Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s boggling you.
This week… what do you do when you love your friend, but their kid… not so much? What do you do when you want to hang out with your new mom friend but her kid is making your parenting harder? Have your own question? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I’m relatively new to the town my family lives now, and I haven’t made many friends yet. I did manage to meet one local mom I adore – the only problem is her child is — difficult? Okay, she’s kind of a jerk. My kid loves hanging out with her, but every time we leave a playdate I feel like I have to have a 20 minute conversation about how she is not allowed to act like Sally (clearly not her name). She constantly talks back to her mom (and even insults her), doesn’t like to share, complains non-stop, and is just kind of a drag. I feel bad talking about a child like that — but I don’t know how else to describe her. She calls food her mom gives her “gross” and makes a show of spitting it out, she openly withdraws if she’s not the center of attention, and she’s just kind of mean all the time? I have a hard time parenting my own kid when I’m around this mom and child because I feel like I’m constantly coming off judgy because I’m correcting behavior in my kid that her kid is displaying. It’s really awkward. Do I say something? Or do I continue this elephant-in-the-room relationship?
You may have to continue the “elephant-in-the-room relationship,” as you call it. Here’s why: people don’t like to hear other people talking shit about their kids. The thing is, we’re allowed to complain about our own kids, but complaining about someone else’s kids really isn’t cool (to their face anyway). This doesn’t mean you cannot effectively parent your own child when you’re around this mother/daughter duo though. Quite the contrary.
The great thing about life is, you’re in charge of how you react to things, and other people are, too. So while you’re entitled to control how you react to your child, she’s entitled to control how she reacts to her child too — and therein lies the rub: she may not be the kind of parent you are, and it may be bothering you more than you think. Is it possible the same things aren’t as important to both of you? Maybe you’re just more strict than she is, and it’s getting under your skin.
The good news is, you are perfectly within your rights to parent your child how you see fit, even if it makes you come off like some sort of drill sargeant to this new friend of yours. You’re allowed to set boundaries for your kid, so she knows that if she crosses certain lines there will be hell to pay, and your new friend is allowed to not set boundaries for her child, for whatever reason she’s chosen. Your child presumably will still listen to you, even if she does have some exposure to what you deem to be a badly behaved child for a few hours. And in the process — she’s learning an important lesson about life: there are all different types of people out there, but the way those people act shouldn’t affect how she acts and what she does. As long as you keep giving your child consequences for her actions if she starts mimicking this child with behavior you deem to be inappropriate, the problem should resolve itself. And maybe your new friend will be inspired to drop the hammer a little when she sees your little angel. Or maybe you’ll both realize you’re not compatible as friends if your kids are involved, and you can just have solo mom dates.
Whatever happens, as long as you don’t badmouth her child or openly judge her parenting, your new friendship will likely survive the fact that your parenting styles — and the behavior you expect from your kids — is different.
Have your own question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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