Instead of remembering that most of us only want what’s best for our kids, some parents assume that differences over everything from discipline to feeding philosophies are deal-breakers when it comes to parental friendships.
When a mom named “K.E.” wrote to advice expert Philip Galanes at The New York Times’ Social Q’s column, her dilemma read just like one a lot of parents have experienced at some point.
K.E. has a good mom friend who she has known for 20 years. They have children one year apart, but unfortunately, her BFF’s 5-year-old daughter “taunts” her 4-year-old son to the point of tears. Because her friend doesn’t discipline her daughter, K.E. says she is put in the awkward position of telling the girl to stop being a meanie. All was manageable until it came time for K.E. to plan her son’s birthday party — naturally, she doesn’t want to invite a child who is going to torture her son, but how is she supposed to explain her position to her friend?
The mama bear in many of us might react with a good, old-fashioned, “screw that, leave her off the invitation list.” After all, our child’s emotional health takes priority over hurting a friend’s feelings over a birthday party. Perhaps we’ve been burying our disapproval of our friend’s parenting style all along and now is the ideal time to passive-aggressively express that by putting all of our angry eggs in the birthday party basket.
Galanes advice? If the friend in question is a mere acquaintance, then by all means explain to her that your child wants to have a small birthday party this year. Since this isn’t the case for K.E., and since it isn’t easy to recreate the bond you have with a friend you’ve known for two decades, he instead suggests she do something a lot of us have forgotten how to do: Speak to the other parent like a reasonable adult about both kids, not just the “bad” kid.
We throw the word “shaming” around so much that we assume other adults are automatically going to feel offended if we tell them our concerns about our children. The conversation shouldn’t revolve around the fact that we feel our friends should parent just like us — humility and tact are key when suggesting a friend’s child isn’t being the nicest. We can instead remind our friend how much she and her child mean to us and how we can work together to help our children get along better and not just change the behavior of one child.
The more we approach parenthood as a team sport that we engage in for the benefit of all of our kids and a better future planet, the less likely we are to get hung up on silly parenting trends and trying to prove one style is better than the other. As long as the outcome is the same — raising little people who respect each other and themselves — what difference does it make if you’re a helicopter parent and your friend is permissive?