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How do you respond when other parents speak negatively about their children?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 



How do you respond when other parents speak negatively about their own children, especially in front of them? Recently I've had a few encounters with parents (that I did not know well) said things like "My other child is an angel. This one as a devil." or "Some days I just wish I could trade Child'sName in." The comments have been made in a joking tone, but they make me very uncomfortable and I feel for the children. I've tried responding by saying something positive about the other parent's child (such as "I really enjoy Child'sName cleverness and curiousity."), but somehow that doesn't feel like enough. At the same time, I don't feel like raising the issue in front of the child would be helpful. How have you/would you respond?


Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 17

I've done that, especially on difficult days.  When others say things like that, I usually just say "I empathize!  We're having a rough time right now too."

post #3 of 17
You can try to empathize and at the same time spin it in a more positive way. "Kids can be a challenge. Look at the bright side - you'll never have to worry about her not being able to stand up for herself!" Hmm well I guess it depends on the specifics, but some kind of way of looking at it in a positive way. "He'll always be able to speak his mind!" or "She'll have enough energy to get wherever she wants in life!" I could probably think of better things if I weren't getting tired. smile.gif
post #4 of 17

Ugh, I am dealing with this in my life!  I have friends who say negative things about both of their children frequently.  Don't get me wrong, I"ve described my Little Miss in some fairly unflattering ways, but one of my mama friends in particular just has nothing nice to say about hers, and it's constant, and it's in front of them, and they're old enough to get it.  I hurt for them.  I worry for the family.  Another friend has two children and clearly favors one of them, and has many negative things to say about the other one, in front of both of them, and again, they're both old enough to get it.  Having been the child that was the obvious not favorite, I ache for the boy that is obviously not as cherished.  I feel like I know how he feels, I want to tell his mother that she's killing him inside!  Mainly, I'm stuck just looking for something positive to say about the kids or just something encouraging, but with both of these friends if they say something negative, and I suggest a positive spin, they take it as a friendly argument and start making even more negative points...  duh.gif

Whenever I'm around the kids, I just give them some positivity and hope they remember that more than being called names.

post #5 of 17

Depends on my mood. Sometimes I just listen to them vent and either pass the bean dip or politely excuse myself from the conversation. Usually I would try to empathize though.

post #6 of 17

Sometimes when you've got one that is a real challenge and one that is not, it just overflows out of your mouth whether you want it to or not. Dealing with a challenging child day in and day out takes its toll. Sometimes it's a starting point so that others know where you are coming from. I don't go on and on *in front of* my kids, no. However, I do have one who is quite difficult to parent and one who thanks me when I change her poopy diaper. Jokingly referring to the one as the devil can help keep you from having a total meltdown some days.


I used to never complain about my kids to people besides my husband. I felt that it wasn't fair to the kids and it wasn't anyone else's business. Lately, it's been too much for me to handle alone & I've been reaching out a lot more. Perhaps these moms are using gallows humor to feel out if anyone else is going thru the same thing. If they are Negative Nancys who will go on and on and on every time, yeah, that s gets old quickly.


To me, pointing out the positives in the child is like telling a c-section mom, "Well, at least you have a healthy baby!" Simply saying, "That must be really difficult for you," is plenty and leaves it to the other mom to really open up or move on, whichever she chooses.

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the replies. It's helpful to have MDC to remind me of perspectives that I lost sight of (for example I was focused on thinking about how the children might feel that I had lost sight of how the moms might be feeling and I want to be the kind of person who is sensitive to both). Also, I appreciate the variety of options on how to respond; it gives me a lot to think about. Additional replies and perspectives would be most welcome!

post #8 of 17

I don't judge.  I have two special needs kids who are trying even on their best of days.  I don't say things in front of the kids but I have made comments about selling the kids to a passing circus or me running away to cuba to sip drinks and hide from the kids.  Yes it sounds bad but dealing with difficult kids can make you want to run away or sell your kid to the zoo!  It doesn't mean I don't love my kids, because I do. It just means I am human, with human emotions.

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the reply!


I find it easier to think about how I'd reply if it were just me and another parent and I'm realizing that's part of my challenge. I really want to be empathic and non-judgmental both to other parents and other children, especially because that's how I hope others would treat me and my DD. This thread helpfull reminds of something from a workshop I attended years ago about how judgements can creep in when we don't expect them and to be aware of that.


So, I've been thinking about this today and how to respond if the comments are made in front of the child and, with goal of support both the parent and the child, was thinking about "That sounds hard for both of you." What do you all think?

post #10 of 17

Nothing, It's their preference on how they portray theirselves in their child so I can't do anything about that except it is someone close to me I usually give advice regarding the matter.

post #11 of 17
I admit I used to do that all the time. It had more to do with me having little confidence as a mom (I don't know why). Once I realized what I was doing, I started making a point of bragging on them. So when I hear a parent complain now, I empathize and then point out how that'll be a strong character strength later on in life.
post #12 of 17

nothing, if they arent saying it in front of the kids, all parents need to vent.  if they were saying something in front of the kids i might mention to them later why i think they shouldnt do that.  

post #13 of 17
Originally Posted by HappyHappyMommy View Post


So, I've been thinking about this today and how to respond if the comments are made in front of the child and, with goal of support both the parent and the child, was thinking about "That sounds hard for both of you." What do you all think?


Sounds good to me. It acknowledges both sides and the other mom can choose to respond or not.

post #14 of 17

Everyone's relationship with their kids is different. Heck, mine is even different with my different kids! With ElderSon, I made all sorts of "threatening" jokes - trade you in type - which he totally got, and returned in kind. With my younger two, I threatened to run away - somehow I knew that joke would be better accepted. With foster kids, I couldn't use any jokes like that because our attachment was not secure enough.


In my birth family, my dad preferred me, while mom had more in common with my brother. It may have appeared to an outsider that my mom was neglecting me, but in our case, it all evened out. I don't remember any incident specifically, but I can easily imagine my mom describing me as the devil and my brother as the angel to her friend. Yes, even if we were in earshot. I think this kind of joking is harmless, in an atmosphere of love.


As a friend, I don't think I would try to change anything. Giving the friend an opportunity to vent, a sympathetic response like you suggested ("Sounds like you both are having a hard day") opens the door to conversation, but wouldn't make the mama feel defensive.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all of the replies! It's great to get all of these perspectives.


On a semi-related note, what responses have you found most helpful to show empathy and support to a parent who is struggling with issues that are different than the challenges you've faced? Or what responses have you received that have helped you the most? In many cases, I have found empathy and listening is most helpful. And sometimes sharing/hearing some experiences (how I/someone else felt, what helped) even though the challenges may be different. But occasionally someone has said to me "What did you do when your child did X?" and my child has never done X and I want to respond in a way that is supportive and understanding. I remember when my newborn was struggling to eat and I mentioned that to a few people and the response was "well, my kids ate all the day! be happy you don't have that problem!" and I felt like the only one with that issue. What a lonely place! Sometimes I've said "We've had our challenges but not that particular one. I've heard/read from other parents about X and it sounds difficult." I've also suggested resources like MDC if people really want to find someone else who is going or has gone through a particular challenge. Sometimes it is just so nice to read a post from another parent dealing with the same thing I am. Other suggestions?

post #16 of 17

I do nothing. 


Unfortunately, there is nothing you can really do. 


I once was an au pair for a family with adopted kids from a poverty stricken country. 


The mother said in front of her 14 year old "I wish I could send her back to her "real mum" and show her just how lucky she is, then get her back when she's a proper girl".


After a year of trying to change things subtly, even not so subtly, I realised they are their children to parent and I cannot focus my energy on trying to change an attitude that was 40 years in the making of this parent. 


Do nothing, focus on loving your children and inspire with actions, not words. 

post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by RachaelM View Post
inspire with actions


Love this reminder!

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