"I had to draw the line." 4 mums on the time they fought with friends over parenting styles.

Different parenting styles can drive adult friends apart. It’s something that’s not talked about in parenting books, but it’s a real issue most mums and dads face at some point.

I know from personal experience that it can be awkward, confusing and uncomfortable to watch how someone else parents, or have them criticise your methods.

I remember a friend from my past who used to ‘angry hiss’ at her kids in restaurants – she expected them to sit quietly the whole time.

She would say things like, “I knew you would ruin tonight”.

Oh, their little faces – they were only seven and nine, and just having fun.

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That’s not how my friend saw it, and she would unleash at the smallest transgression. It was horrifying to watch, and we stopped going to dinner with them.

But it took me a long time to come to that decision; my son and I sat through at least 10 such outings before I decided I couldn’t take any more, and I didn’t want my kid exposed to that.

Of course, it was her right to parent how she wanted, but I had to draw the line.

We eventually got past the issue, though that isn’t always easy to do.

Four other parents shared with Mamamia the times when they discovered their friend’s parenting conflicted with their own, and how they dealt with it.

Libby: Chocolate milk-shaming.

I fought with a friend over a chocolate milk.

In the park, I brought out a long-life chocolate milk box for my five-year-old. My friend, who I knew from mother’s group, freaked out.

“Do you know how much poison is in that?” she screamed. Then her own child asked for one.

“Thanks, Libby,” she said to me.

And then she googled the milk and went through all the ingredients… as my kid sat there, quietly sipping away.


I put up with this diatribe because I was polite, but I really wanted to tell her to mind her own business.

But I’ll admit, I never gave out a chocolate milk in front of her again.

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Jennifer: Screen time.

I had a huge fight with a friend over iPads at a restaurant.

We’d taken the kids to an activity playground and by the time we sat down at the pub, they needed some chill time, and I needed a wine, before lunch hit the table.

So, my kids – 11, nine and eight – whipped their iPads out after I told them they could, until lunch was served.

My friends’ kids – 10 and eight – hadn’t brought their devices with them. I suggested they all share, taking it in turns, or just watching each other play. I mean, it was literally going to be 10 or 15 minutes at the most.

But my friend got frustrated. “Do they really need their iPads right now?” she asked me.

Then she suggested everyone play a verbal round of Guess Who, and bossed everyone into submission – including me.

I let it go – but then, after lunch, she did it again. I was so annoyed, I just thought, let the kids play for a bit and we’ll have a chat.

Not good enough, apparently.

When she saw I was getting upset – after all, I should be able to tell my kids when they can use their devices – she got annoyed, and told me my kids would turn out to be “zombies” and she didn’t want that to happen to her kids.

I asked her if she was living in 1989 – I couldn’t help it, it was the wine talking.

She told her kids they had to leave, and that was it. We didn’t see each other for about three months after that, and we never spoke of the issue again.

Debbie: Cake-licking.

I caught my friend’s five-year-old licking my eight-year-old’s birthday cake before it had been cut at his party.

I cried out, “No! Don’t do that!”, probably more loudly than I should have, and the child starting crying. Of course, everyone heard me, and his parents were pretty annoyed.

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I felt bad and tried to apologise, but it was awkward. The parents weren’t apologetic – you’d think they’d say something token, but no.

The fault was apparently entirely mine, and people aren’t allowed to make mistakes. I never invited them over again.

Shireen: Different ages, different stages.

One of my closest friends, whom I’d been friends with since school, had children later than I did. It meant that my kids were 13 and 14, and hers were eight and six, when it all came to a head – but we’d struggled for years before that.

Because the kids were at different stages, different parenting was appropriate. So, as mine got older, I gave them more freedom, like kicking the ball around on our cul-de-sac. But my friend didn’t want her girls to do that, which was fair enough.

But then, she wanted to stop my kids from being outside at all. Yes, I get the concept of activities where they can all join in, but it got to the point when she would complain if my kids even wanted to be in their own rooms for a bit. So they weren’t allowed outside, nor in their rooms... it was ridiculous.

She didn’t get my stage of having kids, but I don’t remember ever having those sorts of expectations of other people’s kids when I had children her age.

Finally, we did the right thing and started catching up, just the two of us. The kids didn’t have to be friends because we were.

Emily: Nutty neighbour.

My neighbour would bring nuts for her kids to snack on when they came over, despite knowing my daughter is anaphylactic to nuts.

Then she’d make a huge deal when I asked her to put them away. One day she said to me, “There’s never anything healthy for my kids to eat here".

That wasn’t true, but it didn’t matter. She was being extremely disrespectful over a serious issue, and I had a right to say what food was in my house.

I guess she wasn’t really a friend if she didn’t care about my daughter’s safety.