Posted 9/6/2017 by UHBlog
A toddler snatches another child’s brightly colored toy, leading to tears. A boy in grade school is ostracized when he strikes out with bases loaded. Teenage girls trade insults because they both like the same boy.
Kids should be able to turn to their parents for guidance in these situations, but often mothers – and sometimes fathers – react by behaving badly toward the other child’s parents. In these instances of “mama drama,” adults should breathe deeply before interacting with each other, says psychologist Rebecca Hazen, PhD.
“Express that something’s come up, you don’t know if they’re aware of it and you know there could be different interpretations, but you want to have a discussion,” she says. “It’s important from the beginning not to have a judgment about what’s going on.”
Some mama drama is unavoidable, but there are ways to keep many episodes at bay.
Dr. Hazen offers seven tips for sidestepping the game of one-upping other mothers:
- Don’t force friendships with other moms. Be cordial and ensure you’re comfortable with your child being under the other woman’s care during playdates, but don’t feel the need to be besties.
- Don’t pressure children to be friends. If your son doesn’t want to play with your best friend’s son, listen to his reasons. Talk to your friend in a nonjudgmental way; you may learn the feeling is mutual. If your kiddo is in preschool or grade school, encourage him to give the other youngster a chance – as long as the interaction isn’t negative – and stress the importance of being kind to others. Allow teenagers to choose their own friends.
“They should know they don’t have to interact with people they don’t feel comfortable with,” Dr. Hazen says.
- Don’t measure your choices against others’. “A lot of parents are always evaluating their own parenting, and that leads to comparing with others,” she says. “That sometimes comes off as, ‘I’m doing a better job than you.’ Take on the perspective that every child is different. Let people voice their opinions, but keep in mind it’s their opinion based on their child. People have different values, but that doesn’t mean you have to change your way of doing things.”
- Keep an open mind. Before you approach another child’s mom when an unpleasant situation arises, consider all possibilities.
“Of course you want to believe your own kid, but she may not understand how her actions led to actions of the other child,” Dr. Hazen says.
- Don’t interrogate. Keeping an unofficial scorecard about whose child started walking at an earlier age or whose child is more athletic/artistic/academic can lead to mama drama, so don’t ask a mother when her son began sleeping through the night or what SAT score her daughter earned.
“That can seem evaluative to the other parent, particularly if they are struggling in that area,” she says.
- Respond judiciously. You aren’t obligated to answer questions that make you uncomfortable.
“It’s okay to ask why they’re asking the question,” Dr. Hazen says. “You might discover they’re not trying to one-up you. Say, ‘Why were you wondering? Is there something you’re curious or concerned about?’”
- Use social media wisely. Be thoughtful about what you post and don’t make assumptions about another mom’s postings.
“Many people are really just proud of their kids and (posting is) not meant to be, ‘My kids are so wonderful and your kids are not,’” Dr. Hazen says. “In the past, these are things we might have shared with friends or a grandmother, but now there’s this platform to share with everyone.”
Even the most laidback moms can get tangled in mama drama. If another mother gets you worked up because your 13-year-old daughter isn’t menstruating (and hers is), don’t let her get to you.
“It’s more useful to talk to your pediatrician,” Dr. Hazen says. “Maybe you’re talking to the parents of a child who is ahead developmentally and your child is still within the normal range. If you don’t get feedback from a professional, you won’t know.”
Rebecca Hazen, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist in the Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Hazen or any other doctor online.