4. The Hanger-On
How you'd describe them: She can't get enough of your daughter.
How your child would describe them: "She calls me her sister."
How you should handle the situation: Congratulations! Your kid is popular. Grade school children tend to lack subtlety in their social interactions, so this clingy behavior is likely a sign that your child is the kind of person that others are drawn to. "In this case, I'd advise following your child's lead," says Goldfine. If she seems to enjoy the other kid's company (however shadowlike it may seem to you), then let them be. But if your child says that she wants to spend time with other kids, or is giving off frustrated cues by treating this friend poorly, start a conversation with her about other people's feelings. "You could ask, 'What's a nice way to tell someone that you want to have a playdate with someone else?'" says Goldfine. "Or you could talk about strategies: 'Let's hang out with this friend these days and other friends on those days.'" Consider this an opportunity to create a compassionate queen bee.
5. That Little You-Know-What
How you'd describe them: They spilled the beans about the tooth fairy and the birds and the bees, and now they're teaching your kid dirty words—in German.
How your child would describe them: "He knows a lot of stuff."
How you should handle the situation: This kid is a parent's stealth enemy because he often appears out of nowhere to steal your child's innocence. One night you're leaving the closet light on for a naïve 9-year-old, and the next he's talking like a pervy European bartender. It won't be long before he'll start begging you to let him watch Superbad—and you get the sense he and his new friend already sneaked a peek.
Goldfine says that this is another situation where it's important to communicate with the other child's parents. Let them know what the duo has been up to and get a sense of how they feel about it. As with the (Potentially) Bad Influence, look for clear warning signs (cruel intentions, bullying) and draw the line at the behaviors that you deem off-limits.
If this child's annoying behavior doesn't extend far beyond dismantling beloved childhood myths, Goldfine suggests taking control of the situation. After overhearing him use curse words, explain what they are and why we don't use them. Recognize that you might have to push up the "sex talk" by a year or so. "This may not have been your plan," he says, "but it's your chance to get in on the ground floor and correct any misconceptions about what your child has been told." It's also your chance to have a bigger influence over your child than this kid has. It will be very hard to keep your child away from a spoilsport, as that will only stoke further curiosity. Besides, the cat's already out of the bag—and meowing around the playground. It's unlikely that your child is the only one who has heard this kid's R-rated stories.
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