Tantrums and Tiaras


Dear Dharma,

Help! My friend has been brainwashed by her five-year-old! I wish this was a joke, but it’s not.

You see, my friend is the blessed mother of a little girl whom I adore. Let’s call her Natalie for the purposes of this letter. We spend a lot of time together, and they often visit me for a weekend here and there throughout the year, which has always been fun.

Lately though, I can’t help but notice the Natalie is spoiled rotten as my friend dotes on her every want and need. As a result, this sweet little girl is slowly becoming her mother’s drill sergeant – and mine, when they’re over at my place. Everything we do is Natalie’s decision – right down to where we go for dinner!

When she throws a fit or gives me the ‘tude, I try to lightly let her know this behaviour is not acceptable, but my friend gets SO angry with me – “I’m not a mother so I wouldn’t understand.” How do I make her see that she’s going to have a little tyrant on her hands if she doesn’t get her little one under control?

No Chuck-E-Cheese for Me Please

Dear Chuck-E,

Sigh.  It’s the way of the world these days, isn’t it.  People trying so hard to be friends instead of parents.

Wiki says that parenting is “the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, financial, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.”

Dharma says how on earth does letting the five year old be in charge (when they don’t even have the proper skills to make grown up decisions!) come even close to fulfilling that criteria?

And I’m sorry, but I don’t need to be a mother to recognize that.  Maybe you have to be a mother in this era not to.  It’s a knee jerk retort born of defensiveness, not logic, and it bugs me.

(As a side note, I started to suspect I had gone down this path before – and yes, yes I have… Teach Your Children Well carries a very similar theme and I’m equally as miffed now as I was then.)

Anyway, before the rant becomes a rave, let’s look at your question…  How do you make your friend see that she’s going to have a little tyrant on her hands?

Well, you don’t.  And why is that? Because she won’t hear you.  She doesn’t want to hear you.

If you’ve read Dharma more than twice, you know what she’s going to say next, right?  You can’t – come on, say it with me! – you can’t change the behaviour of others, only your own.  Nicely done.

Because there is little you can do to change how your friend handles her daughter, all you can do is continue to draw boundaries where you can and not feel bullied into backing down.  “I’m sorry, Natalie, but when you’re at Aunty Chuck’s place, you need to say please and thank you.”  “Actually, friend, I don’t think I feel like a Happy Meal tonight.  Would it be alright if we chose something we are all happy with?”

Teaching a child how to make decisions is a great thing and should be encouraged – red socks today or blue?  This book or that one?  Apple sauce or pudding?  (Pick the pudding, Natalie! Always the pudding!)

However, when a child is given the power to decide how the grown-ups spend their time and money – especially when the child’s decision making skills are still in the developmental stage – you’re not teaching them much more than how to get their own way.

So don’t feel bad for not playing a role in that.  Deliver these messages in a calm and unapologetic manner, and hope that your friend will follow the example you are trying to set.



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  • Consuela says:

    People like this make me so angry. You are NOT doing your children any favors. You are becoming a slave to your child. They are going to grow up and become snotty, arrogant people. You cannot do much much about this, except provide guidance for the child when they are visiting you.. like Dharma said. Ugh.. This just angers me. People like that should not have children.

    • Dharma says:

      IMHO we are already in the age of entitlement and it comes from kids never being taught boundaries. And it makes sense, right? You can’t know what you have not yet learned so these kids are being done a HUGE disservice when parents refuse to play their part.

      Thanks for the comment Consuela!

  • Me says:

    Oh man, I have so many friends to raise little tyrants because they don’t have the balls to discipline their kids! Parents need to be parents, not their kids’ friends!

  • Aunt to 80+ kids says:

    Sounds like a case of ‘honey boo boo’ in the making. Pretty sad. I wonder if the tyrant’s behaviour also happens when mom’s not in the picture? …. I can’t top your advice on this one. Sadly, I’ve pulled back from friends with tyrants.

  • Ingmar says:

    Chuck-E, I feel your pain! I have sadly stopped visiting my friends as their children are so spoiled it is unbearable. Even friends who are parents themselves have withdrawn for fear that the little tyrants will be a bad influence. My friends are not entirely oblivious (the father, at least, is aware but does not know how to intervene. I am hoping that they will grow out of this phase (the parents, I mean!)

    • Dharma says:

      Well that whole comment is kind of sad, Ingmar. Sad you don’t see your friends and sadder still that there is a parent out there (I’m sure more than 1!) that feels his voice is ineffective when it comes to how he is able to participate in raising his own kids.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Not your super mom says:

    As a mother I am pretty upset how people without kids say we are raising ‘tyrants’. If you don’t have kids you don’t know how it feels to see them cry! Trust me, I thought I would be strict and all but I don’t have the energy to be the bad cop at all times!

    • WTF says:

      If you don’t “have the energy” why do you have kids???? It’s like starting a job and only doing it half-assed…

    • Consuela says:

      It’s not doing your kids any favors in the long run!! They need discipline.

    • Dharma says:

      I’m not sure that the message is that parenting means being always playing bad cop. It’s more that kids need to learn boundaries – their job is to push them to find out where they are – if they never get that push back the message becomes that they have free reign. As adults, we know the world doesn’t work like that, right? We had to have learned THAT lesson somewhere along the way, and I’m betting it was because our parents weren’t scared of us and our tears.

  • Anonymous says:

    It seems that there is such an emphasis on “good” vs “bad” with raising kids these days. Parents feel like allowing other people to decide the rules for kids in their own space is a judgement against the rules the parents have. When the reality is, there are different sets of rules for everybody depending on the situation. As Dharma said, it’s better to prepare them early, otherwise the kids at school will do it for you and it will be a lot harder for them

    Your job as a parent is to be a guide to real life. You don’t need to be a parent to realize that your opinion isn’t being considered or respected.

    • Dharma says:

      Hey, Anonymous, thanks for the comment.

      A friend of mine once said that the job of a parent is to make yourself irrelevant – as in, teach your children to be self sufficient, responsible members of society. It’s hard to do that, I imagine, if being their BFF comes first.

  • Nokids says:

    I can’t even begin to telll you how many conversations I’ve had about the same thing! Somewhere along the way it was lost as to what parenting means. I don’t have children of my own either however, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to recognize bad behaviour when I see it. I agree with Dharma’s advice and would have to agree with Ingmar too, if your comments aren’t accepted by your friends why would you want to stick around?

    • Dharma says:

      It’s very interesting to me how “parenting” has changed over the past generation or so. My parents weren’t interested in being my pal, and I’m pretty sure my grandparents didn’t take that approach either.

      What’s different now? Why after hundreds of years of everyone being on kind of the same page did this shift happen?


  • Anonymous says:

    There is no way that would’ve worked when we were kids so why should it now! Most kids these days have way too much control over their parents and it’s really sad!

    • Dharma says:

      So… where did this change come from, do you think? Like in my comment above, after so many generations of parents parenting, why this shift to “friends”?

  • The best we can possibly can. says:

    I think that in the eyes of every parent they are trying the best they can. They don’t spoil the kids because they think that would bring terrible consequences, that do it because they think the kids happiness is the priority. We tend to judge people without putting ourselves in their shoes. We all try our best sometimes it does not look like it but we definitely try our best. Is easy to judge from the outside.
    Now within regards of the change of the way people raise the kids i find it logical. Your parents didn’t raise you the same way their parents did. At least in my case I know they didn’t and I’m not raising my kids the same way my parents did. We try to take the good and disregard the bad. We try to also raise them with a different era in life. We can ask them to fetch water from the rivers anymore can we ? Times change and parenting is changing with it. There are many books out there in how to discipline kids, as well as workshops. Let’s all remember we are just trying the best we can.

    • Dharma says:

      I guess I just don’t get how letting kids have their way and allowing them to control the household with their tantrums can be considered a good thing, or how the consequences aren’t being considered…

      And I agree, fetching water from the river is no longer required, but aren’t manners, accountability, instilling work ethic, etc still necessary life skills?

      It seems that notion of taking the good and disregarding the bad has resulted in keeping the ice cream (good) and tossing the discipline (bad.)

      I appreciate your well thought out comment and thanks for tuning in!

  • Chicken and broccoli 33 says:

    I was a tyrant as a kid and turned out just fine. Why doesn’t she focus on her own life?

    • Dharma says:

      Hey there Chicken and broccoli –

      To be bothered by the behaviour of this child and her mother while they are in her house doesn’t tell me she isn’t focusing on her own life – I would guess she could probably do both, even at the same time…

      Most kids are likely tyrants at some point in their lives, and I’m sure, like yourself, a lot of them turn out just fine… It’s just that teaching them at such a young age that they can manipulate ppl with their tantrums may not be the best lesson.

      Thanks for your comment!

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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