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My son (8 years) is friends with two other kids in the neighborhood, lets call them John and Joe. John has been friends with my son for slightly longer than he has been friends with Joe. However Joe has gotten closer to John over the last few weeks. Joe goes to John's house first, and then the kids come over to our house, or call out to my son who goes to John's house. They never play at Joe's.

Of late Joe (a year younger than my son) has been so obsessed with playing with John, that he has been telling my son to stay away from John - sometime playfully, sometimes not so much. My son retaliated saying it is not his position to tell him that, since it is John's call to make. John always steps in during these times and clarifies that my son is welcome to his house and can play. I must clarify that Joe has been using my son as a backup. He visits our house when John is not available to play. Or he goes to John's house first, plays with him for a while, and then both him and John come together and play with our son at my house or at John's. Today after the kids were done playing at John's, Joe alone came in to our yard with my son, when I was talking to his mother. He started telling my son that he cannot come to John's house anymore, to which my son retaliated like always saying Joe doesn't get to say that to which Joe kept aggressively saying it was his order and my son must listen, and my son kept brushing it off gently saying he wont. The mother just kept smiling at all this and dint intervene. I tried intervening by asking Joe "why" but the boys were busy talking to each other regarding this and I don't think I was even heard. When I brought this up with my son afterward, he said he doesn't mind it, because he was sure Joe said it playfully. He mentioned that Joe also mentions it not-so-playfully at times. I asked him how he responds then, and he confirmed he does the same thing he did today, which is tell Joe that he is not my son's boss and cannot stop my son from going to John's. I must add that in general, the boys are good at playing together, more often than not. But I feel that Joe's mother should have stepped in to correct her son instead of just standing there smiling. I also think my son should have something more stronger. In addition, I feel I should have said something instead of letting the boys fight this out. I am looking for suggestions on how I could have handled this better. The thought is eating me up. :(

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    Side opinion: your son has handled it perfectly. – svavil Aug 29 '20 at 10:45
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    "...I feel that Joe's mother should have stepped in..." But she didn't. It is what it is. "Should haves" will eat you alive, and you have three in a row! You and your son handled it very, very well. It's all (pretty) good. :) – anongoodnurse Aug 29 '20 at 22:33
  • Thank you for the reassurance @svavil and anongoodnurse – MomOfTwo Aug 30 '20 at 3:34
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I think you and your son did everything just fine. You've taught your son how to handle Joe's demands in a calm and proper way. That by itself is great. Your son can handle himself, diffuse situations and keep his own emotions in check. You should be proud of yourself for what you've taught him.

Don't worry about what Joe's mom did or didn't do. It's not your job to police her into doing what you think she should have done. You can't count on other people to always do the right thing, the only person you can control is yourself. So just make sure your actions are what you want them to be and don't worry about others.

The only advice I can give is to make sure your son is equipped to handle the situation if Joe goes beyond his normal demands and starts bullying or becoming violent. Make sure your son can respond appropriately and get you involved if things escalate too far. If you teach your son how to handle himself you won't have to worry about him (though that won't necessarily stop you from doing so). Plus, it's better for him to learn and practice these interpersonal conflict resolution skills now while you are around to help and the stakes are relatively low compared to later in life. Treat this as a teaching opportunity and I'm sure you will both do just fine.

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  • Thank you for the response. When you say "Make sure your son can respond appropriately", how do you mean? Could you share some tips on how I can coach my son without making it seem like I am micromanaging? Thanks again. – MomOfTwo Aug 30 '20 at 3:36
  • @MomOfTwo My thoughts would be general coaching on what to do if any kid gets violent with your son. You can choose to mention Joe specifically or not. What constitutes an appropriate response depends a lot on your beliefs. You might want to encourage your child to run and get an adult. You may want to tell him to defend himself. You might teach him how to try and deescalate the situation by talking. Without knowing where you stand on that, it's kinda hard to say what you should be doing with your son. – Becuzz Aug 31 '20 at 21:26
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    @MomOfTwo If you want to seem less like you are micromanaging, you could just teach the appropriate response without bringing up Joe at all. Then you are still equipping your son to deal with the situation without it feeling like you are watching and judging everything your son does. To bring it up without referencing Joe you could say something like "Hey, I was reading an article about bullying today and I wanted to make sure you knew what to do if another kid ever tries to hurt you..." – Becuzz Aug 31 '20 at 21:27
  • Thank you very much for the wonderful suggestions. I am sure they will come in handy. Appreciate you taking the time for it. – MomOfTwo Sep 1 '20 at 6:07

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