ASK DENISE: Child’s behavior putting strain on lifelong friendship

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Denise Harrison
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Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.

 

Dear Denise: I have a dear friend of whom I am very fond. We have been friends since grade school and we are now in our 30s. She had a baby a couple of years ago, and the child is now 3-plus years old.   She is a pretty child, but very wild and undisciplined. I have stopped inviting my friend to my house because her child basically wrecks my home. My friend never corrects her and finds all of her behavior “cute.” 

A couple of weeks ago my friend wanted to meet for dinner at a pretty nice place. She had her daughter with her. The child screamed and threw things; she started squirted condiments over the table and playing in them. Many people were staring at us. All my friend did was laugh and say, “Well, she is keeping busy anyhow.”  

I love my friend, but how do I tell her I can’t handle being around her bad kid? I feel awful even asking that. Her friendship means so much to me.  

Dear Reader: Let me begin by saying there aren’t many bad kids out there, but simply children whose parents never taught them right from wrong. A baby is not born with a sense of what is proper and respectful behavior and what is not. It is the parents’ responsibility to show their offspring from an early age how to behave in an appropriate manner. Many times parents do not do this because they feel it goes against their sense of love for their child. They find the children’s actions cute and charming. They don’t realize, however, the general public may not share the same opinion. 

Not correcting a child or showing them the proper way to act actually can harm the child, causing problems for him or her later in life. If your friend doesn’t begin some behavioral modification on her child now, she is going to be faced someday with a teenager with the same behaviors. Trust me, that will much harder of a challenge to undertake.  

As far as addressing this with her, that is going to have be handled very sensitively. No mother wants to be criticized for her parenting skills or to have her child spoken of in a less-than-positive manner. Do not appear judgmental and try gently telling her you have hers and her daughter’s best interests at heart. There are many wonderful articles and books available about effective parenting techniques. 

As I said previously, children are not born knowing right from wrong, but mothers are not born knowing everything about parenting either. It is a learning experience for both. 

She is lucky to have such a concerned friend like yourself.

 

Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor in Spruce Pine. Email questions to questionsandlettersmn@gmail.com or call and leave a message at 828-467-0037. Submissions are anonymous.