Our 11 yr old son has a friend that is controlling and manipulative, lets call him "Bossy" for the sake of this post.
Some examples are when they are on xbox (online with headsets) he tells my son what to do and if he doesn’t the boy throws a fit and "kicks" him out of the party (which he always seems to be controlling).
If my boy doesn’t do as this boy wishes he holds a grudge and treats him poorly, teasing him, excluding him, does mean pranks or just ignores him with silent treatment. The 2 hang with another boy at school (lets call him "Brody") and this creates a 3 way power struggle where the controlling friend pits the 2 against each other for his amusement.
Recently my son wanted to try out with Brody for doubles badminton, and Bossy said they had to play against each other and the winner would get to go in doubles badminton with him. I know, I know, there's so much wrong with that.
There are many many other similar situations where Bossy is controlling and mean.
Now my son says he doesn’t want to try out, but then admitted to my wife that he really wants to play, but doesn’t understand why Bossy has to be like this.
This has been going on ever since they became friends a few years ago.
To further complicate things, Bossy has a little sister and she is best friends with my daughter, they are both 8 an are total BFFs. This girl has none of the controlling problems like her brother does.
Here's the problem: my wife and I don't agree on how to handle this. She's a bit over protective IMHO and wants to take action to correct the problem. I, on the other hand think we should not interfere directly and just encourage our son to stop taking this crap and stick up for himself, or just find another friend to hang with. He does have one other close friend who is super nice to him but chooses to hang out more with Bossy and Brody - for reasons I do not understand.
My wife wants to tell Bossy what she thinks and threaten to not invite him to go swimming etc with our son if he doesn't start treating him better. OR she may tell Bossy's mom how nasty her son is to our boy. If that fails she wants to make our son end the friendship and she will not invite him to activities like swimming, play dates, snowboarding, birthdays etc.
I see problems with all 3 approaches. If she confronts Bossy, he may seek retribution and be even worse with our son. If she talks to the mom we know the mom will most likely defend her son as he is a perfect angel in her eyes. And if she makes our son stop playing with him he will most likely resent her for it (and probably ignore her wishes when at school at least).
I really don't understand fully why our son is such a pushover and takes this kind of treatment. We have suggested good ways to react like just saying no when he is bossy but he will not do it. He has expressed to me "well who will I hang out with?" he seems to be VERY fearful of losing Bossy's friendship. We have tried to explain that a "friend" who treats him badly is not really a friend at all.
There may be more going on than what we know of course, but I don't see any signs of it getting physical at least.
I also think our son has some self esteem issues which we try to work on by being encouraging and positive with sports and activities (he wants to quit piano, quit tae kwon do last year, doesn't do much else outside school otherwise).
I guess I'm really looking for some direction here, maybe some consensus on opinions so the wife and I can be on the same page.
I worry her actions will just create a big mess that alienates our son from his friends.