I don’t like my toddler’s friends

Your child isn’t perfect, but you get to see her through the bad times and the good times. You know she gets grumpy on occasion, but you also know that she can be unbelievably sweet, loving, and thoughtful.

You don’t get this same kind of insider info on Baby‘s friends. You see them for limited amounts of time, and it’s likely that it’s during high-energy or stressful times like playdates or daycare pickup. Many parents find themselves frustrated or just perplexed by the kids their child has chosen to be friends with. Maybe it’s their manners, the way they play, the volume they operate at, their messiness, or something else you can’t put your finger on. You just don’t like them!

Yes, it’s normal, and no, it doesn’t make you a bad person. Parents have been dealing with this forever, since the first cave-toddlers invited their friends over for…dinosaur soup? (Disclaimer: this article has not been checked for historical accuracy.)

Although you might not like one or several of your toddler’s friends, it’s a good idea to try to make nice with them. They’re still pretty tiny, after all, and they could grow up to be the best friends ever. Depending on the reason why a friend rubs you the wrong way, there could be a way for you to remedy the situation. The key to most less-than-perfect toddler friendships at this stage will be setting boundaries.

Baby wants to have this friend over more than you’d like? Institute a rule about when or how often friends can come over. The friend doesn’t clean up their messes? Explain that in your house, everyone cleans up after themselves. Baby and her friends are probably still a little young to be rummaging through your pantry without asking or talking at top volume, but those problems will arise as Baby gets older, and “house rules” will be the answer then too.

It can also be really helpful for you to make a special effort to befriend Baby‘s friends. They might act out because they feel like they’re away from home and don’t need to be “good,” but if they understand that you have a special place in your heart for them (even if it’s a little tough sometimes), they’ll grow to love and respect you more and want to be on their best behavior for you, too.

When you do have problems, don’t hesitate to enforce the rules you’ve laid out. Maybe sometimes you’ll need to refuse a playdate or send a child home from your house. You can give a few warnings, but ultimately, if Baby‘s friends aren’t behaving, you can let them know that you’ll need to call their parents and have them come back another time when they’re ready to play nicely, clean up after themselves, not hit, use their inside voice, etc. It will help Baby‘s friends understand what truly isn’t acceptable in your house, and it’ll spare you some frustration by nipping bad behavior in the bud. 

At the end of the day, this friend is (hopefully) hanging around because they and Baby like each other and enjoy spending time together, so anything you can do to help this friendship be a positive one is great. It’s a cliche for a reason: it really does take a village to raise a child, and you’ll be doing your part with this little one to help their future friendships bloom. 

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