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"Friends" you don't feel good about...

My daughter is loving preschool and I'm starting to like it too but there is one girl I'm really concerned about. My daughter plays with this girl on and off and the things my daughter tells me concerns me, plus what I see. This other girl just doesn't act very nice. The first time I met her she was draging my daughter by her arm around the class and when I told her and my daughter that it was time for us to leave she death griped my daughter's legs and just hung on, even after I picked my three year old daughter up. She's actually a year older than my daughter too if that matters. I didn't care for it but let it go. Then my daughter tells me a couple days later how she's upset because this girl put my daughter's puppy on fire. I was puzzeled until I got further explaination and it was that it was my daughter's pretend puppy that the other girl put on fire and was serving for "dinner". It was also that same day that this other girl told my daughter that my daughter's Dad was dead. I reassured my daughter that her Dad is not dead and struggled to explain that my daughter doesn't need to play with the other girl if she's not playing nice. That she can take her imaginary puppy off the fire and go somewhere else. I actually asked the other girl the next day about the puppy incident because it was easy to bring it up since she came over while I was with my daughter and her response was "It was just pretend." I just don't know what to do because this stuff keeps happening. Sometimes they are very friendly and doing fine and then things will happen like my daughter saying good by to her and she turns her head up with her chin sticking out and ignores my daughter or sticks out her tongue at her. Then she may or may not change her mind and yell "bye". I brought up the puppy incident and the Dad is dead incident to her teacher and was told that this girl's dad is dead so she may have been misunderstood... I'm not so sure having talking to the girl. She sort of reminds me of the psychopath in the movie "Girl Interupted" which doesn't make me feel good at all, but she's also only four so maybe I'm just overly concerned. But after talking to the teacher about it and being told that the teacher wants my daughter to learn to speak up to the girl about the situations so they can learn to resolve them, themselves... I talked to my daughter a little more about it and then the next day she told me that this girl put her "turtle" on fire and wouldn't let her take it off the fire. I asked my daughter what she did and she said she told the teacher and when she told the teacher the girl told the teacher that the turtle was a "vegetable turtle". I just hate all this going on, but I don't know what to do. Somedays my daughter comes home and tells me her and this girl are friends again, or that they aren't friends anymore, and really I want to tell my daughter to stay the heck away from this girl, but I'm not sure that is right either... What would P101 do?

Edited to add one more situation:

Recently a situation at a party at the school happened. It started off with the girl coming up to my daughter with an electric candle that had been used at the pumpkin walk at the school and telling my daughter she was going to burn her. My daughter got very upset and came to us about it. We told her that it wasn't a real candle and the girl couldn't really hurt her but to stay away from her if she won't play nice. If the burning puppy or turtle is just a meat eating aspect what is this? Both my husband and I were very upset after this had happened, and while the other girl came back later and said she was just playing I don't find that okay at all.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 6th, 2012 09:31 am (UTC)
I would tell her to stay the heck away. And talk to the teachers about my concerns and reiterate I want them encouraged to stay apart.
Nov. 6th, 2012 09:45 am (UTC)

I would sit my daughter down and explain that although she IS allowed to choose her own friends, this girl is mean and so she should be avoided.</p>

I would pull aside the teacher and be VERY CLEAR that I want my daughter and this girl encouraged to play separately.

The little girl sounds like she's having some trouble coping psychologically and could have some serious trouble at home. However I wouldn't want my child caught up in that.

Nov. 6th, 2012 11:10 am (UTC)
It's definitely an interesting and difficult age.

I've noticed with my own kids, some friends are very clingy. My oldest daughter takes it all in stride but she has had the extreme "huggers" and clingy friends. Most of the time the teachers and parents would step in and tell the child to give more personal space. I told her that she also needs to tell other kids to "stop" and let me or a teacher in charge know.

With the second part - scary pretend play - I think some of it comes from stuff they have seen and heard on TV or the news. I try to read my news online and not watch TV so I don't have to have them see and hear about all the bad in the world but we do listen to the radio and there have been times when the kids have picked up something the news on the radio said and ask me about it. I have noticed that even is some "child-friendly" movies, there are so twisted plots. We watched Barbie Island Princess the other day and the evil Mom gave the animals a herb that would make them sleepy and kill them. Then Barbie made this antidote to save them from dying. Well - guess how my kids were pretend playing with their Barbies and animals the next day?

Does this child have older brothers or sisters? Maybe they have seen something on TV? Maybe the parents were watching a TV show or movie and didn't think that the child would be bothered by it?

I would definitely let my child know it's not an appropriate way to pretend play and keep reminding them that they could play with other kids. I would also ask the teacher to support this. When I worked with that age in a childcare setting, we would have play areas and assign kids to different areas for "freeplay". This allowed us to help them play with other kids and areas that they didn't always want to play with.
Nov. 6th, 2012 11:48 am (UTC)
Get her away from that girl.

Growing up I had a large group of friends and I made friend's with this one girl. No one really liked her, but I felt bad for her and wanted more friends. She used me, abused me and threw my confidence out the door. I did poorly in school, no one liked me. I tried to stop being her friend but I would get dragged back in. By Junior High we were still off and on again friend's until she got even more mean. I decided enough was enough and I said some pretty harsh things which got my head slammed into a locker. Granted I deserved it that time.

But things got even worse. It was to the point that they had to put us in 2 different high schools in different districts. My parents kept asking why I was friends with her, but no one ever stopped us from being friends. I kind of wish someone had. It's taken years to build that confidence up again...I still fear people's reactions and opinions of me. It's not healthy and I feel like this is what your daughter could be leading to if something isn't done sooner than later.
Nov. 6th, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
You gotta do what you gotta do. Sounds like separating you and that girl was in your best interest. Sorry you went though that. :(
Nov. 6th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
See that is what I'm worried about but I'm also like.. "well they are three and four..." The other bad part is there is no way to separate them at school since this is a Reggio Emilia school and they kids are allowed to go where they please during free time which is the majority of the time. They have lots of learning activities but this girl and my daughter like the same things. They both really like pretend play, dressing up, and cooking.
Nov. 6th, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
Well we have gone through similar incidents last year with our daughter. It was her firs year in school (did not attend daycare) so i expected some issues. Her "best friend" is a manipulator. She pushes her parents until they do as she wants, which we witnessed on many different times. My daughter had to reach a point of where we had to stand up for herself before the teachers would intervene. So my kid did. And it got her punched in the gut once, pushed to the ground the next time and then punched in the face resulting in a bloody nose. My daughter was five, her "friend" four. The teachers did what they could but in kindergarten, they didn't really worry about it because they "have to work it out themselves". They do not reqlly get punished for their bad actions and very much promote and positively enforce good behavior. Thats good and all with some kids, but this kid needed a consequence. One kid should not be the target of another one just being an asshole. I had a meeting with the teachers and told then to please encourage my daughter to play with someone else (as would I at home) and literally separate then anytime they could. This seemed to really help, and the teachers have worked with this other kid to get her to behave a little more appropriately too. It was bad enough that if the school refused to do something, not only was I encouraging my kid to punch the other one back, but I was considering moving her to another class or just pulling her from school period.

Things are way better this year and this girl has shown a great improvement. But I had to hound the teachers every day about issues and constantly ask them to separate the girls.
Nov. 6th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
I may have to do this and ask the teachers to keep them apart the problem is that goes against the school philosophy which is that everyone there is friends. They are very big on that and I worry it'll not be an option, because it would "exclude" the girl even in that little way. The only good thing I can say is that my daughter after the pumpkin walk seems to be staying away mostly of her own accord, but yesterday she told me that the girl told her they would be friends today and it brought up all my concerns again.
Nov. 6th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
In reality, that is a stupid philosophy. I get that they want to promote the happiness and respect that comes with friendship, but some people do not mesh. And some kids can be awful. Unfortunately, I think there is something actually wrong in this child's way of thinking, and the teachers should be more than willing to accommodate a separation between the two of them because there is a reason for it.

Your child is being affected by this other child's bad behavior. That needs to be fixed, whether it's changing the way the other child thinks/behaves, or moving your child to a better environment, at least part of the time. I'm not saying a new room/daycare, I'm just saying that the teachers should be helping to fix this. That's all.

Good luck - I hope that it all works out best quickly!
Nov. 6th, 2012 01:15 pm (UTC)
Honestly... this is normal. Kids at this age are still trying to figure out social niceties and most of it is through trial and error.

Violent play is also normal. If it were boys playing a Star Wars/Avengers game, most people wouldn't bat an eye. But, when girls do it, it can be upsetting to some. It's just as normal for them. It actually helps them as an outlet and to figure out what's OK and what's not.

The important part here is to continue to give your daughter a voice and teach her boundaries. Continue to remind her that it's OK to take her pretend dog (whether the other girl "lets" her or not) and go to a different part of the room.

I would become concerned if the girl becomes physically violent. Just remember... most preschoolers are pyschopaths to some degree. That is until the social norms and boundaries are implanted in their brains.
Nov. 6th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
I agree 100%..this was very well stated
Nov. 6th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
I agree with this.
Nov. 6th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
See this is pretty much what I got told from her teachers, and I get fighting games and "violence". I don't usually get bothered by that but I guess just setting animals on fire crosses a personal line for me.
Nov. 6th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
But, if it were boys playing and they killed the bad guy, that would be OK? To me it's the same thing.

You have to remember that a 4-year-old isn't going to find things disturbing in the same way as an adult does. They don't find death disturbing. It's just part of life. My daughter talks all the time about killing imaginary animals. She knows it's pretend and I'm confident she would never do it to a real animal. It's just working through life (which death is apart of).

Plus.. well... animals are cooked over fire! My guess is that she's seen an animal cooked over a spit and so that's normal for her.
Nov. 6th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
It's imaginary play. You mentioned above the kids like pretend play and cooking. She's cooking animals. Perhaps her family grills out, and she has that imagery to work with. Fire is fascinating, cooking is fun. Most people eat animals. You can either look at this in a "think the worst of the child" way or in a more positive light. It sounds like the harm that is accruing to your child is in feeling limited by the play of the other kid. Your kid wants to play pretend puppies. The other kid stops that play by cooking the pupping. Perhaps the other child should stay in the Omen, or perhaps the other child is tired of playing pretend puppies and wants to play cooking and doesn't yet have the skills to maneuver the transition.

I think you can try to teach your kid to walk away. My kid certainly had some friends that I would have preferred she didn't have. But as long as she was having more fun with them than not, then that's that. And it did afford her opportunities to learn to say things "I don't play like that." "I don't do mean play." "I include everyone." "I play nicely." and it's never bad for a kid to learn boundaries. (Mine still tends to be something of a doormat, and spend her time venting about WHY someone would play mean rather than simply walking away from a kid who's playing in a way she doesn't prefer.)
Nov. 6th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
This. And much better stated than I could have done. :)

Nov. 6th, 2012 04:11 pm (UTC)
Is your family vegetarian? If not, you put animals on fire all the time.
Nov. 6th, 2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
While yes we eat meat and it is a subject that comes up often for us since we raise chickens, and hunt, it is also a subject that we are very articulate about that we don't do things to cause animals undo pain. That it is part of the animal's purpose to be food, that even people who only eat vegetables are still consuming animal product because animals are a part of the natural life cycle. They die and decompose and become organic matter that feeds the plants, and that there is no way to step outside this life cycle, it is how the world works, but that we can be good caretakers of this world and avoid needless suffering. So putting an animal on fire is suffering in my opinion, sorry. Although I am not big on the idea of eating dog, I suppose if they were imagining that they had humanly killed it, butchered it, and cooked it, it would be different... in fact I think I would consider that a successful experience for them, but just taking someone's pet, imaginary or not and setting it on fire is disturbing to me. Sorry, I just don't think that's the same as eating meat.

It is much like when we were at the park the other day there was a bee on the ground flapping one wing trying to get up but it was obviously hurt or sick and my daughter was worried about the bee and I told her is wasn't going to survive because it was very sick and that the kindest thing we could do for it was to help end it's suffering, so I let her go play and stepped on it. I didn't think she needed to see it done, but she did come back and ask if the bee was dead. I told her yes and that we were really sorry it had to die but it doesn't hurt anymore.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
Oh I get that, that is a hard concept for kids and because of that the simple solution is that they don't set animals on fire, but since you wanted to make the point that it's about food (which I do not believe it is), then the solution if it is about food if to treat it as such. And if these kids can learn about elections, and habitats and everything else they are learning, why can't they learn to be "nice" to animals. Perhaps great detail of what a humane death is, is over their heads but not causing the animal to suffer in pain is a simple concept to a kid. Although I think you would be surprised at what these children can learn if someone takes the time to teach them. I am amazed everyday at the concepts my daughter understands and she's a year younger than this girl.

Considering her mom works full time and her dad is dead, no I haven't had a chance to talk to the girl's mom, but I am telling my daughter not to play with her if the girl is being mean and not playing nice, but there comes a point where it might be a bigger issue than just that and that has been my concern here.
Nov. 6th, 2012 07:42 pm (UTC)
When my older daughter was about 3, I was cleaning her room with her and put her barbies in the toy oven. I told her I was going to cook them and eat them for dinner. She shouted, "NO! You can't do that! They're PEOPLE!" She rushed over and took them out of the oven and then clarified, "You have to take the bones out first!" I thought she was upset at imagining eating people, but she was upset I was cooking with the bones still in. Kids' brains are in a different place sometimes!

I would ask the teachers (again) to encourage them to play separately, but also try to take it as a learning experience for your child (it sounds like you already are!). You know, like saying that sometimes what some people think is fun/funny isn't fun/funny to us, and it's ok to say you don't think it's funny and walk away. Or mentioning that she chose the game yesterday (barbecuing puppies) so today your child should choose the pretend game with her friend. That kind of thing. I wrk really hard at teaching my kids that we can't always change others, but we can choose how we react to others (not playing with them, telling them we don't like their actions, deciding the action isn't that big of a deal and playing anyway, forgiving, talking to a teacher, etc). We always have choices on what to do next, even though sometimes it's hard to make the choices that feel comfortable to you when your friend disagrees/fights back/cries, whatever.
Nov. 6th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
I can certainly see that. thanks.
Nov. 6th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
I doubt the girl is a psychopath.

She sounds like a kid who's been through a trauma, coupled with... Just being a 4 year old with an imagination.

If she makes your daughter uncomfortable, then she shouldn't play with her. Can you ask the teachers to just keep them separate? I've never used a daycare, so I'm not sure how it works.
Nov. 6th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
I disagree with the 'get her away from this girl' comments.

When you break it down, this girl is acting like a bully, and its important to learn how to STAND UP to bullies and remove their power. I would talk to your daughter about how it is not okay for her friend to put her animals on fire or say mean things. Teach her the response tools to say, "No! We are not putting the turtle on fire because that is mean. I'm going to take the turtle for a walk I stead. You can come with me if you'd like."

You don't exactly know what is going on in this child's life, but obviously she is troubled. She lost her father at a young age, and is likely still coping with that, plus whatever other things may be going on in her life. Losing a friend completely could be extremely painful to her, and she probably doesn't even realize that her behavior is wrong.

I think this is a real teachable moment for your daughter that we don't just accept mean comments. We stand up to bullies and tell them when something isn't nice. We model GOOD and kind behavior.
Nov. 6th, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
Nov. 6th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
This is what we've been trying to do, but I'm not sure we've been expressing it well. I like the way you said it much better. Thanks.
Nov. 7th, 2012 04:18 am (UTC)
This is a great comment.
Nov. 6th, 2012 02:05 pm (UTC)
My daughters are 4 and 1.
Their best friends are 4 and 2. (They went to daycare together and now our families hang out frequently).
Our friends are real button pushers, like any kids, but they know exactly how to get under my 4 year old's skin. If they want to, they can "poke the bear" until she is crying and screaming (although I do that too when I say things like, let's get dressed).

I think it is most important to teach her the words that she can say to regain power in these situations or, if necessary, escape for awhile. We've been practicing and it's slow-going, but while she was there Sunday, she, according to my friend, Used ALL the Words! And eventually asked if she could play inside because she was being bothered. </p>

I do worry about her confidence, but I feel like we try to give her situations where she can be free of a very over-powering friend.

I also feel like 3-4 year olds are all very disturbed on some level as they start to figure out right and wrong.

I hope you and the school can come to a solution! I know, like a previous commenter mentioned, our preschool goes out of their way to separate my daughter from her friend when they can (different free play areas, etc.)

Nov. 6th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
continue to give your daughter words to stand up for herself, perhaps roleplaying scenarios.

this is probably the first lesson in "you can't really choose your kids' friends" though. for the most part, that's just kid behavior.

Nov. 6th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
oh, meant to add...four year olds are forever friends with someone one day and not friends the next. That's completely typical.
Nov. 6th, 2012 03:56 pm (UTC)
RUN!!!! ...in all seriousness...IDK what to suggest but that sounds scary! :(
Nov. 6th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
This really is my problem. I love the school my daughter is going to but I just don't know how to fix it, or if I really need to since the teachers think it isn't a problem. One teacher even pointed out to me the other day how my daughter was telling this girl in the playground how her burning the puppy upset her, and the girl was telling my daughter "oh I didn't know it scared you it was just pretend."
Nov. 6th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a very mature interaction between the two kids. Be proud of your daughter that she said something to her friend, and even if the friend continued to play those games afterwards, be glad she heard and was receptive to your daughter's feelings (even if she does continue to play that game, she still responded maturely. In my experience, kids get "stuck" on one type of imagination game and play it over and over: my 5 year old is stuck on "let's play lost little kitty in the rain." I can't tell you how many times I've had to open the door, pretend to open a pretend door, etc to let in the lost, wet kitty. Sure, that's more innocent than grilling kitties in the rain, but still, they just get something...a sense of security?...out of pretending the same story over and over. Before lost kitty in the rain, we had to play Mother hen hatching her egg over and over, where I had to lay over my daughter, curled in a ball, while I clucked until she began wiggling, and then "hatched" from her egg, while I announced my excitement over my new chick in a clucking chicken voice. LOL...).
Nov. 6th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
4 year olds are all, to some degree, psychopaths. It's developmentally normal. The hallmark of a psychopath is lack of remorse and inability to have empathy..... Two qualities that 4 year olds also have.

I am going to look at this from the other girls' perspective for a minute. Her father died, she's trying to cope with the trama. Children cope with trauma in different ways than adults do because they don't have the same level of understanding as we do. Now her best friend is being told that she can't play with her because this girl is saying some things that are true to her and doesn't get how scary or inappropriate they may be to adults. Also another loss.

Unless she's being physically violent, I would teach your daughter to stand up for herself, play when she wants but not play when she wants, and that the other girl is having a hard time right now and may do or say things that we don't understand.
Nov. 6th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
I agree I do not want the other girl hurt in fact we stopped a situation at a party at the school that while it bothered us we didn't think our daughter handled it well. It started off with the girl coming up to my daughter with an electric candle that had been used at the pumpkin walk at the school and telling my daughter she was going to burn her. My daughter got very upset and came to us about it. We told her that it wasn't a real candle and the girl couldn't really hurt her but to stay away from her if she won't play nice. My daughter then went back to the girl and told her that the candle wasn't real and then left. The other girl came back yelling that it was a real candle and the two of them got into a argument about the candle being real or not. We ended up taking our daughter away and telling her that she needs to not talk to the other girl when she's not being nice and that it doesn't matter what the other girl says the candle isn't real and she knows the truth, but that she needs to be nice to the girl even if the other girl is not nice. Because the argument got rather mean spirited very quickly and we don't approve of that at all.

The problem however is that as much as I can feel for the girl going through a rough time, I need to also protect my daughter and I will do so even if it hurts the other girl's feelings because that is my responsibility as a parent. So I'm trying to figure out if I need to protect my daughter or not, not if it'll hurt the other girl or not.
Nov. 6th, 2012 09:11 pm (UTC)
I nanny for a girl and started when she was just turning 4 - She would often talk about this imaginary friend and how she has dead and would tell me that their dog ate the girls hand off and it was bloody.. She said alot of weird things about death and dogs eating her friend.. Things that make you go "WTF" -- But now she is 6 and perfectly "normal" lol -- I think i would just tell your daughter that she doesnt have to play with this girl and if she starts to be mean, to go find someone else to play with.
Nov. 7th, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
She's a four year old whose DAD IS DEAD, ffs.
Nov. 7th, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Talk to the teacher again, and tell her that under no circumstances does "I was just pretending/playing" excuse behavior like that. If this kid's dad is dead, yeah, she probably has some issues to work out, but that doesn't mean your daughter should be her therapy. If the teacher blows you off again, go above the teacher.
Nov. 7th, 2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
Actually, I would add that you might try talking to the girl's mom, not to rat her out, but out of concern. She may not know that her daughter is thinking/talking about things like that, and personally, I would want to be aware of that.
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