Question: I saw you speak in Ohio recently. My best friend and I have been reading “Have a New Kid by Friday.” I have learned quite a bit. I am waiting for one of my kids to “mess up,” so I can try something new.
My friend and her kids lived with us last year for a couple of months. My husband and I asked her to leave, mostly because her kids are out of control. I suggest that she try your methods, but she refuses. I think she worries it will make her look like a bad mom.
We spent some time together the other day, and she asked her 9-year-old son to put on his shoes five times. By the fifth time, she was screaming at him.
Then her 2-year-old son threw himself on the floor and started screaming because they were out of yogurt. Her reply was, “Let’s get something else to eat.” She said this repeatedly. He couldn’t even hear her over his own screaming fit.
And this was a good day for her and the kids.
Is there anything I can do? When I am with her kids, and she is not with us, I never have any problems.
I am at the point where I don’t want to be around her or her four kids when they are together. Should I just tell her that? Or should I continue nagging at her to try your suggestions?
Answer: The question is, do you want to keep her as a friend?
You could sit her down, and say, “I was thinking about your kids and how they do this or how they do that and how you respond. I wonder if you ever think you should handle it differently? This Leman guy has a take that when this happens, then that should happen.”
You could walk her through that scenario, but I think the bigger question is do you want a friend?
If you really want a friend, and you tell this woman her kids are out of control, she may not be your friend anymore. It’s like saying, “Hey, your kid is ugly.”
It sounds like you’ve had it anyway. I always say if all else fails, why not try telling the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts.
So there is the direct approach: “When your kids come over, it’s just too much. Maybe it’s a weakness on my part, but I can’t handle it.” Then give her an example, perhaps the yogurt incident.
The other way is to limit the time you spend with her, Distance yourself. Sooner or later, she will ask what is wrong, and you can let her know.
But understand that if you tell her you cannot handle her and her kids, your friendship may be over.
Dr. Kevin Leman is a Tucson psychologist and author of more than 30 best-selling books, including “Have a New Kid by Friday.” E-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo by Tom Spitz Photography.