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Q: My mother is out of control. She is very upset that my ex left and says horrible things about her when the kids are around. Her last rant called their mother "a lying, cheating ho." I try to reel her in, but she doesn't listen. I don't want to stop her from seeing her grandkids, but she doesn't realize that what she says about their mother hurts our children. What's good ex-etiquette?

A: It's understandable that your mother has strong feelings about your breakup. However, badmouthing a child's mother or father in front of the children is a hurtful practice and often backfires.

But anger is a tough one to cover up. You might think no one knows how upset you are, but it comes out in your words and deeds. Even an observation like, "Your mommy just doesn't seem to be as sad about this divorce as your daddy" can go awry. The kids will pull away because they love both Mommy and Daddy, and when Grandma puts down their parent, it can be very confusing.

Children love their grandparents, as well, and hopefully see them as a source of comfort. Now that source of comfort is calling their parent bad names at the very time the child needs stability. Badmouthing asks children to check their allegiance — to Mommy, Daddy and ultimately, to whoever is doing the badmouthing.

In situations like the one you describe, children don't care which parent is right or wrong. Most just want their parents to get back together, and comments that force them to take sides can seriously affect their ability to form trusting relationships in the future.

So, when calling your mother's attention to her actions, bring it back to your children. Thank her for her allegiance, but explain the kids believing that their mother is "a lying, cheating ho," is not going to help them feel good about things. They likely will feel even more insecure.

Grandma's job is to be there to pick up the pieces, not spread them around so the kids can trip over them. That's good ex-etiquette.

Jann Blackstone is the founder of