What happens when I don’t like my friend’s child?

Recent article in Essential Kids by Jo Hartley – a good read in case you have or are in the same position as many or us seem to be. We all know how much friendships can change when we have children. We migrate towards like-minded individuals – usually with children the same age as ours – and we tend to bond deeper with close friends also experiencing the same. But what happens when you find yourself struggling to like your friend’s child? Do you sever the friendship, grin and bear it, or just keep contact to a minimum? According to parenting and relationship expert, Dr Karen Phillip, dislike of our friend’s children is a common occurrence, and can be linked back to differences in parenting style. “If the friend’s child is aggressive and their parent does not stop the behaviour or give a reasonable consequence, our protective parenting style kicks in and we can react and want to discipline the child if their parent fails,” she explains. Similarly, Phillip says that if a friend’s child is indulged, we may find that difficult if we set boundaries and limitations with our child. “It is not easy to embrace the concept of the child being a reflection of their parents, but this is what they are when young,” says Phillip. “It can be hard to remember the child is a child, and the child does not know social protocol or limitations. But, these are learned behaviours and, if not taught, the child does not understand they are doing anything wrong.” Despite this, Phillip acknowledges that friendships between adults can become strained in these circumstances, even causing us to question if our friends are good or responsible people. “We often feel a good person is one that governs the behaviour of their child and is mindful of their behaviours and their affect on others.” The worst outcome is that a friendship ends or harsh words are exchanged if one friend feels they are being judged or not listened to. In order to avoid this, Phillip suggests the following;

  • Set boundaries around child behaviours e.g.: ‘if your child smacks my child, can you please ensure your child has a consequence so they learn that smacking another child is not acceptable or we will immediately leave’
  • Meet your friend away from the children so your friendship remains segregated from children
  • If you believe your friend is struggling with their child’s behaviours, have some open ended discussions on a story you read or program you viewed speaking about this behaviour and how to manage it
  • Offer support instead of judgement, as your friend may be doing the best they know how, even if it is not quite up to your standard.


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