Little Rascal

Dear Annabel,

Having been enthralled at the level of diplomacy & decorum with which you’ve answered many other questions in the past for which I had no answers at all, it is to you I turn after a rather disheartening visit to an old friend to seek your advice on how I should respond.
Today I visited an old girlfriend who is younger than me & has always sought my opinion on life matters in the past but not so much now as we no longer live in the same city & move in different circles.

We met in a cafe today but she insisted I go home with her to see her children. My friend who I still get on with brilliantly has two young children (a girl 4 & a boy 2) who I had only met as newborns. I have children myself & so when I visited today I took gifts for the children as well as for my friend and her husband. The daughter at first was ok with my being in the home but when she realised I was taking her mother’s attention away from her away from her she proceeded to scream & continuously yell at me “I don’t like you, I don’t want you here, go away, get out!”

I love children & usually develop a bond with them quickly but she was utterly vile & very determined. I felt hurt & abused because my friend did nothing more than say “Now… don’t be rude. Don’t mind her, she’s just a little miss.”

If either of my children had spoken to ANYONE in this manner they would have been packed off to their room for some serious time out with a lecture from me as well. My friend’s child made me so unwelcome & so unhappy that I left much earlier than my friend or I had expected.

My friend later texted me to say that she knew her daughter had been rude & for me to just ignore it. My question is, do I tell her that she needs to nip this behaviour in the bud now or do I say nothing & never go to her home again, which would be quite awkward as she’s invited me to stay next time I’m in town?

I’d appreciate any advice or suggestions you can offer me.
R. in a Quandry

Dear R. in a Q.,

Good gracious, it sounds like your friend has quite the little tyrant on her hands! I don’t blame you for feeling dejected, disappointed and uncertain about how to proceed.

In this equation, though, it’s important to remember that she’s the child and you’re the grown-up. While Miss Mussolini is shrieking and carrying on, you can draw on great reserves of adult calm. Try a mild response like, “That’s too bad. I was hoping somebody in this house might want to play princess dress-up.”

You can also ignore the behavior, try to engage her baby brother in a game she’ll want to join, or vacate the scene if it becomes truly untenable. What I don’t recommend is offering unsolicited parenting tips. Since your children are older (and presumably better behaved), your friend may very well ask your advice. In that case, it’s fine to say something like, “here’s what worked for us” and gently broach the topic of setting boundaries so the household doesn’t spiral into Lord of the Flies-like chaos.

Charging in with warnings about preventative measures may do irreparable damage to the friendship, but there’s no reason to let this child bulldoze you out of her home. If you’d like to try again, schedule a brief visit and stand your ground. Your friend is probably mortified already. Just be diplomatic and try not to take it all too personally.

Good luck in the trenches!

Graciously yours,


P.S. The book pictured above stars Bootsie Barker, one of the great villains of children’s literature. It might make a fitting gift for a certain fiendish four-year-old…
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