My 3 Year Old Has a Friend Who Encourages Bad Behavior

Updated on May 21, 2014
V.L. asks from Montgomery, AL
10 answers

My daughter goes to daycare and the last couple of months she has been playing almost exclusively with one particular little girl. As I see it, the girl decided they would be friends and now they are. Before this, DD would play with other kids all day. Now, only this one. That would be fine with me, except this girl is bossy. She speaks for my daughter ("We like jaguars. We want a Spiderman cake. "), directs all of their activities, and encourages her to ignore the teacher. I got a talking to by both teachers about how DD was kept inside during outside play time because she and the other girl weren't cleaning up their area. They were asked twice (the girl told DD, "No, let's go do this") and finally the teacher said they could not go outside since they hadn't cleaned. At this, DD began crying but cleaned up the whole area by herself. Because of this, she was eventually allowed to go outside for a few minutes with the second group.

When that girl is not around, the teachers said DD is helpful, listens and participates. But when she is, DD's the complete opposite. She won't do anything unless the other girl does too or tells her to. Maybe I'm overreacting, but I hate this!! I don't want my daughter to be like a sheep or a doormat, especially if it involves her being rude or disrespectful. The teachers said if it keeps up, they might have to separate them and I support that but I am also worried that could lead to other problems.

How can I get my daughter to understand saying no to peer pressure at 3 1/2 years old?? I did talk to her and told her that not listening has consequences (i.e. not getting to go outside), and that her friend is not the boss and she needs to listen when her teacher is speaking to her. Has anyone dealt with this before at such a young age?

EDIT: No, I am not saying at all my daughter is a little angel and the other girl is bad. I can only report what the teachers are telling me. That she wants my daughter to go along, and she does. Yes, she probably does want to do the bad things, but the point is- normally she does not. The TEACHERS are telling me DD is usually helpful and listens. These are not my assumptions because "my kid would never do anything bad". I want her to listen to me and her teachers, not another kid. That being said, she is not using the excuse of "She told me to". The teachers saw/heard the other girl tell DD to do something else besides clean up.

There are not two "classes"- it's one daycare class divided into two groups because of the ratio mandates 12:1. I did mention that if a problem continues, the girls will be separated.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks for all of the advice! I talked to the teachers again and they said that they have begun separating them for periods throughout the day and that has helped. As far as listening, she once again lost a privilege for not doing as asked so I think that it's beginning to sink in what needs to be done and that the teacher will override her friends.
Thanks again!

Featured Answers



answers from Detroit on

I'm with fanged bunny. Just try to speak positively about school. If she brings up concerns about the bossy girl-then you have an opportunity to have a diolouge. Let yhe teachers handle the rest. My Kidnergartener is in school for the first time this year and has had to flip her card a few times for talking, or because another kid told her to do something. I don't make a big issue out of it-but let her talk it out. She actually distanced herself from tge girl she thought would be her bestie at tge beginning of the year-because the girl was getting into trouble a lot. I didn't tell her to do it-but when she to,d me she did I told her that sounded like the right decision. They recently started hanging out again, and the other girl seems to behave better. We read a lot of books about kindness and treating others respectfully.
My 10 year old had a very bossy bestie last year and I didn't care for it. This year they didn't end up in the same class-and I think my ten year old is starting to see the other girls true colors.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Portland on

I think it would be a great idea to separate the girls. Your little one should not be solely responsible for this, however. There is an onus on the teachers to also help other children not be tempted by this other little girl's bad behavior.

It sounds like your daughter may usually have the self-regulation on her own to resist some temptations, but with encouragement from a friend, she will get into trouble.

I have a child who has made this choice a couple of times. It wasn't that the other child (who was part of the worst behavior he's ever displayed) is a bad kid, not at all-- it's just that together, they are just prone to mischief. I actually really like that other kiddo, but think that two very silly, imaginative and naturally ignorant children are tempted to make poor choices in order to thrill each other, more or less. So, while it is natural, you do want to limit the potential for incidence.

So, that's my two cents. Ask for the kids to be separated. The teachers should also be helping this girl understand that it's not okay to encourage other children to do things she knows will get them into trouble too. But that's their journey with that child; I'd encourage you to have her placed in the other group.

ETA: I really like the language Elyse used in how to address the children. You might try this with puppets at home, just to model this for your daughter.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Facing something somewhat similar myself. My DS is 3.5 too. He is capable of being naughty, but isn't usually prone to start the hijinks. If however, there is naughtiness afoot, he is quick to join the party.

In your case you have a little girl actively encouraging it, in mine, my kid of his own accord will seize on it.

We've recently changed tactics in our house. Rather than asking about if DS or someone else was made to sit in the naughty chair in class, or reminding him that classrooms are not for screaming, or that it's inappropriate to pretend to be a dinosaur during the pledge or allegiance; we've taken to asking who was especially good, especially helpful, who was quiet and respectful, who followed the rules, who used their inside voice. Not going to foster bad behavior by giving it more air time.

I'll let you know how that goes.
F. B.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

At 3 it's hard - some kids are natural followers and when someone is leading them astray it can be worrying.
I'd have the teacher separate them sometimes - so everyone gets a chance to play with everyone - and they are not paired off together all of the time.
Eventually your daughter might be able to stand up and say "No, that's a bad idea and I don't want to do that" but it will take time - maybe even a few years.
Telling her to listen to the teacher is great - she has to never mind what ever her friend wants to do if it's not what the teacher wants.
(If the other kid wants to jump off a bridge your daughter doesn't have to go along with it, etc - that whole speech).
Have some play dates with other kids so your daughter has a wide circle of friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Talk with your daughter about saying "no" when she is told to do something she knows is wrong - or wrong for her. Let her know that the other girl has NO POWER over her, is not a teacher, and does not get to say when it is/is not clean-up time (my youngest son was in a preschool class with a bossy 3 year old he SWORE was one of the teachers, so at 3, it's possible she thinks this other child is in a position of authority!).

Other than telling her she has a right to say NO to anyone who directs her to do the wrong things, you need the teachers to address this when it happens - not just with penalties, but with clear directions to both girls:

With the other girl: We do NOT have a right to make decisions about what another person likes. We do NOT have a right to coerce [not the best kid word, I know] people into doing things.

With your daughter: We DO have a right to say NO. YOU decide what you like. Say NO when your friend tells you to do the wrong thing. Use your BIG GIRL voice.

And THEN if they continue, they get the consequence.

If the teachers have already done this and it has not helped, then the teachers need to separate them now. In that case, I think you ought to insist that they do so. If you can, do it where your daughter can hear you.

Good for you for seeing this in her and trying to address it NOW rather than at an age where the consequences of being responsive to this sort of coercion could be more painful for her.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

I know this girl is real but your dialog sounds like that of a child with their imaginary friend. Oh the friend made me do it. No the friend didn't make you do it, the friend is imaginary. It is easier to visualize when you are speaking of an imaginary friend but the dynamic is the same. Your daughter wants to misbehave and she is using the friend as an excuse. She is way too willing to go along.

I could be wrong mind you but you have said nothing beyond the girl is bossy. No do this or I won't play with you, no I will make sure the other kids won't play with you, just bossy. So it is easy to assume she wants to do what the other girl is telling her to do.

Just throwing this out there because if your child is choosing to do wrong and using the other child as an excuse the approach is completely different. She needs to understand she is the only one responsible for her consequences. To you, to the teacher, she is responsible. Because I am getting that my little angel is being led astray vibe. Nope, your little angel is choosing to go along.
But you are wanting to call this peer pressure and you haven't described any. The girl isn't doing anything but telling her what to do and your daughter is choosing to do it. It does not matter if the teachers hear the girl tell her to do something because that is not in dispute, it is why is your daughter doing it and it isn't peer pressure because there are plenty of girls to play with.

You need to figure out why she wants to play with this girl, why she wants to do everything she says unless it happens to not allow her to go outside. You can't have peer pressure without pressure. No one else is playing with this girl so there is no popularity in playing with her. This is a choice your daughter is making with no outside pressure, if anything there is outside pressure not to play with her.

I guess I am saying you seem to be looking at the girl is telling her what to do and I think you should be looking at why the your daughter is obeying her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's never too young to start having simple discussions about behaving appropriately even around naughty friends, and role-playing. i'd also be having ongoing discussions with the teachers about their role in the matter. it's up to them to provide appropriate consequences for disobedience, and to separate the girls if necessary.
ETA, go fanged bunny! and giggling a little at DD- switch daycares? 'you don't have long to help her with this'? really? 3 year olds bossing each other a little? snork!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

The TEACHERS need to be addressing this. If there are two classes, then ask for them to be in different classes. If the other child is actually instigating the behavior and sassing, then that child should get in trouble, and your daughter should be sent off to do something different. The TEACHERS should be establishing that the other child is not the boss.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't think you can explain it verbally in terms a 3.5 year old will understand, however, after missing outside time, she will begin to figure out for herself. So, just keep saying to her that she needs to make her own choices because she will suffer her own consequences. It will start to make sense to her as she finds that she continues to be in trouble when she listens to the other girl.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

If it were me, I would find another daycare. Separating them isn't enough. Perhaps this will happen again, perhaps it won't. But you won't know if you don't get her away from that little girl. AND, the longer it goes on, the longer she gets used to this facet of her personality.

You don't have long to help her with this. You can't find a new school once she goes to kinder. I'd do it now.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions