We have a group of friends that came about through having children the same age; so the children are friends and the parents are friends, and we hang out quite a bit. A couple of years ago, another family joined that group, but our child and this new child don't get along.

The children are 5 and 6, and my son is mildly autistic, so his ability to cope in social situations is perhaps not as good as other children.

From our perspective, what happens is that this other child will keep doing something that annoys our child, even when asked to stop, until our child ends up lashing out at him, at which point the other child comes running to the adults to complain about our son.

Of course, we speak to our son, give him timeouts etc. because whatever the circumstances, it is not appropriate for him to react in that way. However, whenever the other child is questioned about his behaviour, he always says that they were both doing it (whatever it was he was doing to wind up our son) and his parents just accept that.

We find the other parents behaviour frustrating, because even though our sons response isn't acceptable, we feel that not all of the blame lies with him.

We feel we have to avoid spending time with the group when this other family are there because we don't want to put our son in that situation he clearly can't cope with. However, it's unfair that this other child gets to hang with their friends and our child doesn't.

I wonder if there are any strategies that we could teach our child that would allow him to cope with these situations. Asking him to come and tell an adult when he's having a problem with this other child has not been successful so far.

Perhaps for a time you should supervise their play. Don't let them be alone together. This way you can see the way they interact with each other. It might be that both are doing whatever is annoying your son to the point of breaking. It might be that that is what is perceived by the other child. Either way, monitor them and see how they play.

If you find that the other child is doing something on purpose to annoy your son, even after he has said stop, I'm going to go perhaps against the grain here and say let your child get wound up. Let him be angry (as long as he doesn't get violent) and don't punish him for it. I say his response is acceptable and normal. I'd say it's human nature to only be annoyed and poked at for so long until one snaps. It's OK to be angry.

You say that you have already attempted to get your son to come talk to you before it gets out of hand but that has not worked. I'd encourage this more and see if you can persuade him to do that as it takes the confrontation out of his hands.

Teach him to separate himself from the situation when he finds himself getting frustrated. Tell him to walk away, take a deep breath, and count down from 10. If he does walk away yet the child persists and follows him, tell your son to ask the other child to let him be for a few minutes while he cools down. If the child then still persists, what he is doing is not OK and it's perfectly acceptable for your son to be angry (again, as long as there is no violence).

  • 1
    Thank you for your excellent answer! I agree that it is reasonable for my son to get annoyed, or even angry; I would be. Last time they met, my wife was going to take a more relaxed approach to disiplining my son for lashing out... but he bit the other child, which you can't not address. – Mr Butler Jan 3 at 12:57
  • @MrButler Biting is not acceptable, but so is bullying other kids. However, don't be too worried. Biting is what my son (with aspergers) does too, but only when he has been pressed hard. – Chrglmgl Mar 14 at 21:29

Asking him to come and tell an adult when he's having a problem with this other child has not been successful so far.

This would have been my advice. Our son has an aspergers diagnose, and he's about 10. Please try again, maybe differently. Would he be able to recognise such a situation and step back and stop the bullying?

Does the group know about your son's autistic traits? Maybe they could help? It may be a good thing to inform them. We made good progress to proactively inform people.

Currently, we have exactly an instance of your situation at our local school. After class, one or two guys will besiege him until he is required to react harshly. Then the guys will snitch on him. In the past we have been sucessful by explaining the situation to the teacher, and they have been watching over the situation. This most of the time helps to keep the situation under control.

I agree with previous reply that someone should supervise the play and these 2 kids shouldn't be playing alone. Since you mentioned that there are other children around, can any of the elder kids play a 'referee' kind of a role ?

Next time a similar situation occurs, you and the other child's parents can ask the referee who started the fight. You can also take up the supervising role but the other kid's parents may think that you are taking your son's side so it's better if a third person is checking it.

Meanwhile, keep encouraging your son to immediately come to you whenever there's anything that's annoying him. You can even give him an extra treat or something if he successfully manages to control his temper and does this. Good luck !

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