Growing up second best

Children listen to what we say and it all sinks in.

I’ve just finished reading this post at Code Name: Mama about gossiping about our children. I wholeheartedly agree that we should be mindful what we say in front of our children. But what do you do around other people with different parenting views?

A close friend’s son (K.) is one month younger than Little Monkey and the two kids are completely unlike each other. My daughter runs, jumps, climbs and talks. K. doesn’t do any of these things. He can take a few steps very reluctantly and is usually content to stay in one spot.

The two children are different and that is ok as far as I am concerned. What makes me extremely uncomfortable is that K.’s parents comment on how lazy K. is at every opportunity and often in front of him. Imagine what it is like to be that little boy who always hears that he is not as good as his friend.

On one hand, he is not my child and it is not my place to interfere with how he is being brought up. On the other hand, I’ve known K. since he was born and I care about him. I also want to be able to share freely my own daughter’s achievements with my friend without having the two kids constantly compared. I am finding myself avoiding their family more and more often because of this issue.

I am at a loss. I remember allt oo well how aggressively I used to react to unwanted parenting advice when I was a first-time mum, so I know that if I approach them about this directly, I am likely to achieve the opposite result to what I would like. I’ve been trying to defend K. every time anyone says something unflattering about him, but so far the message is not getting through to his closest people.

Maybe, I shouldn’t aim to change my friend’s parenting style, but just to make our relationship more comfortable. I’d hate to lose a friend over parenting differences. Do you have any tips on what I could  do?

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  1. says

    oh that is so hard! I’m trying to think of a way you could talk to her that would not risk damaging the friendship.
    I think I would try to find a way to gently say something out of earshot of K.
    Maybe the next time she says something, start with, “it sounds like you are frustrated or discouraged that K isn’t as active as you’d like him to be.” (really listen to her response and acknowledge her feelings)
    “What would make you feel better – if K ran around jumping and playing more?” (see if she has any specifics)
    “Do you and (her husband) get down with K every day and run around, jump, and play active, physical games?” (if she says no, talk about how important it is to model healthy behavior; if she says yes, encourage her to keep at it – maybe K’s personality is more reserved than hers is, but that does not mean there is anything wrong with him. Encourage her to keep trying with the physical activities, but also to find ways to relate to him doing quiet activities, if that is indeed where he feels most comfortable. There is more than one way to relate to a child, and she could be missing a rich relationship with K by only emphasizing the active stuff.)

    And be sure to get in there somewhere that you didn’t want to talk to her about it in front of K, because “kids can understand so much more than we give them credit for!”
    That way, you’re not putting her on the defensive, and you’re (hopefully) helping her change her entire attitude without saying “oh you’re a horrible parent!” – you’re just giving her a new idea.

    Good luck! (I’m also going to post this on my FB page to see if anyone else can stop by and offer their wisdom)

    • mum in search says

      Thanks for your help, Dionna, and for all the visitors you are sending my way. I’ve got some greatsuggestions, I’ll just have to see what works now.

  2. says

    I’d hate to lose a friend over parenting differences.

    If fundamental differences in how two people treat children isn’t grounds for the dissolution of friendship, I don’t know what is!

    That isn’t to say this friendship can’t be saved. Your friend shouldn’t be putting her child down, but perhaps she doesn’t realize what she’s doing. Perhaps her goal is to elevate your child or make you feel better about your parenting, but she’s going about it in such a way that the price paid for that is her own child’s happiness.

    When your friend says something negative to you about her child, especially if she’s coupling it with praise for your child, you have every right to respond. The first tactic I would try is responding with something positive about her child — that might be what she’s fishing for. Try not to couch it in a comparison/competition, because that might just encourage her to one-up the compliment to her child with one to yours.

    If that doesn’t help, you also have a right to determine the kinds of remarks you’ll accept and those you won’t. If she is a good friend, she might be able to actually hear you when you say (out of the children’s presence), “I really care about K and I feel sad when I hear you say negative things about him in front of him.” I statements are always more productive.

    • mum in search says

      I think you are right, she doesn’t realise that children, even at very young age, understand more than what they can communicate. I am sure she means well and trying to do the best for her son. And coming to think about it, I might be underestimating her. Only because I used to react badly to parenting advice, it doesn’t mean that she will, too. Thank you for commenting.

  3. says

    This is so hard. Do you guys ever talk about parenting at all? Could you bring it to her like, “Hey, I read this artical the other day about how our words effect our kids self esteem and I realized I sometimes say things in front of my kid I shouldn’t. I really need to watch what I say about my kid when s/he is in earshot!” Put it on you instead of her kind of a thing.

    I really want to see what others have to say….

    • mum in search says

      That’s a fantastic idea, one of those that feel so right that I am now wondering why I haven’t thought of it earlier. Thank you.

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