Kid Conflicts with Friends and Colleagues

Today, naturally, politics are on nearly everyone's mind. But here's a small-p political dilemma: Love Your Friend, Hate Their Kid?

It's rare that I meet any kid I don't like. So largely, I like my friends' and colleagues' children. Maybe the firstborns and only children are a little spoiled, but hey, been there, done that. The reverse is more common: Love the kids, wonder about the parents. Also, I find it more likely to love my friend -- and feel queasy about her husband or romantic interest. A third awkward situation: You're dying for kids, your friend, colleague or boss can't imagine ever being a parent.

At Johnson & Johnson, my former employer, most of us with young children used the employee day-care center for children six weeks through kindergarten. This created some dicey situations. I met pathologically maladjusted children of overworked parents who complained that the center was only open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. My son bit and was bitten by co-workers' kids. In these cases, there was little separation between work and family, testing everyone's diplomatic skill set.

So, what do you do if you don't like a friend or a colleague's kid, or someone else in their life? Is there any way to share suggestions or opinions without risking the relationship? The article suggests a feedback "sandwich" with compliments stacked on either side of the advice. Do you have any good (or even better, bad) stories to share? Do different sets of rules apply for family vs. friends vs. people at work?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  February 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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I have never worked where there was an employee day care on site. Both agencies contracted with a day care facility off site but near by. I never brought my child to these centers anyway. I actually like all of my friends kids. It is fun to watch them grow up. I also don't spend enough time with anyone of my friend's kids or family members kids to get truly annoyed by them. All kids have their moments and if you keep that in mind, it is easy to enjoy them in short bursts. I mostly get to learn about colleagues kids through their stories. I love hearing about their kids. Even before I had my own, it was nice to hear about other people's families. I always enjoyed the bring your kid to work day because you get to meet them in person.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 6, 2008 7:29 AM

"I met pathologically maladjusted children of overworked parents who complained that the center was only open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. "

I have met pathologically maladjusted children of ALL KINDS OF PARENTS.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 6, 2008 7:55 AM

Kids biting other kids? Hey, in sharkland that is all we ever do! Chomp!

Posted by: nonamehere | February 6, 2008 7:57 AM

My favorite kids are the bratty, smart mouthed ones that can't sit still or behave...

as long as they aren't mine.

Posted by: DandyLion | February 6, 2008 8:17 AM


Excessive captalization is the first sign.

Posted by: nonamehere | February 6, 2008 8:20 AM

I'm part of that third awkward scenario: I'm at that time in my life where my friends and co-workers are planning for kids and some have already had one or two.

As someone who wants to remain childless, parents seem to suspect me of hating children. I sort of have to prove that they can feel comfortable talking to me about their kids. I'm looking forward to the days when my husband and I can babysit for our friend's kids and don't mind at all including the kids in our plans (we're taking a beach vacation this summer with a couple with kids).

So I've managed to avoid the awkwardness by showing interest in their kids' lives.

Posted by: Meesh | February 6, 2008 8:24 AM

OT to dotted and MN:

I actually bleed red (Maryland alum and in grad school at NC State), but I love to watch Duke lose. So I'll be rooting for UNC tonight!

Posted by: Meesh | February 6, 2008 8:37 AM

Meesh, I have to say that your awkwardness around kids shows through in your posts. For instance, when you use the term "had one or two", this should be used in reference to what you tell the cop after you've been pulled over for a traffic violation. If you are talking about mothers and the number of kids they has given birth to, I suggest using the term, "popped one or two out". Nnot only is it a much more endearing phrase, but using it shows that you are comfortable around parents with kids.

Posted by: DandyLion | February 6, 2008 9:01 AM

whoa...these early morning posts are, well, biting (to say the least)

Meesh - I believe DandyLion was being silly for you. I don't believe you've ever posted anything anti-kid or anti-parent (other than to rightly chastise those desperately needing chastisement).

OT to Meesh and MN - my son is considering NC State....oh the woe...he he he

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 6, 2008 9:12 AM

I guess I'm really lucky, because I haven't run across kids that I don't like yet. Of course, none of them are over 7-8, so the problems tend to be pretty simple to figure out and fix (starting with snack). And if there's a problem, they've usually both contributed in some way (older cousin acts know-it-all, daughter regresses to whiney 3-yr-old), so the easiest solution is just to separate them and try again later. We all have our bad days, so why can't our kids?

Plus I think that having kids has just made me a horrendously huge softie; it's hard not to see the vulnerability there, and to feel the need to protect and help. A little off-track, but Friday my 2-yr-old and I were both huddled home with the flu. He came toddling toward me, calling "mommy" in that plaintive little toddler voice, and put his arms up to be picked up. Even though I felt completely miserable and could barely pick him up, all I could think was how lucky I am to be able to give this adorable little guy love and comfort when he needs it, to be there for him and make him feel safe and protected and loved. It's a huge responsibility, yes, but oh, such a privilege.

I'm not quite so sentimental about other people's kids, but it's close. When a kid is angry, I tend to see hurt and frustration; I see a little guy with really big feelings, who needs help learning to manage things much bigger than he is. Unless, of course, they're hurting my kid -- boy, does THAT set off Mama Bear. :-) That's when I have to remind myself that I am the grownup, and that this is just a little kid who needs to learn words and self-control -- yes, I need to stop the behavior, but calmly and responsibly, in a way that sets a good example for the child.

Posted by: laura33 | February 6, 2008 9:16 AM

"Maybe the firstborns and only children are a little spoiled, but hey, been there, done that."

Excuse me? What kind of dig was that, Leslie??
Maybe I should make rude statements about how your middle child will be a hopeless drug addled loser just because he's the middle child.

Posted by: dasa_kel | February 6, 2008 9:17 AM

on topic - I have friends whose judgement becomes impaired when it comes to their children. To put it simply, their children are spoiled brats. I ignore them and I teach my kids that they have to learn how to deal with spoiled brats so start learning.

Then there was the kid who was an absolute angel when she was little, but was a terror during teen years-absolutely couldn't stand her as a person-who then discovered everyone was turning her off so she changed into a basically good person in her 20s. Her poor choices in her teens taught her some lessons that she never learned earlier because she was so, well, good! Lesson: never pat yourself on your back because it isn't over yet..

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 6, 2008 9:21 AM

I'm interested in seeing what happens to me after I have our baby.

I'm super-excited about our baby, but right now, I can really take or leave most of our friends' kids.

So, I wonder if after I get to now our little guy I'm able to connect better with other kids. Or, I may just stay the same. ;-)

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 6, 2008 9:32 AM

Laura (as always!) put into words what I felt about one of the few kids who truly annoyed me - my old boss' daughter. The kid came across as high-strung, spoiled, bratty, and needy when she came to the office (typically at end of the day). It all made sense the day she came flying into the office excited to see her father and he wasn't ready to leave. She was about 4 and all I could see was a kid who craved attention from a workaholic dad. Talk about big feelings to reckon with as a 4 year old.

Meesh, good luck with the perception that you "hate" children. We had a little of what a friend calls the adoration of the magi complex with the first grandchild in my boyfriend's family. While I was interested, I was occasionally a little blase, leading some to think I was disinterested. The hardest part for me is infant age -- you either LOVE babies that age or not.

Posted by: tntkate | February 6, 2008 9:34 AM

I never met a kid I didn't like, with the exception of one of my middle schoolers who actually frightened me from the get-go. (He just seemed evil and he is now in jail.) I've met plenty of kids who were doing the best they could with overindulgent, ambitious, and/or distracted parents. I feel sorry for them.

In my mom life, the worst are the parents of toddlers/preschoolers who don't believe their child should hear the word "No" because of some nonsensical belief that it will stifle the little darling's creativity or some cr*p like that. We might play with a child like that once, but we sure don't go back for more.

Posted by: wtf | February 6, 2008 9:52 AM

As the kids get older, the issue seems to be parents being friends with other parents, when the kids no longer are friends.

Kids change friends a lot as they grow and mature. DW and I have a number of friends who have kids the ages of our kids. When they were younger, we'd all get together and the kids would play while the adults would socialize.

Now the kids are teens. We've tried to get together as families on some occasions. The parents are still friends, but the kids don't particularly get along or have things in common. They don't openly fight, but they tend to sulk in corners and complain about how bored they are.

There are occasionally incidents we have to manage. For example, we had invited some friends - call them the Jones family - over for a barbeque one weekend. Oldest DD told us "but I don't want to be around those kids. Jane Jones has been busted for marijuana possession three times; Joe Jones drinks and hits on every girl in school. I'm going to a friend's house if they're coming over." We rescinded that invitation and had a quiet talk with the parents later on.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 6, 2008 10:28 AM

OT to dotted and MN:

I actually bleed red (Maryland alum and in grad school at NC State), but I love to watch Duke lose. So I'll be rooting for UNC tonight!

Posted by: Meesh | February 6, 2008 08:37 AM

*Sigh* I forgive you and will continue to support NC State or Maryland over UNC despite your poor choices, LOL.

dotted, I intend to go home, light a slew of Duke blue candles around the flat screen. Still, I will drink to your health of your boys win, LOL.

And, on topic, "what do you do if you don't like a friend or a colleague's kid, or someone else in their life?" You shut up and practice meditation, just like you do when you don't like someone's spouse or significant other. Seriously, I can't imagine that it would be possible to maintain a friendship with someone after I'd criticized his child or counseled him on how he could better parent. How arrogant AND offensive. Either get over it (the better move) or socialize with the parent away from his child.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 6, 2008 10:29 AM

Meesh -- don't know if this works for you, but i would find it very refreshing if a childfree friend clearly stated "I love kids, love your kids, but don't want my own." One of my best friends has no kids, and she adores (but does not covet) mine. It works great. i think it's mostly the early years of motherhood -- when one is most obsessed -- that are trying. one day your friends may be very grateful that you stuck with them.

And my "dig" at first born and only children was a dig at MYSELF! I totally went over the top with my first born. Sorry if that wasn't clear. And for the record -- for every only child that is hopelessly indulged and spoiled beyond repair, I know two who are the most lovely, mature, no-chip-on-my-should kind of beings. No prejudice intended. Sorry if my comment came off wrong.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 6, 2008 10:40 AM

My children are off at college now, but I never really had a problem when *I* didn't like a friend or co-worker's kid. I like most children and can tolerate the rare ones that I don't like when I have to.

The friendship difficulties came when one of my kids really disliked one of my friend's kids, especially at middle school age, and even if they had previously been happy together. I expected my child to behave well toward this other child, of course, but that sometimes was not enough for a particular friend. In one case, we resumed friendship once the kids went to college. In another, we drifted apart because of the stresses.

Posted by: henak | February 6, 2008 10:44 AM

Leslie and others with younger kids - here's the kind of thing you can look forward to dealing with when your kids are older! The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

We usually have "open house" type parties on New Year's Day and a few other times a year. We invite all the friends and extended families - drop in when you can, stay for a while, etc.

Oldest DD has a boyfriend, "Joe". Middle DD has a best friend, "Sue". At one of our parties, Joe's dad came and met Sue's mom. Both are divorced; they hit it off and started dating.

Soon enough, the relationship went south - but slowly. One evening, both Joe and Sue were at our house, and DW asked if their parents were still dating.

Joe - in that way that only a 19 year old boy-becoming-man can - said "sort of. Dad says the sex is good, and as long as she's not too annoying putting up with her is a reasonable price to pay." Sue, 16 and full of bluster, said "Mom's just using him for his washer and dryer. She says he's no good in bed and she's getting bored with him, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience."

Of course, both went home and told their parents what the other had said, and now we have to make sure that Joe and Sue are never visiting at the same time.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 6, 2008 10:58 AM

I'm pretty much with MN on this one. I don't criticize other people's loved ones if I don't like them. If they talk to me about their troubles with a spouse, partner or child, I focus on their emotions and experience and what they want and need, not on my opinion of the complained-of person.

I have two friends who I adore but whose kids (pre-teens and teens) are very difficult for me to be around, although I can see their good sides too, they are just completely out of control and they stress me out. So I try to let that go, focus on their strengths, and mostly to see my friends sans kids.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 6, 2008 10:59 AM

I'm childless at present, but child-friendly (I act as an emergency baby-sitter from time to time for kids of all ages, and the total time I have to spend baby/kid-proofing is about 5 minutes.)

But some kids I won't have in my house. The child of one of my husband's colleague ranks highest. She is an over-indulged monster who thinks nothing of torturing my mellow Bulldog (screaming in or pulling on her ears, throwing things at her, taking toys from her), walking/climbing on furniture (including up bookcases), screaming at the top of her lungs simply because she knows it's annoying, and other such lovely behaviour. Other kids have been known to beg me "Chas, make her STOP".

Her parents - who are by most accounts really nice, intelligent people - consider this "high spirits" and barely lift a finger to stop her. It's astounding

I consider it ill-behaved. I haven't had them over as a family for years as a result.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | February 6, 2008 11:03 AM

I have had this problem with my best friend's daughter. I dont kno kno how to deal with it. She is a kleptomaniac, has no sense of boundaries even at age 9, goes through my drawers and uses anything that catches her fancy.
Terrorizes my daughter who is 6 years younger than her, takes her stuff and either keeps it for self or gives to her own sister.

everytime she is at my place she wants to take something of my daughter home with her claiming my daughter gave it to her. Her dad is very indulgent and lets her get away with murder. I am fast approaching non-tolerance for her behavious and have made our get togethers as infrequent as possible.

Posted by: sound | February 6, 2008 11:05 AM

Pet torture and other totally terrible behaviors -- I always intervene. I can't stop myself. Someone has to be responsible! I say, as nicely as possible, "No, we don't do XYZ that way." I also just had someone do it to my youngest yesterday. She was jerking the dog's chain too hard and a nice lady on the street told her to stop. It was good for my DD to get the message from someone in addition to me. It takes a village!!!!

Posted by: leslie4 | February 6, 2008 11:18 AM

Chasmosaur and sound, do you guys ever say something to the child? I'm like Leslie, I will often say something if I know the other parent won't. Not over things like sharing with each other or something like that, which I think they have to learn to sort out, but if they are mistreating my son or my pets, or getting too rough in the house, I tell them to stop. I also make my son follow the house rules when we are visiting elsewhere.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 6, 2008 11:24 AM

Yep, LizaBean, I'm with you and Leslie on this one. Like you, I'm not going to get involved in every little thing. But if someone (or someone's pet) is in danger, and if the other parent won't speak up, then I have to step in -- usually with, as Leslie says, a calm "that's not the way we do things here." I would never do what the article suggests and take the parent aside to "discuss" their kids' behavior -- that sounds really patronizing. But it's my job to protect those who can't protect themselves (whether that's a kitten or a small child). If kids are going to play at my house, they can follow my basic rules of civilized behavior; if my kids go to someone else's house, I expect them to do the same.

I haven't had any problem with other parents getting annoyed at me talking directly to their kids, either. We tend to treat get-togethers as kind of a group parenting situation, where each grownup deals with whatever kid(s) happens to be nearby -- so part of the bonus is NOT having to deal with our own kids for a while. :-) So the whole "how DARE you tell my child X" thing just doesn't exist (I don't think I'd have the energy to be friends with that kind of high-maintenance person anyway). But if someone does have a problem with me telling her kid not to harass the kitten, well, that's non-negotiable, and they can just go home.

Posted by: laura33 | February 6, 2008 11:44 AM

Chasmosaur and sound, do you guys ever say something to the child? I'm like Leslie, I will often say something if I know the other parent won't. Not over things like sharing with each other or something like that, which I think they have to learn to sort out, but if they are mistreating my son or my pets, or getting too rough in the house, I tell them to stop. I also make my son follow the house rules when we are visiting elsewhere.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 6, 2008 11:24 AM

I know you didn't ask me, but, if the child is a guest in my home, he follows our house rules the same as our kids. No food and drinks outside of the kitchen. No meanness. No pet abuse and, further, our pets don't get put in the backyard because you're scared - we'll help a small guest get to know our pets, but mistreating our pets or exiling them to one room of the house or outside is not an option. And I completely agree that our kids know to follow the house rules when they visit elsewhere, e.g., they don't let pets IN the house who are exiled to the backyard, LOL, etc.

I have only had other parents get annoyed at my speaking to their children at the playground and, yaknow, if their child is hitting or engaging in some activity that threatens my child, I couldn't care less whether they are annoyed.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 6, 2008 11:50 AM

as a childless person so far, i find parents are significantly annoyed if I intervene with their kids. well, sorry, but if your kid is running full-speed toward the parking lot and a car is coming, i'm going to grab the kid to make sure he/she doesn't die, or at least warn the kid to stop. it's shocking to me that parents are so personally affronted by this. apparently, they'd prefer i minded my own business and let the kid die/get injured. ?!

it was really funny when i lived with my sister's family, because i was "the strict one" while she and her DH let the kids get away with anything! they never seemed to mind that i made the kids behave, though, and in fact were always thrilled to go out together and leave me at home in charge of everyone. one time my niece was misbehaving and I was dealing with her and she said, "Just go to work!" She knew as soon as I was out the door she could do whatever she wanted...

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 6, 2008 12:17 PM

I am right there with you, MN and newslinks. There was one time I regretted intervening at a playground. Two boys had come with their father and were generally being very aggressive and obnoxious. At one point my son started to climb up a ladder and one of the boys grabbed him and tried to pull him off, and told him he couldn't climb the ladder because it was only for big kids. I told the kid not to touch my son and that my son could climb the ladder if he wanted to, and then the dad wigged out on the two boys. It was awful. After completely ignoring their behavior for the first ten or twenty minutes, he went ballistic on them in a way that was totally out of proportion and so demeaning to them, and then hounded them on the playground. It made me wish I just taken my son and gone home instead of saying anything, but at that point I wasn't really sure what to do. Yuck.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 6, 2008 12:52 PM

MN and laura I'm with you on respecting the pets. I'm amazed at how many kids don't know that. I generally don't even have to consider putting the cats away when kids are over because they hightail it to our room which is off limits to the kids anyway. What kind of animals do you have?

I have a friend who has a Rottweiler who is a nice dog, but she puts him in the garage when my daughter and her friends are over - he's bigger than they are and frankly, I'm a little nervous about my children being around big dogs like that - so I'm very appreciative that she keeps the dog separate. She has always done this without us asking.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 6, 2008 1:11 PM

Sometimes it is the pets that need some attention. I have met several dogs that could use some training. I find them equally if not more annoying that badly behaved children.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 6, 2008 1:32 PM

The pets - good or bad - always need the most attention, at least initially. I know that a lot of parents are oblivious to their kids poking an otherwise docile animal. But it's still an animal - there's no way to know for sure what it will do. When hosting friends with small kids, I'd get the animals out of the way first and then deal with the parents.

Posted by: bobh1967 | February 6, 2008 1:41 PM

Laura, I read your post more closely and would certainly not be offended if you spoke to my child that way (assuming he'd be bothering your pet, which he's been taught not to do). But why run the risk of a problem in the first place? I know many consider their pets as part of the family, but is it worth the loss of friendship and potential legal action?

Posted by: bobh1967 | February 6, 2008 1:56 PM

I can only say I wish it ended when they were young. My boss/wife have created a completely co-dependent narcissistic bubble around their kids and rush around to fix whatever little or big problem they have- it's worse now that the older one graduated college and has to work at daddy's because he is too inept to get a real job anywhere else. He was whining at his mommy to pack up a box for him to return his Xbox yesterday. And of course, she did.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | February 6, 2008 2:12 PM

Only a few children come to mind. My husband's 7YO nephew is too impulsive and unpredictable to allow near our 2YO daughter without strict supervision (his twin sister is fantastic though). We'll be on a minivacation with them soon so we'll just have to watch carefully. He's actually getting better all the time, so I have hope that things will go well.

My best friend's granddaughter is 4 and spoiled and manipulative. She kicked my daughter in the head last summer and I gave her a talking-to. I let her know my displeasure in no uncertain terms when she mistreats my daughter. Her parents don't do this at all, so it's pretty much like talking to a wall. I've resorted to limiting our visits as much as possible and watching her carefully (keeping my daughter a little away from her). This one, I fear, will only get worse with time.

Posted by: blinnie | February 6, 2008 2:15 PM

Moxie, we currently have one very shy kitten that we adopted from Leslie (my daughter's Christmas present).

Bobh, cat was just an example of when I would step in; I haven't had that problem to date, because the cat is generally too freaked to allow anyone near (we missed two vet appts. because I couldn't find the dang thing!). But the rule applies to anything littler and more vulnerable (like, say, smacking little brother).

But, really, with a mellow animal, I'm not sure I'd want to shut it away whenever someone came over. My old cat was big and friendly and dumb as a post; any attention was good attention (I am not making this up: his favorite thing was people rapping on his forehead with their knuckles). He was an excellent "training" cat for my girl as a toddler -- we could teach her about "gentle" and not pulling tails and the like without fear of her getting hurt. Kids need to learn how to behave around animals, so I figure better with one that I know is mellow, and with grownup supervision (as long as the kids are old enough).

Of course, the worst thing I've ever had to deal with is a scratch, which tends to be in a whole different category, lawsuit-wise, than a bite, so haven't had to worry about that end of things.

Posted by: laura33 | February 6, 2008 2:46 PM

I am very welcoming to all my friends and coworkers and I think that includes inviting spouses and children to get togethers at my house. I never ban kids even the difficult ones but I do not pander to them either. If they are picky eaters I expect their parents to take care of it. I NEVER EVER offer alternative choices to children unless there is a dietary restriction. If the kid breaks our rules..I tell them this is our rule in the house-never a judgement-that is bad, naughty, etc. Just not what we do here. cat is banned from public areas under all circumstances when we have guests even if people assure me they and their kids love cats. She is an animal and I can't control her at all times. Not that I can always control my kids but I can't lock them in the basement (tempting as it has been). The worst was someone bringing their dog to a work related party at my house--unmarried coworker with an obsessive relationship with her untrained hound!! I was appalled at having the mix of many small children with unknown dog in my house. I was livid and asked that the dog be kept in the car. She was livid that I accepted children but not dogs in my house.

Posted by: samclare | February 6, 2008 2:49 PM

Did the coworker put the dog in the car or did she leave? I have a dog and I can't imagine any situation where I would show up at someone's house with him uninvited. The only time he goes visiting with me is when I go somewhere overnight.
He is a big dog and a lover. Kids love to come up to him when we are walking. He is pretty good but gets excited and loves to give kisses. Most love it and ask for more. I always tell the parents before they even approach that he will lick.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | February 6, 2008 2:57 PM

I've been very lucky but not immune to this situation. I had a close friend who's eldest went through a bad spell experimenting with verbal cruelty. I talked to my daughter after she became a victim about how to better defend herself. But let me tell you I was ticked when that kid made up a story about how my daughter was missing in a clear attempt to frighten me.
It took all my tact to tell my friend that these behaviors made me reluctant to spend time in their company. But it led to a long talk about what this girl was being subjected to in school and I don't know what my friend did but the problem got better. This same child is a joy to have around now and our two families remain the best of buddies. In the end though, I would always put the safety of my kids (emotional and physical) ahead of any friendship. But I sure am glad I didn't lose that particular friendship.

Posted by: anne.saunders | February 6, 2008 3:09 PM

I too am AMAZED that a co-worker would bring a dog to your house without asking! Nutty.

Although now that I think about it, I did that once too before I had kids. And the dog (a puppy) peed on my boss' rug. Never did that again.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 6, 2008 3:11 PM

"The worst was someone bringing their dog to a work related party at my house"

My grandparents lived on a farm, and one day a visitor from town came stopped by, bringing along with his sizable hunting dog in the back of the pick-up. He announced that his dog was a "cat-killer," so my grandfather had better lock his cat up right away because he was about to unchain his dog and let him off the truck. "Uh-huh," my grandfather replied, "your dog had better watch out for my cat." Cat was resting on a back-porch shelf at the time, so naturally the hound ran right up to and started barking/growling menacingly etc. at him. Cat stood up, arched his back and hissed -- then picked his moment to jump onto the dog's back. Dog ran yelping into the woods with the cat sinking his claws ever-deeper into dog -- and gradually working his way up toward the dog's head so he could start clawing the dog's eyes. Finally the visitor *pleaded* with my grandfather to call his killer cat off the dog. My grandfather replied that cats aren't like dogs, in that they can't be ordered to do things on comand. A few minutes later the cat came marching proudly back onto the porch, unscathed and very full of himself over his victory. Eventually the dog slunk back, tail between legs. The visitor with the "cat-killing" dog never pulled a dumb-@$$ stunt like that again with my grandparents, while the cat became a legend in his own lifetime around town! BTW, said visitor & his sons (town bullies, always defended by their dad) were not all that beloved by townspeople, so they doubtless enjoyed hearing this tale as much as my family enjoyed witnessing it!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 6, 2008 3:28 PM

P.S. Said cat was a love with children and kind adults, however!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 6, 2008 3:29 PM

mehitabel, great story. Reminds my a little of the kitten I got in high school -- the neighbors got a doberman puppy at the same time (those kind of "bad" dog people who always had dobermans and german shepherds that they alleged to be "training" as guard dogs. eesh). Well, my little 4-lb ball of fluff and this big gangly puppy met each other through the chain-link fence one day; puppy poked his nose through the fence to check out the neighbor, and my guy promptly swatted him across the nose, sent him howling across the yard. Poor dog was afraid of that cat the rest of his days! (actually, he turned out to be the biggest sweetheart of a dog you've ever seen -- I suspect the neighbors weren't real pleased).

Posted by: laura33 | February 6, 2008 3:38 PM

I have thankfully not had to worry about kids that I didn't like. So far, I have enjoyed them all.

I think that whether or not your pets are locked up or let free should be on a case-by-case basis. When I had my dog, I often locked her up at the beginning because people arriving would get her all excited and more difficult to control. Once people were in and settled, she too would be settled and a model dog.

Right now, we only have cats. Other than my step-children, we have only had one other child in the house. Timmie absolutely loves attention and will patiently handle inexperienced petting by little ones. When the attention becomes too much she simply disappears under the bed. We haven't had a single incident despite the fascination of the littlest one with her. The other cat is absolutely terrified of the children (really anyone but me) so pretty much keeps out of their way. They can't get close enough to bother her. I am hoping with time she will turn around. She has allowed my step-daughter within a couple of feet of her so I am hopeful.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 6, 2008 3:42 PM

We had a cat like that too - he was a Maine Coon Cat and ferocious. He did battle with the neighborhood dogs more than once. He was not, however, much of a lover with kids and I remember getting a good bite as a child and learning to leave him alone, which was fine.

Our cats now are very shy and our biggest issue is keeping kids from finding them in their hiding places and cornering them in their desire to pet them. It's hard for the kids (and some adults) to understand that the cats really just don't want to touched by strangers. Our son has learned to be careful and gentle with them though, and one of them will let him pet him pretty often now.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 6, 2008 3:49 PM

When our dog was younger, we put him in his crate when we had parties. Now he's well behaved and it is enough to have him loose, or in the backyard. But I respect that some kids (and adults) are afraid of dogs. He is huge. I think it's good hospitality to put the guests first, within reason.

The three cats are another story. Nothing we can do to control them.

We once had a kitten leap out from under a tablecloth during a dinner party. He landed on a guest's chest -- just as the guest was leaning back in his chair. The kitten (3 pounds max) knocked the man and his chair over. The guest, who was a very large man visiting from Vienna, was fine. We laughed nonstop for at least five minutes -- it was clear the kitten had done it on purpose. Every so often you get a pet with a sense of humor. And it's priceless.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 6, 2008 3:58 PM

Off topic to MN - well, I'll be good to your boys in blue too. They're only kids....really really big kids.

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 6, 2008 4:02 PM

We have one scardy cat and one brave cat. The brave cat will always choose the person who doesn't like cats and cozy up to them relentlessly. I ask if they mind and if they do, I'll put her in our room. There are worse things for my cat than to lay in the sun on our bed for an afternoon. I think it is important to be considerate, although I always find the faces of non cat people to be funny when the cat is on the counter! I use a cutting board for all food prep. but non cat people don't get it.

As far as the kids are concerned, I've always taught them to respect the cats and also taught them what the different cat body language means (ears back, "leave me alone") now that they are 5 and 7, they know the rules so if the cat scratches them, I'm siding with the cat.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 6, 2008 4:12 PM

I pretty much side with the cat too once a child has been told to leave it alone. My son got one good scratch and after that he knew that the cat and I were serious about him needing to be gentle and when to leave it alone. We had one neighbor child who simply would not listen, no matter how many times we told her that the cats needed to be left alone, and she got a scratch after cornering one of them that was hiding under the bed. Fortunately, her parents are also pet people and sided with the cat so there were no hard feelings. :)

Posted by: LizaBean | February 6, 2008 4:58 PM

Sorry - got taken away this afternoon.

Yes, I said something, but there's only so much you can do after a while if the parents are indulgent. Besides - who expects to turn around and see a 7 year old walking/jumping along the backs of your couches when it's their first time in your home?

I pulled her down and told her in no uncertain terms there was no walking on furniture. She replied with "well, I do it at my house". Same response when I had to drag her away from the bookcases in my office (she had climbed over the gate I had blocking the entryway for that one).

As for my dog - she *was* actually penned away from the kids - I put one of those bending gates in the doorway of our bedroom, which was upstairs from the action. That way she could "see" down the hallway and hear what was going on, so she wouldn't howl (her normal trick if I put her in there and close the door to keep her away from company).

One of the other kids at the party - a neighbor's child who plays with her nicely and regularly - asked permission to go say hi, and the monster tagged along uninvited. Once the monster knew where the dog was, she kept sneaking back to torture her. Luckily, my dog is a wuss and a sweetheart, so no harm done, but I was really brassed off at the time.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | February 6, 2008 10:35 PM

Off topic:

Update from yesterdays story on inept spoiled older son- yesterday he left the office early and skipped the dog training class he had for his dog to go see a soccer match in which he ended up getting his car towed. The dog was left here for the mother to take care of.

And the mother called him when he was halfway there to remind him to make sure he had enough gas for the trip.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | February 7, 2008 2:19 PM

Apparently he also raised a $300 cellphone bill which the mother will pay for but is having a big fight about which I can hear clearly even through closed doors

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | February 7, 2008 3:52 PM

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