types. If you try to control him, you will just drive him toward the other kid. Rather, play along: "so you played with Bad Bill today? How many hours of r-rated TV did you watch? Any violence in it? Sex? Drugs? What did you think of it? Was it pleasant to watch? How do you think the victims felt?" That way you can show him respect rather than disdain, and turn the experience into a conversation about the things you think are wrong.

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