Social Question

DigitalBlue's avatar

At what point are you comfortable stepping in and talking to a friend about how they parent their children?

Asked by DigitalBlue (6684 points ) October 12th, 2012

Never?
Do you wait for them to ask for advice?
If you fear they are doing something to harm their kids?

My closest friend, we have been inseparable since childhood, has two kids (a boy and a girl). I was there when they were both born and I love them like my own flesh and blood, in fact they think that I am their aunt. It’s especially nice for the kids, as my friend has no living relatives.

She is raising both of her kids in very rigid, traditional gender roles. I don’t think it’s awful to buy your little girl an easy bake oven, but I believe that at some point a line can be crossed.

Her 3 year old is in preschool, and she is doing really well. However, she refuses to use anything that isn’t pink. She won’t cut her hair because her biggest goal is to be a “pretty girl.” She won’t listen to music with a man singing, and she doesn’t like TV or movies that have “too many boys.”

Recently, my friend told me that she came home from school and said that she and her friends wouldn’t sit with another little girl at school because she wasn’t “pretty.” Because she wasn’t wearing pink. My friend laughs and says that her daughter is a “little diva,” but I’m failing to see the humor in this. My friend really encourages this sort of thing with her kids, and it worries me. I think (I guess?) she thinks it is cute because they are little, but I am really concerned about what this means for them in the future. Is it just me, or isn’t it alarming that your 3 year old thinks that being pretty is the most important thing in life?

I’m guessing I probably shouldn’t say anything, I don’t see it being well received… but I’d love to hear input if anyone has any.

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20 Answers

Shippy's avatar

Maybe just chat to her, in an ordinary way and ask her about what she thinks about gender roles? Then throw around some ideas. Also maybe talk to her about how important it is to be pretty and why? She is not physically harming them I feel. And we rarely agree how individuals raise their kids. That is what makes us all different. But as a good friend, it is good to be able to discuss various life issues, so you can feel comfortable approaching it that way I am sure.

zenvelo's avatar

Only offer advice if she requests it. Otherwise, if offered unbidden, it will be received as a criticism.

chyna's avatar

It’s none of your business how she raises her kids. I would step away from this.

Bellatrix's avatar

You know the strength of your friendship, but I would say if you want to destroy such a relationship, criticise someone’s parenting. If it were my child, I would be talking to my daughter about values and being too obsessed by the superficial things in life like people’s looks, but I wouldn’t ‘tell’ your friend how to parent.

You could lead by example and when her daughter says something you think is off, gently talk to her about it. Not in a preachy way but by bringing in a different perspective generally. If the opportunity arises, and your friend says something about gender roles or questions your ideas, then take it and explain your views without saying “I don’t like how you are raising your daughter”. Although I know you well enough to say, I don’t think you would ever do that. You strike me as very careful about people’s feelings.

I was very cautious about gender roles but my daughter is soooooooooo girly. However, she is also not superficial about people or looks.

augustlan's avatar

Honestly… I’d probably say something. Doesn’t mean I’d be right to do it, but I doubt I could hide my feelings on this very well.

I’ve said things to my best friend before, when I thought whatever she was doing might be detrimental to her child. I try to be super nice about it, and always end my comments assuring her that my way isn’t the only way, and is just something to think about.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@zenvelo right, that’s exactly what I don’t want. I think she’s a great mom, I just suspect this is one of those things that looks a lot worse when you aren’t wrapped up in how adorable your 3 year old is. I always worry about this (and things like this) since she doesn’t have family to lean on, or parents to turn to for advice, other than mine.
@Bellatrix no, I would never say anything like that, you’re right. That’s not even the case, I just worry that her fixation on being pretty and other girls not being pretty is not a good thing to enforce… even if it seems funny coming from someone so little.

Bellatrix's avatar

@DigitalBlue she is quite likely to grow out of it, and perhaps your friend does have those conversations when they are alone. You perhaps only see the ‘public parenting’.

gailcalled's avatar

It is very tricky. This is the part that you might be able to address, very very cautiously.

Recently, my friend told me that she came home from school and said that she and her friends wouldn’t sit with another little girl at school because she wasn’t “pretty.” Because she wasn’t wearing pink.

This is unkind behavior, based on very superficial issues. Mention to your friend that you wonder how the little girl who wasn’t pretty or wearing pink might have felt. What if another group of little girls shunned your friend’s daughter due to equally trivial criteria. There’s (perhaps) room for a dialog here.

And it is neither funny nor cute behavior. It is the first step to bullying.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It is understandable how you feel. Both my partner and I have observed our siblings bring up their children in ways that we would never consider. What we have found is that the children eventually find their own path that works for them.

I don’t recommend offering unsolicited advice. It’s like telling a parent that their baby is ugly. It could ruin the friendship. The best opportunity is to provide a positive influence to the daughter in your own way while maintaining the bond with both mother and child.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@gailcalled thanks, that’s a good point, and also the part that distresses me. The rest of it seems obsessive, but it wasn’t until I heard that she was not being nice to other kids (especially based on that) that I felt maybe I should say something. I don’t know that I will, but, I worry because I love them.

Just to be clear (not that anyone has said otherwise, but just to be clear) we are very close. We aren’t “meet for lunch once a week and chat on the phone friends.” We shared a bedroom for years, we have taken each other to doctor’s appointments, I was the first to learn of her pregnancies (before her husband), I have given her a bath when she was too ill to do it herself. I don’t know that it matters, I personally tread lightly with this subject when talking to anyone at all, but I just thought I should be clear that we have very close relationship that is more familial than friendly.

cheebdragon's avatar

I’m pretty sure this problem will correct its self….eventually she will get sick of not having any friends.

Or she will figure out that ugly friends will just make her look better.

Coloma's avatar

Gah…how awful!
I back up @gailcalled‘s suggestion of maybe trying to open a dialogue about feelings. I think your friend sounds very narcissistic and her humor at raising a little “diva” is so shallow and pathetic.
As others have said there is nothing “cute” about this, nothing.
I would probably have to distance from said friend. I couldn’t tolerate condoning or making light of such superficial and egotistical behaviors.

jonsblond's avatar

That is unacceptable behavior for a mother to encourage. I don’t see how I could ever be quiet and not say something. There’s nothing cute about it at all and it is a behavior that shouldn’t be ignored.

just my opinion

Coloma's avatar

I let go of a friend a few years ago for numerous reasons, but, one of the final straws for me was when she bought a pair of boxer puppies and was planning on breeding them for extra money. I do not support backyard breeding by ignorants and I tried to gently tell her that there was no good reason to breed these dogs and that the shelters were full of purebred animals. The real irony, not that it would have changed my mind, but….she and her husband make over 200k a year and she wants to breed dogs for more income!!! Gah!

Amongst other things I just couldn’t handle the womans stupidity and her exploitation of innocent animals for personal gain anymore.

augustlan's avatar

Please let us know how you decide to handle this, and what the outcome is. Filling in for jca, the update lady.

DigitalBlue's avatar

Well, the majority seems to think it’s best to leave it alone, so I’m planning on leaving it alone.

Coloma's avatar

@DigitalBlue Just go with your own feelings. If you can leave it alone and it doesn’t keep effecting your friendship, fine, but if you become aware it is always bothering you then you might have to take a step back. Good luck!

DigitalBlue's avatar

I’m not so much angry or upset with my friend, as I am concerned for how this will impact her daughter. The pink madness I can swallow, but I worry about her obsession with prettiness and how she appears to be viewing other children. If she says these things to me, or in my presence, I’ll definitely tell her that I see things differently.. but I won’t say anything to mom at this point.

Coloma's avatar

Yeah, she certainly seems oblivious to the big picture of how this attitude may have some far reaching consequences for the child. If she’s okay with potentially having her daughter be blacklisted as a pissy little snot. Double edged sword and both sides are razor sharp. :-(

Unbroken's avatar

I agree with @bellatrix. That is the least you could do. These are the child’s formative years and if her mom is failing her in that aspect as an adoptive Auntie you have an moral obligation to advocate for her. I mean your asking the question so your conscious is troubled by it.
I am going to assume you wouldn’t interfere if it was a small issue. So go with your gut.

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