Q&A: When you hate your friend’s child

Eileen writes:

"How do you handle it when you INTENSELY dislike the child of a close
friend? The person I'm referring to has three children, and two of them
are delightful. The third is a whining, oversensitive, horrid little
tantrum-throwing brat of a child who is so awful I…I mean, the person
I'm talking about…can't even stand to see a photo of him. It's
seriously affecting our ability to do things together as families (all
the rest of the family members get along great.)"

[EDITED: The conversation in the comments and another conversation I've had about this made it obvious to me that I should have framed the
poster's question more with what I knew about the situation. The
question is asking what to do when it is clear that the way your friend
interacts with her child is reinforcing bad behavior and that the friend
is not even trying to enforce boundaries or standards with that child.
It's NOT saying that the friend doesn't have a perfectly-behaved child,
or that the parents are trying but there are challenges. Also, a
separate but related question is why the parents have different
behavioral standards for one sibling and not the others, so they enforce
boundaries with two of their children but reward bad behavior in the
other. It's NOT about giving each kid what they need based on
temperament and other issues, but about letting one kid be mean to
others while the others are expected to interact nicely, etc.]

Writing this post has been like pulling teeth. And I finally figured out that I was struggling so much with it because it's hard to admit that some kids are just brats. And they're brats because we trained them to act poorly. But wow, who wants to talk about that? So this post isn't flowing the way some of them do. Grind through reading it like I ground through writing it:

Children are just people on the way to being adults. Plenty of adults are jerks we don't want to be around, and all of those people start somewhere. But it's hard to watch kids–who start out with no bad habits–growing up as people we really can't stand to be around.

It's especially hard when one of our friends is the parent of the poorly-behaved child.

Let's be clear that we're not talking about kids who are still learning social skills and who have a mismatch, or kids who are really little and are still learning. We're talking about kids who act like jerks, with adults and other kids, and display behaviors that are a direct result of how they're parented.

I wonder how many of us have this problem and are afraid to admit it, or to say anything about it to anyone else. I know that there's one child of one of my friends that I would not miss if I didn't have to see him or her again, and it bothers me, because I don't know what to do about it, or if I should or could do anything about it.

How do you say to a friend, "You know, if you give her ice cream every time she whines she's going to keep whining."? You can't, really. Or, "We can't have you over because your child alienates everyone and you never set limits."

I wonder how people can be good teaching parents–who really communicate functional behavior patterns–to some of their kids, while letting another kid get away with bad behavior. Or even promoting and fostering that behavior by the ways they act and react to that child.

And here's the sad secret wondering: Is my friend really the person I thought they were if they're raising a jerk?

I don't know. It makes me feel small. (And it makes me wonder if anyone's thinking the same thing about me and my kids…)

I wish I knew of a way to fix it. The only way to deal, I think, is to keep doing what you do anyway: Reinforce appropriate standards of behavior to you and your family. Protect your own children. Use natural consequences, both happy and unhappy. Be an example for your friend.

Does anyone have this same problem? What do you do about it?

 

91 thoughts on “Q&A: When you hate your friend’s child”

  1. You know, if the family has two kids who are fine and one kid who’s a disaster, I wouldn’t go so far as to blame it on crap parenting. There are many children who have learning disabilities, social difficulties or other things going on that keep them from being able to process and handle life in the same way as other kids. This doesn’t eliminate the problem of having a kid around who constantly puts your teeth on edge, but this doesn’t sound to me like an automatic “blame the parents” situation. Having said that, if I had friends who had kids who ran rampant because they’d had no limits ever set, I’d probably just limit my time with the family. It would suck, but the stress of dealing with a situation like that would probably suck more.

  2. I have the opposite problem – where I think my kid’s friend is delightful but absolutely cannot stand the parents. Either way – difficult and stressful and I’ll be watching for options!

  3. Ugh, we have this issue with our nephew, which is WAY worse! He is super unpleasant to be around and does little but teach our son bad habits, but we also want our son to have a good relationship with his cousins, and we don’t want to cause a rift in the family. Some days they’ll invite us over and we just have to bow out because we don’t want to deal with him. (The parents also get on our nerves, so it’s not just our nephew.) We just try to be as pleasant as we can and never bad mouth them in front of our son. Still, after a long family get together my husband and I are cranky and on edge!With a friend, I’d say you just have to silently suck it up if you or your kids want to stay friends. But if you’re not that invested in the relationship or if the kid gets so annoying/offensive you can’t stand it longer, I’d say you can always back away a bit. There’s nothing wrong with not enjoying someone, even if it is a kid. That doesn’t mean you should be cruel or judgmental, and it doesn’t mean the kid is a “bad person”, but you also don’t have to spend lots of time with everyone.

  4. and equally, what do you do if you can’t stand your friend’s husband?i agree with the first poster, if 2 out of 3 kids ain’t bad, maybe something else is going on?

  5. we have a child we don’t like and it is visceral. the matter with the child is lack of rules/boundaries, disrespecting adults and just not knowing how to play with my kids. its all of the kids in the family, so it is parenting.It makes us feel like awful people though. who doesn’t like little kids? but there are several kids in the girls class I’ve come to dislike as well. I would never say a word. It isn’t my place to make the parent get their kid is annoying, We feel like they will get that eventually or maybe not. We just don’t do anything with them anymore. And when we do, we instill, everyone has different rules, over and over to our children.
    Honestly, its a crappy situation.

  6. I’m with zchamu – I think blaming the parents as the automatic reaction is probably not always even close to fair.I think seeing the kid as a work in progress – even if you think more progress should have been made by now – may help….?
    You may still need to limit exposure, though, because bursting out and saying something to your friend may ruin the friendship – and with luck your friendship will survive when the kids have grown and gone away.
    Taking the long view….

  7. I agree that since 2 of the 3 kids are “delightful”, I was surprised that you assumed it was a parenting issue with the third. I mean, it might be, anyway, but I wouldn’t make that assumption.

  8. I’m really surprised you are blaming parenting, especially if they have other children who are fine.Kids are *not* blank slates that the parents impose upon.
    I’ve been following the parenting research over at the Freakonomics blog and by the Nurtureshock crew, and if anything, it’s pretty convincing that parents have much less influence on their kids then we imagine.
    There are terrible inconsistent parents with delightful children. And there are parents who are so exhausted from trying to guide/teach/discipline their bratty kids that they simply can’t be 100% consistent.

  9. This is so timely for me! We have a similiar issue only its both kids. The older one is spoiled and treated like a princess and the younger as if he can do nothing right. The parents clearly favor the older child over the younger and its causing issues with both kids. We’ve had to limit time with them because the younger is already a bully, a direct result of how he is treated at home – its the only way he can have power in his life, and he has started to bully our youngest child. There is no way to tell parents that they are raising awful children, though we have tried to discuss the bully behavior. It did not go well, they really don’t see it. It is a sad situation for us and especially those children. Our children have told us clearly how they feel,”she is just not a nice person” and “he does not treat me well”, and know we are limiting our interaction with the family. On the bright side, I am glad my children are communicating their feelings to us and know that we will respond accordingly. On the other side, I have a feeling the tough conversations with the parent who is a close friend is still ahead, as we continue to pull away. I am not looking forward to that at all.

  10. But if the way the one child acts is a direct reaction to the way the parents treat the child, then how is that not parenting? In the case I’m thinking of, the parents use a completely different tone of voice with one child, defend this child when he hurts other kids (including their own), reward whining, and have a completely different set of standards for him than for the others.I think we can all tell the difference between kids with learning disabilities and kids who behave poorly. I don’t see how poor behavior that’s reinforced by the parents isn’t directly attributable to the parents.

  11. I have to agree with most people here, I think you might have missed the mark. It sounds like something is going on with child #3. If #1 and #2 are doing great, then the parenting may or may not have something to do with it.Let’s take my two angels. One is introverted, one is extroverted. The first will keep her anger in until it explodes into a massive meltdown of epic proportions until the world ends. The latter will have her outburst RIGHT THEN! EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LIBRARY SHE WILL JUST SCREAM THEN! She knows it is wrong. She knows there are consequences, she knows that I will pull her out of the situation right then, but she later says that she can’t control herself.
    We are recognizing that little miss hell-fire is really reacting to something else that is bothering her. While her sister keeps her feelings inside until they explode over, this one stews on a bad situation and then allows any little thing to allow the steam to release.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can’t control everything our kids do and I think this is a case where the parents need to take a step back and look at the situation.
    Advice for the friend? Have you talked to the parent? I mean, really? Maybe something simple like “I’ve noticed Xavier really seems to be having a lot of tantrums. Is there something that he’s worried about?” Perhaps the mother may start gushing about “omg, I can hardly handle him….” or she may not.
    I am friends with a family where one child is calm and the other is a pathological liar. The parents are sure the liar is just not understood where most of us on the outside realize that kid needs help!
    I would honestly suggest the friend talk to her friend about it and how it is making it difficult to have family get togethers. Can this damage the friendship? Maybe. But it may be worth it if it causes stress on the OP’s family

  12. And remember that this is a friend’s child, so the poster has seen them interacting together and how the parent responds to the child consistently. This isn’t just seeing a kid throwing a tantrum in the grocery story and blaming the parents. It’s watching while a friend reinforces behavior that shouldn’t be reinforced.

  13. I agree with talking to the parents but never make judgments, just always stick to facts. “Your youngest did X when Y happened” … and just see what they say. Give advice if asked but just try to hear their perspective. Something they say might make you more sympathetic to the situation and hate the child less.

  14. I think Moxie was very specifically talking about kids one dislikes because of obvious parenting issues that result in that kid being unpleasant. Some, maybe even all, parents do treat/parent each child differently, no matter how hard they think they are trying to treat them all the same.Of course there are cases where one child in a family is predisposed to jerkiness or being annoying just because of their personality, mostly irregardless of parenting, or sometimes due to other diagnosable issues. Those are the ones we feel really bad for disliking, even though we’re entitled to our own feelings.
    We generally avoid children/parents who annoy us or make us uncomfortable for the most part, although of course that’s not always possible. We’re lucky to have lots of options/friends and never anywhere near enough time to socialize, so it’s not a big problem. I can imagine that when he gets a little older, this will be a more challenging issue. Especially around the “why can that kid have [crap to eat, other privileges, etc.] and I can’t?” issue.

  15. I’m really not sure we CAN all, always, tell the difference between kids with various special needs and kids who behave poorly. There’s a 5yo girl in my son’s Sunday School class whose behavior is incredibly manipulative, whiny, and sometimes borderline violent.Now, we all happen to know that she came to her parents as a foster kid at 18 months and has various sensory and behavioral challenges, but those are not immediately obvious when you see her. And her parents — well meaning, good people who do their level best with her, and with her sister who also has special needs — aren’t always clear how much of her behavior is the special needs, and how much is just normal 5yo boundary-testing, amplified by the necessarily less-than-consistent environment of a slapdash tiny church Sunday School.
    So I guess what I’m saying here is, we don’t always have the full picture, and for any given kid — even the child of our friends — there’s a lot we may not know.

  16. “I think we can all tell the difference between kids with learning disabilities and kids who behave poorly. “No. No we can’t all. Really. Heck, it may take years for the parents/doctors/teachers/psychologists/whatever to find out that there is an underlying issues, and if so, what it is.
    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I have had friends who have.

  17. I’m now wondering if Eileen and I are the only people who have friends who are reinforcing kids (with no other issues) in behavior the parents don’t accept from their other kids. Do you all just not know anyone who gets rewarded for whining (at the age of 8 or 9) or being mean to other kids?All these cases you’re talking about are when parents are TRYING to reinforce appropriate behavior but the kids are not easily compliant for whatever reason. What about when parents genuinely aren’t even attempting to stop the behavior and are encouraging it?

  18. Yes, many of us know people who have more than one kid and one of them is treated differently (think “the baby” or “the oldest” or “the middle child”). Then those kids react differently. We have one in our family. It is tough.

  19. I’d probably avoid family-family get togethers and find a way to do one-on-one playdates with the children the poster does enjoy having around.

  20. I have the kid who is hard to like. He has learning disabilities, ADHD, is possibly on the autism spectrum and we are pursuing a diagnosis, along with various conduct disorders. We have lost many friends because of his issues. Regularly I am judged for my bad parenting when at almost 9 he has a meltdown in public. I have found people have a very visceral reaction to him. They either love him or can’t handle him. I try to include those who love him in our lives and let those who don’t fall by the wayside.I guess I am commenting because what looks like bad parenting may not be bad parenting. I would day make plans with your friend after the kids go to bed.

  21. no we have this too…our child being told to ‘share’ when their child grabs the toy our child is playing with, just because we happen to be at their house and ‘that is his favourite truck, you see’… and me witnessing child breaking his truck and then when questioned, blaming our son…a lot of people who we were friends with before kids seem to fall away because of these kind of problems. just like the problem I hinted at above, bffs with someone and then they get married to an absolute jerk. so I see your point Moxie.

  22. I am with those that would say you can’t automatically blame parenting. As a parent of a difficult child, I can tell you we’ve tried every. single. thing. other than spanking to reign in his behavior. Some days, it feels pretty hopeless and we just have to hope he grows out of it (he’s 4). But part of it I think is his personality. And with an older kid even, he’s still a kid and therefore still learning.So rather than blaming the parents (who in all likelihood are at their wits end with the child), I think an honest conversation with the parents about what you see, sticking very closely to the facts and not being upset about it, would probably be the best course. Of course, if the parents react as if you are crazy, then I would say limiting time and having adult-only nights would be a solution.

  23. Oh my, how timely, I have this issue, too. One of my very dearest friends has two children that I just don’t… like very much. (I feel so horrible even writing that.) The younger one I actually have that visceral dislike of, that others posters mention. She is, to my perception, a very unpleasant little child. Usually (but not always) my children and her children play very well together. Because of that, and because of the importance of the friendship to me, I have very consciously decided not to say anything, ever. As Moxie and others point out, children are people, too, and sometimes there are people we don’t like. Maybe that’s the case with her children, especially their daughter. I don’t think she has any special needs and requires medical attention, or anything like that. I will never say anything, no way.

  24. You’re assuming a causal relationship that flows one way (parents’ seeming laxness resulted in obnoxious kid) when in fact it may be flowing the other (obnoxious kid results in trip to therapist results in recommendation to treat kid in a way that is perceived as lax by others).I don’t tell a lot of people IRL about my kid’s therapy, because I do not want the judgment that so often results. I would rather get the judgment that comes from ignorance, because at least then I am maintaining my and my kid’s privacy though something that is already plenty difficult.

  25. I know a family like this. (In fact, I wondered if we were talking about the same family!) I think that the baby of a family might be treated differently, or a girl might be treated differently than two boys. Or a kid who is a whiner might be placated and learn to whine, or a kid might learn to make trouble to get some of the attention of his or her siblings. I can see how one kid might be different than another kid and it could still be a parenting issue. It could even be a parenting issue because what works for one kid won’t work for another.

  26. I’m going to vote with the ‘invisible disability’ crowd here.Parents adapt to the child as much as the child to the parent. My kids make me the parent they need (even if that’s just to serve their disability in the wrong way).
    So, with Mr B, whose Fructose Malabsporption made him THE CHILD FROM HELL, we were permissive, and reactive, and let him have his way a LOT, because the outcome of not doing so was a crisis of epic proportion, and it was just Not Worth It. We fought the critical (life/death) battles with him, and everything else let go, in just getting through the day. FM with rage as the unstable emotional response + sensory processing issues = hellpie.
    Miss M, same song, different dance. She had FM with severe anxiety as the unstable emotional response + different sensory issues. She taught us to stay home and avoid challenging social situations, because it just hurt to see her freeze up with panic when someone so much as looked at her. And even though we were already working with B, we didn’t spot the parental error with M.
    In both cases, it took serious work on our part to a) diagnose the hidden disability (you know the tale, 1.5 years of specialists, procedures, more blood drawn than I think a child actually holds, etc.), and b) find out how to manage it *effectively* instead of reactively.
    (Miss R was a further different case, and we’re STILL figuring out how to get there with her, years later, because she hits both my and ep’s parenting buttons in a big way. In addition to having FM with rage and stubborn + sensory issues. Whee. We got one without FM, out of four.)
    Most people seem to consider us good parents. But at various points our kids were either catastrophically neurotic, or violent and unpleasant. In both cases they looked spoiled rotten. We jumped when they looked at us funny, our other kids hated that someone else got ‘special treatment’ (Mr G would get SO pissed that Mr G ‘got his way’ and Mr G had to suck it up… even when he understood the problem.)
    It sucks. It is really hard. We work on it endlessly. We deal with the grief (“I just want to be NORMAL!” is a sucky thing to have to comfort in a 7 year old.) We send a long letter for each child to school each year, and try to strategize with teachers to keep behavior in line at school, and we mainly socialize with people who get the issues, and yeah, I have to explain to everyone that he can’t eat that, she will behave differently if, and it gets tiring.
    Add in if it is something ‘unusual’ or not diagnosed or not easily diagnosable, and you get a lot of ‘yeah, excuses excuses, your parenting sucks’ looks in response. For a year and a half I couldn’t say what was wrong, but at least I could say we were in the hospital twice a week trying to find it, and ‘at least’ he had a catastrophic growth failure and other visible symptoms so it was at least a little visible to others. Otherwise, it was just ‘blame the parents’.
    … yeah, nerve there.
    Invisible disabilities suck. Parents often don’t see them early, or middle, or until quite late. My own dyslexia wasn’t diagnosed until I was in college, and the ASD wasn’t picked up until my 40’s. Parents can definitely miss the cues. I was just different, and special, and ‘me’, to my parents.
    Parents also may not want to look, even with issues that are more obvious, like speech delays, and would rather just carry on with the stop-gap parenting out of love or lack of knowledge. It hurts to get over the margin of ‘child normal’ to ‘child not’ to where you can take action. I am a fierce advocate for my kids, and yet I was willing to think Miss R was Not Like The Others for nearly a year, even though her behavior was off, and I knew behavior could be the primary symptom of FM. And I am far from dumb or blind, knew how to manage the diet already, was DOING it for two other kids, it was working, and I *still* could not look at R and see it.
    That doesn’t mean that parenting by preference without cause doesn’t exist. That there aren’t easier-for-that-parent kids (or easier-at-that-age), or personality match/mismatch, or labeling, or playing out childhood issues, or playing out gender issues, or all sorts of other parenting misfires. There are. They may well compound on an underlying problem, too.
    For the parental-advisory thing? Commisseration is where I go first, and knowledge or data sharing, and yeah, I also drift into assvice at times. “You know, my kid got me all wound up and reacting faster on him than on the others, too.” Or I have a friend whose son acted like that. Or my brother in law is a Speech Language Pathologist. or I was reading this article”… and then see where the conversation goes. If I can direct them to a resource or screening or book, then I can let go (not labeling siblings! not playing one sibling up over the other – Siblings Without Rivalry is my number one on that).
    Also, I remember my mom’s rule that it takes three kinds of people to tell you something before you can hear it. I make the assumption that I am just one of those three, so I do not expect to see results from me saying it. I just hope I’m not the only one saying it. Because the kids deserve the chance to have skills for a full life. That’s something the child psych we had screen Miss M said. We automatically do a great job of protecting our kids, but we generally (all of us) do not start out with trying to give our kids skills to reach the goals they want to reach and enjoy life to their fullest abiltity, if they have any kind of issue they struggle with. Protect always comes first. Parents need reassurance that the protection is a good and worthy first step. And then they have to gird up and go on from there, to get their child to an adulthood where they can relate to their peers, where they are not a jerk (even with a disability, being able to work past it or at least give advance warning and help others relate or understand), etc.
    It is, to me, and unkindness to not be one of the three people. I do say stuff. I appreciate the hell out of my friends who say stuff to me. (like, “Do you really want to reward him for whining?” – yes, a friend said that to me, and I had no idea I had been doing it! Hearing loss in the whining range means it sets off no alarms for me… so I teach champion whiners because I don’t notice that it IS whining. I have to pay closer attention to stop that behavior.) I also count among my most positive moments the times I have said something that set someone off, but they’ve come back later and thanked me, even if we are never friends again. Like ‘have you considered screening for ASD? I would be concerned enough to screen, but since I’m not an expert, all I can say is that I’d screen if I were in your shoes.’ … and had the mom SNIT and drop me but then seek me out a few months later to thank me because her son was in accelerated services and would have a much better outcome as a result of me saying something when nobody else did. And we were never friends again, but so the hell what? Long view, that’s in the plus column. I can be good to my friends, or I can be good for them, and I’d rather be good for them.
    I don’t barge in on strangers, but I will say something to a friend. And then I leave it in the friend’s hands, because I am not the mom.

  27. Moxie: YES. I know a girl who is about to turn 11 and is in need of serious mental help. Her parents turn a blind eye to it. They KNOW she needs something, but they blame it on her being smart and others aren’t getting it, or they all pick on her, blah… She was suspended in 3rd grade for bringing a kill list and maps of where she was going to corner her victims. Parents? “They were all picking on her and she wasn’t being supported by the school staff” um, dudes? kill list= SCREAM FOR HELP!in 4th grade, she was suspended for grabbing another girl’s arm and almost breaking it and then running out of school. Parent reaction? She’s misunderstood and since she’s been begging for years, we let her get her hair colored at the salon even though we told her she couldn’t do it until she was 18…
    The thing is, her sister is normal. Parents give her as much freedom too. In this case, it’s not the parents treating kids differently, it’s that one kid is mentally ill and the parents refuse to see this.
    I’ve been called a F*cking B*tch by this girl. I was calm at the time (I was the adult in charge) and once she left, I put another adult in charge and ran off to cry. For my hurt feelings, but for her too….

  28. Is my kid the “brat”? I don’t know. I would love feedback. I would like to know my kid needs attention or I am doing something wrong as a parent.I don’t want daughter growing up and have no one and I could have done something. I do not get feedback either way- on wow she is a great kid (and you are doing a great job as a mom) or your kid is spoiled rotten (and you are horrible mom)

  29. I’m a bossy person. I’m a bossy parent, I’m a bossy employee, I’m just bossy. Fortunately, I recognize this in myself, and learned early on not to offer parenting advice to friends even when I felt they were waaaaay off track. Sadly (for my friendships) I end up distanced from those friends because it’s so hard for me to keep my giant mouth shut… and their kids are so dang awful! I truly wish that there was a way to ‘help’ friends in those situations, but I’m pretty sure it’s just called ‘butting in’ and that is universally disliked and unappreciated.I miss those friends, but I do not miss their kids, and and I am so glad that I don’t have to spend time talking my kid down from an encounter with them.

  30. I’ve always assumed I didn’t like other people’s kids because I’m just a bad person. I’ve assumed I blame the parenting because I’m judgy like that. And also, some people just do things differently than I do and that leaves me feeling a bit judged so much better to just pre-emptively judge. And then I just hope there is some kind of redeeming that happens at some point and I get quite religious because honestly, ain’t nobody but Jesus gonna fix this black heart.That said, I probably parent for likeability more than I should. And I don’t understand parents who don’t. Cause life is HARD for people who aren’t liked. But apparently independent thinking, only apologizing when you’re truly sorry, being true to your own heart – those are values too, worthy ones even, that conflict with mine. Often.
    So mostly, I pretend I’m a better person than I am and fake out liking the unlikeable but holy hell, do I talk about them behind their back. Cause I’m like that… not so great.

  31. What about trying to establish some kind of connection with the kid in question, independent of the parent? I don’t mean like a day out and about or anything – just some small amount of time, something the kid seems to like, something so the kid can be him or her-self, as she or he is away from the (entirely possibly actually crappy) parental influence. I have *really* disliked some kids – some kids of friends, some while at preschool/co-op, and some – short term but still – relatives. And each time, there’s been some moment – an art project, playing with math, running around outside, looking at bugs – that somehow got past all the bratty behavior and was much, much better. And I found a person in there that I DID like. Which helped when we were all right back in the original type situations. I guess I think that all kids really are likeable in there somewhere – even if it truly is well hidden at times. Worth a shot anyhow.I will add that my own four year old is MUCH different away from me. As in much, much easier. and I don’t know, maybe more likeable, sometimes at least.

  32. There is a child like this in my extended family- I know her issues. She was basically abandoned by her father after the divorce, her mother does not provide a structured environment and her grandmother and great grandmother do a lot of the day to day ‘parenting.’ She spends at least three days out of every week at another home other than her own. I KNOW that is tough, but she still doesn’t get to stab my two year old through the foot with a stick and me be pleased. Her parent isn’t going to help her, the grandparents and great-grandparents are going to continue to believe that everything that she does is right and people are going to continue to avoid her. She definitely will not be back to a birthday party at our home until I can be sure there will not be bloodshed.I can’t bring any of it up with anyone, because if I do, I am evil for saying anything cross about her. SO- AVOID.
    Maybe it is different with a child of a friend, maybe better, maybe worse.

  33. @ACJ “only apologizing when you’re truly sorry”??? What kid is truly sorry for their bad behavior until they are a little more mature? (And, er, until they are taught that it IS bad behavior.)I had a problem when my older one was little, with other parents making their kids give in to her because she’d cry (loudly) and seem to be SO upset when things didn’t go her way. Then the poor easygoing kid would be forced to give up his/her ball or whatever, while I was trying to teach my kid that the other kids had rights, too. I was the mom saying, “No, no, he doesn’t have to share, it’s HIS ball, my daughter will be Ok.” It was kind of a weird situation.
    I’ve come into contact with kids I’ve immediately disliked, then felt bad about it. I’ve been proved correct in my assessment at least once (kid turned on my daughter and recruited other kids at school for an anti-[my daughter] club). But I haven’t had that when the parents have been friends first, though. Sticky situation.

  34. i am going to state the obvious here. unless the friend is over-the-top delusional, she _knows_ her kid is a jerk. especially when said kid has two other siblings.there is a reason why she is behaving the way she is towards her child. who can really know what it is? it could also be that she is embarrassed to discipline the child in front of her friend and/or is trying to prevent a total meltdown that will ruin the day for everyone. maybe she is different at home with this child. or maybe her child has conduct problems where discipline has no effect.
    if her kid is like this all the time, she is probably somewhat isolated and values the social contact. you are throwing her a lifeline when you spend time with her and being an especially kind friend when her misbehaving child is also allowed to be there.

  35. There have been kids who I didn’t like and I couldn’t quite place why – there was nothing aweful about them on paper, but they would leave a wake of toys on the floor when they played in the room together or they were just too something (busy? active? loud?) And sometimes when the kid is a little bit older than your oldest, they are just a stairstep ahead of yours as far as backtalk and sass goes (developementally appropriate, but a little ahead of your time). For those cases, meeting at the park instead of inside or just waiting it out is good enough. In the first case, after some amount of time I was amazed at the kids’ increase in maturity and in the other, when I saw the sass a year later from my kid, it made sense.For the case where the kids are treated differently…and seeing the discussion here, it makes me want to ask the friend if they’ve considered counseling. Which, I do not have the social skills to do tactfully.
    I like the suggestion of finding a way to connect to the one you’re having trouble with. Also, I’m someone who corrects other people’s kids somewhat. I don’t do it on purpose, it just slips out – when they’re doing something that makes me nervous or to prompt them for the courtesy that I expect to receive.

  36. I can’t think of a kid I truly loathe. My kids have a few friends who rub me the wrong way, and I know some parents whose methods I occasionally question (silently, in my own head).But here’s my rule of thumb: If it’s not my own kid, chances are pretty damn good that I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know what issues (known or unknown) the kid may have. Ditto for the parents. My first instinct is to offer help. When I can’t do that for whatever reason, I just disconnect and/or keep my yap shut.

  37. I was put in my place this summer. The child in question is my neice, the 11 yo but youngest of three. My sister was appeasing and bribing her overweight, whining child with food and I was about to go crazy at a week long family reunion.But my mother pulled me aside and reminded me that my sister is going through a divorce, she was not the primary caregiving parent, and the 11 yo was old enough to tell the judge her living/custody preferences. It was not the time for my sister to try to make changes to the parenting style her partner had used for 11 years.
    Sometimes we forget that the other parent has other baggage and we might not know the whole story behind their “poor” parenting.
    I say, with a friend, limit contact and hopefully the kid will grow out of it.

  38. If you still want to keep that family and ornery kid in your life, I might suggest parenting that kid when that kid is at your house. “I don’t know about the rules at your house, but in this house, it is NOT OKAY to [fill in blank]. Next time you do that, you will have to go in timeout [or whatever consequence you have], or go home.” It doesn’t matter if the victim is the other parent, one of your kids, or one of the siblings of the ornery child. Then, follow through on it. You can always say later “I’m sorry for jumping in like that — I guess I’m having a day.” and see the mom’s reaction. If they have to go home, you can tell them you’ll try again another day when everybody’s in a better mood. This does set a boundary, and gives the other mom a chance to say “Oh, brace yourself, here comes a monster meltdown!” or “Oh I’m so embarassed” or “I wish you wouldn’t have done that” or something — it opens the dialog, but it keeps it to things you can say helpfully or not at all. But I think it’s okay to enforce your standards around yourself and your family in a loving manner. I’ve even been known to say to a neighbor’s kid (and very good friend of the family) “Oh my! You are having a challenging day aren’t you? Have you been talking to your mom like that all day? That’s not going to fly here! Do you think you need a snack or a nap?” It was met with a sigh and a “yes, bad day for us!” But I invited them over the next day — and I know my kid can be exhausting to other parents and have said “Feel free to send him home or put him in a time out if he gets cranky.”

  39. Like Jo-Ann’d child, my eldest (6yr old daughter) is often the kid that is hard to take. She’s extremely spirited and doesn’t have much of a middle speed. We don’t reward negative behavior and she experiences consequences for it but that doesn’t always keep her from being very hard for other kids or parents to be around. Much of the time she can be delightful with other kids and adults but there are certain circumstances where she just isn’t and they aren’t always circumstances we can avoid. We’re lucky enough to have friends and family who know her and us well enough to understand what’s happening and to have honest discussions with us. However, we have lost less close friends because of it because they simply thought it was poor parenting on our part or because they saw that we were doing what we could and it still wasn’t enough for them to be able to tolerate it. We aren’t perfect parents. We are sometimes inconsistent and sometimes we simply don’t recognize a situation until it’s much farther along than it should be but at the same time so much of this in her case is temperament her ability to deal with outside factors that it seems little unfair to blame us for all of it when clearly our other child is not exhibiting the same problematic behaviors.All that said, we do have a couple of kids that we prefer not to be around. One of them is treated very harshly at home (not to the point of meeting the criteria for abuse) and in turn is like a little dictator around other people. He also often tells other children that they are bad, going to hell, etc and those are clearly things he’s learning at home. The other is the only child of overly permissive parents and he rules the roost 100%. We enjoy his parents very much and wish that it wasn’t so difficult to be around their child who I’m pretty sure with some loving but firm boundaries would be lovely to be around.

  40. “The third is a whining, oversensitive, horrid little tantrum-throwing brat of a child who is so awful I…I mean, the person I’m talking about…can’t even stand to see a photo of him.”Wow. Poor kid.

  41. @Slim, yes. I tell people our various diagnoses a lot, because I want it on radar since FM is not rare but rarely diagnosed, and if it helps someone else because I said it about my kid, great! But therapy is pretty private and highly individual, and hoo boy you’d need a lot of background history to even be able to discuss it as a casual conversation, let alone in a ‘how do we get this to work’ conversation.Plus, a lot of disabilities are treated as auto-less-than, or are so stereotyped that it is Not Good To Say. There are a lot of ASD adults who do not announce their diagnosis so that they are not labeled. There’s a lot that isn’t anyone’s business but ours.
    I say stuff to friends, because I know enough of the story to say something at all. I mainly commiserate with the rest.
    Connecting with the child is a good idea. My mom does this regularly when a child is irking her, whether it is one of her grandkids or a friend’s kid/grandkid or a friend of one of the pool of kids or a kid at church. She also does it whether it is a serious issue kind of behavior or a minor one. Sometimes she skips it and just grouses at them, but it’s in the mix. I do the connect-with-the-problem-point spontaneously with my kids, but I struggle with it when it is other kids (unless I’m already connected). Listening, promting for more, and letting them be really heard and respected when they are in my mom’s space is a gift of hers, and it works remarkably well. Adults tend to be less overt on their acting out when they’ve felt heard and respected, so it follows (sorta) that kids will, also.
    Another idea: Setting your own house rules, out loud. It is one thing we did when the kids were little that worked really well, and will probably continue to work (that is, “our house rules are: ….” and making sure the other child understands what that means, and that the parents are on board for ‘at our house, these are the rules’… I’ve had parents change their parenting to match our house rules at our house, too, though not usually in an all-out manner). Because Safe/Respectful/Kind is a big leap for kids not used to it, we did use concrete rules like ‘Please report unsafe behavior to an adult; if you cannot work out a conflict over respectful and kind behavior between you, it is okay to ask us for assistance.’ (Counter to the ‘no tattling’ rules at many of my peers’ houses.)
    Making sure my kids also know the other kid’s house rules, which means that the other parents have to articulate the rules to my child and me. That may bring out some interesting things for them, and us, for later thinking or discussion. I have relatives where the house rule starts with ‘guests always come first in everything’ – which means they get the primo toys, first serving, etc. Not my values, there, but I understand it. Others where it is ‘find a way to make things work peacably for everyone’, and others where ‘your rules translate here, and our rules are for our kid only, and when they are in conflict the parents negotiate the boundary’.
    (ACJ, this might solve some of your house rules problems, if you specify ‘we believe social rules are of value, and apologizing well is an important skill – we expect apologies when someone has offended or hurt someone else’ it may be more useful to other parents, too. I don’t expect my child to apologize by rote, but I DO expect my child to recognize that they have created a problem for another child, and resolve it in a way that works for the other child. Sometimes the kid wants an apology, sometimes they want help or kindness (getting an ice pack for a bump), sometimes they want a little break from my kid, etc., but nobody ever wants a false apology. mainly people seem to want a real recognition that they were harmed by accident or intent, with regret for that injury from the acting party, and remediation or recompense if it was significant. I expect my kids to get to a real response in some way, and not a ‘sorry you didn’t like how I played’ way… which I think some other parents are trying to avoid by not forcing apologies. I also like my kids to understand the format of a good apology, not by rote but by understanding and compassion and a will to do better. Does that make sense, or would that just annoy you to death? Genuinely curious on that one.)
    I want my kids to be able to function in different environments with different rules, so having that ‘express the rules explicitly’ experience is useful practice. Making it overt (stated out loud or written down) is useful for the parents, too. I’ve also had parents ask me about why or how we do something that we’ve stated, because hey, that might work for something they were working on. It also may be useful when you see the parents violating a stated rule, to ask them what the exceptions are for that rule, so you can be clear with your child. If the parents are just applying a double standard, making it clear that you see a double standard helps the child in question, too, because it validates reality, even if it doesn’t change anything. Just having people tell you (as a child) that your world is as tilted as it appears to be van be useful for maintaining identity separation from the tilt.
    If the kids are also not sure about the interactions (that is, it isn’t just the parent who doesn’t like the other kid), social stories or other teaching ‘how to get out of this if you are not happy how it is going’ may be useful. Having them come sit with you for some quiet activity, perhaps, or excusing yourselves early, also.
    One of my mom’s other subtle control tips for dealing with people not aware of their own misbehavior is simply standing up and starting to turn away every time they do it. Excuse yourself to the bathroom, go check your cell phone in your purse, think you heard your kid call you from the other room, etc. – just stand up and disengage from the child and/or parent every time it crops up. It works remarkably well when you want to register discomfort on something but a conversation hasn’t worked before. My mom used it whenever her aunt would say something racist, after repeated requests to quit with the inappropriate comments were ignored. Even when her mental capacity was diminished, that would register somewhere in the subconscious.
    Otherwise, not much advice but remembering that there are ages when we don’t get along with our own kids that well, too, and hoping the next age for that child will be better. And stay in the conversation, because if they’re friends, and their is a problem under there, even if it is just “I don’t understand my child and it sucks and I feel like I’m always getting this wrong with them” they’ll need you to still be in the conversation. (unless your safety and wellbeing are at risk … usual caveats apply.)

  42. We know a couple of children who are pretty high on my dislike meter. I use these children as “teachable moments” for my children. When we see Kid A being bossy, pushing, hitting, acting greedy, I point it out and ask my children how they feel about the behaviors.We discuss these kids at the dinner table – what they did at school and how it affects the other children in the class. We even discuss if we think it’s something that the kid can’t help (both of my children have kids in the class who occasionally act out for reasons that are clear, diagnosed and understandable) or if it’s because they are “spoiled” (a blanket statement that stands in for bad parenting in our house).
    It doesn’t solve the problem of what to do when you have to act as the host for these children (I generally go with my house, my rules and hope for the best), but I do find that my children are pretty good at not engaging with kids in the “spoiled” category.

  43. “Also, a separate but related question is why the parents have different behavioral standards for one sibling and not the others, so they enforce boundaries with two of their children but reward bad behavior in the other.”That’s what I’m having a hard time with, and I’m tending to side with a lot of the other people commenting that there may be something going on that you’re unaware of. I imagine some people could or do say the same thing about the way I treat my kids. I may seem overly permissive with some of my son’s behaviors because I can’t imagine punishing him for behaviors he can’t control. And I’m not going to write “Autism Spectrum Disorder With a Side of Sensory Integration Issues!” on all of his shirts because I have other things to worry about than every other parent thinking my kid is a brat. Like actually helping my kid manage those social relationships that are exceptionally stressful for him (and loud events, like birthday parties, it freaks him the crap out, which is probably when you’re all thinking I’m catering him and he’s being a brat, thankyouverymuch). But he can’t help it. With hedra here, you hit a nerve.

  44. I think that to a large extent, whatever underlying issues the child may or may not have are totally irrelevant. The issue is what behavior this person is willing to put up with around her own children, and how to enforce boundaries such that it’s not a horrible trial to be around this other parent and her children.One of my young cousins, the youngest of 4, was the world’s WHINIEST child for… the last four years. Since he could talk. I don’t know why his mom doesn’t discourage it more. The rest of her kids are great. (No, it is not a disability or medical condition of any kind. He’s just a whiny little kid.)
    In this situation (I have been in this situation) we have tried a few things:
    1) One family, we see very rarely. Like twice a year.
    2) Repeat to myself “This is annoying but he is not hurting anyone or anything”
    3) If it’s at our house, then it’s our rules. ‘In this house we do not jump on the couch/ play fighting games/ throw toys at other people. Please stop and play on the floor/ play gently/ go outside if you want to throw things.’ If the kid really truly can’t handle it, and the parent won’t leave on their own, then tell them that perhaps little Timmy should come over another day.
    4) Kids who are nuts get to go outside and run laps in the yard at our house. My child is included in this.
    5) We have a ‘calming-down’ spot in our house which other kids sometimes use. Blanket, big pillow, quiet corner.
    In the end, situations like this go one of several ways: you never see them; you ignore the behavior and it drives you nuts; you ignore the behavior but learn to live with it; you say something to the parent; you say something to the child.

  45. @Jenny, the underlying assumptions change the tone of how it comes out, quite often. So having a baseline of “I do not know if there are underlying conditions but there may be much more here than I know, understand, or am sympathizing with” changes the style of the approach, which can significantly impact everyone’s stress level, patience, and the messages sent overtly and as meta message to both the other family and one’s own kids.Beyond that, I agree with your approach – it does need to be limited by what you can yourself tolerate. But my own tolerance, patience, tone, and response is vastly different even with my own kids if I know there is something contributing to the behavior. If one is thinking ‘wow my friend’s parenting sucks’ and saying ‘around here we don’t…’ the nonverbal leakage in the meta message is likely to be ‘wow your parenting sucks’. If the thought is ‘I really don’t know whether there is anything I should or could be sympathizing with her under this, and I really don’t want to make this harder for them, AND I need to be clear about my own limits and my child’s limits because that matters as well’ then the message comes out very differently. It is absolutely important to set those limits even when you know that there is something else at play, because you should not be trespassed on ‘just because’ there is something else at play. My kids are not in control of their actions at all times, but they are always *responsible* for their actions, and the repercussions of those actions. We want to not make it hard for others, and also still not be treated like we’re being mean on purpose or through lack of intent or through lack of discipline or through lack of common decency.
    It matters what the assumptions are, when setting those reasonable boundaries, because it isn’t only about what the boundaries are, but what we convey about the others involved when we set them.

  46. *Moxie, I only now saw the update/edit. (I never re-read for that!)So:
    The question is asking what to do when it is clear that the way your friend interacts with her child is reinforcing bad behavior and that the friend is not even trying to enforce boundaries or standards with that child.
    ***
    a) I still disagree that you can even tell when this is a parent-led vs. a child-led thing. I couldn’t tell with Miss M, and it was on me! My life, my child, and I did not realize my child had taught me to stay home from things I enjoyed because it was so painful for *her* to be there. I did not recognize how I responded differently to her than to the other kids, because it was, in essence, responding to her needs. Her needs were just waaaaaaaay out of true from normal range. Day to day, it crept up on us, tuned and shifted from infancy, through every stage, shifting slightly farther and farther away from the expectations we had for the other kids. It wasn’t until she was exhibiting catatonia when spoken to by strangers (unable to move, except her eyes, which would dart frantically from side to side) that something went ‘uh, ruh-roh?’ and only after the psychiatrist pointed out what we were doing as parents on a daily basis that our own behavior became obvious as different for this child.
    b) If it is truly just the parent does not get how to or whether to or when to or why to reinforce boundaries, then that’s a conversation that is an ongoing thing. If this is my friend, then her family matters to me. Then I will bring it up, as part of conversation, as part of what I do and how I do it, as my challenges and concerns and ask her insight on my parenting, open the door to her contributing to my success as a way to open the door to me contributing to her success. I will say ‘gah, I hate when my kids do that and I am soooo not in the mood to get up and handle it, don’t you? it sucks to have to go handle it. ugh. Here I go, handling it.’ Model model model, discuss, ask, talk about best books, how to read the child, what the goals of parenting are, the whole philosophy.
    I actually do this with people I know regularly, new parents who just have never thought of it, more experienced parents whose kids are just different than mine, people whose kids are better at some things, not as good at others, because parental skills also differ. How did you teach her to do X? Do you know anyone who knows how to help when kids do Y? Who do you know whose kids are good at blahblah and how did they encourage that? Make it part of the ongoing conversation about parenthood. Including the ‘how do you feel about it when you know your kid is behaving badly?’ and ‘how do you recognize when your child is behaving badly?’ and ‘how do you not get defensive when someone notices your child is behaving badly?’
    ***
    Also, a separate but related question is why the parents have different behavioral standards for one sibling and not the others, so they enforce boundaries with two of their children but reward bad behavior in the other. It’s NOT about giving each kid what they need based on temperament and other issues, but about letting one kid be mean to others while the others are expected to interact nicely, etc.
    **That is a huuuuuuuge long answer, for which I don’t have time right this second, but I will come back for more on that one…

  47. First, I must admit to being the parent of the difficult child who has special needs that are not obvious, not easily defined, and due in part to intellectual giftedness, which is not a problem that garners a lot of sympathy, but it does make for parenting that is just as challenging as that of learning disabilities. I am kind of offended by the statement that “I think we can all tell the difference between kids with learning disabilities and kids who behave poorly.”Setting that aside though, I am really curious about the story behind: “it is clear that the way your friend interacts with her child is reinforcing bad behavior and that the friend is not even trying to enforce boundaries or standards with that child.”
    If this really is true, and if the friend is basically a ‘good’ parent to her other children, I would honestly be worried that my friend had a serious problem that needed serious help. Such drastic qualitative differences in parenting must be harmful to *all* the children in the family, right? Barring such an extreme, pathological explanation, I’m having a hard time understanding why a friend would really have no idea why one child was being parented so differently.
    Can you not talk to your friend about it? If it’s so glaring, there must be something you can point out in the moment: “Why did you let X talk to Y that way?”, “It looks like X is taking advantage of you”, “I’ve noticed your parenting style is really different between X and Y. Is that on purpose?” All said as nonjudgmentally and good-humoredly as possible.

  48. Sometimes my son is a little jerk. Often when he is hungry, tired, sick, or has had his feelings hurt. Do I help him find appropriate outletswhen he acts like a jerk? Yes. Do I punish him in
    appropriate ways? Yes. Do I remove him from situations when necessary? Of course. Do I model kind respectful behavior for him? I hope so. Do I try to teach him empathy and sympathy? Yes.
    Do these approaches always work with him? No! And yes, there are aspects of his personality that I might change if I could, but he is also an individual who is going to learn in his own time.
    Maybe to out for coffee ( or wine) with your friend without the kids. Give her a chance to talk about her frustrations (I guarantee it will be worse for her). Or start a parenting bookclub, some appropriate outlet for everyone.
    I agree with the other commenters, the problem is probably less visible even if it seems obvious on the surface.

  49. @Maria, that’s the part of this I’m not following. If it were one kid and a parenting style that doesn’t mesh with another family’s style, I would understand the original question. But I’m having trouble with the concept of 2 kids are treated one way, one kid is treated completely different and there’s NO explanation for that. Are they step or half siblings? Some other family dynamic at play? Otherwise I’m still left thinking there’s something else going on that the parents have determined is private.

  50. Man, this strikes home. There is a six-year old boy on our street and neither my husband nor I like him. But…our son likes to play with him, even though he inevitably comes home upset saying “**** isn’t playing nicely with me”.Our main issue with him is his horrible, horrible, boasting competitiveness that makes him quite obnoxious (don’t hold back, eh?:)) He taunts our son into wanting to compete with him, and that is a hugely unequal competition.
    We have resorted to pointing out to our son the differences between good friends and not so good friends, i.e. good friends make us feel good, we have fun, etc. Possibly in the hope of minimizing his desire to play with him.
    And we like the parents – but lament their ineffectiveness at carrying through on consequences.

  51. My question would be what are the ages? I don’t see anything other than they are kids… I have a 3 year old that is acting pretty bratty most days and throws a bunch of tantrums and is really hard to be around… but it’s THREE, and she’s also a middle kid, with a new little baby brother… so we are trying extra hard to give her more time with just mom or just dad…Maybe it’s nothing but age, but most likely a combo effect of something that’s not visible to an outside plus age… Hopefully a friend closer to the family will let the parents in on the issue and maybe they can help the kid out…

  52. Might be over-simplifying, but my take on it is (having been on both ends, I believe):1) Is she asking you for help/acting exasperated? If yes, perhaps offer some anecdotal or personal stories or resources. If not, then distance yourself as much as you personally need to, in order to tolerate a poorly-behaved kid and obvious familial disfunction.
    2) Re: treating the siblings differently. Family dynamics are weird…could be a million things, but honestly, not to sound harsh, none of them are really your business (barring abuse, of course). See #1.

  53. 1) After spending time in India, I now try to find ways to cheerfully tolerate being with people I dislike. In most non-US cultures I know, you just do your best to suck it up for the sake of the social fabric. It’s not a bad thing I think. Compared to the US, most people in other places don’t seem to feel as entitled to be around just the people they like all the time.2) Is it possible that the poster’s strong reaction has to do with feeling guilty about not doing something to rescue the child from a harmful situation? Does this look like a subtle form of abuse?
    3) I agree with parenting the kid in your space, according to your rules. I grew up in West Africa and all the adults around me set firm behavioral expectations, and enforced them. I think they saw it as an important adult responsibility- they would never consider abandoning my parents to do alone something that they saw as everyone’s important communal task: i.e. enforcing utterly consistent expectations of politeness and consideration for all kids, 360 degrees, 24/7/365. My (US-born) parents had clear guidelines like no corporal punishment, but otherwise allowed a wide range of adults actively to set boundaries. I think it was good for us. I do the same with the kids in my life; I use kindness, respect and principles, but I do have high expectations. Some kids are shocked at first when I say something, but they usually rise to the occasion and often seem to like it.
    4) Enforcing boundaries with your friend’s challenging kid might seem like overstepping, or maybe not: your friend may be grateful for a much-needed breather from always having to be the heavy.

  54. On the second question, there is a laundry list of reasons (why would a parent actually do that with one child and not others?)1. Belief about the role of parents (say, as balancers of the other parent – so maybe the one parent or even a grandparent favors the other two kids and lets them get away with murder, so this one reverses the pattern to keep it ‘even’).
    2. Belief about gender (boys can/should break rules, girls never should; boys don’t need to be polite, they need to be strong; girls need to be polite and kind, etc.)
    3. Belief about or unconscious practice of default US culture birth order behaviors (eldest has to be the leader, middle has to be the mediator, youngest is the baby and gets to have their way).
    4. Remediating something in their own childhood through their child (one track if the child reminds them of themselves, another if the child reminds them of a sibling; reversing a pattern their parents had)
    5. Entrenched habit from a problem that no longer exists (child had a chronic illness or was preemie, parents never stopped treating the child as fragile/ill through becoming hyperaware of the risk to that child’s life and wellbeing even though the child is not presently at risk).
    6. Guilt/shame/remorse for liking/not liking the child or for some previous parental failure (super-dading the child because they weren’t there for them when they got hurt; being permissive with the child who they just don’t love as much as they thought they would/being more strict with the kids they don’t like as much as this one)
    7. Flat out favoritism (really just likes/loves one of the kids more, and doesn’t bother to hide it particularly; step parent favoritism).
    8. Habituated or intentional response to situations outside the current one (say, one kid always does their chores and homework, because they’re like that, and the parent has to be on the other two constantly, so has a habit of always being on the other two, and not registering details on the one).
    9. Several million variations or combinations or other reasons I haven’t yet encountered.
    I know parents in all of the above, and plenty of this from my own family, and my own upbringing. Many of the actions violate that parent’s actual beliefs, or lead to results the parent did not actively want or would not choose, but they don’t spot how x is going to lead to y.
    Take a look at things like Nurture Shock, where the research is at direct odds with what we think (culturally) is good parenting, what gets us from x to y. Like praising kids to improve performance, or how to get them not to lie. The parent may well be doing something intentionally to get one result and isn’t spotting where other negatives are coming in, or falsely attributes them to another process or experience or to the other parent, etc.
    In any of these, if I care about the person, I’m likely to engage them in conversation about it. I’ll expose my own parental weaknesses in the process, because it is unfair to delve without opening one’s own doors equally wide. I always learn something when I do, whether it is about the story behind the story, or a challenge the other is facing, or some technique the other parent uses in some other situation that fits in my own parental toolbox. At the very least, I’ll learn where that parent’s boundaries are, because they don’t go there At All. All of that is valuable information. I also don’t hang with anyone I don’t actually trust, so … YMMV, and you know your friends.
    Dr. Jennifer’s boundary list is still really valuable, regardless. Whatever the reason behind it, and however the conversation goes, you will either tolerate it (acceptant or non-acceptant/driving-crazy), or will take steps to change it, or avoid the situations, or end the situations when you reach your limit. Knowing more lets be handle that better, but I don’t actually have to know the details, I just have to internally accept that there *are* details.
    This isn’t that different from ‘my friend won’t even consider breastfeeding and I think it is important’ kinds of nosy parker friendship reactions. It all starts with listening and exposing our own fears and concerns, and making it a conversation between people who care about each other rather than a judgement fest with a goal of convincing the other parent to do it my way. I have never (ever) met a mom who chose not to breastfeed who did not have a story to tell – of how she was raised, of the models or lack of them in her life for breastfeeding, of fear of failing or breast reduction or sexual assault or lack if information or misinformation or odd medical guidance or a zillion other things that I can understand and commiserate with. And maybe I can be a data point or a source of information that makes a difference to the underlying need, or maybe not, but it becomes about understanding the person and their goals and needs so that I can be part of them reaching those goals. I can’t be a support or cheerleader or shoulder or resource for them if I don’t start the conversation and make it safe for them to respond. For me, the goal is not ‘the other parent should do it x way’ but ‘the other parent should be supported in finding their best way to parent to reach their goals’.
    And if the parent can’t get there, now, then exposing their child to parenting that functions differently will at least give them a yardstick for their own life. My mom cherishes time spent with sane normal families because they were her measure of what normal was supposed to look like and validated her sense that something was out of true in her family. That didn’t give her much benefit directly (other than making her feel sane, which was pretty huge benefit), but boy it helped a lot when she was trying to figure out how to parent her own kids.

  55. I have a friend with a 5 year old son I cannot stand. He an example of what happens when overly permissive parenting meets smart manipulative kid.She must know there is a problem, because she works hard at playdates to keep her back to him. Typically I keep an eye on things when they play, he will do something out of line (whack my kid with a stick, kick him, take his toy) and he’ll see me watching him. Then he drops everything and runs screaming to his mom and tells her my son was just doing whatever it was that I saw him doing “He hit me with a stick” or whatever. What am I supposed to do then? She is completely attached to her denial that her son is the problem – and in the rare instances that she does admit it she won’t do anything about it. Ever.
    This boy can get my son to do just about anything – however naughty it is, my son will follow him – breaking toys, bullying other kids, playing unsafely. The only times I have major behavior problems with my son is when he and this boy play together. Now I must pull my 4 yo son aside and trying to explain that even though his friend is initiating and not getting in trouble, my son is responsible for his own self and he knows this isn’t acceptable to me.
    In my case the problem solved itself. The family recently moved away. Can I just say how thrilled I was to get the news? But I had already begun to let the friendship fade. I had simply lost all respect for my friend. We were never friends outside the context of parenting, but I don’t think I could spend much time with any friend whose parenting was this destructive.
    The boy is still discussed frequently in our home, not only as an example of how not to behave, but also as a lesson that other parents have different standards of behavior. He is responsible for his own behavior. So in the end, I think knowing this family helps ours. And I know another kid like this is in our future.

  56. I am kind of offended by the statement that “I think we can all tell the difference between kids with learning disabilities and kids who behave poorly.”I am also offended, and almost fired off a rude response last night. Instead I’ll think twice before coming to this forum again, because I had previously thought of it as a haven of non-judgment.
    Having a challenging child is the most isolating thing in the world, in part due to parents of easygoing children who think they can “tell” what’s wrong with other people’s kids. Unless you live in their home, attend their doctor’s appointments and school, you don’t have the full story.
    We all get our chance to be the smug parent and we all get our chance to be humbled. Maybe you haven’t had your turn yet. Shall we check in during the teenage years?

  57. One of my son’s friends is not easy for me to be around. He is incredibly loud and very rough. I know his parents and know that they are also very loud. They allow things that we don’t. But since his loudness doesn’t bother everyone, I’m mature enough to realize that sometimes it’s me, too. I’m very sensitive to noise, and can get annoyed by things easily. In this case, I limit my exposure to him, and make sure that my son knows our rules apply. And then I just suck it up for the rest of it.After all, I have a kid who probably gets on other people’s nerves, too…

  58. I feel like it’s similar to when you really and truly dislike your friend’s husband (and hate the way that they interact and play off of each other). Or even when you hate one person in your “family of friends”. For me, there is one woman in our group of friends who I just loathe. I keep thinking that all the women who I adore in the group must also hate her, but they don’t. They have some ability to deal with her and see her as “good”, even though she seems totally crazy. I feel like they enable her and we all just need to ignore her…but obviously they see something different, you know?It may be that if it’s SUCH a strong reaction then there is something internal to you that is reacting. Some part of you that is working out your feelings on the parent/kid interaction (something your parents did with you or one of your siblings?).
    That said, I have some moms that I love going out with, but I simply can’t watch them parent. I don’t know why, but watching some kids/parents interact is jut too hard. It really is strange how powerful the emotions can be!

  59. Moxie, you are not the only one who knows parents like this. I know a couple who deals with their four year old’s aggression by laughing or shrugging their shoulders (he’s turning into a holy terror who just punches kids to get toys). I know another family where crying and tantrums prompt the parents to say “Let’s go to the toystore, I promise I’ll buy you a toy, just stop crying.” (I am not making this up, I swear!) Another family I know does the same for the kid and also has a policy that any time another child gets a toy (e.g. a friend’s birthday, for example) their child must also get a toy so they won’t be sad. Unsurprisingly, both of these kids have a gajillion toys and can’t share one of them–they only want whatever is in another child’s hands. There’s also a cousin of mine who alternates between bribery and screaming, spoiling and criticizing in a totally inconsistent mishmash– her kid is, understandably, an consistent a-hole from about age four up to his current age of ten. Hopefully he’ll magically transform, but somehow I doubt it.I feel like this thread is exactly like those threads about weight loss that get hijacked by people insisting that it is fat shaming to even suggest that there is possibly a connection between diet, exercise and weight and judgmental and evil to say that weight is related in any way whatsoever to health. Come on people, just as there is such a thing as self-inflicted poor health, there is such a thing as bad parenting. We have all seen it and we have all seen the results. (In related news, the sky is blue.) Yes, there are different strokes for different folks, every parent is different, every kid is different, more than one way to parent well, some kids have diagnosed behavioral issues, etc., etc., etc. But seriously, have we not all seen perfectly nice little kids who start out sweet turned into absolute nightmares by their parents utter lack of parenting skill. It’s a shame, and I feel sorry for the kids involved and it’s frustrating to be around. The cases we know of, we basically avoid those people like the plague because it’s just unpleasant to be around. There might be people who avoid me ’cause they think I’m too strict with my kids, what with my limits and bedtimes and chores and what have you. It’s just social sorting, I guess.
    Moxie, we totally need that post on judging. Or did I miss it already?

  60. @BlueBirdMama, I certainly am not denying the connection between parenting and behavior. What I don’t get, and I think I must be missing something here, is why we would assume that there isn’t *some* explanation other than just bad, blind parenting of 1 out of 3 children in the same family.

  61. BlueBirdMama, I think you entirely missed the point. Or maybe that’s why you were asking about the post on judgemental?It isn’t about ‘whether bad parenting exists’ it is about ‘whether an outsider can ever tell that any given case is *just* or *even* bad parenting’. And then how to respond.
    The attitude that comes with ‘they turned a sweet child into a monster’ is huge. The attitude that comes with ‘I can’t possibly know their story, and I still need to set boundaries to keep my child safe and myself sane’ is entirely different.
    The fury and hurt in the last anon’s post? The disappointment that this community has people going there? Yeah, right here, too.
    If it took six medical specialists a year and a half to identify that our problem was not ‘parent has a problem’ but ‘child has a health condition’, and HALF of these MDs could not spot it (and one outright told me to my face ‘child does not have a problem, parent has a problem’), then how on God’s Green Earth do you think you are qualified to tell if any given child has a problem??? How is anyone? I at least know enough to know that there’s no way I could identify an invisible disability. That is, after all, why they’re called invisible.
    If you really still think you can tell the difference between ‘bad parent creates monsters’ and ‘parent struggling with situation I don’t understand’, then I could seriously have used your pyschic capacity when I was at the hospital twice a week, offering treats and brand new toys to my child in a hope of dodging another two hour screaming thrashing fit that left him hoarse and weeping and confused and despairing about why he couldn’t stop himself, when he knew the causes of his outbursts were utterly trivial.
    Did I bribe him to behave? Give in to the slightest whimper? Give him toys? Refuse to make eye contact with other parents nearby when he was freaking out? YES. Because it was SANE. Did he ever hurt other kids? YES. He was nearly expelled for biting – from preschool. He hit kids for no ‘apparent’ reason. He once bit a kid for walking past him. Guess what, those are classic symptoms of FM. Yes, I worked to control for it, but boy sometimes he’d be okay for a while and I’d let down my guard or relax for a few minutes in relief from the constant hypervigilance and WHAM.
    I *happen* to be the type who will dump medical history and personal history to near strangers in hopes of finding another clue or a little compassion, but not everyone does, and not for every condition is that safe to try. Again, unless you are psychic, you don’t know.
    I’m lucky that I’m smart and I trust myself and I’m intensely stubborn, because I didn’t give up when I was told nothing was wrong but my parenting. I wondered if I had some kind of Munchausen or if I was crazy or if I was deluded or if I was in denial, even though I was also certain something was very wrong. My primary care doc finally sent us to the HUGE regional pediatric center, where my son was diagnosed properly in two weeks flat, and the diet change proved it by stopping the behaviors, too. Woo, gold standard, the treatment removes the symptoms. And hey, my parenting could improve in response to getting a normal response when I parented, too. double bonus.
    More, my *kids* are lucky that I didn’t believe it was my parenting, even though, sure enough, some people when they found out it was medical reacted with that ‘OH, shit, REALLY?’ expression that suggests they had come to the alternate conclusion.
    You’ve made the assumption that disorders are not progressive, too. (FM gets worse with solid foods, and worse as diet changes toward more adult diet, so hey, it DOES get worse with age and an angelic child turns into a monster over time, in parallel to parental adaptation to reduce outbursts!)
    How about you just slap a big sign on me saying ‘bad parent, causes monster’ – I’ll hand you the 300+ page medical file on just one of my kids for you to write it on.
    The point I think I’ve belabored beyond dead horse zone? YOU CANNOT KNOW. PERIOD.
    And if you cannot know, why act as if you could? it’s just going to mean you are at some point unkind and judgemental to people who don’t ‘deserve it’. … I don’t particularly think that even jerks deserve unkindess, either, just boundary setting. It’s the kindest thing to do for a jerk, don’t you think? Making it impossible for them to regret another instance of jerkitude if they ever wake up one day not a jerk?
    WHY would it ever be okay to judge, when judging is not at all needed in order to protect one’s boundaries and keep one’s children safe? Plus, moral high ground, baby. Never having to say ‘oh, shit, REALLY?’ (and think ‘and here all along I thought you sucked at parenting!’) – that’s priceless.
    Assume the kindest ‘there’s something I don’t know here’, and work from there. Mistaken beleifs, lacking skills, other issues, medical problems, whatever, it doesn’t matter – *and* then not be a doormat, too. Be kind to yourself by keeping an appropriate boundary if you cannot functionally manage the other kid/parent. Listen, talk, share, and if it doesn’t help, hey, you still set boundaries, and you were never unkind to someone who really needed compassion, and that’s good all around.

  62. (@Maria, I do know families that treated one child differently – including in mine. Not without some kind of reason in there somewhere, though granted not always rational or useful or kind reasons. My experience is that the ‘what do you do’ is going to be most useful when there are boundaries set but no judgment involved.)

  63. Setting aside the question of whether this is ‘bad parenting’ or ‘hidden issue’ because really, it doesn’t matter what the *reason* is, does it? In the end, the person in question does not like spending time with this kid.I firmly believe life is too short to voluntarily put oneself into social situations that suck. If this kid is part of the extended family, then maybe it’s required to put up with him at a few family gatherings per year, and you can coach your own kid to keep his/her distance if things are tricky there. And as an adult, you can also keep your distance and keep an eye on your own kid.
    If it’s a close friend, you might assess whether you want to say something or not – not within earshot of the kid, and probably not while “a situation” is happening, but maybe over drinks or something? But some people will not take kindly to it no matter how gently it’s delivered. So the other assessment is how much you want/need to keep interacting with this family.
    Otherwise, maybe this is a friend you only see for adult-only gatherings. If the friend is really concerned about you pulling away/limiting activities, she may likely ask you about it, and that’s the time to be honest (tactfully, I think).
    But I guess I’m firmly American and don’t feel like I need to use my (already limited) social life to put up with crappy situations for the social fabric, greater good, etc. BTW, the @anon commenter who talks about Indian culture is spot-on here. That’s one of the things that drove me batshit crazy about the culture I grew up in ๐Ÿ™‚ but other people with less stubborn personalities may take comfort in seeing the world like that!

  64. I would really caution people about approaching the parents unless abuse or neglect is suspected. It was done to us five years ago by family members who jumped to conclusions about my parenting (because they didn’t actually know that we were in the beginning stages of my son’s evaluations). There is no recovering from that. I will never forgive them.

  65. I was not at all surprised to read the responses of “It could be a disability!”Could be.
    But we seem so reluctant to make any sort of judgement on any child that I think we forget that sometimes, kids are jerks. No disability, no advanced intelligence, no social anxieties. Just a jerk.

  66. Megan, I am also not at all surprised, but saddened by the ‘well it is okay if there IS a disability, but let’s all judge the jerks!’ responses.Yes, there are jerks. That they exist is not a surprise. Some are kids, and some are parents.
    And none of them get ANY better for being judged.
    How about applying the same rules to this as we do with kid – or the same filters.
    Safe/Respectful/Kind – Keep your kids and the other kids safe. Done, we’ve all pretty much said ‘set boundaries, limit exposure as needed, step away from the friendship if you can’t keep it safe’. But boy, Respectful and Kind seem kind of optional if you happen to THINK the person is a jerk. Really? Why?
    Most of my point is about the Respectful and Kind on that filter. Respectful says you don’t assume you know more than the parents (maybe you do, maybe you don’t), and Kind says you act from the best assumptions instead of the worst.
    Doesn’t mean you abandon safe.
    Nor do you disrespect or be unkind to yourself or your own child by forcing them to play along when it causes misery and harm. Maybe you talk to the parent enough to see if they have ideas to reduce the friction when their kid is around. Maybe they don’t, and you apply S/R/K all from your side. But Safe/Respectful/Kind causes no harm and a lot of good.
    Next filter.
    Effective/Prudent/True. If the setting boundaries isn’t working, then reduce contact, if reduce contact doesn’t work, eliminate contact, etc. – find a way that solves the problem your child is experiencing (and that you are). Be clear about each problem, first, as there are probably several that need handling in a situation like that.
    Prudent says also think about repercussions. Is it worth staying in the field with this parent/child for some other reason? Does your child interact with this one outside this situation and you really do need controlled/supervised teaching and coaching situations to give your child the skills to handle it when you are not there? Then maybe being around some is prudent. Or there may be other repercussions of absenting yourself. So find an alternate solution as best you can that resolves for prudent in addition to effective, and assume the world will never be perfect and you can’t always spend time with only people who act and think and behave the way you would choose.
    Then True – true to yourself, your ideals, your values, your ethics. Are you really your best self when you are working from a position of ‘this person is a jerk and I know everything about them and how they could be better’? what is your fundamental belief here? Is it ‘all parents must be like me’ or ‘every child deserves the best parent possible’ or ‘every parent can be the best parent for their child’ or just ‘this child deserves better than they’re getting’ or ‘I don’t like being uncomfortable around my friend’ or what? There’s some position under this that is your best self, so find it and act from that, not the knee jerk being a jerk back to the person you think is a jerk. Act from a place that makes you feel warm and empathetic and on common ground, rather than the place that makes you feel satisfied and separate and relieved that at least you are better than THAT.
    Heck, how about modeling? Is treating other people badly because they behave in a way we don’t approve of what we want to model for our kids? Moxie’s default response includes modeling. Modeling applies, and we’re doing it no matter what route we choose. The kids will pick up how ever we choose to respond and will apply it in their own lives. Consider whether your *child* will be able to spot even not-terribly-invisible disability, or will feel entirely okay excluding the kid with the hearing loss or the kid with Asperger’s or the kid with generalized anxiety or the kid who comes from another culture and doesn’t play like he does. Will they be okay saying behind that kid’s back that there’s nothing *wrong* the kid’s just a jerk? Or will your kid say ‘hey, playing on the playground with that kid takes too much work and isn’t safe, but he’s okay when we do puzzles’, or even ‘I don’t play with him, it doesn’t work out well’ without having to say ‘jerk’ anywhere?
    However you handle it is how your kids will handle it. It is possible to go through life with a minimum of judging others. Even the guy speeding on the highway, could be a jerk, could have a child bleeding in the back of the car, could be on the way to his mother’s deathbed, could be on the way to a drug deal, you don’t know. Benefit of the doubt and getting your own car out of the way of danger works just fine. Not cursing them out and carrying the anger at asshats into your next interaction is entirely possible.
    It’s normal to be sad for your friend, and their kid. To be frustrated that they can’t seem to get to a better place on this. To wish more for them. None of those need to come with judging. None of them have to ignore the impact on yourself or your child, and empathy, sympathy, and kindness do not exclude protecting your child or yourself.
    If they are good friends or family, consider whether my last filter applies, too (Acceptant/Loving/Faithful) – accept who they are at this time, act from and with love or at least approximating a loving manner instead of from anger or hurt and with arrogance or pity or even fear, and then expect the best of what they can do over time, staying in the field as much as still fits through the first two sets of filters. That may still mean stepping away if that is truly going to be an act of consideration, just as stepping away from enabling someone with alcohol problems is an acceptant/loving/faithful thing to do. Heck, if you cannot handle my child with issues and I can’t seem to muster the energy/focus/authority to handle it when we’re together, then you do me a service by stepping back, because my child then has fewer chances to habituate to causing harm regardless of cause, and I don’t have to try one more time to make things work or feel bad later over one more interaction from hell.
    I’m frankly glad to be reluctant to judge and label others. It causes huge havoc with children when we judge and label them. Why would it be better for the adults?

  67. @hedra, I appreciate you fully articulating these ‘filters’ here, not for this issue but because of dealing with abusive/alcoholic parents (which is another case where one is prone to just throw up one’s hands and say, ‘god, they’re a-holes!’ and not know what to do). This framework helps to articulate a structured approach to dealing with difficult people/situations and has so many applications. I like it.

  68. Thanks. I’m glad to provide tools for your toolbox. The alcoholics in my family are a half-remove from yours, I guess (step family, noncustodial) – and all were in recovery before I had to figure this out, but I definitely have that in my life experience.I’ll admit that I regularly use the filters on my *second* try because I blew the first try wading in and flailing about… I often have to back up and try again. Good luck.

  69. having a very challenging child and having been judged over and over by friends and family for all sorts of parenting lapses, i am very slow to judge other parents. you just never know. for example, with our son, sometimes in the past it has seemed that we don’t set appropriate limits because we’ve decided to pick our battles, and the limits outsiders think we should be setting just aren’t on the radar yet. and sometimes we haven’t set appropriate limits because dealing with these issues has taken a huge toll, and sometimes we’re just too tired to be good parents all the time, or even most of the time. and sometimes we’ve just been at our wits’ end, or we’ve tried something that’s failed but haven’t figured out a new strategy, or or or….btw, we’ve worked through so many of our son’s issues, through medication, the right school, etc, but it’s been a long road, and along the way we’ve lost friendships because some of our “friends” thought we were just bad parents with a bad child. obviously, we’re happy enough to be rid of those “friends.”

  70. @hedra, you are my HERO. Thank you thank you thank you thank you. Ad infinitum.As his parents, we cannot fix every single one of my son’s challenges at the same time. We can’t wave a wand and do it instantly. Some things have to go on the back burner while we deal with more mission-criticial issues. So yes, you’re upset that my son yells in a store? That’s nice. But he’s also not touching everything in sight and pulling things off the shelves, and for right now, that’s enough. That’s what we’re working on. When that gets easy for him, THEN we’ll move on to the yelling.
    People are more than welcome to set house rules and enforce them. But parents also need to let us know when their children aren’t able to obey those house rules. I work hard to make sure my son knows that regardless of his processing differences, he is responsible for how he acts at the end of the day. But when we are on a multi-day visit to my parents or in-laws, I let them know that if there is an object they don’t want broken, they need to put it up out of his reach. Because I cannot be on my son 100% of the time and he can’t control his impulses 100% of the time. It’s just not physically possible. If that’s not okay with my hosts, I understand. But don’t expect me to put my child in a scenario where he is guaranteed to fail.

  71. I feel for this parent. I would limit interactions to ones that make it easier for her and her kids, and wait to see if it gets better as the child grows. I would also try to correct the child gently in a way that doesn’t offend the parent. Say something that affirms you think the parent is doing a good job, while at the same time pointing out what behavior is not acceptable at your house.One of my sons’ friends has decided he doesn’t like one of my boys and enlists my other son in schemes to gang up on him. My son goes along with it because it is a way to bug his brother. When I confront them and tell them this is not allowed, my son looks ashamed and says he will stop. The other boy gives me a list of what he doesn’t like about my son. I am about ready to say this child can only be friends with the child he likes and he is not allowed to come over to our house. It is not right that he be allowed to make my other son feel like an outcast. His mom corrects him but the child is so headstrong she can barely control him. I am thinking that sometimes you have to wait out the phase or wait for the parent to catch up and figure out how to handle their child at that stage of development. I really like the parents and until recently really liked the child, so this is hard. But I would rather limit interaction for now and explain why to the parent than have my son feel like I am throwing him to the wolves.

  72. “Having a challenging child is the most isolating thing in the world” — very true. Because of all the judging.My nephew is really hard to be around. And it’s clear that my husband and I just don’t understand what it’s like to be his parent, just how hard it is.
    And it’s really hard to be understanding, when he is aggressive and mean to our kids. It’s hard not to point to parenting as the problem.
    But I also think parenting has little to do with it. My nephew has sensory issues (it’s not at all obvious that he has any issues, unless you know), and that’s what makes him tough to be around. And when he gets older, as in, when he becomes an adult, I bet he will be a great person to be around because he will have the emotional maturity to better deal with situations.
    My husband’s four nieces and nephews were so, so hard to be around when I met them, when they were three to nine years old. I really disliked all of them, for many years. And I had no kids so I knew everything about childrearing: my sister-in-law did not give them enough STRUCTURE and discipline was so LAX and really, would it kill her to say NO to the kids, every once in a while? Maybe if she wasn’t DIVORCED she could be a better parent?
    Well. Fast forward to now. I have three kids six and under, my sister-in-law’s kids are late teens to early twenties. And they are the most fun, interesting, kind, intelligent young people I have ever met. If my three kids end up half as wonderful as my sister-in-law’s kids, my husband and I will be thrilled.
    All this to say — kids who are unpleasant to be around may (probably will) grow up to be perfectly pleasant adults.
    Moxie said “it makes me wonder if anyone’s thinking the same thing about me and my kids…” Answer: yes, they are. We all get judged like this, because all kids are varying degrees of pain-in-the-ass in front of other people at some point. And in our culture (US) we believe that parenting has a direct relationship with how kids turn out. I think the evidence is that parenting matters but it is very, very complicated.
    I think humility is the best mindset for parenting, and an explicit acknowledgement that you just don’t know what it’s like to parent a child who is not yours.
    As for what to do about a kid you don’t like — oh it’s so hard. We just try to stay away from kids we don’t like, but that’s not always possible. I work hard to remember that a kid who’s a jerk now may or may not be as an adult.

  73. @Ellen… “When we see Kid A being bossy, pushing, hitting, acting greedy, I point it out and ask my children how they feel about the behaviors. We discuss these kids at the dinner table.”To me, this sounds like a way to create snobby, holier-than-thou, elitist children who lack compassion.

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  75. OMG, I so have this problem. Im so happy not to be alone. I cannot stand my best friend’s 12 year old. He is a brat, whining constantly, hangs all over her, won’t take no for answer. Cannot leave her alone, he hangs around her while all the other kids are off playing. She constantly defends him, or says she doesn’t notice the hanging on her. He is her 2nd and last child and it is very difficult to be around him w/o feeling so much dislike for him and so much frustration because she doesn’t see it. The other child is well behaved, polite and a joy to be around. How do I handle this. I feel awful for feeling this way about a child, but I do.

  76. Whew! I just found this article while listening to my friend’s 4-year old throw his umpteenth tantrum of the day. And she’s alternating yelling at him and letting him do what he wants. I’ve got 2 kids of my own, now older. Seen behavioral issues, different types of personalities, and all that with my kids, sibling’s kids, friends’ kids…and I get EXACTLY what you’re talking about. My friend treats this kid differently than his 8-yr old brother. Sure, their personalities are different. Yet, she refuses to set limits for this child at all. In fact, her behavior actively encourages him to whine and throw tantrums, and then continue the tantrums once they’re launched. It’s awful. I like some of the neutral-query suggestions "I notice…" or asking if my friend likes X behavior without tying it directly to the child. I confess that for now, the best move is to bite my tongue as I’m sure my body language is radiating my admittedly judgmental feelings.

    On the bright side? I’ve reached out to my children & told them what fabulous, EXEMPLARY sprogs they are (there were horrid moments, but nothing like friend’s monster)…and am thinking my 2-yr old nephew is getting some holiday dinosaur cookies. Because he’s awesome. And behaves like a human being.

  77. I have a friend who’s children are nightmares and my kids try out their behaviors after their friends leave. I always have to remind them that they are MY children and they DO NOT act like someone else’s spoiled little brat of a kid. Just because those kids get a parent that allows them to continue to act like rude little jerks, doesn’t mean I’m gonna let MY kids get away with that kind of unacceptable behavior! NO WAY! It’s difficult having that friend over, because she’s got kids my children’s ages, she’s a nice and funny person who I am able to easily get along with, however, she’s always asking her kids to stop their behavior, like. "Can you please stop doing that?" or "Didn’t you just hear me ask you to stop?" Always giving her children a chance to respond with a really bratty "NO!" Oh man, I can’t even begin to describe how she reinforces the bad behaviors and how she allows them to be rude, but can’t see it. She doesn’t see that she’s the one who continues to promote the behaviors she wants to stop. She’s usually the first one to point out anything about anyone else’s kids, but allows her kids to constantly run the place. The thing is, her kids don’t act like that when she’s not around, when I have my time to say, "We don’t act like that in my house". I’ve said it in front of her too, but she’ll just say, "Oh, it’s time to go." She’ll pack her kid up so quick and leave if you talk to them about their horrible behavior and gets offended and says, "I’m the parent, you don’t need to get involved." So the frustration continues. The older her kids get the worse they get and the more she allows them to be manipulative, rude and absolute little monsters that I can’t stand to have come over.

    1. I just wish she’d just be direct with her children and instead of asking them to behave, to TELL them to behave and HOW to behave. Like, "Stop jumping on the couch and sit down!" Not how she does it, "Will you please stop jumping on the couch? Can you sit down?"

      Seriously, this woman is just allowing her children to dictate her entire life and is raising a troop of assholes. I can’t stand it, but seriously, I might just have to write her off as a "toxic friend" if she can’t Mother Up and start TELLING her kids how to behave instead of asking them. Do you ask your kids or do you tell them?

      I TELL my kids.

  78. It’s always the parenting. Kids HAVE to be TRAINED or else they will behave like wild animals. It’s stupid to expect kids to one day just realize on their own what is okay/not okay. They must be trained. If 2 of 3 kids act okay, then the other one needs MORE TRAINING!! Some learn faster than others. Don’t try & blame it on some made up "disorder".

  79. I have a friend with three children, and the youngest is awful! At first I thought I had a low tolerance for her since my two are much older than her but she seems to be getting worse. Shes four and terrorizes her teenaged siblings by biting, yelling, hitting and cursing at them. They are a blended family and she is the only child of both parents in the home. With that it seems to come with a pass for her to be rotten…it’s come to the point that if we are spending time together, I’ll make sure it’s not a four year old friendly event!

  80. Yes!!!! My son is 6 and has a friend the same age and it is beyond stressful to hang out with them because he totally manipulates her and she never follows through. I can only avoid play dates for so long…I’m going to have to say something nicely….because her child turns my child into a monster.

  81. Nope to the comments thinkong that it mustn’t be the parents. If it’s the third they may be treating him differently because he’s the baby. I have a friend who admits the second is her favourite, treats him utterly different and let’s him do everything, yes including hurt his older brother, eat whatever he wants, watch videos for hours DURING A PLAYDATE and exclude my son. Obviously kids are not blank slates but equally obviously they are not unmalleable stones.

  82. People are so afraid of something they have been taught is not within a social norm they freak out. You have been brainwashed into thinking every person should be like a perfect little robot. I’m sure your kids are seen by some as being little poops too. I was always taught to find something you like about everyone you meet and connect with them on that level. I hate to tell you this but I’m sure there are times when you are a real turd. Get over yourself and your ideal perfect little world and things like this donot become such a big deal. Teach your kids the behaviors you think they should have, making sure of course you are doing the same, and they will be just fine. They arent fragile crystal you know.

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