icon-arrow-down icon icon-arrow-fill-down icon icon-arrow-next icon icon-arrow-prev icon icon-tag-close icon
Discipline Differences: Advice from Mums
Q: From Dana in Elma, NY
My friend and I have a different way of disciplining out children. She doesn't. When she comes over to my house and I discipline my children, she gets uncomfortable. I notice that our friendship has suffered, and I don't feel comfortable correcting my children around her. What can I do? We get along great when there are no children around.

Day in New Orleans
Your way of disciplining your child is the best thing for you and your child. If this is a problem for her and you feel judged, maybe she is not the friend you think she is. How good is the friendship if it only works in the absence of your children? Do what's best for your child!

Lou in Sarasota
Make time just with your friend until the children get older. If your friendship is important, don't let differences come between you. You don't have to tell her why the kids aren't around. Just say you want quality time with her.

Shane in Thibodaux
I wouldn't worry that you have your own way of raising your children and she has hers. She'll just have to get used to you raising your child your way and she will raise hers her own way. It's the way of motherhood.

Candace in San Diego
Try explaining to her why you need to do what you do. Also, explain to her that you're trying to teach your child a lesson. Tell her that your kids are not as well behaved as hers.

Lerina in South Africa
Try to explain that discipline early in life will result in better-behaved children later, so then you won't need to discipline them in front of friends and family as they're older. Your kids will take chances, but they will know when you mean No! I've seen this with my own children. While other moms need to ask and beg, I simply give them "the look" and they listen.

Lisa in Prattville
Apologize to your friend when you have to correct your child, but continue with the punishment. I would not stop. That will just cause problems later with your child.

Alanda in New York
Nicely explain that when your kids need to be disciplined you will do so, whether she's around or not. This can't be a reason to ruin the friendship.

Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D
First, let me say that you’re not alone. Many women find that their relationships with friends suffer because of differences on how to handle the children. Here are some ideas that should help.

Before your friend comes to your house, tell your children what you expect of them. In other words, go over the rules. This will remind them how they should behave in front of company. Then, explain that if they misbehave you will give them two warnings. If they stop, there will be no punishment after your friend leaves. However, if they don’t stop after two warnings they will immediately go to time-out after your visit is over. In this way, you will not be disciplining your children in front of your friend.

Have you considered raising this issue with her? Simply say, “I notice that when I discipline my children you seem very uncomfortable. We have known each other for a long time, and I don’t want to do anything to spoil our friendship. Can you tell me what I’m doing that bothers you?”

It’s not a bad idea to use the strain between you two as an opportunity for self-examination. It’s possible that you’re being too harsh with your children, and your friend is reacting to it.

Ask yourself:
Do I scream at my children?
Do I yell at them a lot?
Do I threaten them with punishment?
Do I hit them?

Finally, consider visiting your friend in her house without your children. This would be your last resort. Just explain that this is your solution for saving the friendship.

It’s possible your friend believes children should not be scolded, punished or made to feel bad in any way. People who run restaurants, books stores and other businesses see this kind of parent every day. Her children misbehave while she says nothing. This kind of adult generally gets upset when she sees parenting that, in her eyes, is too strict.

I hope my ideas will help. Good Luck!
Dr. Ken Condrell

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education