Miss Conduct

Advice: My bossy daughter was banned from my neighbor’s house

I don’t know what happened, or how to tell my kid. Help!

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We have lived in our home for nearly four years and lucked out with wonderful neighbors. Recently, my neighbor told me that, outside of school, my daughter can’t play with hers anymore and is no longer allowed at her home. I am crushed beyond belief. My daughter can be bossy at times. But how do I explain this ban to my daughter, and to my son, who is essentially guilty by default? I’m not even sure the friend knows she’s no longer supposed to play with my girl. I feel as though the management of this has been thrust upon me and my husband. The mama lion in me wants to stop inviting them to anything anymore. There goes the neighborhood!

E.F. / Swampscott

Wait, what?

(Imagine your favorite gif of a befuddled facial expression.)


You and your neighbors need to talk. Parents don’t usually forcibly end a child’s friendship because the other kid is “bossy at times.” What on earth happened that your erstwhile-wonderful neighbor made such a draconian rule? Why aren’t you more concerned about the cause of the ban than about its enforcement? Do you really find it plausible that your neighbor has banished your daughter without telling her own daughter?

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You and your husband should sit down with the other girl’s parents, away from the kids (if possible), and sort this out. Get the backstory on why they felt the need to intervene between your children. Then get on the same page in terms of what rules all the kids are supposed to follow, and how the logistics of that should work. Keep in mind that whatever arrangement you agree on can be subject to change — maybe the girls are going through a rough patch and need some time apart.

What’s absolutely crucial is that you go into this in the spirit of open-minded fact-finding and communal problem solving. Whatever your hindbrain is telling you, this is not battle of the apex predators, got it? Don’t be a snarling mama lion — be a curious, peacemaking bonobo instead.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.