We had been looking forward to that weekend for ages. A chance to catch up properly with one of my oldest friends who I had not seen for a couple of years. A cottage in the country had been booked for us all and we looked forward to sharing a bottle of wine while the children ran freely in the garden. Perfect!
Wrong. That weekend went down in history as the one that marked the beginning of the end of our friendship. We kept in touch for a while but once the golden rule had been broken there was no going back.
Whether my friend had had a bad week at work I'll never know but the whole weekend was defined by criticism of my children and in particular the fact that they rarely finish their dinner
Now much as I would love for my children to devour their vegetables seven nights a week, it simply doesn't happen and my husband and I have taken a conscious decision not to force them. From experience I know it simply makes children hate the food more.
And anyway whether I agreed with my friend or not, the point was that it wasn't really her place to criticise.
So the weekend consisted of my friend spending meal times nagging my children to eat while I sat there eating through gritted teeth, wishing she would just shut up and that they would just eat up.
And the criticisms continued. Despite my daughter being at the other end of the garden at the time my friend was adamant that she had pushed her little brother, rather than believe he had simply tripped.
The atmosphere was tense and we were all relieved to be heading home on the Monday.
The golden rule is of course that you never, and I mean never, criticise someone else's parenting.
Whether my way of dealing with things was right or wrong it doesn't matter as it is MY way of dealing with things.
In the same way it isn't really the done thing to tell someone how to do their job, neither should anyone criticise someone for how they bring their children up.
Criticise my taste in music, laugh at my lack of drawing skills, but when it comes to my parenting skills I don't appreciate being criticised.
My friend Elnette has had a similar experience with a family member who believes smacking or severe discipline is in order when it comes to raising a child. When Elnette and her daughter stayed with her for a few days the relative made it quite clear that she thought Elnette spent too much time in taking what she viewed as the softly softly approach.
Elnette tried to justify her approach although she now wonders why she bothered. "This family member, although we speak regularly, will never be a good friend again because I do think that once a person does not respect another parent's right to bring up their child as they see fit (unless there's abuse involved of course) there is not much future for their and your friendship" says Elnette.
Another friend Saskia does admit to criticising parents under her breath when she sees a child being hit or shouted at, but she wouldn't normally voice these opinions out loud unless asked. "I do criticise one friend but only because she comes to me for advice, and she is a very good friend" she says.
To me that is not criticism, it is advice that has been asked for. A completely different thing, and something that many of us could do with from time to time. But there are ways of doing things and straight out unrequested criticism is definitely the wrong way.
It's been five years now since that awful weekend and while we did keep in touch for a while, the friendship did fizzle out. I haven't heard from her in over two years and doubt I ever will again. Just a little too much was said that weekend, words that can't be taken back.
What do you think?
I can criticise my children but anyone else? Certainly not.
Have you ended friendships because you have a different style of parenting?
More on Parentdish: When is it OK to discipline someone else's child?
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