Testing? Looking for Attention? Aggressive Behavior in Friends Son

Updated on May 23, 2013
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
9 answers

I'm trying to understand a friend of mines son. He can be a bit of a bully. In the past few months, he has been pushing down younger kids, for no apparent reason. Maybe it is just for attention, but he usually does it when no one is looking! He does have a baby brother that t will be 1 in two weeks. This boy, btw, is 5. Hubby thinks he is being a bully because he small and wimpy. I think there might be some truth to this, especially since in the last year he has increasingly spent time with an aggressive older boy.

In any case, this boy is my 3 year olds best friend. They usually play really well together, but in the past month or so, this boy has been aggressive with my son. Today he pulled my son out of the entrance to a bounce thing, and then sat on his head. What I'm really curious about, however, is what he did about ten minutes later.

I looked over at them, and this boy was laying on my son. They were playing up until this point, my son wasn't upset this boy was on him, everything was fine. But the boy looked at me, and then he slammed my son's head into the bounce ground. My son wasn't hurt or anything, but why would the boy do this? For my attention? I have noticed that he has been hurting smaller kids in front of more adults lately. is he just seeing how we will respond and testing?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I should state that my son is more mature than most 4 year olds. He is very precocious, crawling at 4 months, talking in 5-6 word sentences at 18 months, etc. he is also more socially mature than most of the 5 year olds I know. He watches the older kids and then figures out what works socially.

Btw, this boy is really my daughters friend, but I really don't think the age difference is of much concern here.

Trust me, I immediately did something about both incidences, including putting the boy in a TO while I made sure my son was OK. We then went to see his mom, and he told her what he did.

The pushing the other kids down happens to another friend of mines toddler and 4 year old. I've never seen if happen, and if I did, I would immediately do something about it.

I do think my friend is way too lax in her parenting. I think she thinks he has an impulse control problem that he will out grow. I see a boy that was babied until another baby came along, that is highly manipulative, and that runs the show. He eats almost nothing, for instance, and they cater to this. He gets TOs for aggression, where immediate removal and a serious consequence are what is necessary. But I cannot tell my friend how to parent. I recommended a few books, but I think she is struggling to get by, and just doesn't know what to do.

They are moving in a month, so this problem will resolve itself, but I was just curious if anyone had any ideas as to what need was met when he put on his show for me. I want to understand what's going on with this boy, because he can be a real sweetheart. But something is going on.

Later addition: They are moving to live near my friend's parents, so it will probably be better for this boy in the long run. he will have grandparents to spoil him, but I do think it most likely is just due to wanting attention. I also think he is testing boundaries. I yelled at him when I found him on top of my son the first time --like really yelled, "get over there and sit down. NOW." I've never yelled at him like that before. Hubby thinks he was testing boundaries.

More Answers



answers from Miami on

If this mom is moving away, you two won't be seeing each other anymore anyway. Do her a favor and tell her that she needs to get help for her son before he ends really hurting a child. She needs to hear SOMEONE tell her that her son has a problem. He seems to want to hurt other children.

Do it, J.. Someone needs to.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Honestly, I don't know why you're even questioning this. WHERE THE HELL ARE THE ADULTS?! Obviously this kid is hurting younger kids because HE CAN. No one is stopping him, no one is teaching him any better.
Stop standing around wondering why and DO SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING before this child grows into a real bully.
I have no problem telling someone else's child,
that's not nice,
we don't treat our friends that way.
The fact that this boy looked right at you before slamming your child's head is pretty troubling. I don't know if he lacks respect for all adult authority but he certainly doesn't respect you.
And I'm pretty sure it's because he knows you (and your son) are just going to stand there and take it!
Sorry but this just BAFFLES me, and I'm normally a "let's let the kids work this out" kind of mom.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I agree with Patty K. Also, I would be VERY concerned about the head injuries. I would end this "friendship". Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We have a boy two doors down that is doing the same type of things. I discussed it with my neighbor who was relieved it wasn't just she that noticed it. Her comment was "it must be because dad's not there".
For some reason that is really bothering me.
He is also very small for his age, and was held back. He fits right in stature wise-but seems upset that he was held back. I'm at the point where I won't let the kids play with him at all unless it's a situation where many adults are supervising.
I'm sure the mother is aware of these behaviors. Even other parents at our school have noticed. Wish ours was moving away soon too!
I do believe that he is pushing his limits. I also believe he is crying for attention/intervention. Poor kid.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

If he's hurting other kids in sight of adults, he's doing it for attention. If he's secretive about it, he's doing it for the power.

I agree that the situation will resolve itself shortly as far as YOU are concerned. But you're taking a child who's been the center of attention for years, who got a baby brother and started acting out, and now his parents are moving him to a new environment? Recipe for disaster!

I agree you should tell the mom but you should also stop the play dates. No way a 5 year old is a good "best friend" for a 3 year old, no matter how precocious and mature you think your 3 year old is. Tell her you will miss her and you think there were some good times between your 2 boys, but that you'd be stopping the play dates even if they weren't moving. It's possible the 5 year old is reacting to the stress of moving, but the parents need to deal with this. So yes, he's testing - but what the hell is everyone waiting for? Your son looks up to this older boy, but that doesn't mean that what the older boy is doing is okay. Your son does not know enough to be upset - you must intervene on his behalf.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on


What happens when the boy is doing these things? What's mom's response?

It may very well be attention-getting behavior. However, your friend needs to put her foot down about it. No chatting, no explaining... he's old enough not to be doing this. I have seen this dynamic at a playgroup, where no one wanted to confront the mother and she was always 'explaining' "oh, sweetie, we don't hit/hurt" etc. She still hasn't dealt with it. (I stopped attending the playgroup when her child began this behavior at about 3 or so. Three years later and he's STILL doing this. It's terrible.)

And just so we're clear, YOU don't have to put up with this. Even if mom is not attending to what's going on, you can be very clear with "STOP RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE HURTING HIM." Firm, clear voice. Do everything you can to get between this kid and your child, pull your child out of harms way, pick up and go if necessary. I know it's not 'fair' to your kids if they have to leave, but this will also send a message to mom. What you are describing is very scary behavior and believe me, it won't stop unless it's firmly addressed.

I'd make sure future playdates are not at your house, so you don't have to insist they leave. "When I hurt my friend's brother, she goes away too" is a great lesson at this age. You can't solve the problem of this behavior, even if it is attention-getting, only his parents can effectively address it. You can, however, consistently make boundaries and teach in this way-- that YOU won't stand for it. It's really all you can do.

One other thing, J.-- I know your group practice is to discipline in the moment, no matter who's kid it is. In this situation, I think she needs to see you in that moment. I'd take him back to mom and tell her "He needs to be with you for now. He's hurting other kids/He just did XYZ and I need to be caring for the other kids." Just leave him there with mom. I'm sorry this is so hard. I know she is at a loss-- the other mom was too-- but putting it back on her is actually a good thing. (The other mom I refer to from my playgroup is *still* at a loss and needs to develop some backbone with her son. Maybe being in a spot, socially, will make her angry enough with him that she will start correcting him and disciplining him immediately instead of expecting others to do it.)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Our son was violent when he was younger. It was one of the big signs of his ADHD ... total lack of impulse control. I dropped him off at preschool once and watched him walk in and immediately kick a kid in leg. The boy hadn't done a single thing to our son.

Do you know if your friend's son has any medical conditions? The doctors and therapists who worked with our son said young kids aren't bullies, that that comes about at an older age. I remember asking specifically about it because we were so concerned about our son's behavior.

Your friend should talk to her son's pediatrician because his behavior is extreme. She can get a referral to a behavioral therapist for strategies for preventing the problem or possibly to a child psychiatrist if the doctor thinks there's an underlying medical condition.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I think he's doing it because his baby brother is almost 1 and they get a LOT more mobile around that age.
Now big brother has to keep his toys picked up (or the baby will get into them) or baby brother is getting into his stuff/room/space and big brother's mad.
When a baby isn't mobile - it's easy to walk away and have your space.
But when they are on the move, nothing is safe anymore.
Not only that, but babies are attention magnets so big brother is probably feeling shoved off to the side and forgotten.
Since he can't beat up his brother, he's transferring his aggression onto others AND doing it when grown ups are watching will get him attention - and at this point he doesn't care if it's negative attention or not.

Obviously he can't be beating up on anybody but it would be nice if his parents or someone would address this kids anger so he could express it in more constructive ways.
Siblings are not always a great and wonderful experience.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

A 3 and 5 year old cannot be friends. Too much of a difference in their maturity. 6 n 8 yes. 7 and 9 yes. 3 n 5 no.

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