I have a new mom friend who I really like a lot. We have the same sense of humor, the same outlook on life and really have a good time together, but only when we are alone together. This is because her children are the most belligerent, disrespectful kids I have ever met. My friend is very kind-hearted but unfortunately is a bit of a push-over. Her children know this and use it to pretty much manipulate her to have whatever they want. They bark commands at her, scream and cry (they are both pre-teens so too old for that) and call her names. We met up recently and during the few hours we were together I heard her children call her a liar, say they hated her, call her stupid and on and on. They have the worst table manners I have ever seen (ripping at their chicken with their hands and stuffing their mouths. The older one burps at the table and tells the mother to go get her more food. My children are no angels, but they were even shocked! (My youngest took me aside and even said "x sure makes a lot of commands!" I've seen how my friend reacts to her children - she yells, begs, pleads - but her husband is never there (travels a lot for work) and she has no power in her house.
I have had a hard time making friends, and rarely meet someone that I get on with so well. I can't really bear seeing her treated like this. I have said a very few times how long are you going to take this, or do they always talk to you like this, but she is the care-giver/nurturer and I guess will continue to take it. Our kids do not click at all - we have had the family over for dinner a few times, and afterwards my children tell me how the other ones swear a LOT, get mad when they don't get their way, and are just not very nice. I don't think she knows that the kids don't get along. She's often suggesting that they do things together, but I know my children really don't want to. I would rather just stay "adult friends"- which I have done with other friends. But the problem I have is how she is treated by her kids. I'd like some advice as to whether I should talk to her about how her children treat her or not. I don't know of any advice that won't make me seem condescending (like my kids are "better" than hers). Does anyone have any advice to what SHE can do? It really does bother her- she seems so sad when she talks about how they are to her. She seems completely lost. But I also don't want to risk our friendship. Thank you for your advice.
Ok, gonna give this a go as no one else has replied.....I have a friend with a very tricky relationship with her son, he actually behaves worse when she's around! So here's my two pennies....
For you: You have to weigh up in your heart whether you are willing to accept this situation as it is, as the price of this woman's friendship, only you can decide: things may never change, and a friendship based around one friend trying to fix another isn't exactly a free meeting of equal beings, IMHO... ;-) And perhaps, although she doesn't like the situation, she isn't willing to do the personal work to change it. Are you willing/able to provide her with love and support if this is the case? What are your "terms"? What are your boundaries?
For her: Ideas for ways to support her without weighing in and fixing things for her...Can you create a space for her to reflect on what's going on? Are you willing to be straight about what you see if you think its appropriate (including holding her accountable)? Will she welcome this? Actively listen to her, reflect back what she's saying, try not to come up with too many solutions, ask her open questions.....
For the children: Make your house rules clear. Ask for permission to be firm with her children. I appreciate other people keeping my son in line. it gives him the clear sense that I'm not the only one with standards, lol! And sometimes an outside person can get through better. But stick to your own territory, don't fight her battles for her!
I find some situations are easier to be with my friends than others. As a general rule, meals are a nightmare lol, as my son and some of his friends are super fizzy, outdoors works much better. Brainstorm the best way to hang out together.
You can do all of this without actually having a conversation that says "so, how are we going to be friends since your kids are so bonkers" - its a lot about your own thinking processes.
Hope some of this helps....
This. And I wouldn't even ask permission about it.
Excuse me, in this house we:
- use our silverware so we aren't making a big mess to clean up.
- are polite to each other and do not call names.
- say please and thank you.
- are kind to each other.
There is a little girl who comes over on occasion. Her mother says she's a screamer - and she is. But I don't allow screaming in my home unless it's an emergency. This little girl is learning that she doesn't have to scream to be heard. And she has learned that screaming after she has been asked not to, means she gets to sit on the couch with a few books for a few minutes. It's simple, to the point, and good for her to learn. Maybe screaming is ok in her house (altho, in convo's with mom, I know she wants a change). But in my house, we don't do that.
I don't know how to help her. She has to want to change, to take back the power in her home. She has to be willing to make the hard decisions, and deal with the consequences. Because change is going to be hard. The kids will buck up against the stricter rules, and she has to be firm - not only in her resolve to make changes, but in the consequences of their actions. She has to be willing to make realistic rules, and stick to them, no matter what. And it might help if all of them were in counseling - separately and together. I know you said Dad travels a lot, but what does he think about it? And how are they when he is home?