'Should My Kid Play With a Kid Who's a Bad Influence?'

I believe your daughter's subconscious is speaking to you. It is saying, "I am sick of being quiet and scared of my shadow! I need a rascal like P to loosen me up!" Also, your daughter is 5, not 15.
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Reader #PlaydateProblems writes:

I have a 5-year-old who is probably highly-sensitive. She's done occupational therapy to help with emotional reactivity, gross motor skills and some sensory sensitivities. She is VERY slow to warm up socially, especially in groups and organized classes (soccer, dance) and birthday parties have been a disaster.

I'm just starting to tune into the fact that I need to set up some play dates for her to help her bond with kids in her class on a smaller scale. We had one this weekend with another little girl and it went well.

The problem: There is another little girl ("P") who my daughter wants to have a play date with. When I see P, she is often being corrected by teachers for not following directions and acting out. In addition I've seen her getting into trouble multiple times when I pick my daughter up from the after-school care program (including for physical violence).

I don't want to marginalize another 5-year-old, but I don't want P to be a bad influence on my daughter (who I think could be easily influenced by disruptive, aggressive misbehavior). I'm torn between wanting to let my daughter explore a friendship and wanting to keep her away from someone who could get her into trouble. I asked the teacher about who she thought my daughter might "click" with and asked about P and she agreed it would probably not be a good influence.

How do I handle this? What do I tell my daughter when she says she wants to play with P? I'm trying to teach kindness, too.

Dear #PP,

Good job on starting scheduling playdates. Your kid needs ALL THE PLAYDATES. I was painfully shy and anxious and the only thing that helps that is practice practice practice and alcohol. And if you do the practice now then your kid won't need to drink too much in college like I did! Moving on.

Your child is super smart. She has picked a child from whom she can learn wonderful skills, like being assertive, doing your own thing, and not giving a s--- about what grownups think, which means she may end up as president. You can't pick who your kid clicks with. If you could, everyone would like their daughters-in-law.

I believe your daughter's subconscious is speaking to you. It is saying, "I am sick of being quiet and scared of my shadow! I need a rascal like P to loosen me up!" Also, your daughter is 5, not 15. The odds of her turning "violent" (and I'm going to assume this means pushing, not arson) to emulate P is very low, because she's starting out WAY on the other side of the spectrum. But she may start to laugh more or jump up and down when it's quiet time or something that would probably be good for her emotional and social development.

I say go for it, invite P over. Make friends with her mom. You sound a little judgmental, no offense, and pretty anxious yourself, so perhaps P's mom can bring over some margarita mix or something and you guys can become friends. She sounds like she might be interesting and fun if she is raising P.

You can't pick your kids' friends and if you try to later on, you're not going to want to hear, "Yes I am going out with the dude on the motorcycle holding a 40 because you have been ruining my life ever since you stopped me from being friends with P, who is now going to Harvard mind you, all because you pigeonholed her as a behavior problem when she was still old enough to believe in the tooth fairy." Roaaaarrrrr goes the motorcycle, with your resentful daughter on the back headed to a dive bar with a fake ID. And this, my friend, was because of your anxiety. How's that for catastrophe?

Good luck, and please please update me on the playdate with P. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says My Sensitive Kid Liked a Kid Like This and She Did Act Out a Couple of Times Under Her Influence But She Loved Her and Their Playdate Was Awesome and Fun. And That Kid Is a Total Alpha Kid and Will Probably Be the CEO of the World One Day.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.