When You Don’t Like Your Kid’s Friend

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Why do I dislike my daughter’s friend so much?

MOLLY: This question came from Northern California and the reader elaborated by asking how she can learn to deal with her daughter’s friendships with kids that simply rub her the wrong way? One of the examples she gave is that every time her daughter has a playdate with a certain friend, she has a viscerally negative reaction to the child the entire time she’s at her house.

She asks, “What should I be doing differently? Clearly I’m the adult and should be able to manage these feelings. I also don’t want to manipulate my daughter’s friendships, so I know I’m going to have to figure out a way to be OK with this friend. And, my husband really likes the parents.”

Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): This is an interesting –and difficult– dilemma on several levels. First, it’s important for her to realize the reason she’s having such a strong reaction. Chances are that this kid reminds her of someone she doesn’t like (in psychological parlance, this is called transference).

The kid could remind her of one of her parents, siblings, friends, or just some random person in her past. Whenever you have an intense reaction to someone, either positive or negative, and you can’t make sense out of it, chances are it’s a transference. She should see if she can figure out who it might be as that would be a tremendous help for her to figure out her feelings and what to do about them.

MOLLY: Does this happen a lot to people: that they transfer their feelings about one person to another because they are reminded of someone else?

MOM: Yes, transference happens everyday, all the time. It can either be a positive transference where you feel warmly towards someone even though you might barely know him/her, or a negative transference in which you just don’t like that person but have no idea why. This reader’s question is clearly referring to a negative transference.

MOLLY: Should she speak to the parents of the child about it?

MOM: If she wants to maintain her relationship with the parents, it’s best not to say anything. Once you criticize a friend’s child, the chances of keeping a relationship with the parents is close to nil.

MOLLY: What can she say to the kid when she’s over having a playdate with her daughter? Should she say anything or bite her tongue and recognize that her feelings aren’t rational?

MOM: As a mom and a host, we are within our bounds to gently tell a visiting child the rules of our house and to enforce them, within acceptable limits, of course. If the mom is open to it, she might challenge herself to develop a relationship with this child in order to offer her a positive role model upon which to base her behavior.

Experience this? Comment below or Contact Us if you have other parenting questions you’d like to see addressed.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Introducing our first Wrap-Up! The weekly Wrap-Up will be a place where we gather comments on Conversations With My Mother posts from different sources from all around the internet.


Last week started off with a bang! On Monday I opened my Inbox and got a  message from LinkedIn that my profile was in the top 1% of profiles viewed for 2012. The reason why that’s so exciting? LinkedIn has over 200 million users; I can’t even figure out the math but it’s pretty cool!

I also heard (and posted) this quote that really resonated for me and many of our readers.
“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” How true, don’t you think?

We’ve received some really interesting and insightful comments from our recent post:

As parents it’s our job to teach our kids social skills even when they don’t seem to have an innate sense about them.

“Your comment concerning whether a child is born an introvert or extrovert is important to remember. Children who are introverts often need assistance in learning social skills. Role playing is a great way to teach them. Also, they are watching us and will learn skills through observation so we need to be worthy role models.
For a related article, “The Shy Child,” click below for a direct link:
http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip31.html” ~Leah via LinkedIn

“Great post, Molly! Keep up the good work on your/moms blog! I love the concept and the presentation.” ~Kathleen via Facebook

“First of all Molly….I LOVE THE NAME OF YOUR WEBSITE…..

It makes me think of the conversations I had with my mother….and the ones I have with my children now. In the case of conversations with my mom….sometimes they were quite one sided and I, as a mom, try to have a conversation where I actually do some listening and hopefully my kids feel heard.

Someone just stopped by…who hadn’t seen my kids for awhile and told me “what neat kids they are”…confident and creative ……I am proud when my kids can HOLD a conversation with an adult (they are 12 and 9 …both girls)….this is something I was not encouraged to do as a child …you know…be seen and not heard was the creed of the times.

Repetition comes to mind for me when teaching my kids social skills….. I know my hubby once said…”how long will it take her to get this…and how many times do we have to tell her” I think this was about her ‘eating with her mouth open”. And I answered….. “as many times as it takes”….and probably it will stick when a peer gives her some not so nice feedback some where down the road. We can only remind, suggest and persevere in the repetition….the natural consequences seem to take care of the rest.

And I know in this busy world…most of my moms are just looking for some peace….’from the job’ of teaching social skills…… The key is to take those breaks so patience does not wear thin. My motto is when moms happy…everyone’s happy!….so when mom takes those “self care” Time Outs…..she and you will have much more gas in the tank to be teacher, coach, nurse, cook, chauffeur etc…..
Thanks again Molly….. I truly love what you are doing!” ~Mona via LinkedIn

“Love your blog. I think that there are a lot of moms (including my own) who would enjoy being quoted for their parenting advice.” ~from Randy via LinkedIn

“True, I believe that kids should be taught social skills particularly through example. If we model how to interact with other people the way that we teach them this will go a long way in making the skill available in their unconscious when it is willed. However, it should be left up to our children to live those skills as they see fit. Sure we are social creatures but not everyone is the same. It is a more positive characteristic for our children to love who they are and not who we believe that they should be. Sure there are introverts and extroverts but our kids can lay just about anywhere within that spectrum… so who is to judge what is right and what is wrong or deficient.
I can tell you that my daughter can be extremely social and would initiate a conversation with any child but sometimes she just doesn’t feel like it…. and so doesn’t. I’m ok with that.” ~Croft via LinkedIn

“Love it! Thank you Molly for all your work, I am always looking forward to read them! Very informative.” ~Milena via Facebook

Thanks for reading and contributing to this great community!  ~Molly

Is it Damaging to Call Your Kid “Bad”?

When one of my friends is upset with her child she say’s “You’re such a bad girl” or “That was a shameful thing you did”.  Is this an effective way to discipline your kid?

MOLLY: This came from a reader based in Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Susan Rutherford (Molly’s Mom): Generally speaking, teaching children through the use of shame has been going on for generations. We have to differentiate between shame and embarrassment.

Embarrassment is something we all experience from time to time: we say something that’s not smart or we get mixed up on our information, and that’s a normal thing people go through all their lives. We get embarrassed by something we’ve done.

Shame is a much deeper issue – it goes right to the soul of the person.

MOLLY: Is there any time you should use shame to discipline your kid?

DR. RUTHERFORD: No.

MOLLY: So saying, “What a bad person you are,” when your child does something wrong, isn’t something you should be doing?

DR. RUTHERFORD: That should be avoided at all costs. Or doing something that makes the child feel ashamed. For example, suppose the child cries a lot for whatever reason. And the mother makes the kid feel a great sense of shame about it.  “How could you cry like that” “You’re just a little baby!” (and the tone of voice is important, too, of course)… Well, that child will shut down – inside, emotionally. And it will in a sense paralyze the child if enough of that goes on.

Or, if you put your kid in the corner, facing the corner. I’ve seen people do that and it’s kinda horrible. The child feels so much shame over whatever the incident. When the kid grows up… You see this all the time, when people experience shame, they may become very withdrawn, or conversely, they can verbally attack another person as a way to get rid of the “bad” feelings inside. Both reactions can lead to difficult interpersonal relationships, and the person probably has no idea why he does the things he does.

MOLLY: What would you see in an adult that was shamed by their parents as a kid? What kind of person are you as a parent going to create using these types of shame tactics?

DR. RUTHERFORD: I think you’re going to create somebody on either end of the spectrum.  Possibly an adult who is withdrawn, very careful what they say, measured in their words with a great fear of being spontaneous. It cuts down on their creativity because they are afraid of making mistakes. They don’t ever want to feel that sense of shame again. Which is really, a pretty terrible feeling.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can see especially in boys but you can see it in girls, too, a lot of aggression.  You can see this aggression especially when they feel like they’ve done something wrong or are experiencing a sense of shame. And of course people experience shame from time to time when they’re adults for all kind of reasons. Someone might say you made a mistake at work, or you didn’t do something right, or you said something stupid… That’s when you see a lot of defensive aggression directed at the people closest to them.

MOLLY: Defensive aggression? What does that look like?

DR. RUTHERFORD:  The sense of shame will be triggered off inside you. See, it’s always sitting inside of you – like a virus – and the person constantly feels that they have to defend themselves against that sense of shame. They don’t want to experience the shame so they verbally attack the person whom they feel is causing it, or even just witnessed it. They never really connect it up in any conscious way about what’s going on inside of them, and they don’t learn from it.  They verbally (or physically) attack the person who is making them feel the shame as a way of ridding themselves of the bad feeling.

MOLLY: So for instance, in a marriage, they might be abusive to their wife?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes, it’s very common. It’s perplexing to the spouse because they don’t understand where all this aggression is coming from. It’s not a healthy way to resolve problems.

MOLLY: So using shame creates a lot of issues now and later.

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes it creates a lot of issues that never get resolved. Instead of shame, you would want to use positive reinforcement.

MOLLY: How would you change it from saying, “You’re such a bad girl for throwing food on the floor or spilling your milk?”

DR. RUTHERFORD: You could say, “We’re having a few problems here in our family and some of the problems we’re having are X, Y or Z. So let’s see if we can make this better for you and the whole family.” It depends on the age of the child, but certainly you’d want to do this when the child is verbal which is usually around two-and-a-half years. You would want to engage the child and make a sticker or star chart (more on that to come in a future posting).

MOLLY: Instead of shaming her, figure out how you can address that behavior by rewarding her for good behavior instead of punishing her for bad behavior?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Right, you can do this by creating a sticker or star chart with rewards for good behavior, or by withholding privileges of something they like as an incentive for changing behavior. For example television time or desert.

MOLLY: So instead of saying you’re such a bad girl for throwing your food on the floor, you can say “You know that’s not okay in our house. The next time you do that you’re going to lose your TV privileges for a day.”

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes… You could say that. But you could also say something like, “How do you think we can solve this problem together so that you are not throwing your food on the floor?” It’s very interesting to watch kids come up with their own ideas about solving problems.

Or, if your kid keeps spilling their milk, the parent could say, “What if we put your cup of milk in a different place on the table so that you’re less likely to spill it?” or “Maybe we should use a top on our cup so it won’t spill?” This can be a very practical tool for resolving problems.

So, it has multiple good impacts on the kid. One is that the kid isn’t shamed if they throw or spill food on the floor.  Two is that they’re learning a way to resolve a particular problem while at the same time they’re learning a process of resolving a problem. This can be a very long process for a child.

For instance, when your 4-year old daughter spilled her milk during her visit here, we talked about a “safe zone” for her cup on the counter. I noticed that afterward she mentioned it every time, at every meal. This is a good example of problem solving for a young child.

MOLLY: And this is something they can use for the rest of their lives?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes, they will use it for the rest of their lives. The process will stay with them. It’s a wonderful skill to have for all kinds of circumstances when you’re an adult. It’s not just the content of what you’re teaching the kid, but the process.

MOLLY: How you’re addressing the problem?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Right. They’ll begin to think like that and be able to resolve problems in a more positive way as they get older. For instance, there was a wonderful example in the television show “Mad Men,” when the mother of Don Draper’s children (Betty) used shame a lot as a way to discipline her children. You could see the emotional distance between the kids and their mother.

Later in the show there was a scene with the Dad and his new girlfriend (Megan) at a restaurant where one of the kids spills milk on the table. The father and the daughter looked at each other apprehensively, ready for an angry response from the girlfriend. Instead Megan said something like, “This kind of stuff happens all the time. No big deal, we’ll wipe it up.” The father and daughter looked at each other with amazement. There was no shaming but instead there was a practical solution to resolve the problem.

It was a striking example of different ways of parenting and of not using shame as a parenting method.

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