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Best Friend's Son Is Abusive to Children

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: I am trying to deal with a situation that I really don't know how to handle. My best friend's son hits my three children. It happens when he doesn't get his way. It's not just a little kick here or there -- he literally jumps on them and hits, pinches, and scratches them in the face. He picks on other children too. He also has a very nasty mouth. I think it has a lot to do with the way his father acts toward women. His father is very abusive and has even hit my best friend. If someone says something to my friend about the way her son acts, she just laughs it off and says that he is so bad. She gets upset if one of my kids hits him back. I want to say something to her but I know that she will get mad. I don't know what to say or do.

A: You have a very important decision to make right now: Which is more important to you -- your children's and others' safety or this woman's friendship? It really doesn't matter why this child is striking your children or the others. What he is doing is very dangerous and your kids don't deserve to be hit, scratched or bitten. They have every right to fight back. That too is something you apparently don't want for your children -- learning to hit and hurt.

Not only should you speak to his mother, you should calmly and firmly, physically remove him from your children. Explain to him and his mother that he may not play with your children as long as he hits or uses his foul language and stick to your decision. She may be angry, but she may also appreciate someone else making the decision. After you have talked with her, you could let the children play together, but the very first time, he attacks one of your children, send him home with a firm message that you will give him a chance in two or three days to try again. After a couple of chances, do not let him play with your children again.

Quite frankly, I urge you to be present every time he is with your children as he may seek revenge. My guess is that this is a very sad, very disturbed child and that his mom just doesn't know what to do. She may be somewhat afraid of him herself. Maybe the two of you could find a parenting support group through the school or through the human resources department. Good luck.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

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