Question: I became friends with my neighbor and over the years his children have become friends with mine. Some of our children are the same age and they all hang out together in the countryside. My boyfriend is a single dad so he only has his kids with him for the weekends but I’m starting to see the impact his parenting style is having on them. He treats them to the latest sports gear and gadgets, and they have unlimited access to screen time and candy.
It’s hard to make rules with your kids when their 10-year-old friends have iPhones, but other than that I think he’s ruining his kids who used to be such good-natured kids. They are now eligible, precocious and very overweight.
I understand that single dads can overcompensate, but I think he needs to be pulled aside here. My wife says it’s not my place and it would ruin our friendship. What should I do?
Katie replies: Most parents reading this will relate to your dilemma in one way or another. They’re either judging another parent’s parenting choices, or they’re dangerously close to admonishing OPK (Other People’s Kids) for bad behavior.
The latter is a minefield, which is why most choose to say something (or nothing) to the child’s parents. But what happens when the parent is obviously at fault? Do you call her or do you keep quiet?
I shared your dilemma with psychotherapist and author Stella O’Malley. She says, “The general consensus dictates that we should never comment on other people’s children, and if we have any concerns we should contact social services.” But O’Malley, who has written three books on parenting , disagrees with this view at all. “I think that’s a cold and unhelpful approach, and I’m more inclined to think it takes a village to raise a child. So I believe that this parent – is he the father? — should talk to his boyfriend.” Being a weekend dad is a tough job, says O’Malley, who adds that it’s “very understandable” that single dads could accidentally spoil their kids. Still, she thinks you should wait for the right moment and choose your words carefully.
“Parents often talk about the ups and downs of parenting, and when the single dad brings up the topic of parenting or children, the author might use that as an opportunity to say that being a single dad must be even harder for him and he can.” absolutely understand why he doesn’t restrict their access to candy and technology – he would probably do the same, but it often creates more problems than it solves.”
In your letter you talk about “pulling aside” your friend, which frankly sounds a little hostile and confrontational. Instead, O’Malley suggests you choose open-ended, empathetic questions “that lead to a non-confrontational conversation about the difficulties of being a single father.”
“This will likely improve the situation as the single father becomes more confident about what is happening. When the father mentions sweets or technology, the author might be talking about the difficulties they are having in following the rules among their children, but how it gets easier over time and he is willing to help him come up with some rules , if he wants.”
I also shared your dilemma with clinical psychologist, parenting advisor, and self-proclaimed “imperfect mother” Dr. Julie Meehan, who agrees that all parents “can sympathize with your dilemma on some level.” “We’ve all experienced situations where we feel deeply uncomfortable about parenting like another parent,” she says. “And we all know how sticky it can get if we intervene!”
Before you make a decision, Meehan encourages you to identify what your “primary motivation” is in the situation.
“Are you primarily motivated to support your neighbor as your friend first since you see he’s struggling with raising his children?” she asks. “Or are you primarily motivated to speak to him first as a parent as you struggle to set rules for your own children because he is raising his children? Or is it both?
“Finding the root of our motivation can be really helpful, and sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds. However, the benefit of this is that you will gain clarity and insight into why you feel the need to speak to him, and this will allow you to make a decision that feels more informed.”
If you decide to talk to your friend, Meehan agrees that it’s best to approach the issue with compassion. “After all, none of us really know what’s going on in other people’s lives and there can be so many factors that can account for the behavior of our children. Be open, curious and supportive. If you come from a judgmental place, your neighbor will likely sense it and possibly shut down. On the other hand, if you come from an open and supportive place, he will feel that too and will likely be more open.
It’s also worth considering the many ways your friend might respond. Has it crossed your mind that he might raise concerns about how you raise your own children?
Be prepared for any outcome and remember, when it comes to parenting styles, it is up to each family to develop their own sense of the true North. No one has the map — and some people would rather hold on to their false certainty than stop and ask for directions.
If you have a dilemma, send an email email@example.com.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/modern-morals-i-think-my-single-dad-friend-is-spoiling-his-kids-rotten-should-i-have-a-word-with-him-41890756.html Modern morality: I think my single dad friend is spoiling his kids badly – should I talk to him?