17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, August 03, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: Parenting Styles and Friendship

Ladies, I have a friend. We get along fairly well, enjoy the same things and usually laugh together. Generally it's okay. However, I cannot stand her parenting style.

I know that everyone parents their children a little bit differently, but I don't know if I can handle this particular style. Some of the things I've observed:

Her children are constantly yelled at, berated, and punished over trivial things (there are no signs of physical abuse, though). Punishments are a little out of control. Her son sat against my wall for 2 hours because of something he had done 4 hours earlier at home. It is implied that the older children must watch the younger children while she's "talking" with friends. If they don't, they get in trouble. Instead of saying "Son, you shouldn't do that, could you please do this?" it's usually "What the heck were you thinking? You weren't, were you? Go sit on the bench and stay there until I say it's okay to get up." and stuff like that. She talks badly about her children as in "they drive me crazy" but her youngest child is constantly showered with affection.

I know I probably yell at my kids and can be harsh sometimes, but seeing this mother is almost shocking. I'm sure having children really young and a lack of education adds to this behavior, but I can't condone it. Neither do I feel I know her well enough to approach or accuse her. But she is starting to want to hang out with me and my children all the time and I don't know if I can stand to see her children treated this way, or to have my children see them treated that way.

So, here are the questions: Do I cut off the relationship? Do I stay and try to help her out? Help her kids out? Can I limit the friendship in a way that won't offend her? What do I do? Any advice would be appreciated...

Anonymous Mom


  • If your style is subtle, perhaps you could give her a parenting/discipline book.

    If you are less subtle, arrange to meet her sometime (with no kids) or write a letter and tell her what you told us.

    It is possible either of these will end your friendship. (But do you really see yourself hanging out with her much?) But it is also possible that they will make a world of difference in the lives of these children.
    posted by Blogger Julie M. Smith at 8/02/2007 09:27:00 PM  

  • I say my kids are driving me crazy. Am I a bad Mom? :)

    I think it's hard to help someone change their discipline tactics unless they want to change them and see a problem, otherwise it's "why the heck are you judging me?".
    Maybe when she says they're driving her crazy ask if you think it's due to discipline or the way she parents, in a subtle manner.
    Maybe talk about her kids and how the house is run and if she needs help figuring things out.
    If she ever complements you on your well behaved kids maybe give some reasons why you think they behave well and then you can have a better discussion about what works and what doesn't for you and see if she catches on that way.
    posted by Blogger Lacey at 8/02/2007 09:45:00 PM  

  • Maybe she wants to hang out with you more to learn some of your tricks. Maybe you could start a conversation with her about other moms you know who have similar tendencies as her, and if she is in complete denial about her own discipline...yikes, but if she can admit that she has some of the same tendencies, and the possible damage that could ensue..it might be a good wake up call for her. Or you could casually bring up some episode of Supernanny, and both commit to trying out her tactics for a week, and come back and report to each other...
    posted by Blogger Kage at 8/03/2007 05:41:00 AM  

  • She sounds tame compared to my neighbor. My first will be born later this year and I find myself asking some of the same questions. It is really hard to spend time with anyone who are telling there children that they are stupid, that they are bad kids, or that one child is the good child and one is the bad child, (she also has a very foul mouth and cusses at her kids and says things to them that just can't bring myself to think about)etc. I don't even think that it is good to even talk in a negitive way about your children infront of them. And while there are no signs of physical abuse like the mom you know, I do have to ask myself about the verbal abuse and what kind of effect that it is having on her kids now and in the future. I feel bad for these kids, and while I know that they are loved, it's just not good for these little children to be put down and berated all the time. I don't have any advice, as I am just having my first, but I will be checking back to see what others have to say!
    posted by Anonymous js at 8/03/2007 07:47:00 AM  

  • I have a friend who is kinda the same. Except since the older one is only 2, she doesn't expect her to watch the younger one - she expects any other adult who is there to help out. And everything is the older one's fault. I've discovered that I am sort of enabling her by taking some of the responsibility when I'm out with her, so I'm trying not to do that. And when I have kids, since she yells so much at kids who aren't even hers and is unfair, I'm probably not going to let her babysit. I'm just hoping that I'll have enough courage to stand up to her the first time she yells at my kids while I'm there.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/03/2007 07:51:00 AM  

  • "I know I probably yell at my kids and can be harsh sometimes, but seeing this mother is almost shocking."

    the fact that she's showing this in public, makes me worry for how things are probably worse at home. I'm like you in that sentence- sure, I've yelled or said unfortunate things- but you can bet not in front of my friends!

    that signals to be that she either 1)thinks this is OK 2)has no self-control to moderate her behavior
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 8/03/2007 08:08:00 AM  

  • This would be a really tough position to be in. Is she someone that you want to be friends with? I'm sure she probably doesn't know what to do discipline wise if she is very young and not educated on those types of things. Maybe you could suggest in a subtle way a good discipline book that you have read and she might be interested in reading as well? If she really isn't someone that you want around your own children and if her values are in contrast with your own, it might be time to limit the amount of time and energy you put into this relationship, and that is perfectly ok to do. I had a friend that wouldn't discipline her child and when it got to the point that her dd was hurting my dd, without any discipline, I stopped letting my dd play with hers. It was uncomfortable and ultimately we are no longer friends, but her actions after I stopped seeing her made me realize that I was 100% right to not let my child be around her anymore. Good luck.
    posted by Anonymous mkc at 8/03/2007 01:59:00 PM  

  • This is probably going to sound harsh, but I don't really think there is much you can do to change this mom. If you witness actual abuse, then I would report it to Child and Family Services.

    But parenting is such a personal thing. It's like seeing friends in a bad marriage. Both make choices and act based on what life was like for them growing up. And maybe for her, she IS doing better than she was treated growing up. Most likely this is the case.

    Personally, I would be kind and if she reaches out for help or advice, definately give it. Otherwise I would steer clear of her unless it was in a "girl's night out" scenario where you are both able to hang out without the kids. I would not want my kids to be around it, and I would look for another friendship with someone who DOES parent similarly to you.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 8/03/2007 03:53:00 PM  

  • I admit, yes, I yell at my kids, and yes if they are driving me mad in public I will raise my voice, but NEVER, NEVER do I make them sit in the corner for more minutes than they are old. Yes, I admit I spank my 3 yo for being a brat to her sister, but I think she's a little extreme. I do not put my children down, nor do I talk bad about them (unless telling them you're driving me mad is talking bad...) Maybe...explain to her how you feel...or whatnot...I would say don't end the friendship because you never know what she can learn from you.
    posted by Blogger Stephanie at 8/03/2007 03:57:00 PM  

  • Ask her what tv shows she watches. I'm surprised by people who get parenting advice from sitcoms, but it happens. Sitcom parents are sarcastic with their kids, don't expect their kids to respect them, never really help their kids but use them solely for entertainment, and all bad behavior has a laugh track. If you try to parent like that in real life, your kids get out of control.

    If you are familiar with some of the tv shows she watches, you can bring up situations. "Can you believe how they acted when so-and-so did such-and-such? Kids in real life shouldn't be treated like that! They ought to be treated like this instead!" If you can get her talking about how bad tv parents are, maybe she'll recognize that she and her children aren't living a tv show.

    It's kind of a long shot, but it's less threatening to criticize a tv parent and let your friend draw the analogy to her own parenting style than to criticize her directly.

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/04/2007 10:05:00 AM  

  • I have to clarify that this mother has several children and they are all very, very, very well behaved. That's what gets me so upset. If her children were out of control, I could see why she would lay down the law so harshly. But they are helpful and kind with other kids (including my own). Perhaps this is why I'm so hesitant to break off contact with her; I feel her children might need to see that it's okay to make mistakes (like how my kids do) and they shouldn't get in trouble for it, you know? It's like she demands perfection. But what kid is perfect?
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous Mom at 8/04/2007 02:47:00 PM  

  • Anonymous Mom,

    This is such a tough place to be in, especially in light of your last comment here. I feel for those kids--especially since they're trying to be good. My first thought is to ditto Rachel H.

    If you aren't really close with her as girlfriends I don't think a lot of conversation and teaching will help. Maybe you could suggest shorter time-outs or alternate consequences, or a jovial "lighten up" but really, if she's not interested in the topic I wouldn't worry about changing her.

    I've had friends who are inspirational Moms who motivate me to be better. We usually talk about parenting a lot. If she's never broached it I bet she has no idea she's so harsh. She may not care to improve at all. If she hasn't seen the inspiration in you, she probably won't change. Does that make sense?

    I also had a mom friend who I felt was real downer (but loved her company away from the kids). Although I still did things with them occasionally I did a few things. First, I made sure my kids weren't over at her house alone. Second, I limited the amount of time we all spent together per visit. Last, I talked to my kids about it. Like, "I don't think it's right that Soandso told Bobby he was stupid. Bobby's not stupid, he just made a mistake. If you guys did that I wouldn't think you were stupid either." You get the idea.

    Good luck. Again, I like Rachel H's idea of just hanging out for girl's night.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 8/05/2007 06:47:00 PM  

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