Playground Politics: 5 Classy Ways to Manage Mean Mums

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There’a a bully at the playground, and it’s not the kid that intentionally shoved your child off the slide! Mean mums are often self-righteous, snide and outright childish, possibly making you feel like you’re in (or watching) a high school drama unfolding again. If you’re the one pressured, bullied or simply feeling indignant at the antics of any mean mums in your life, here are 5 simple ways to help manage the situation.

1. Walk Away

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As a parent, it goes without saying that you have enough on your plate! No one wants to deal with another (adult) child in your life. Be the bigger person and simply walk away whenever you can. Avoid unnecessary interactions with Mrs. “Compare and Judge”, and keep a distance from Miss “I Have The Best Parenting Style”. It’s one of the bullying strategies we equip our kids with, so why not apply it to ourselves when we find ourselves in the same situation? (Yes, this method works pretty well for bullies across the ages!) 

2. Respond, not React

Unfortunately, walking away is not always feasible, especially if both of you happen to be a part of a mutual larger parenting group. Respond to the snarkiness consciously, instead of emotionally. The bigger and more dramatic your reaction, the more enticing it will be for those mean mums to continue putting you down. Stay calm, and respond in a polite, yet firm manner. You are taking control away from her by refusing to give her what she is looking for – a reaction.

And if you still find yourself on the receiving end of constant snide remarks, or you’ve had the entire mum gang turned against you, It’s time for Plan B. Respond by having a private conversation at a neutral place, and assert yourself respectfully. Let her know how you are feeling, and make sure she is aware you are not someone she can push over. Communication professor Ni (who coaches clients and counsels Fortune companies), opines that when you confront a bully from a position of strength, it’s likely they will back off right away- 9 times out of 10!

3. It’s Not You, It’s Her 

Motherhood is tough business in itself, and comes with its own dose of confidence blasters (yes, even that picture perfect, organic only, fashionista mum of five experiences self doubt!). When adult bullies create (or add to any existing) bruised sense of self, remind yourself of the true reasons behind Mean Mum’s actions. It’s got nothing to do with you! 

Many bullying adults come from a place of insecurity and a desire to make themselves feel better and more powerful (unfortunately, by putting others down). Is Queen Bee making you feel as if you’re unambitious for choosing to be a stay-at-home mum? Perhaps she is actually experiencing mum guilt for her long hours at work. Focus on what works for you, your family and your children. 

4. Jedi Mind Tricks

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It’s time to summon the Force for some Jedi mind tricks! The Jedi used the Force to implant suggestions in the minds of people to bend them to their own will.  Sutton, a professor of management science, suggests trying to take things light-heartedly and to see the humour in such situations. A snappy (not sarcastic) response might be all it takes to defuse an inflammatory remark; when we laugh, hostility and problems often become smaller.

And if wittiness is not your thing, you could try being extra nice to the bully. “Sometimes you just have to rise above it and kill them with kindness,” says Sutton. Another method is to try looking at the bully in the eyes when the mean antics start. It’s a small tweak, but when you have eye contact with someone, you are more likely to empathise with him or her, and react in a more positive manner.

5. Make New Mum Friends

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Finally, focus on the current uplifting true friends in your life, and make an effort to get to know others who you feel may share the same values as you do. Motherhood can be lonely, and surrounding ourselves with other supportive mums who are going through the same journey can be a great mental relief. It may feel a little awkward trying to reach out to that mum you see everyday during school pick up, but chances are, that mum is in the same boat as you and is looking to connect with others too. Reduce interactions with mean mums who bring you down, focus on your current support system, and cultivate new and healthy friendships instead.

Here’s to building a supportive community of mamas who uplift and inspire each other, #makchicmumsquad!

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.