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My mean neighbor and my son

I fell out with my neighbor and now she is taking it out on my son. How can I help him?

Try killing her with kindness, suggests our elder.

Dear EWC

My neighbor and I had an argument two years back. She started it by passing certain remarks on me. She has been treating me and my five-year-old child in a humiliating way by actions, only no words. She stopped talking to us. It took me two years to come back to normal as I used to fear her a lot and felt inferior. All those negative feelings have melted away. I apologized first and she doesn’t want to reconcile and wants to make sure her daughter never plays with my son. In the process, her four-year-old daughter behaves one way when her mother is there and another way when her mother is away. With my son, she pushes him and tells lies that he is pushing her and tells other little girls that my son is a bad boy. She asks for help or tries to play with him when her mother is not there, which is a rare thing. My son has become independent so he goes to the park by himself.

This whole drama of a mother pulling away her daughter from my son and that girl behaving in two-sided ways with him is making him frustrated and he blabbers aggressively to himself. I need help. How can I help him and tell him about the situation, that he has to stay away from that girl, and how to handle it when she pushes him? How to handle the girl’s mom? I would like him to play joyfully and at the same time I do not want any seeds of negativity sown in his pure heart. Kindly lead my way!

Global-Advice replies

It is very difficult to deal with another person’s hateful and toxic behavior, and even worse when it affects your child.

I am very sorry that you find yourself in such a situation. I am George K and am an EWC elder. We offer caring and common-sense advice based on many years of experience. I cannot promise you a great solution, but can give you an idea or two that may help.

One technique that my late father-in-law taught me was to “kill her with kindness”. This may be difficult, but if you make it a “game” it can be fun. No matter what she says or does, you respond with great kindness. When she is sour, you are sweet. Thank her for whatever she says, even if it was meant to be mean and to hurt your feelings. Let her know that your son loves playing with her daughter (even when it is not true). I have tried this with mixed results. Sometimes, the person gets so confused by your kind responses they just give up and start being nice in return. Do not explain to her (ever) what you are doing. Just do it and see what happens. And do not give up. Just keep being kind.

Another idea is to explain to your son what is going on. Treat him as an adult. Let him know that some people are just plain mean and nasty sometimes, but that we (you and him) are not that way, and that we are always polite and respectful. Teach him to walk away. Let him know that weak people hit each other, but strong people have no need to return evil for evil. Let him know that good people do not act in mean and evil ways, and you wish him to be good. When he asks why she treats him this way, just tell the truth — that you do not know why nasty people act that way, because you are not like that.

Teach him to smile and laugh at people who are mean, rather than to let them know that it bothers him. Tell him that when you smile and laugh at meanness, it drives them crazy — and that is true. It is not easy, but it is very rewarding to see their frustration and puzzlement when the mean behavior does not have the impact and effect that they wish — which is to hurt you.
My experience is that when this works, it can be very rewarding. It either makes them change and be a friend, and it frustrates them if they remain an enemy. Either way, you win.

Best of luck to you and your son.

Letter #: 461743
Category: Children

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