Why I Was Honest with My Kid About His Friend’s Bad Behavior

Now that my son is in elementary school I expect more from him and from the kids around him. The out of control, we can’t keep our hands to ourselves stuff that was OK in preschool is not OK with me now. Inevitably it leads to someone crying or getting hurt, and it’s just not appropriate for older kids to act that way.

So when my son recently asked to have a play date with his old friend Sebastian, I said no. Sadly, Sebastian is one of those kids who hasn’t really grown out of preschool behavior, despite being in first grade.

“Why?” he asked. I felt conflicted. I don’t believe in ever speaking unkindly about another child, nor do I want to label another child as “bad.” But, I do want to be honest about how I think children should act. I want my son to be able to recognize when a friend’s behavior (as well as his own behavior) is inappropriate.

But before I could answer my son said, “Is it because we get wild together?”

I paused, still conflicted. I didn’t want to be mean. But the truth is, they do get wild together. I have a problem with my son being around a poorly behaved kid. So I told the truth. “Yes, it’s just not that fun for anyone.”

My son went off and played for a while and then he came back in the room. “I think you’re right, Mommy,” he said. “I think it’s better if I play with people who aren’t so wild. It’s hard for me to not want to be wild, too.”

Later he asked if he and Sebastian could have a play date next year. “In a year, I think we’ll both be more mature,” he said.

I’m pleased that he came up with the observation on his own, rather than it coming from me. 

I know that there will be many more conversations in my future about good and bad behavior. I don’t think there will be a time when I ever need to label a kid as good or bad, but I do think it’s important to continue to help guide my kid’s choices when it comes to friends. After all, I’d hate for him to get any ideas.

Photo: Getty