Separating Best Friends in Elementary School

Updated on April 22, 2011
W.M. asks from Santa Monica, CA
18 answers

Do you think its ok for a parent to ask the teacher that two very close friends in elementary school not be allowed to play together during recess because that parent feels like their child is being negatively "influenced"? Initially, it doesn't sound that outrageous of a request but then I think about what it does to the self-esteem of the child that's the "negative Influence". My child doesn't get in trouble much at school, an occasional note sent home but its been a while, and he isn't a hitter or a swearer or anything like that. The parents of the other child seem to just be very conservative. Is there a line of discrimination? I wouldn't dream of doing it but does this mean I can just go into the class and pick and choose who I feel like I want my child to associate with and ask the teacher to respect my wishes? Anyone else deal with this in elementary school?

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much for all of the responses. I really needed some validation that my feelings about this aren't out of line since I'm on the other side of the fence. I spoke to the teacher about it and explained my concerns for my child's feelings and she has offered to remedy it. We'll see what the turnout is. I agree with everyone here that unless there is bullying or some major misbehavior going on, requesting that friends at school be separated at recess just because a parent dislikes something about one child is not ok at all. Not only is it sending a message to my child (and the rest of the class that will find out about it sooner or later) that my child isn't a good kid to be around (my kid is a great kid to be around!), but its also teaching the other child that they aren't responsible for their own behavior.

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answers from Honolulu on

I think teachers should be teachers and not "friendship police". If the mom feels so strongly then she should homeschool and keep her "perfect, precious flower" from ALL negative influences... I wonder what will happen when this girl decides to rebel at 13 and get a boyfriend.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think it is up to the parent's to enforce it and simply make the teacher aware of it but she can not enforce it... honestly I have never heard of anything like this before.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Spokane on

Really? Parents do this? LOL I think unless the other child is being REALLY bad (manipulative or abusive) then this is just a case of helicopter parenting to an extreme. I mean, talk about micromanaging your kid! geez...

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Sure, a parent can request something, but the teacher can't enforce something like this at all times... really, it's quite ridiculous unless one child was actually bullying the other..

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

This is not OK. Not to ask the teacher, or to dictate who a child should be friends with. I had a best friend in elementary school and we were very close. I really thought a lot of her. For some reason, her mother didn't like me or my mother. No particular reason that we ever knew. Anyway, her mother instructed the teacher to keep us apart, and told my friend to never to talk to me again or she would get in trouble. She did as she was told and never talked to me again. I was completely heartbroken and devastated, thinking I had done something wrong, that is was my fault, even though my mother told me that it wasn't my fault. She tried to make me feel better, but the damage was done. Even today, as a grown adult, I still think about it and it makes me sad. This other girl continued to be let her mother dictate who she could be friends will all throughout the rest of her school years. She never went out with friends in high school, became a complete loner just because her mother never found a friend for her that was good enough. I also understand now that the mother had jealously issues, which I see clearly now as an adult. I always felt so sorry for her. I only hope she got away from her controlling mother and found some happiness and independence in life.
Now I am totally depressed.... lol

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Wow. Talk about micro-managing. Those parents won't be able to do that forever, that's for sure.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

That is really not the teacher's responsibility... She may not even be the one on duty during recess.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It is completely unacceptable. That is not the role of the teacher, and it's not the role of the school. At the time classes are being assigned, it IS okay for parents to ask that good friends or even twins be put in separate classrooms, but that's it. We had 7 boys on our street, and we asked at the start of kindergarten that they be mixed up a bit so that there was no "clique" or social group inadvertently put into one classroom. That's it. Neighbors have twins, and asked that they be separated.

Teachers can oversee overall behavior, and should, and of course there should be no bullying in the school at all.

The parent who wants to control the child's social life in a 20 minute recess is excessively involved. That's ridiculous. If the parent has strong values, the child will be brought up with them at home. If the parent doesn't want the child to come in contact with anyone different, the parent should home school the kid. Isolation is the exact opposite intent of public schooling.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Unless there is a bullying situation, parents cannot expect the school staff to enforce this kind of request. Parents can coach their children to seek other friends at recess, sure. And they can control who is invited over for playdates, and where their children gather socially and activity-wise. But to keep kid A away from kid B at recess? There would have to be a better reason than a vague "negatively influences" reason.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Well, that parent will probably do this, every year.
Helicoptering their child and deciding who their child plays with.

Unless your child is a Bully, then this is probably just an icky parent who is super picky about who child their child plays with.

Parents, try all kinds of things or complain about all kinds of things. Even if it seems silly to others.
To them, THEY want what they want.

A parent, also has a responsibility, to teach their own child, about people and how to speak up, and how to choose friends and what to do to discern other kids.
Growing up, kids make all kinds of friends and those friends have parents that "we" may not like personally or have the same lifestyles that we prefer. But so, again, a parent has to teach their child about life and about different people good or bad, and teach them how to choose friends or not.
Its just life.

Is this YOUR child, that the parent is saying to separate and not be allowed to play with your child? Or is it another kid but you are curious about it?

What is a 'negative' influence to one parent, may not be to another.
it is real subjective.

I always teach my kids, that everyone is different. BUT, if a kid is inappropriate or a Bully or a bad personality, then they go and play with someone else. I teach them how to 'Discern' other kids.

A Teacher, cannot just make kids not play with a certain other kid. That would be or can be construed as that child being ostracized or targeted or singled-out. Then what will the other kids, think of that kid? It is a real ripple effect.
And, where does it end?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I think if I were the teacher being asked this by a parent, I would have to look that parent in the eye and ask "really?" "is this what you think a good education is all about?" Yes, if there is a bullying situation, it's important for the teacher and all other school personell to be aware and do everything in their power to put a stop to it. However, even in that situation, separating two good friends is not the answer. How do kids learn social skills if they aren't allowed to make some personal decisions regarding their own friendships. I can see a teacher maybe separating friends for a brief time to deal with a specific problem, but not permanently just because parents feel a child is a negative influence.
Let me guess... You are perhaps of a different religious persuasion than the other parents? You are of a different racial/ethnic background? You adhere to a different political persuasion? I'm betting it's something of a petty nature such as this that has these parents making such a request. To me, this simply shows that they aren't secure in their own beliefs or lifestyle. If they were secure, they would realize that they can teach their own child their values at home and give them freedom to be out in the world with other children who come from families who have different values without worrying about them being negatively influenced.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I don't think this is something you can control.
Even if it was a bully situation it's hard to keep kids from mingling at school and when they are friends it's even harder.
They want to spend time together.
Teachers are so not in to policing relationships.
Some kids have a new best friend every day of the week.
Recess is what - maybe 20 minutes out of the school day?
Now when they are out of school, you can get your child involved in other activities so he can met other people and make new friends.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Mommeigh has a pweshus wittle snowflake that needs protecting from a normal little boy his own age? That's going completely overboard in elementary school in asking the teacher to step in if the friendship is a normal friendship.

However... I feel like I need to ask what your child has had notes sent home for? Have there been any altercations between the boys that maybe the boy told his mom about that is causing her concern? I'm friends with my daughters' friends' moms so when the girls all have their fall outs and my kids are upset I'm able to encourage them to work things out from home and/or figure out what happened between moms. There's really only one girl whose mom I'm not friends with, and that girl is a class bully (the mother is absent and the older sister who is in her early 20's basically raises the girl).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

as a teacher, i don't feel it's realistic or appropriate to ask us to try and control whom your child plays with. it is appropriate, however, to point out the ways in which your child is being victimized, if there are school rules being broken. for example, teachers could watch your child more carefully and make sure she/he is not being bullied or teased. if that's not the case, focus on your child. talk to him/her about the friend, and reinforce your own values if you don't agree with the other family's values.
good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I'm guessing that your child is the one that the teacher has been instructed to not allow to play with this other child?

I think it is a request that puts too much onto the teacher. It isn't really her job to do something like that unless, like another poster mentioned, there is bullying taking place. However, I also disagree with concept that parents have no place in choosing whom their children associate with (at school or otherwise).
My son, when he was in 5th grade, had become friends with a boy in his class who was difficult. He wasn't a "bad" kid and had a lovely mom. But they did have very different rules for their child and different expectations for him than we do/did for ours. Their child also had several disciplinary problems, (none of which were directed at OUR child). But, the thing was, that our child was picking up some of the habits and thought patterns that he was seeing this other boy use. We started getting notes and emails that our son was doing x y or z (nothing really bad..but things he had NEVER done before). Always "innocent" things, but WRONG things nonetheless---- having a stapler at school, for ex. His friend brought it in for him and he put it in his pocket. guess who got busted. That sort of thing.

We told him that he was no longer allowed to hang around with that kid. He was NOT to go tell him "I can't play with you anymore because you're bad", or anything like that, but that if they were on the playground, he was to find someone else to play with. If it was a group game, like kickball, that was out of his control, except that he could try to be on a different team or whatever. We also quietly/privately asked the teacher to please not assign them to group projects together and not to allow them to move desks by each other (they frequently rearranged the classroom).
Basically, we taught our son how to slowly extricate himself from a friendship that was "bringing him down". He liked the kid a lot. But he was hurting himself by associating with the bad behavior. It was harming his own reputation and expectations of him. It wasn't long before it was a non-issue. Both boys had other friends and it was not so much "work" for them to hang out with other people. And our son's behavior issues disappeared. No more trips to the office or having to spend his recess spreading pine straw. Although we did hear later that the other little boy was back in the office again for hitting someone. (He never hit my child, he was more likely to hit someone else because they looked at my child the wrong way.... his logic was "nobody messes with my friend").
This was older elementary and my son learned some valuable lessons about choosing friends. But it is not the teacher's job to not allow them to play together. That is something the child's parents need to deal with with their daughter. The only time the teacher should be involved is to be informed of what the parents are doing, so as not to put the student in the position of disobeying the parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

We have dealt with the same issues. I dont think it is fair to ask the teacher to seperate them. In class, where it is more controlled I can understand. For next year though, I would ask about putting in a request to not have them in the same class, then their recess time would be at different times most likely.



answers from Salinas on

I think that is the job of the parents. If their child disobeys their rules when they are not around then they need to blame their parenting skills. They should not hold the teacher to a higher standard in raising their son then they hold themselves. This answer I give is addressing "two close elementary friends" I do think the teacher needs to help protect the children from harm.



answers from San Antonio on

I ONCE got in trouble in elementary school for poking a boy who refused to stop standing in front of me. My M. was the first one divorced and parents requested I not even be in class with their child. They told me when I was in high school and turned out all right. My school years were sanctuary from home where I was abused in every way. When my friends were not in my class, I was alone.
As a parent, I would LOVE if the school could keep the kids who act out away from mine, but they can't and don't.

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