Dear Margo: A 6-Year-Old Terrorist

How do we veto our children’s choice of playmate? Margo Howard’s advice

A 6-Year-Old Terrorist

Dear Margo: My four-year-old son was recently invited to a sleepover at his six-year-old cousin, “Josh’s” house. My sister-in-law, “Ella,” arranged the sleepover to cheer Josh up, as he’s currently suspended from school for bringing rocks into the classroom and throwing them at other children. My husband and I are not going to let our son go, and we don’t have any plans to let our kids spend unsupervised time with Ella’s kids, or with Ella.

I know that we can get out of this sleepover, but I also know that these invitations are going to keep coming. My husband and I want to be a positive influence on our nephews and nieces, but we see their behavioral problems getting worse every year, and we don’t want them to influence or put peer pressure on our kids. When Ella or one of her kids eventually confronts us about not letting our kids attend their events, what should we say? —Not Gonna Budge

Dear Not: A six-year-old is bringing rocks to school and throwing them at the other children? This kid sounds like a very short thug. You are right that there is clearly a behavioral issue, and these actions are not “normal.” Even kids who scratch and bite are in need of a little help. And it sounds like he has sibs who are just as harmfully aggressive.

I wouldn’t beat around the bush, because, really, how many times can you say that a 4-year-old has a previous engagement? You and/or your husband, in the spirit of helpfulness, should tell your sister-in-law and her husband that you find their children’s behavior outside the norm, and you strongly recommend they all see a child specialist. Then you might add that you are not comfortable having your children visit until the junior members of their household conform to what you deem appropriate and safe behavior. Be warned that they may take offense and drop you like a hot rock. Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to bring that up again. Be strong. Good luck. —Margo, safely

When the Timetables Are Different

Dear Margo: I am 25 years old, and my boyfriend is 37. We’ve been dating for a year and a half. I want to move in with him so we can take the relationship to the next level, but I think he is afraid of commitment. He says he wants marriage and kids one day, but he’s already 37 and doesn’t seem to be making any moves in those directions. He wants me to wait six more months and then revisit the topic. I love him and want to be with him, but six months is a long time to wait when there isn’t even a guarantee that he would be willing to let me move in then. Also, I am not from this state and would not stay here if it weren’t for him. What should I do? —Antsy Regarding my Future

Dear Ants: What is the hurry, my dear? It is never in anyone’s interest to push things along, especially when there is resistance. “Marry in haste, repent at leisure” is an old saying, but you could easily substitute “move in in haste…”

The ideal situation (for you) would be for him to be the one wishing to hurry things up. His reluctance may be uncertainty, a desire to live alone or some foreknowledge that you are not “the one.” If his timetable does not jibe with yours, take yourself back home and find out whether he misses you. Or not. I’m never in favor of games, so I won’t say play hard to get. But I will say, in this instance, let the timing be his — and if it doesn’t suit you, say au revoir. —Margo, spontaneously


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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38 comments so far.

  1. avatar Linda Myers says:

    The children I have seen like this over the last few decades, usually have a parent that is either in denial, or has convinced themselves the child is just a victim – and the young one accepts being a victim if it spares him discipline. Rarely, was the adult without being a key player in the cycle, with the parents needing reform for the child to change and that does not always happen either.
    I had a neighbor boy when my kids were small who daily created some serious chaos, to the point where the family was asked to relocate from where we lived after he set a fire. The mother just did not accept he was at fault – the school caused him problems so she did the homework, and then was angry he could not function in the class. I seen her a few years ago, with the son now approaching 30 and was told he was back home with his wife and child, on disability now for ADD, and would never be able to work and she was relieved to finally have an answer and know he never was at fault?? :-)
    Chances are family or not, you will not be the only rock that is dropped as a result of the behavior. Spare your children from being the possible punching bags or object of taunt. And who the hell arranges a sleepover for a kid being disciplined!! Yep, that showed him his behavior was in error. Parenting classes, Super Nanny or scared straight someday.

    • avatar Legal Eagle says:

      So very true Linda – these parents are in complete denial that anything is wrong with their child. Often, they feel their child is a reflection of them so if something is wrong with their child, then something is wrong with them. The child may have ADD or some other issue, but that doesn’t mean the child cannot be held responsible for his or her actions. The story of your neighbor is just sad.

      • avatar Linda Myers says:

        What is even sadder, is at six this child has formed many habits in life which will remain throughout his adult years and feeling trust and respect can be  negotiable with the
        outcome really not having limitations from guidance good or bad. The kids tend to raise themselves with rules of using whatever it takes to get what they want to survive, regardless of the penalties.
        When I was growing up a family with three boys who terrorized all the other kids, became long term residents in the prison in Iowa, where three strikes and you are out, even if the third strike normally would not have a severe penalty. Not unusual for mean boys/girls to end up that way. The family needs help, but they have to be willing to listen.
        My kids were not saints either, but the one time my daughter decided she would spit at the law literally after she forced herself to throw up on a cop and all over the seat of his cruiser, all cost and penalties were hers to pay from her own pocket. My kids didn’t land on pillows, they cracked their asses when they fell.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Excellent.  Cracking one’s ass when falling is a great way to learn not to fall in the first place!

    • avatar Lila says:

      Linda, that was my first thought too:  What are the parents like?  And why the effort to “cheer up” a kid who was suspended for throwing rocks, for God’s sake??  If that had been me or my brother, we probably would have been grounded for the rest of the school year and maybe the next as well.  You can bet we would have been made to feel the error of our ways.
      Unfortunately these days it seems like too many parents want to be their kid’s friend, and/or to protect them from everything and everyone… and of course the little hellions, I mean, darlings, can do no wrong.  No wonder your neighbor’s kid is back with Mommy at age 30.  Wonder if he will even be able to grow up once Mommy isn’t around any more.  That is the very epitome of failed parenting.

      • avatar Linda Myers says:

        Children anymore are well aware they can call 911 if even being threatened with more than verbal discipline and some take full advantage of it. My kids knew it too, but they also knew dropping their pants and showing the evidence would be part of process, that they cringed at. I was not loud with my kids, so when my voice shot up they froze knowing they had hit the limit with a need to spank them being rare but at the point of zero tolerance I did not back down either. Every act had a consequence good or bad, their choice in how they were  held accountable.
        The 30+ year old child now, will always have an excuse not to be responsible and I imagine his children will find it to be their way of life also. Small town, we cross paths every few years and the cycle has never changed. I am quite sure many adult ADD people do work, he just won’t be one of them.

      • avatar HauntedLady says:

        It’s sometimes difficult to know where the line should be drawn. A child needs discipline but not abuse. While I don’t think a kid should be allowed to call 911 for the least provocation, I have to say I wish there had been better awareness of child abuse and more courageous people in the neighborhood when I was growing up, My mother crossed that undefined line often, more with my brother than with me. I can remember her grabbing him by the neck and banging his head against the kitchen cabinets or throwing him on the floor and kicking him in the head. Neighbors heard his screams but never lifted a finger. This was kind of extreme but I still think, held to a reasonable level, a kid needs some boundaries enforced. The whole situation described by LW #1 sounds like a formula for disaster. No matter what “Ella” does, this woman needs to protect her own kids first.

      • avatar Linda Myers says:

        I agree with you, even thirty years ago so much that went on in homes and churches was considered domestic or private and children virtually unprotected or having the law look the other way. To attempt change there has to be a universal core whether laws or other measures. More children are being protected, even if the whiners and in this case just a mean little girl choose to abuse the fact she can push 911, the law has became more protective of the children.

      • Yes, exactly!
        And the “friend as parent” issue is sad in a way that is even bigger than entitlement and behavior (which is saying something). On some level, a level that will eventually rise to the surface, a kid knows when he or she is being bought off with friendliness and gadgets because the parent is too damn lazy and uninvested to do the actual hard work of parenting. In some deep way, kids do really get the concept that love is a verb.
        The best advice my mother ever gave me was something she said just after my son was born. “Tracy,” she said, “remember – you’re not raising a little boy. You’re raising a man.”

      • avatar Legal Eagle says:

        “In some deep way, kids do really get the concept that love is a verb.” That is a wonderful encapsulation of parenting Tracy and I love it. Children know when someone really cares about them and really wants the best for them. They will fight you tooth and nail sometimes, but at the end of the day, they are grateful that someone cares.

        Your mother is quite right as well that you are not raising a little boy, you are raising a man. Every single value, moral, and general life skill that is instilled in your child now (or is NOT instilled) will be evident in his adult years.

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      ” And who the hell arranges a sleepover for a kid being disciplined!! ”
      This is what I was thinking. He’s in trouble for throwing rocks at the other kids! Why are his parents trying to “cheer him up” because he doesn’t like the consequences of his actions?
      That ties in with what you’ve said, though: the parents don’t seem to see how the six-year-old is in the wrong, and aren’t addressing the problem.

      • avatar Linda Myers says:

        Sleepovers use to be a reward or tied to an event like a birthday and such. Otherwise it was just a case of keeping an extra kid when the parents had plans and wanted a quiet house or would be late picking them up. Anymore they are more of a Co-op for quiet time I think. Times have changed.

  2. avatar Legal Eagle says:

    If you want to move forward with your boyfriend and he doesn’t want to do so, then you can either wait the six months and see where he is at or you can go back home. Those are really your only choices. Personally, I think 18 months is long enough for a man to know whether he wants to take things to the next level. I suspect you are dealing with a commitment-phobe. You can waste a lot of time with those types of people. I concur with Margo on this one. Go back home and build a life, find someone who shares your relationship goals. It would not appear that your current boyfriend is that person.

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      I think a year is long enough to know whether a person wants to take things to the next level, never mind an extra six months on top of that.
      I don’t think it bodes well that the LW’s boyfriend is the only reason she’s staying in the area. If that’s true, she should definitely go home to cultivate herself and her interests outside of him. It’s awfully hard to be somebody’s sole reason for being something or somewhere.

      • avatar Legal Eagle says:

        I agree moonrevenge. I would say a year is long enough and 18 months is certainly well beyond the period of time when someone who is 37 should know if he wants to move forward.
        The LW would be doing herself a big favor to move back home and cultivate a life without this guy. Easier said than done certainly, but well worth it so she can be in a place that offers more than just the boyfriend. Moving somewhere just for the boyfriend is not a good idea. The LW is 25, she has plenty of time to get it together and move forward with someone who cares about her and wants what she wants. Hope she does that.

      • avatar Pdr de says:

        I agree, Legal Eagle – it’s a case of making a decision to return home and experiencing a lot of pain now and knowing that eventually things will be better and she will go on with her life, or postponing the inevitable pain for another 6 months during which time she will resent him for stringing her along and her intuition will be telling her that the extra time isn’t going to make him change his mind about not committing. 

        Just because you catch a fish doesn’t mean it’s a keeper!  Too many women seem to feel if they let this one go, there won’t be another one in the future. 

        You’ll be hearing from me later this week, by the way! 

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    As Margo said, LW#1 addressing the issue with her sister-in-law is going to cause a major family breach but someone has to tell this woman her kid is a menace and if not famiy…who will?  And absent the rare sociopathic personality (and I do believe there are kids like that and that no amount of parenting or discipline is going to change them) this is a result of over-indulgent parenting.  Unless she gets this kid under control (and it seems unlikely) his behavior is only going to get more dangerous.   I pity his teachers and peers in the years to come. 

    Oh. LW#2…this is the classic case of *he is just not that into you.*  If he is not *ready* after 18 months to move in together he is not going to be after 24 months.  And so you move in together….will it be another  several years before he is ready for marriage…if ever?  If you want marriage and children then you will have to let go…and mean it.   Move back to your hometown or another town where you have friends and if you don’t think you can make a life without him where you are living now.  

    I personally don’t think there are *commitment phobes*.  I think there are just men (and women I suppose) who haven’t met the person they think is the *one*.   And if he is a *commitment phobe*….you are not going to change him if you haven’t already.   Don’t be surprised to learn that one day he meets and marries a woman after knowing her for 3 or 4 months. 

    • avatar JC Dill says:

      I agree with Katherine 100% on the “he’s just not that in to you” comment for LW#2. I suggest LW#2 move back to her home state immediately. If the boyfriend discovers he really misses her, it may spur him to consider moving forward with the relationship. If it doesn’t spur him, then now is the time for her to cut her losses and move forward with finding someone else.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      I think there are definitely commitment phobes…  It’s that one day they got over their phobia and then the next good match they meet, they immediately marry, not that they finally met the right person.  (Of course, they are also plenty of people who just haven’t met the right person as well)

      I mean, some people will stand in a produce section for 10 minutes trying to decide between one apple versus another while most people would just pick one up in 20 seconds.  Some people are really afraid to commit to any decision.

      My dad, if it were left to him, would never have bought a car, a house or accepted any of his kids’ choices of spouses.  He is retired and often asks me to buy a plane ticket so he can visit me, then half the time, he would change back and force the month he wants to visit. 

  4. avatar blue tooth says:

    LW1: It might be worthwhile to speak with the mother privately about your concerns, as there may be a situation inside the house that is being hidden from you. If you want to be heard, try to stay non-judgmental, sticking with the concerns you have (the children acting out with violence, getting into trouble, etc.) and give her the chance to respond a little. There might be money issues, parents arguing because of financial or other stress, even domestic violence. The conversation could be geared towards getting help for the kids so they learn more successful ways of dealing with things, coping, etc. And can act and express themselves without getting into trouble. This should help to minimize their mother’s defensiveness. and might even move the kids towards getting the help they so badly need.

    To LW2: Leave him. the reason he’s not moving in is not because he’s afraid of commitment or intimacy. It’s because he’s having his cake and eating it too. He’s comfortable with the way things are and he’s stringing you along.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Re: LW2, I agree with you and Margo.  Leave.  Either he will miss you, or he won’t, but the situation will be resolved.
      My Aunt dated someone for 6 years back in the 50s, even moved in with him.  But no marriage proposal ever came, she wasn’t getting any younger, and she wanted to be married.  So she finally told him one day that if he wasn’t going to marry her, she was leaving; and then she left.  Within a few weeks, he begged to have her back, and they were married shortly after.  They were married over 50 years and he finally passed away a few years ago with her at his side.
      Sometimes you have to lose something to realize how much you really value it.

      • avatar shadow says:

        On the whole, I would agree, but…After eighteen months I had decided that I would hang in no matter what. Must have sent out different signals though; he decided I was too good to lose (?). Thirty eight very happily married years later we’re going stronger than ever. Sometimes, just sometimes, a keeper needs a little extra time.

  5. avatar D C says:

    LW2 – What’s your hurry with moving in?  I realize a lot of people do this for the sake of saving money, but I don’t think it’s a good idea — and I’m no prude.  I’ve been married 29 years to the same man, and I did move in with him 2 months before the wedding — because I had a roommate that stole my checks and forged my name and nearly cleaned out my bank account before I caught her.  My mom had moved into a tiny apartment with my brothers, so I couldn’t really “go back home”.  So I moved in with my fiance, but there was a ring on my finger and wedding arrangements already set. 

    I think just moving in together before there is a solid commitment is a gamble. If you want to take your relationship “to the next level” and you’re already having sex, then the only level left is marriage.   Since he seems reluctant, why don’t you back off a bit.  Find other things to do with your time — a new hobby that gets you involved in things that don’t inlcude him.  See if he misses you and at the same time become a more well-rounded person.  If you find that he’s just not that into you, it’s a whole lot easier to re-direct your life from your own place. 

    I would say a year is about the most you should invest in someone to find out if they are marriage material.  Especially at his age… if you hit the one year mark and a proposal is nowhere on the horizon, it’s time to move on.  And don’t shortchange yourself — don’t settle for a roommate when what your heart really desires is a life mate. 

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      “If you want to take your relationship ”to the next level” and you’re already having sex, then the only level left is marriage.”
      I feel inclined to agree if the LW knows that she wants to marry him. I know a lot of people who say it’s good to live together first to see if you can get along in such close quarters, but barring extreme cases, I think people can compromise on a lot after getting married.

      • avatar Katharine Gray says:

        I don’t have a moral issue against moving in together but I agree that if you want marriage, that  marriage IS  the *next level*.   I also don’t think living together before marriage will make your ultimate marriage more or less happy.  My niece iived with her husband for 3 years before they married and has admitted that *being married is a lot harder than living together*.   While I didn’t live with Mr. Gray before marriage, I might as well have as I spent all my time at his place…didn’t stop the first year *adjustments* to each other once we married. 

      • avatar Mandy McNalis says:

        I think it’s more of a couple by couple basis.  My husband and I lived together for 6 years before we got married and married life is just the same as those years living together.  Only big differences are I’m now considered a Mrs., we’ve now both got the same last name (my last name no less!), and got a lower rate on our car insurance.
        Like I said, it depends on the couple if living together is going to make any positive difference, but it can’t be dismissed entirely.  Not everyone will have adjustment issues once married, others will find it a whole new ballgame.
        That said, I agree all around that LW#2 seriously needs to get out of there and head to somewhere she’s got connections and a better reason to stay.  Maybe he’ll change his stance, maybe not, but she’s not going to be stuck somewhere just for a man.  She needs to be where she wants to be for HER.

  6. avatar krista griffin says:

    To me, the solution to LW1 dilemma is quite simple. She doesn’t want her child to spend unsupervised time with her nephew or S-I-L, but she wants to be a positive influence on her nieces and nephews. Why not invite him to HER house. My nieces and nephews get away with quite a bit at home and Grandma’s that they wouldn’t at my house. And they know it. If Aunt Krista gives them “the look” they stop the behavior. If her S-I-L asks why LW1’s son can’t come to her house for a sleepover, just tell her, “I’m more comfortable having him here.” It may get to the point where the nephew LIKES coming to LW’s house, because he knows someone there actually gives a crap about his behavior. Just my 2 cents.

  7. avatar 137lbs says:

    Two no-brainers today.

    LW1: I’d say a 4-year old is too young for a sleepover in any case. But even then, there’s no need to worry about the SIL’s feelings if it’s your child’s physical safety at stake. And there’s not much explaining required. Just say in future years that your kid is more involved with his school friends and that his cousin is “too old” for him in terms of playing level. Something like that.

    LW2: Assuming everything’s on the level and he’s genuinely not stringing you along for its own sake — the thing that prevents the bf from having her move in and move things to “another level” is he may be scared (subconsciously or consciously) that you are being really clingy and needy and building your whole life around him and him only, especially considering that you moved there solely for him. Almost every normal guy I know would freak out at that. Having your own interests makes you more interesting and appealing and palatable as a life partner. Think about it – if you ever are in a big fight your go-to retort will be “after all I’ve done for you” or something close to that. Who wants that? Would you want to be with a guy who seemed to have no life except to stalk you? He may really care for you, esp. if he has stuck with you this long despite any reservations he may have about a more complicated sort of commitment. He MAY be committed to being with you. But to move in, that’s pretty tough to undo, there’s going to be less personal space for when you get weird on him. Maybe he is hesitant because his gut tells him you are really not mature enough for him at this point. Think about it.

  8. avatar Evil Betty says:

    D C and Krista Griffin nailed it. 

    “don’t settle for a roommate when what your heart really desires is a life mate.” 

    “It may get to the point where the nephew LIKES coming to LW’s house, because he knows someone there actually gives a crap about his behavior”

  9. avatar Deeliteful says:

    LW #2:  Living with him for 6 months is not going to change his “thoughts” on marriage to you.  I lived with a man for 4 years that I knew I was not going to marry, ever.  He didn’t want marriage, either.  We enjoyed each other and then the relationship died of natural causes.  Because we weren’t married, we could both move on easily.  Your man may not be the marrying kind and you need to face that and move on.  Best of luck.

    And to everyone else reading this:  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  10. avatar Paula Pow says:

    “It may get to the point where the nephew LIKES coming to LW’s house, because he knows someone there actually gives a crap about his behavior.”

    Indeed!  Appropriate limits and consequences for unacceptable behavior actually give kids a sense of security, even though they usually complain at the time.  If this boy learns to take “no” for an answer at his aunt and uncle’s house, for example, he will learn a valuable life skill.  Good idea to invite HIM over instead of letting the 4-year-old go there to play.

    However, I don’t think inviting him over during the disciplinary period is a good idea.  And I, too, am appalled that his mother would plan a sleep-over for him when he’s being disciplined by suspension from school!

  11. avatar Drew Smith says:

    Regarding Different Timetables,
    I see a lot of comments about what folks think is “long enough”. I for one don’t think it is a matter of “time,” it is more a matter of whether the level of intimacy is moving forward AND in the right direction.
    To me warning flags go up when I see a twelve year age difference and then one partner saying “go faster” and the other saying “slow down.” Third strike is a lack of understanding of, much less appreciation for, a partner’s reason for waiting six months.
    In other words, an age difference that as the years go on can magnify (it works for some), a relationship that is moving at a pace that is uncomfortably slow for the younger partner and, a fundamental sense of uncertainty by this same younger partner about someone she is considering as a life mate. These are not green lights, recognize the signs for what they are, reasons for caution.
    P.S. to Margo
    I’d heard the expression used more broadly “Decide in haste, repent in leisure”

  12. avatar LB CityGirl says:

    Regarding letter #1: I would not for a moment send my four year old to sleep over at the 6 year old’s house, but not because the kid is a “terrorist!” The kid needs to be disciplined for his behavior, a sleepover does not accomplish that. And that is exactly what I would say in that particular instance. However, I am very disappointed that every reader here, and Margo is willing to label this kid a “terrorist” at six years old! At six years old, a handful of rocks does not mean the kid is destined for juvenile hall! What a terrible waste of learning experience for everyone involved! When my son was in kindergarten he got punched by the terribly behaved “new kid.” Every other family started shunning this kid. Except mine. We instead made an attempt to be patient and develop a friendship (closely observed for safety) with the “bully.” Today ten years later he is a fine young man, well behaved and getting excellent grades.
    Mostly, LW#1–this is a cousin to your child…what kind of lesson do you want your own child to come away with? They can and should have a relationship. As a family member you should be helping your in-laws if they are finding challenges with their children–you will spend the rest of your lives together a family functions–think about it. Maybe if you discussed it with concern and compassion you would find out the other Mom is totally overwhelmed and with some gentle guidance would be back on the right parenting path.
    Some bad behaviors are nothing more than developmental. This does not excuse the bad behavior, instead it is an opportunity to teach about the right behavior. Discipline means “guidance with love.”

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      You are absolutely right, the child is not a terrorist. He is a child who is obviously being brought up without boundaries or consequences for inappropriate, or even aggressive behavior.  In fact, he is being actively protected from consequences, and even rewarded for his behavior. The LW clearly states that one of her concerns is that the behavior is escalating.
      It is not the job of the LW to bring the parents of this child back on track, not even given the fact that they are “family”. Nor is it her responsibility to discipline (however you define the term) a six year old nephew, or to make sure that her child is friends with his cousin because they are relatives.
      The perception that the nephew’s mother is probably overwhelmed and simply needs a loving, gentle hand to steer her right makes me want to grind my teeth. If your child is at the point of planning to do harm to other children by deliberately bringing rocks into a classroom, and then hurling them at other students, at six years old…and you are rewarding him for this because he got in trouble at school and his feelings are hurt…you are either deeply in denial about life in general, or you are trying to raise a sociopath.
      I know, because my older son is a very difficult person. We have never been in denial about his aggressive behavior, anger control issues, or fascination with violence. We worked very closely with the schools to help him learn self-control, and boundaries, and the meaning of consequences. He did not get rewarded for biting, hitting, throwing things and tantrums (all provoked when he couldn’t get his way)…and he is a high-functioning autistic person, completely verbal, and of at least average intelligence. There was no fighting or arguing in our home, no violent TV (in fact, no cable or satellite for 16 years) or any video game systems. He was much loved, read to, played with, cuddled…and also taught about others.
      His father’s family, however, refused to follow every professional’s recommendations for a non-violent, low-media, consistent, well-bounded lifestyle. His biological father, who has never been denied any access (I’m far from perfect, but I don’t believe in separating parents from children in divorces, or putting down ex-spouses to your mutual children), refused to attend any school, psychiatrist or professional meetings or appointments.
      My son is 19 now, and lives with his biological father’s family. He left home at 16, when I sent him to live there because his resentment of our insistence that he control himself, be accountable for himself, and treat others decently caused him to physically lash out at everyone in our household except his step-dad, who had treated him as his own child, loved and raised him, for 14 years. He had never given his other family a bit of trouble until that year, when they told him he couldn’t just do whatever he wanted to do. He struck both of his 70+ grandparents and his father, and cursed them viciously. He had three stints in a low-security mental hospital, and four different therapists stated that his problem was A): largely behavioral (95%) and therefore medically untreatable, but definitely under his own control if he chose to control it, and B): it was exacerbated by violent media and a lack of boundaries. After having had this explained to them by two psychiatrists, and four therapists (clinical psychologists), some of whom knew my son’s school and home history with me…his father provided him with yet more violent games and movies, and unlimited access to both.
      Some people won’t learn. I give you kudos for helping enlighten the kindergarten bully. I don’t know where you lived, but here, a child who was new and having issues would be given as much encouragement as possible by the school (especially at the kindergarten level) and the kids would be equally encouraged to try to understand, and the school would try to actively involve the child’s parents, and “shunning” doesn’t occur until there are regular repeat performances that go undisciplined by totally clueless, and yes, worthless parents. You have to have compassion for the children getting bullied as well, and having their classes disrupted, and suffering abuse as well. This can include your own (my younger son is the polar opposite of his brother, and he has had his issues as a victim).
      Family isn’t always wonderful, and not all problems are “developmental”, and not all parents are going to listen, not even to compassion and well-intentioned advice. And a planned act of aggression at six is a clear warning of things being very out of alignment. I would keep my four-year-old at arm’s length from the cousin for a time, have a frank talk with SIL about the issue (no side stepping, because honesty is going to be necessary eventually), and see what the outcome is. A child exhibiting behavior like this is not a sign of abuse or neglect of the sort child protective services gets involved with, and my feeling is that the SIL is somehow not going to be willing to be enlightened regarding her child’s potential path.

  13. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Not being a parent, I can’t offer any advice. Agree with Margo. And yes – they will probably take offense if you tell them exactly why, even if politely. But if they do shun you after…I’d consider it a favor. Feel sorry for their kids.

    L #2: Six months is not a long time, especially not at your age. You’re pushing him…and you may end up pushing him away permanently. He’s not on a biological clock (can easily father children for the next 30 years) and you still have *plenty* of time on yours. Let him take the lead for a while. If in a year it’s still same old/same old, you’ll want to consider looking elsewhere. And from relatives’ histories? A 12-year age difference is often NOT a good thing, especially not for the woman.

  14. avatar Shana LeBeau says:

    Oh, good grief! These people are rewarding this pint size punk in the making for his premeditated bad behavior? 
    My sister-in-law, “Ella,” arranged the sleepover to cheer Josh up, as he’s currently suspended from school for bringing rocks into the classroom and throwing them at other children…

    That alone is a valid reason to give for declining the invitation. “Oh, you’re very kind to think of Jimmy, but I’m afraid he’ll get mixed messages and he’s really too young to understand why Josh is getting to have a sleepover because he misbehaved… I’d hate for him to get the idea that throwing rocks is ok. With Jimmy being only 4, we’re still trying to work on the problem of consistant discipline and don’t feel he’s able yet to make sense of gray areas.”…. keep jabbering on until Ella gives up and don’t bother to mention that you and your husband are also “too young” to understand why the child deserves “cheering up” in the face of a well earned punishment.

  15. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    My neice is “best friends” with her four sons. This is short-hand for saying that her boys are completely undisciplined, disrespectful, lazy, smart-mouth brats because their mother values their “relationship” above all else. Pity the women who end up with these prizes.