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My daughter is 4 years old. She has a friend the same age who she calls her best friend. My daughter follows her around like a puppy. The problem is that the best friend can be bossy. She often talks down to my daughter and will "dump" my daughter to play with another child. Yesterday she told my daughter "Allysa and me talked it over and you can play with us now." Even with this poor treatment, my daughter continues to want to play almost exclusively with her best friend. How do I teach my daughter that she should not accept treatment like this. Or will she learn this on her own? I want her to develop strong positive self esteem.


Charlotte Cowan, M.D. Replied: There are many issues in your daughter's friendship with and dependence on her "best friend." Children her age are busy learning about friendship, and there is much negotiating back and forth as these children learn about sharing and kindness and inclusion. A good resource for you might well be your daughter's preschool teacher. She will see your daughter in action in a group situation for many hours a week, and she is in a perfect position to help the groups of girls interact appropriately. The teacher may also have some tricks for you to try at home. One of these is to intervene whenever you hear anything hurtful of any child (including your daughter) by saying something like: "In our house, we have the rule that..." Such intervention by a grownup can be very helpful and can teach the children good behavior. Good luck!
Posted On 2008-07-25 09:41:13
Dr. Georgianna Duarte Replied: It sounds like it is time to discuss the meaning of what a friend is. There are numerous books at the library, to your local librarian or teacher about friendship books, and in the interim....discuss with her, and create a picture of what a good friend is...A good friend is someone who shares, talks nice, etc....Let your daughter create the picture, and help guide her to identify the key elements in a friend. Use yourself as an example about good friends. Best friend is an unrealistic example for a four year old, so focus on simply the concept of friend....and what that means. Also, the library will probably have a good selection on independence, and solving problems...Good luck.
Posted On 2008-03-18 12:34:49
Trish Booth, MA Replied: It's hard to watch our children be bossed around and treated poorly because we want the best for them. In addition, the poor treatment can bring back memories of our own childhood. Although friends are important at four, friends at this age don't have the power they do during the teen years. How upset does your daughter get when she is bossed around? If your daughter is bothered by the behavior, you have a starting place to talk about more appropriate behavior. That could include suggesting your daughter use "I statements" to tell her friend how the bossy behavior makes her feel (i.e., "I feel sad when you don't let me play with you."). Your daughter, however, may not be ready for that kind of confrontation. If you feel that the friend's behavior is damaging your daughter's self-esteem, the best way to help is to expand your daughter's activities and have play dates with other children. Choose an activity that your daughter likes and invite some other classmate or neighbor. This approach works better than preventing your daughter from seeing her "best friend." Your daughter's relationship with her bossy friend is likely to change. She may tune into the bossing and decide she doesn't want to be treated that way. If there are developmental differences that give the other child an advantage, these will likely disappear over time. Your daughter may, on her own, find another best friend. This will likely happen if your daughter develops an interest that isn't shared by her current best friend.
Posted On 2007-11-06 11:01:44
Norman Hoffman, Ph.D. Replied: Some children follow the misguided suggestions and lead of particular playmates. Unfortunately, some of the more dominant uncaring types, may influence them into trouble. When uncaring dominant children influence the less dominant more caring children, this combination of dangerous elements can lead to tragic consequences. It is essential that you recognize and identify your own child's less dominant characteristics. If you believe your child is easily influenced by her friend's more dominant and "bossy" personality, you must take action. The action is highly related to the personality of your child and how they take your suggestions. It is important to understand the most effective manner to approach her. Some children for example take suggestions well while others may engage in a power struggle. I would suggest that you obtain children's reading material to share with your daughter about bullying, "bad influence", and heightening self-esteems and awareness. Your child may feel that she is "inferior" or has poor or low self-esteem and must therefore do everything she can to "keep" her friendship with the other girl. In summary, this issue "must" be mediated and resolved, or your daughter may face dire consequences, perhaps not now, but later in her development.
Posted On 2007-11-04 14:49:23
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