Kid Whisperer discusses passive-aggressive parenting attacks.

“If you shower your children with love, they will behave well.”

(Translation: If you have kids who behave badly, you shouldn’t love them.)

“If you treat your children with respect, they will always treat you with respect.”

(Translation: If you have kids who behave badly, you must have been terribly mean to them.)

None of these opinions are correct, as anyone who has spent a lot of time with children can tell you. What makes it worse is that most out-of-the-box “parenting programs” take advantage of a similar dynamic: they don’t really embrace much that is helpful and don’t improve children’s behavior, but they are hugely successful in making the people who read the books feel superior to everyone else. It’s a fantastic business plan that tends to hurt kids.

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So here’s how I would set boundaries with other parents in your friend group. Disclaimer: You have to be willing to walk away from the friend group, at least for a little while, but it sounds like you’re going to anyway.

parent #1: My husband and I believe that children are made of stardust and unicorn essence, and will be a constant source of pure light and deep love unless they are spoiled by parents who are mean assholes.

Kid Whisperer: I feel down when you say things like that because I haven’t noticed that with my kids. I’m not a mean asshole, and I feel like my kids do things they get what they want, just like all mammals do.

parent #2: Maybe you should try harder not to be a jerk. Have you tried that?

Kid Whisperer: I can stay here as long as we can have an honest conversation, or as long as I’m not attacked with passive aggressive remarks.

parent #1: Maybe you’re a jerk because your parents were jerks too?

Kid Whisperer: And how long did I say I’d stay here? byeeeee.

Note that I wasn’t trying to argue with the stupid points, and I wasn’t telling anyone what to do. I set a limit and persevered. I would take a break from playdates, social hours, etc. for several weeks. When asked, I would say I may try to be with the group and will stay for as many seconds as I feel respected. This way I can stay with the group on my own terms and I can keep my dignity intact.

Scott Ervin, M.Ed, is a former teacher and principal. He is the author of “The Classroom Behavior Manual: How to Build Relationships, Share Control, and Teach Positive Behavior.” He is a behavior consultant and a proud Daytonian. More information can be found at

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