Toddler Frenemies

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have 2-year-old twins, and our friends have a 3-year-old boy.  Unfortunately their son is impulsively mean and aggressive to my children.  We try to keep visits short and under parental control, but inevitably one of my kids gets whacked or kicked. Our friends are having a difficult time with their son and we could all use a little advice on how to handle his mean-spirited actions.



Dear Lisa,

The main question is WHY is your friend’s 3-year-old is impulsively mean and aggressive.  I can only speculate, but I’m guessing his behavior is either due to ineffective parenting, some kind of family dysfunction, or more severe psychological problems.

Since you mention that you are good friends with this family and that you could ALL use a little advice, my first suggestion would be for your friends to have their son evaluated by a child psychologist.

If it turns out that his aggressive behavior is simply a result of ineffective or inconsistent parenting, your friends should be able to get some good parenting instruction from the psychologist.

In the meantime, they need to immediately step in and administer consequences when their son becomes aggressive.

Ask them if they will agree to this plan…they should tell their son that the next time your twins visit, if he is mean to them or acts aggressively in any way, the twins will need to leave and go home.

Then when it happens (and it certainly will) announce that hitting is not allowed and that your family is leaving.  Leave immediately, without discussion, even if their son protests or cries.  Stick to your guns and do this every time he displays aggressive behavior of any kind.  Hopefully it will only take a few incidents like this before the aggressive behavior begins to diminish

Thanks for writing, Lisa.


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