Lately, I have had at least three different moms, who’s children all attend very different schools, tell me stories of dealing with THAT MOM. You likely know the one… she has her mouth whispering in everyone’s ear, the principal or preschool director wrapped around her finger and you’re only one missed volunteer opportunity away from experiencing her wrath. And, for whatever crazy reason in her head, she has it out for your kid and you find yourself needlessly trying to please her to get her to back off. It’s the Mom bully. And she sucks. Breezy Mama turned to Jennifer Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine to get tips on overcoming adult bullies.
I’ve heard a few stories lately about that “one mom” who can make life a living hell at your child’s school, play group or other type of classes and sports. How can women deal with the bully mom who seems to have everyone’s ear and a vendetta against you?
First – realize she doesn’t have everyone’s ear, just a few people. This is the same dynamic that the mean girls use in school. Peer pressure, social ostracizing. It’s pathetic really when you think about it that some people never grow up. And that is the light in which you should view this person. It isn’t about you. It is about them and their insecurities. There is something about you that makes them nervous and insecure and they are responding to you as if you are a threat. Once you stop worrying about what you can do to make them like you, you can’t, you can start focusing on what you need to do for yourself and your child. If this is a playgroup, leave and find another one. There are plenty of women looking for friends. I had this happen to me and it was a huge relief for me and my child to not be in that toxic environment anymore. So don’t stay in a negative group just so your child has someone to play with. Find other friends! If it is in school, well, ignore as best you can and cultivate a different group of mom friends. You aren’t the only one she is playing games with. Find the others and band together. Queen bee mean girls get their power by making people want to curry their favor. Don’t play their game and feel the stress melt away.
It can seem at times that if you don’t go along with this mom’s every wish and plan, you will suddenly feel like an outsider. How can women not worry about pleasing the bully but have the skills to deal with the fallout once she turns (what feels like) everyone against you?
Pick your battles. Often, allowing the person to get their way is easiest on everyone. Allow them to be the queen bee. The only problem is that they tend to destroy groups because pretty much everyone hates having to deal with their pettiness. So, you do have to decide, how important is this for you and your child and whether or not it is worth the fight. My sister was once recruited for the local PTA because enough moms were sick of the petty bully mom that they organized a coup with write in ballots. Again, the key is to make friends with all the moms who aren’t in the inner clique and to band together.
For whatever childhood issues, this type of personality seems to also end up with a vendetta against your child. Maybe your daughter has more friends than hers or your son gets better grades… who knows really, but what can moms do when the bullying from the adult is aimed at your child?
It is often aimed at your child because the pettiness and insecurities of the bullying mom aren’t just about their self-esteem. Their self-esteem is now invested in their children. If they are negatively effecting your child, you need to make sure your child knows that this is an adult with issues and they are fine. It’s the same sort of advice you would give them if it was a child who was jealous of them. Finding compassion for the bully is key as it takes the pressure off of the child to make changes and helps them practice compassion which is an essential life skill to master. In order to help your child with this, you need to practice it as well. If your child is oblivious, as they often are, deal with the bully mom herself. Don’t expect her to change. Your goal is to minimize the negative impact she is having on you. And the reason I say this is because she has so many women she is intimidating, you can’t extinguish her bad behavior. All you can do is to take steps to protect yourself and your child from her.
The bully type often tends to be the party thrower or play date hostess and can end your child’s invites in a snap. How can moms explain to their child why they aren’t being included or invited?
Find another playgroup! I can’t stress this enough. Have other friends. Look for free programs in your community and sign up for them. Don’t feel like your child has to play with this group. They don’t. There are other groups they can play with. I am still friends with some of the women in the group I was thrown out of. But more importantly, I am still great friends with the women I met in the free programs I went to. It is hard when you are targeted, but there isn’t anything wrong with you. And if you have other friends who don’t make you stressed out, that is where you should be putting your energy and your time and your child will be fine. Organized playgrounds often are forced friendships. These aren’t always women you would seek out for friendship on your own. When you find women who have kids who you do enjoy being around and who don’t make you nervous, ask them for their phone number and start calling them up for playdates. You will be much much much happier when you stop trying to fit in with people who make you nervous.
Once this takes place, now the child can really feel the heat of being left out and his/her peers may also turn on them due to their bully mom’s influence. How can you help your child cope when the hostility trickles down to their peers?
Depending on the age, younger kids experience this less. Older kids in school experience this more. I haven’t yet met young kids who ostracize other kids based on their moms dislikes. Older kids do this though. So, really, again, it comes down to helping your child develop true friends that will stand by them. Helping them find compassion for the kids who are learning to hate from their parents is important because it is really sad. This doesn’t mean what they are doing is okay, it just means you aren’t going to let them make you feel bad about yourself because they are insecure and have a troubled parent.
I’ve also heard stories about the mom bully influencing a teacher or principal’s decisions about your child. How can moms put a stop to that?
You need to develop your own relationships with the teachers and principals so that doesn’t happen. Also trust that other people can see through the BS being directed at them. The more gracious you can be, the more helpful and compassionate you can be, the more the other person seems like an *ss. But seriously, if the other parent is being rude and vindictive, people figure that out quickly. If you can help the principal without hurting your child, do it. They will remember you fondly and the other person not so fondly.
Most moms deal with insecurities such as their choices as a parent, if they are spending enough time with their child, feeding them the right foods… the list goes on based on the individual. Generally, the mom bully will feed into these insecurities to get you to do what SHE wants. How can moms avoid falling into her trap?
Own your parenting. At the end of the day, what works for you and your child works for you and your child. Most kids are weeds and pretty resilient. So don’t stress out about whether or not you are doing the latest whatever. Do your own research and accept that you aren’t perfect and so what. If you have a great relationship with your kid and you enjoy their company, who cares what the other bully mom thinks? Again, at this point in my life, my preference is to simply not be around those sorts of negative people anymore. I seek out and hang out with nice people who don’t have those sorts of issues and allow the issue laden bully to run amok in her own limited sphere of influence. Everyone is happy that way.
I know I am writing specifically for moms, but the adult bully can be in the office, a family member or any number of situations. Why do adults bully other adults?
Adult bullies bully for the same reason kids do it. It works. They get power over other people by doing it. The way to get them to stop is to take away their power over you. Yes, they won’t give it up without a fight, but this is a fight of wills rather than fisticuffs. The more secure you are in who you are, the less bullies can bully you. You simple look at them as the pathetic creatures they are and move on. You need to remember, the reason they are still acting as if they are in school is because they never learned how to interact with people properly. It’s sad really. The most you can do is make it clear you aren’t going to play their games and you do that by not playing their games. They will move on to other targets fairly quickly. This is who they are. It’s sad, but what can you do.
Any other advice you’d like to share to help cope with adult bullies?
Compassion is the key. In order to respond to any bully effectively, you need to not respond emotionally. The best way to become calm in the face of the annoying stupidity being directed at you is to feel compassion for the bully. The other thing I would add is that these are essential life skills to learn. If you don’t know exactly how to stand up for yourself in the face of a bully, learn it. Then, make sure to teach it to your child so that they learn these positive skills as well. Finally, pass this information on. The more parents who know how to effectively and compassionately cope with bullies the more our children will learn these skills as well. Once kids are taught these skills, they become fearless and they don’t allow bullies to bully around them. It is transformative for the child, the bully and all the other kids in their class. We have a moral obligation to teach our kids this information. My book can help, get it, read it, learn it and pass it on. Donate a copy to your local school or public library. Just get this information out there.
About Jennifer Hancock
Jen teaches parents practical ways they can protect their kids from bullying. Using techniques she learned from her mother as well as from her experience as a dolphin trainer in Hawaii, these skills are so easy to learn even a kindergartner can understand them. As a mother herself, Jen taught these skills to her son when he was a kindergartener and he was easily able to put them into practice the very next day. And, yes, they worked, he even endorsed her book, The Bully Vaccine. Jen Hancock – Raising the Next Generation of Ethical, Compassionate and Responsible Adults.
For more information, visit: http://thebullyvaccine.com