With regard to this question:

It appears that there is an agreement that we define "parenting" to include people that are not related (legally speaking, as in by biology or marriage) but in a parenting role. The rule of thumb /criterion is "Would the question and answers be different if we replace the 'asker' with 'parent'?" If no, we accept it.

But what about cases where the biological parenthood seems more incidentally that the defining element in the question?

While I don't dispute that no matter how old the child a parent always feels as a parent (so no "expiry date" on that), there are many cultures where there comes a paradigm shift once the child has reached a certain age and is independent. Of course this is a continuous process, not necessarily linked to milestones like legal age, graduation, moving out, marriage or them having children of their own... (For cultures where this is not the tradition or a parenting goal, other rules apply and these questions would probably be on topic, but need clear stating of cultural context.)

So should a question where three generations of adults (or almost adults in this case) have a dispute that could arise in the same or at least very similar way if the parties involved were just long-time friends be on topic? Should we use a similar rule of thumb like "Would the questions/answers be different if we replace 'parent' with 'close friend'?"

Our own help page states:

And some subjects are considered off-topic because they're not directly related to parenting, for instance:

  • ...

  • relationships

  • ...

I don't want this page to turn into a Dear Abby site, but I see questions of the following type on the horizon:

  • My mother has Alzheimer's disease, what should I look for in a good nursing home? (We do accept questions from a child's perspective!)
  • Why do my Grandparents always tell the same old stories and how can I convince them to stop? (That could also be the nice old lady from next doors!)
  • ...
  • To be honest, I didn't particularly care for the question either. I have no problem with the question being closed, and will even remove my answer if asked to. What I did, though, was to focus on the only parenting issues there. I considered closing the question, but figured the community could do that. As someone who helps people for a living (don't we all, more or less?), I wanted to provide this OP with a helpful suggestion redirecting her to healthier behaviors than walking out in a huff and holding on to anger and bitterness. Again, I, too, thought it borderline at best. Jul 18, 2015 at 20:40

2 Answers 2


Per the site description, this stack is for anyone who cares for children (the implication being non-adult children).

But I don't think that's clear enough in all cases.

If you're asking about a person you are raising, or raised, or have a parent-like bond with then you're a parent for that person in whatever context.

If the person you're asking about isn't one you raised, are raising, etc., then I think you qualify under the "others who care for children" clause so long as it's about situations where a child is actively your responsibility. (Such as a teacher, baby sitter, family member taking the kids for the summer, etc.) Here, I think the age of the child is important, and should refer to non-adult children, with some leeway given in cases of extended adolescence.

There are also times when it's appropriate to ask questions about how to react to another parent figure, even if it doesn't directly involve the child. For instance, we've had questions asking how to deal with one parent that's aggressive, or has a substance abuse problem, or a different religion. The interaction between the adults borders on relationship advice, but in these cases affects the upbringing or well-being of the child. I think these types of questions are usually clear, because they specify how they're concerned about how it affects the child. Whereas a question like, "How can I get my partner to do more chores?" is about the relationship.

The linked question, to me, seems off-topic because it's really asking how one co-parent should have responded to another parent, but not in the context of what would have been in the best interests of the child. The child's behavior incited the response from the mother, but this wasn't a question on how to deal with the child's behavior. With the current wording, the child seems incidental to the question, which reads to me as: "Another adult said something that annoyed me, what should I have said?" Which makes it a relationship question, not a parenting one, even though it's about co-parents. It's also too broad, and too opinion-based.

I also have issues with the title, which contains strong, subjective language (spoiled, enabling). That title helps illustrate the opinion-based context we have to come from (essentially agreeing with those adjectives or having to explicitly disagree with them).

For that question, the ages of the parent figures are not the issue.

  • 1
    This makes some excellent points; if the child in question had been ten, not twenty, answers would have largely been the same. Good job really getting to the meat of the specific question.
    – Acire
    Jul 15, 2015 at 9:47

This is a very fuzzy area, and I think it is going to be a challenge to ever have a well-defined policy. Once a parent, always a parent — there's no age cutoff that can really be drawn.

I think we should focus on parentingactions one takes with regards to raising children. This does not necessarily eliminate child-perspective questions, but it does make a stronger argument against "relationship" questions.

However, parents and children are really stuck with each other in a way that close friends may not be. If a good friend of mine is constantly rude and immature, I can just stop hanging out with her. I can't really do that when my daughter is rude and immature. I've also got a lot more leeway to tell my daughter that her behavior is rude and immature, where I might not really want to cross that boundary with a close friend. Even once children have transitioned into adulthood, there are family ties and obligations which will mean we all need to be able to get along, even if it's just at holidays, weddings, or funerals.

Consider two similar questions:

  1. My friend is rude to me in front of my kids, how can I make this stop?
  2. My mother-in-law is rude to me in front of my kids, how can I make this stop?

In the first case, a reasonable answer might be to not hang out with the friend. And it can be relatively easy to draw a line: if you don't stop being a rude jerk, you can't be around my family. But that is a significantly harder policy to implement when it comes to extended family, particularly if (e.g.) I can't ban my mother-in-law from the house because my spouse wants to see her. Other people need to get involved (spouse, possibly grandkids or other extended family) in establishing the necessary boundaries. Heck, I'm currently in a multi-year process of trying to help two family members (an aunt and cousin) be able to have a relationship that's at least polite enough for them to be in the same room without it breaking down into a fight. It's exhausting, but "stop seeing each other" or "don't invite one of them to the next wedding/funeral" simply won't work.

I am not entirely satisfied with the vagueness of this answer, and it may well leave us "open" to poor questions that have very little relevance. However, I also feel that there are a lot of decent Answers on our site which deal with setting those difficult boundaries between parents and adult children (from both perspectives). Seeking advice on how to help everybody get along, even when they're no longer in the same household, is a pretty persistent parenting issue.

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