In children as young as Baby is, “friendship” is kind of a loose term that can be applied to anything from the friendship-of-convenience with your best friend’s child to the little neighbor he always runs towards at the playground, or the barely-a-friendship of a cousin who’s sort of close, but not very close in age. This means that there’s a good chance you’re the one who’s in control of who his friends are for now. That doesn’t mean a tot you just don’t get along with won’t slip into Baby’s social circle, though. No one likes to not-like a toddler, but toddlers are people, too, and with people, every once in a while, you run into one you don’t like.
To stay friends, or not to stay friends?
When it comes to nipping Baby’s friendships you don’t like in the bud, you’ll never be in a better position for the rest of his life, and in some ways, you’ll never have more of a reason to, since he is still young enough that you’re probably still supervising most, if not all, of his playdates. On the other hand, interfering in Baby’s friendships isn’t a habit you want to start to fall into, and it’s not one that will work for long as he grows. If you’re considering whether one of Baby’s friendships is in your family’s best interests to keep up, there are a few questions it can be helpful to keep in mind.
- Nothing lasts forever: Baby’s friends are as young as he is, and young toddlers go through some stages that are harder to take than others. It’s bad enough when it’s your own toddler throwing tantrums – he’s one of your favorite people on the planet, so while it’s no fun, it’s something the two of you can get past. When it’s someone else’s little one, though, there isn’t the same instinctive loyalty to fall back on to get you through the tougher moments. If you think whatever is causing the friction between you and Baby’s bud is a stage that will pass, it may be worth just cutting down on the number of playdates you have with this friend a little until he grows out of this stage of development.
- Different parents, different rules: On the other hand, some tots my rub you the wrong way because their parents are raising them in a way that runs counter to your feelings and beliefs. As Baby grows, this can actually be helpful, as it teaches him about respect and understanding for people who see the world differently than he does, but it also means that there’s the potential for a whole series of differences of opinion about parenting style as your children grow.
- The “x” factor: Do you and this child’s parents get along? Do Baby and his friend seem especially close? As long as your friction with his little friend is fairly innocent, the positives may outweigh the negatives. Baby will be in charge of selecting his social circle before you know it, and getting started in the safety of supervised playdates where, if you need to, you can step in to help smooth tricky social interactions.
- Safety first: If your hesitance about a certain child comes from a genuine safety issue, whether it’s that Baby’s friend likes to inspire him into gravity-defying stunts, or that his parents’ standards of childproofing don’t mesh with your own, that’s something to take very seriously. Maybe it’s a problem that can be solved with careful supervision, or playdates that take place at your house, or neutral locations away from both of your homes, or maybe it isn’t, and Baby will be safest spending some time away from his friend. In any case, Baby’s safety is your top priority, whether that makes things awkward socially or not.