Troubling situation - should I say something?

I have a friend who has two children - she was very eager for both, got exactly the genders she wanted in the order she wanted, etc, and treats the two kids completely differently. She makes comments in front of the kids like “No one in the house likes kid X right now,” and then turning to the other child (who is only 5) for confirmation. She acts like kid X is deaf, and says hurtful things openly. She punishes the one and lets the other get away with extremely bad behavior without a word. I’m worried about the kid she’s so hard on - I see a lot of them, and I think it’s starting to change that kid’s behavior. Should I say something, or is it not any of my business? I don’t want to be nosy or too hard on her - every family is different. But I don’t think it’s right to denigrate a child in front of it!

Wow I honestly don’t think I could even be friends with someone like that. Its a very difficult situation because I would want to say something, but chances are this mom will jump down your throat if you do. I can just about garauntee you that the mom will think it is none of your business. But I really think and would hope that someone will say something to her.

So now its your decision. [name]Do[/name] you think that you would be ok saying something and then the friendship deteriorating as a result? Its possible that that would be the result but you never know for sure. But if it really bugs you, I think I would say something.

This is a very difficult situation.
I personally think you should say something, but don’t sound like you’re attacking her because she will be in denial and defensive.
[name]Just[/name] kind of bring it up by saying, “I’ve noticed that kid X is acting a little differently lately. Have you noticed anything?” And then, depending on her response, just say something like, “Well, I have noticed some rude comments about kid X being said right in front of him. [name]Do[/name] you think that might be causing some issues?”
If this friend keeps denying it and you continue to feel uncomfortable, then you have to tell her that you don’t feel comfortable having your kids in that environment (then it doesn’t sound like you’re making it all her fault) and you’re sorry but you’ll have to limit the time your kids spend together.
Hopefully she’ll come around, for the sake of her kid. If you think it’s worse than what you see, maybe try confronting the husband as well?

I’m sorry you’re in this situation, I know how it feels, in a different way. I babysat for a kid in my culdesac, usually very nice, but one night he wouldn’t listen to me and put on his pajamas. For almost 40 minutes I tried everything, but I eventually broke down and cried and called my mom. She came over to help and realized that this kid had absolutely no response to me crying, and was kind of worried (this observation has been going on for awhile).
So when the mom came over the next day, my mom politely told her her concerns (she knew about the horrible night). Turns out, by my mom telling this kid’s mom about her concern, it might help the kid. His mom said she was worried too but wasn’t sure, and now she’s getting him tested for autism and aspergers.

I apologize for the long post and slightly off-topic story, but pretty much I think that although the situation might be troubling, and seem like it’s bad to voice your concern, you need to weigh the options. Is it better to tell your friend, risk her getting mad at you, but maybe helping kid X, or is it better to not tell her and let her treatment of this child spiral out of control?

Good luck :slight_smile:

[name]Say[/name] something. If she gets angry and ignores you, then at least you tried. It is entirely possible that your friend doesn’t realise how hurtful she is probably being - as improbable as it seems, some people don’t. My own mother was almost exactly how you described, and as a child it was incredibly upsetting, but I now understand that she behaves that way due to a combination of her being slightly childish and self-centered. She cannot empathise well, and so could not know quite how hurtful she was being, and your friend may be the same.

If you point it out to her, with examples of situations and how you think that would make child X feel, she will hopefully realise and stop.

Also, sometimes being deliberately nasty to someone you love, and then gauging their reaction, can be a way to measure your ‘power’ over them, or whether they love you back. This is normally done by people who are insecure, and/or have problems forming relationships. Could this possibly describe your friend?


I agree with [name]Auburn[/name] that sometimes a parent who needs to control says mean things to gauge if the child loves them enough.

My mother did this to me and she said ‘you are too independent’ translate ‘I can’t control you and I can’t stand that feeling’. If my mother said something was a certain way if anyone in the family didn’t agree with her she couldn’t handle it.

Yet I was the one who looked after her the most in her last days.

[name]Say[/name] something to the mother, and especially praise the child who gets into trouble to his face and his mother’s face. Ask if the problem child would like to come and play at your house and then give a glowing report when taking the child back to mother.

Ask mother if she is coping in a diplomatic manner because she may not be for whatever reason and this child is the whipping post. If that is the case suggest counselling or a visit to the doctor and offer to mind the children while she goes.

best wishes


I don’t know your friend, so I don’t know the perfect answer. I do know what I would do though. I would address the mother and say, “That’s funny, I don’t feel like an nobody,” and then I’d turn to the child directly and say, “[name]Timmy[/name] (or whatever the child’s name is), I still like you right now. I’m sorry your mother is in such a bad mood.” This may sound like a bit much, but would you let an adult bad mouth a person in front of that person? If you say nothing in front of the child, the child gets the message that you agree with Mom and may think it’s true.

It was brought up several times on IRC actually, after the initial post which had no semblance of ego in it.

What does [name]Cady[/name] have to say about all this anyways?

I think there is a way to say something without coming across as critical, but rather sympathetic and concerned. It sounds as though she needs professional help; she might be depressed and for whatever complicated reason it is manifesting itself in her mistreatment of this child. It is likely that deep down she doesn’t really want to hurt her own child, but desperately needs someone to help her. [name]How[/name] close you are to the family will guide how much you can be involved, but even if you are just an acquaintance I think a tactful pointing out of the problem and recommendation for how she might seek help couldn’t hurt. It might also be useful to speak in confidence to other people closer to her like her husband or her own parents/siblings who might be in a better position than you to make sure she gets the help she needs. Someday she may thank you.

You totally need to say something. My husband was subjected to the same behaviour and he needed counselling to overcome the effects of it. It can be very harmful and damaging. I personally can’t understand how or why any parent treats their child like that. She might not want to hear it, but if she is interested in the wellfair of her child she needs to change her behaviour.