As parents, many of us struggle with the best protocol in situations that involve our kids’ hurt feelings. My suggestions might surprise you and of course, I gotta story for ya:
During the first month of 6th grade, it came to Sally’s, (not her real name), attention that another little girl was spreading rumors about Sally’s daughter being gay. Sally and her daughter saw the explicit texts stating the made up sexual details with their own eyes.
It was pretty disturbing to Sally that a 12 year old’s mind could even go’ “there” but that is another conversation.
Sally decided to contact the other parent rather than go directly to the school.
BIG mistake. HUGE.
(Name that movie? Pretty Woman of course!)
Since the girls attend a small parochial private school and had attended the same elementary school, Sally thought it seemed too formal to go to school administration when she knew the other mom and considered her a friendly acquaintance.
The school has a zero tolerance bullying policy and since the evidence was in writing, it would be hard for the school to deny the severity of the situation and expulsion would be a real possibility.
Sally decided to call her “friendly acquaintance” on the phone in an effort to resolve the situation with a slap on the wrist and a promise of “lesson learned” by the child.
The conversation between the two moms was amiable until the other mom said, “Well we don’t know what happened before those texts were sent that made my daughter feel left out and feel the need to retaliate.”
At this point, Sally became defensive and responded, “Well, it doesn’t matter what happened and frankly, nothing did. Your daughter sent sexually explicit lies about my daughter by text. If it happens again, I won’t be calling you first. I will go directly to the school.”
Sally realized that this phone call was getting heated and had probably been a mistake. She heard excuses and defensiveness rather than ownership and apology for the hurtful behavior.
The call and correspondence ended shortly thereafter. Sally had promised the other mother that she would not discuss this situation so it could become a thing of the past rather than becoming a blown up drama .
Sally held up to her end of the bargain but a couple of months later, it got back to her that the other mother was gossiping about her and discussing the nerve of the phone call.
So here’s the thing, discussing parenting and someone else’s kid’s behavior is a lot like talking about sex or money. These are very personal, hard topics for folks and the subject often feels awkward and can create a lot of discomfort.
And where there is discomfort, there is usually denial and defensiveness…traits not typically associated with a positive outcome.
My stance on EXTREMELY problematic behavior that happens on or off campus between kids that are in school together is to communicate with the school’s administrators, teachers and counselors rather than contacting the other parent.
As seen in the scenario above, the situation can quickly heat up and intensify making matters even worse for the kids involved.
It is completely human to get defensive when it comes to our kids because we have a primal instinct to be loyal and protect them…and unfortunately that does frequently include looking for any way possible to justify their sh!tty behavior.
I believe both moms in the story were loyal, protective and love their daughters to the ends of the earth. This is the reason the battle gets more complicated with parental involvement.
As moms get involved in the teen drama, the kids not only are contending with their own hurt feelings and discomfort but now there is the addition of the Mama’s feelings as well.
Our kids are looking for us to support them so they can feel better. They want to learn how to handle the curve balls in life with grace and dignity – not drama, gossip, defensiveness and hate.
It is imperative that we help our kids navigate these challenging experiences rather than allowing ourselves to get emotionally hooked in and triggered which just makes matters way worse.
Easier said than done. I know. Awareness and practice is where we begin to make this shift.
I have made these mistakes in the past as well so if you are cringing right now and feeling called out, breathe and release the guilt. We are all human and when we know better we do better – who doesn’t love an applicable Dr. Phil quote!
So do yourself a favor, learn ways to teach your kiddos to assert and protect themselves when they are hurt rather than jumping in and attempting to be the Mama-Bear-Hero and complicating matters. If the situation feels extreme like untrue hurtful rumors and cyberbullying or worse, enlist the school professionals without a “dog in the fight” to help find a peaceful remedy.
And if you have no clue how to unhook emotionally and help your kids rather than make a bigger mess, reach out to me for support. No shame. No judgment. Moms helping each other support our kids as they navigate the tough teen years. Namaste Sisters!