Q: It is hard for me to find other moms I can be friends with. I will find someone I really like but then we get together and I realize they parent differently than I do regarding behavior of the child. I do not want my child picking up bad habits from their children. Do I stop seeing the mom that is my friend, especially when there are not that many? Or, do I use it as a learning opportunity for my children? Do I explain to the other parent/child that we do not play like that?
A: Until children reach the age of middle adolescence (around age 10), your concern should not be as great. (If your children are 10 and older, then the company they keep is more important, because starting at this age your child is strongly influenced by their peers).
You should not judge the other parents. They may not like the way you parent, either. It would be disappointing if every mother that felt you parented incorrectly decided to cut you and your child off. What a lonely existence that would be.
If you have more than one child, the odds are you do not parent each of your own children the same way. Why? Because every individual is different. We adjust our parenting styles based on the child.
Other parents you are around also must choose parenting styles based on their child. You do not know the inner workings of their family or their child’s disposition (no matter how much you think you might) therefore, to judge what you do not fully know is not helpful.
Instead, I would re-direct the behavior you want your child to use and model the behavior for the other parents, but verbally correcting another adult will only isolate you and make you judge and jury. If the behavior is terribly bad and destructive, then at that point you might need to distance yourself. (Without specific details from your question I can only paint a broad stroke.)
If you are present when the children are playing and can affirm or redirect your child’s behavior after the visit is over, then I would use it as a teaching opportunity and as an example of how to love the person, but not the behavior.
Patti Hatton, MA, LPC