Alma Gill

By Alma Gill
NNPA Columnist

Different Parenting Styles

Dear Alma,

My neighbor and I have been friends for three years. I relocated from out of town, so it was a relief when we hit it off and started a wonderful friendship. We both have children around the same age and our husbands are friends, too. Both families have been on vacations together and, like I said, we all get along great.

Recently, though, there seems to be one problem that I think is pretty big but my neighbor doesn’t see as much of a problem at all. Our two oldest children are starting junior high school and we have two very different ways of parenting. She’s more of a what you’d call an organic, sunflower, easy-going, “let it go” kinda mom. She’s carefree and lets it flow. I’m fine with this approach – for her kids. By contrast, I’m firm and what some might call a helicopter mom. My kids have rules, they have chores, they do work for their allowances. Her kids don’t have any responsibilities. They just play. My rules include no television during the week and homework must be completed when my kids get home from school. The trouble is, I have had to take on a part-time job – FYI, I’m not happy about this — and she’s now looking after my kids after school. To return the favor, I take her kids on weekends to give her a break. As second moms to each other’s children, how do we, best friends and neighbors, find a happy medium between our parenting styles when caring for each other’s kids? 

Jackie B in Virginia Beach, Va.

Hey Jackie B., now let me see…. I ain’t tryin’ to step on nobody’s mama toes, know what I’m sayin.’  Surely you’ve heard the term, it takes a village to raise a child, and although when I hear it, my right eye twitches. Tis true, depending on what neighborhood you live in. I appreciate your question because it shows you’re interested in participating in that village concept – except you just wanna make sure all involved are following your extensive, finely tuned ritual of rules.

Honestly, Sweetpea, no one will ever parent your children the way you do. Although you may see you’re returning to work as a sacrifice, I see it as an opportunity for your children to experience something different. Sunflower-Mama will offer what she does best. It’s a different vibe. Her rules are written in the sandbox, not whittled in the backyard tree. So be it. Go with the flow. The best you can do is give her a list of instructions, but you can’t control if or when she’ll carry them out. Stop demanding that each task be met ‘cause that, my darling, would be a job that requires payment. Otherwise, it’s a favor. The responsibility to follow your list may lie more on the laps of your kids than your neighbor. I suggest you readjust your diagram of disciplines so that your kids can follow them more closely when you get home. Your rules are your rules. It’s time for your children to mature and adhere to them when you’re not around. Don’t worry, be happy!  It sounds like your children are loved and supported by all the adults around them and that, my dear, is the best village of blessings anyone could hope for. Here’s what I’d say to your neighbor and best friend: “Thank you girl.”


Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.


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