What to do when your nice neighbor has a rage-filled child and she needs a break?

What to do when your nice neighbor has a rage-filled child and she needs a break?

I grew up with very confusing imagery and thoughts of babies. I can recall The Shining where twins warned of impending murder (“redrum”, that is). The Omen warned us of little boys named Damien. Lest you lose focus at the delivery room you could end up with Satan’s baby.  Children of the Corn sounds like a nice Midwestern idyllic scene, but psychotic is more like it. Then you have the classic film “The Bad Seed” which demonstrates how evil can take root at a very early age.

My mom loved the movie Rosemary’s Baby.  Mia Farrow has never truly looked better since. She rocked that pixie cut way before it became the “it” thing for precocious actresses who were trying to look grown up to do. I digress. Rosemary’s baby was no heartwarming being.  My mom would point to those fictional kids and note that was why all kids needed to be baptized by the age of seven.  Don’t ask me about her leap. My mom, a devout catholic, was also extremely superstitious and fond of the mythical. That has always stayed in the upper part of my consciousness. Not the baptism thing, silly one.  Rather, the “thought” that kids can be evil has always lingered in my being.

See, popular culture has inculcated in us the notion that the worst and creepiest evil that can be perpetuated is that by a child. Of course, most of us do not whole heartedly believe children are evil.  Many of us may find children annoying. Many of us may not find their inquisitive nature to be charming.  Many may never want to have a baby.  Many may be driven mad by the constant interaction.  I for one, love (absolutely adore) my son’s endless chatter about the game Garden Warfare. However, I do not expect anyone else to love that chatter, let alone like it. Yet, many, if not the majority of us, believe in the innocence of children. Popular culture and its demonizing images be damned.  You can’t look at a child and not feel the need to protect him or her from the world. Since giving birth, I can’t watch the local news anymore because of the horrible images of children being abused or killed.

But then you meet a rage-filled child. I don’t mean the cute meme driven baby rage.  The first day I met my neighbor’s son, I got an odd vibe from him. Little boys normally like me. There is something about my round face, my curly hair and my tone of voice that somehow endears me to the little ones–particularly boys. My neighbor’s baby, however, just stared at me with cold, cold eyes. He has come over to my house many times since that initial visit to play with my son. My baby boy looks like an absolute angel compared to my neighbor’s son.

My neighbor’s son barely acknowledges my presence or my greetings.  He is not autistic. He can read situations and the emotions of others.  He just chooses to disregard all others.  He readily notes that he does not need to heed my guidance or directives.  He stands unflinchingly on the couch, with his cheeks bright red, and stares me down. It is almost as if he is mumbling some incantation. After which, he goes into a full-blown rage. All this quite often unprovoked. He purposefully knocks over toys and household items. He loudly and willfully declares his hatred of all surrounding him. He notes how we will all pay.  Whoa! It is a very disconcerting interaction to experience–particularly when the child is 4 years old. It is almost as if he were a tween already.

He brought me a bright sunny flower the other day. Actually, he shoved a flower at me and walked away mumbling about how he hated something.  Now, the parent and social psychologist in me does not believe he is evil. Let me just state that outright. He most obviously has a challenge that needs to be addressed. I try to be supportive and talk to him. The pop culture fanatic in me of course cannot help but call him Damien. He even looks like the character.  This kid may very well outgrow this. It very well can be an extended terrible twos phase or mightily prolonged temper tantrum.  I feel badly for the parents who have been embarrassed at the playground. I understand temper tantrums in children. Heck, I have dealt with many tantrums in adults at the workplace.  But can I ask what do you do when the parent of said tantrum-prone kid needs a break and asks if their kid can come over for a playdate? My son is an only child. Even my good-natured son who tries to comfort the kid repeatedly and find something fun for him, asks “mommy what’s wrong with john” as he wonders whether the playdate is worth it.



Every so often I see the neighbor out in front of her house smoking.  It’s great that she is not smoking inside the house. However, when I look at her puffing away out front I see a bit of desperation. She looks over at me with grand hope in her eyes that I will offer to host a playdate.  The good neighbor in me wants to help her out. An hour of reprieve for her is not that long for me in the grand scheme of things. Such an hour can be her grand moment of zen. I’ll entertain the rage-filled boy in order to be a good neighbor and help a fellow mom out. I’ll just have a cocktail before and after the playdate.

10 replies »

  1. Ooh. I don’t envy you that situation, and his mother even less so. When I taught kindergarten, I had quite an assortment of behavior issues, but the only thing close to rage would have been impulse control temper tantrums. This child piques my interest. I am curious about this lil guy. Curious about what goes on in his home, or has in the past. Best of luck to an hour here or there with him, I don’t know if I could handle it.


  2. Interesting post!

    It’s disturbing to question the possibility of someone being born in someway “bad” or broken-spirited. For the most part, I don’t believe this is how the world works, but since there are so many strange abnormalities and afflictions people can suffer, I can’t altogether deny the possibility that someone could be born with a mental issue or brain abnormality that makes them more prone to violence, rage or hatred. That said, I would still regard this as a disorder that should be treated or otherwise managed.

    Have you noticed anything in the parents’ approach to parenting that might be contributing to his behaviour?

    I admire your desire to be a good neighbour, but if you really believe this little boy is prone to aggression or erratic behaviour, you shouldn’t feel obligated to look after him.


    • I know. It’s such a difficult situation. Honestly, his mother seems perfectly pleasant and calm and reasonable. I don’t get it. I am worried about the rage induced rock throwing behavior. For now there have been no more playdates


  3. Once I used to do daycare and I got a call from another day care provider to be aware of this evil child that parent will be looking for care. I took him in and he was a challenge but after a while your could see the real him. He was hurting for affection, someone that cared and understood him. You have a hard decision there. Let’s hope when he gets into school he will get a wonderful teacher and support to help him


    • So sad to read that. Our first instinct is to usually protect those wee ones. Hope the boy is doing better. Yes, my neighbor is still very embarrassed by the last situation. It’s been a bit awkward. We shall see how this comes to pass


  4. I know you have only the good things in your heart, but maybe it’s better to stay away from this one.
    Your story reminded me of what happened in my house when one of my daughter’s 7-year-old friends came over. Brandy, my German Shepard, was a playful dog and would never harm anyone, especially a child. He took daily beatings from the kids and never complained, lol.. One day, my daughter brought her little, girlfriend over. I don’t know why, but as soon as my dog took a whiff of her, his hair raised up and his teeth came out like he was about to go into full-attack, mode. I never saw him do something like that before. The little girl just stood there with that cold, icy look on her face and stared him down.
    Thank god I was standing there to pull him away. The way she looked at him and me, sent shivers down my spine. I told my daughter to bring her friend home who lived only a few doors away. We decided after that episode never to let her in the house again. I didn’t view it as a heartless decision, but rather as a safe one. I don’t know what he smelled on her, but it wasn’t something I wanted to explore further.
    Sometimes it is wiser to let other people’s problems remain their own. That’s just my opinion.


  5. While I sympathize for the mother and understand your desire to be neighborly, I would stay away from this situation as much as possible. I dislike rude and disrespectful children anyway, but if there is even the remote chance that your child could end up paying the price for being neighborly, then the price is too high.
    Sorry to sound so heartless, I am anything but heartless, but I also tend to call ‘em like I see ‘em.


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