Here’s a common moral dilemma for you: If you found out a friend’s partner was doing something wrong, would you let them know, or keep your mouth shut?
You’ve probably already figured that one out. But what if it wasn’t your friend’s partner who was misbehaving, but their teenage son or daughter? Would you do then?
It’s a tough one. I’ve recently been faced with that very dilemma, and I struggled. On the one hand, I thought my friend had a right to know what her kid was getting up to. I would certainly want to know! On the other hand, I had no idea how she’d react to my interference. Would she be grateful to me, or angry and defensive about her perfect child?
I was once contacted by a mother to discuss one of my kids, and – as hard as it was – I feel I handled it well. I knew this particular child could be difficult company, and sympathised with the child who had been upset by their behaviour.
But when a different mother raised an issue involving another of my kids, I became defensive. I didn’t think my child was at fault, and I argued with the parent, and she and I had a frosty relationship for quite some time.
To this day, I believe I was right and she was wrong. I can see, however, that her perception was very different, and valid and real to her. There is the potential for hurt and resentment in any interaction about kids, so how do we know whether to proceed?
Adolescent psychologist Dani Klein says this dilemma is quite common, and that many parents are confused about their ethical and legal responsibilities when it comes to other people’s kids. Is it our place to intervene? And how will the information be received?
“There is a hierarchy of if, and when, you should let a parent know,” Dani explains. “At the top of the list…