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A few days ago I was speaking to another Mom who had just returned from a morning of volunteering at her daughter's preschool co-op. In the conversation she frequently labeled kids as 'bullies' or 'bad kids.' The conversation was really disturbing to me because I really didn't like hearing so many negative things about other people's children. And, I really hate kids being given labels at this age (3, 4 &5) that they may never outgrow if they are called it enough. Is there any gentle and polite way to suggest that these kids may need her empathy rather than her criticizing? Or, am I just being naive to assume that most kids at this age are probably going through a 'phase' or have some issues at home that they are processing in a less than positive way?
My world view is generally that most 3, 4 and 5 year olds having a naughty moment (or six months for that matter) are acting out in some way (age appropriate phase) or their behavior is reflecting something that isn't happy at home. I don't look at a three-year-old who has bitten my child and say 'wow...that kid is a bully and some day will end up in Supermax.' I am not saying that I like that my child was bitten, but nor do I think of the biter as a 'bully.' If a four-year-old tells my child that they aren't my child's friend anymore, then I don't think of him as a bad kid or a bully. I think that he is having a frustrating moment.
I guess what I am asking is 1) do you consider it appropriate to discuss other people's children after a playdate or in a volunteering situation. 2) Am I naive to think that most kids termed 'agressive' and 'bullies' before their sixth birthday are actually kids who are just working through a phase of their feelings? 3) If I am not naive, then is there a nice way to tell people who are labeling kids to stop it and be nice? -just a parent...
When I have heard adults labeling children my response has been varied. Yesterday I heard an adult talking about a 4 year girl old and calling her mean and I carefully pointed out that the little girl was upset and still learning about how to control her behavior. I also have pointed out that our jobs as parents are to teach them how to grow up into responsible adults and that the best way to do this is by being one ourselves by modeling good behaviors & using positive words. The other thing I have done is just blatantly told the adults that there words are hurtful to me and that I do not believe in using them to describe anyone - especially a child. Oh and lastly ask them how they would feel if they heard someone use those words about their own child - that usually make them stop & think.
Thank you for bringing up this issue and please know that I wish there were more parents out there that would question what they say and how it impacts others. Anon
As the parent of a very sweet and sometimes over-sensitive boy of 6, I am TIRED of kids who are actively disruptive, intentionally physically and emotionally abusive and frankly totally poorly parented.
As for a ''nice way'' to tell other parents that they should be more empathetic, if you told me that I would do what I do what I tell my kids to do - tell you that I don't like you and walk away. stop the bullies...
Personally, I wouldn't care what my relationship was to the woman. I would make a comment about that. Maybe those kids struggle, or are spirited, are still learning some things, or in reality, there is a possibility they are not getting the guidance and adult attention they need, but bad? As a means to describe the entirety of a child? NO!
I wouldn't put up with it.
Regardless of your relationship to these name-callers, if you don't want to hear these things, you should just tell them. It's kinda like I don't want people to tell me details about violent entertainment. I just tell them I don't like to hear that stuff and to please not share it with me. anon
How do I deal with a parent from my kid's school who absolutely has to give me the ''run-down'' on other class parents in 10 minutes or less, every single time we have an encounter? She is a nice woman, and very popular as well. I don't know that she is maliciously gossiping, or simply insecure and possibly bored with her own life.
At school events, even school birthday parties, she makes her way around to every parent and goes on and on about some OTHER parent and their life-threatening illness, their kid's faults, or how bad of a parent this other parent is. Not 5 minutes later, is she yucking it up with that very parent she was speaking so poorly of. She talks a mile a minute and is very funny, so people seem to like her.
How do I tell he to stop without making her angry and thus motivating her to speak even worse about me? And yes, I am now hearing that she speaks poorly of my kid and my husband and I. anon
Getting back to your posting, know that anything you divulge to her about your life is as good as known to other families and in the worst possible light. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. And if you are particularly assertive, just tell her you are not interested in hearing about others' day to day struggles. She is toxic to you and to the group -- keep your distance for your own peace of mind as well as the well-being of your child. I feel sorry for her, for needing to act in this rather childish manner. Gossip is toxic
The next time this person starts the run-down, interrupt and ask, ''So, what's happening in YOUR life? (Any vacations planned? Have you been to xyz restaurant, etc'' Make it clear that you will not encourage this other discussion.
If she doesn't get it, you may have to honestly say something like, ''These people are our friends. Would you want them talking like that about you?'' or ''I really like so-and-so, and think she's a great mom'' or ''I would really rather not trash-talk our friends. Do you mind speaking about something else?''
I know this seems hard, but her behavior will not stop when it is encouraged. heather
Pervasive gossip like what you are describing really damages everyone in the community and creates a horrible atmosphere where people are afraid of what is being said and thought about them. You start feeling like you are at the mercy of the gossipers, and must cooperate with them unless you want to be the gossiper's next target. It is a form of bullying. If this was happening at my child's school, I would bring it up with the teacher or the director and ask for their help in stopping it. It is like a contagious disease. It hurts everyone at the school. anon
I am also thinking about your motives for posting because your post seemed so personal and public and possibly more gossip provoking. Do you really want resolution or do you just want to express your anger? Jealousy? What? Something to ask yourself. I don't know as I'd advise you to confront the perceived obsessed gossiper so much as just to stop the gossip in its own tracks by refusing to hear it or perpetuate it. Gossip needs more than one participant.
I don't know if the following is helpful but when I asked a co-worker if we had a gossipy office, she replied ''I don't know. I don't listen to gossip.'' anon
I need to find a good way to avoid school gossips and request that people not badmouth other kids or parents. Any advice?
Parents at our school, who are supposedly ''tolerant,'' are constantly judging kids and their parents, and are bringing down the school's social and moral integrity. I chose to send my child to a ''progressive'' independent school, but nowadays it feels a lot more like a gossip party where one parent or another is usually complaining about some child in the class (of course, they think their own kids don't do anything hurtful to others). The types of objectionable behavior include talking openly with other parents about a particular child's behavior problems (with kids present!), talking negatively about other people's kids, or gossiping about other parents. Honestly, to hear them talking, you would think they were children...but it is hard to take a stand against it, since they could target me or my son next.
Each class of kids stays together year after year, so there's no chance of getting a different mix of parents/kids next year.
Has anyone out there successfully coped with this problem? If so, was your school of any help in solving the problem? Did you confront the parents? Did you change schools to escape it? I need to find a good way to avoid the school gossips, but also don't want them talking that way around my child. Your advice/insight will help!! --Whatever happened to the golden rule?
Based on my observations as a teacher and administrator, I think the emotions around these issues are often more intense in the private school setting. People are paying for the small classes and quality instruction. They expect more. And if there is a disruptive student in the class, people are very concerned about how it affects the school experience of all students in the class, not just their own.
If you really expect that to go away because of the culture of the school, you are sadly mistaken. In addition to that, I think it's unfair to criticize what the school's values are based on what you have described in your post. I'm wondering if you feel on the *outs* within the school community in general. Your post made me wonder if there was something more behind your concerns.
I am sorry that you are unhappy with this situation, but please deal with your feelings directly. Talk to the director. Avoid conversations that make you uncomfortable and focus on what you CAN do to add positive changes at the school. Anon
Writing as a father of a 12 year old I can join you on my turbulence in being a member of parent cultures within schools. As a group psychotherapist I am also intensely interested in the cultures and climates generated by our various informal community structures.
As a parent I've been very surprised at my own feelings if vulnerability both for my son and for myself around "being included"- him as a valued and respected member of his peer group and more surprising, my own want to be seen as a good parent, being "cool", being in the in-group. I've also been frustrated sometimes with how social dynamics get managed by other parents and teachers.
The theory of group dynamics holds that it is very challenging to change group norms once set. Even in group psychotherapy, where there is supposedly a safe place for people to share, addressing gossip usually means swimming upstream until the group begins to see the cost of such communication and can see other options to deal with what the "real" underlying communication is about.
I agree that you risk becoming a scapegoat if you confront these behaviors. Most people would be offended and not seen for trying to gather or provide information they believe is actually helping their child be safe or succeed. I suggest that you might encourage the school administrators to provide some forums to begin to indirectly address these issues where parents can air their concerns. Good facilitation is the key to these events going well. A good ploy might be to have someone come in and talk about in group-out group behaviors in kid 's groups S...which...includes gossip!
Another way to manage being around gossip, judgment and other kinds of dysfunctional communication patterns is for us as parents to have some compassion for just how anxiety provoking it is to be a parent. The theme of inclusion-exclusion is so challenging for our children and we parents are just as vulnerable to is as they. If we could begin to have those kinds of conversations internally and with each other, our need for gossip would be less. Peter
I am looking for advice on how to deal with a gossipy mom. There is a boy, about 5 years old, in my son's class, who is very talkative and bossy enough to annoy many boys that almost no boy plays with him. He reports to her mom about everything happened at school, which some are right and some are not. But she truly believes every single word her son said. And she spreads the words to other parents. I don't know why she wants to do that. Maybe try to show how smart her boy is. Anyway, I heard she described how bad one boy was and how bad another boy was. Now she starts to say how bad my son is to other parents behind my back. I don't know what to do and am really hurting. Please give us some advices. Thank you A concerned mom
When she talks to you about other children have you told her that it offends you when she speaks about others in a negative manner? Have you defended the others? Have you pointed out that children in kindergarten go through behavior highs and lows and that this too shall pass (when they reach ohhh...20 something.
Keep your chin up, don't let one persons opinion ruin your day. I am sure she is not influencing other peoples opinions of your child. Oh, by the way...this is only MY opinion. Susan
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