A Falling Out Among Friends

 

Q: I have a 10-year-old son with ADHD. He takes medication and is doing well in the special school he attends. The school has students with learning and behavioral problems. Baruch Hashem, my son does not have behavioral problems, but some of his classmates clearly are emotionally immature and lack social skills. My son, on the other hand, is the youngest of adult brothers and sisters and usually associates more with older children.

I had begged him this year to befriend boys in his class, and he indeed became friends with one of the boys, Dovid. Dovid’s mother was gracious enough to have my son over at their house a number of times, and we reciprocated.

My son and Dovid, along with two other classmates, did a school project together. While they were working on the project in our home, for some reason Dovid began to act very wildly and immaturely. He also refused to continue working on the project whatsoever, and all three boys got very annoyed at him. After that point, my son started to become friends with the other two boys and began to basically ignore Dovid.

Dovid seems to be very upset about this — he even went to the principal crying — and his mother is begging that they become friends again. But my son told me that he doesn’t want to be Dovid’s friend. He said that Dovid always begs him for snack, and that he exaggerates things to make himself sound “cool,” and even speaks about things that are inappropriate to get attention. He also said that Dovid has bullied others in the past, and that he doesn’t consider their relationship ending as a great loss.

I just wonder if my son is exaggerating how difficult Dovid is. Maybe it’s just that his other two friends don’t like Dovid’s company, and that my son simply prefers sticking with these two boys.

They do seem to be nice boys and nothing about their behavior looks to be an issue. Plus, they are pretty respectful towards adults. So I am happy for my son to be friends with them. And yet, I feel sorry for Dovid’s mother, as she is trying to help him with friends and it doesn’t seem to be working out. She seems to be someone with whom I would like to become friendly, and I have a very good impression of her family as well. Any ideas about this?

A: In truth, it is many a parent’s wish that their child befriend certain peers, for whatever reasons. The same issue exists with shidduchim. Parents may feel that a certain type of spouse would be most appropriate for their child, and yet their child is continually not interested in such a type of person. The parent might really desire to be part of the family of the proposed shidduch, etc.

Whatever the reasons are, your son no longer desires to be close to Dovid. Nothing you write particularly states why you think that it would be beneficial for your son to be Dovid’s good friend.

It is true that showing ahavas Yisrael to one’s peers is commendable, but acquiring an actual friend involves other interpersonal needs. You should stress to your son that he needs to be pleasant towards Dovid and not ignore him. Though Dovid may misinterpret this behavior as a re-starting of their friendship, learning to be polite to someone with whom you don’t want a close relationship is a good social skill for your son to acquire, through practice. At this point, however, politeness on your son’s part may not suffice for Dovid. Accepting that a relationship will not be the same is a painful reality in such a situation.

It is possible that your son was influenced by his two new friends’ feelings about Dovid, and helped cause your son’s disassociation with him. However, Dovid did behave very inappropriately at your home, and most parents would be relieved that Dovid is no longer their son’s friend. If anything, it was fortunate that you did see this problematic side of Dovid, so you would feel less disappointed to see the relationship dissolve.

Even if your son is exaggerating Dovid’s character flaws, it’s best not to press the issue with him. The fact remains that your son now has acceptable friends his age — something you desired so strongly.

It is also not an impossibility to become friendly with someone whose son happens not to be friendly with your son, so a relationship between you and Dovid’s mother might develop in spite of your childrens’ relationship. B’hatzlachah.