Mommy Timeout

31 Jan

Letterbalm Empty SwingDear LetterBalm: My 7-year-old daughter is friends with a sweet neighborhood child whose mother is known to everyone as a minor troublemaker. Her gossiping has an edge to it because she often spreads lies about the behaviors of children who play with her daughter. Several times she’s unfairly accused the kids of punching and hurting her child and others of taking her child’s toys and lunch treats in the park. She’s had words with mothers over real and imagined slights, all revolving around the kids. She posts derogatory things on Facebook (but when challenged will remove them). I’m not sure how to proceed here. Can you give some guidance?

–Fighting in the Sandbox

It sounds like the mother is acting out more than the child here. You say her little girl is an amiable child – good thing, because her mom certainly likes to take her anger out on everybody. Ms. L.B. says you can’t know what her issues are; you can only act to preserve the safety and comfort of your daughter (and others if you witness this woman’s bad behavior). Your Facebook example indicates she backs down when challenged. So, sitting in the park privately with her – maybe over coffee as you watch your kids play together – you establish new boundaries and ways of dealing with each other. Be firm, without judgment:

Thérèse, you’ve been distressed about a few incidents between our kids in the park and around the neighborhood. Can I ask you to do something for me? In the future when you’re upset about something that happens involving my child or another child in our company, come to me directly, tell me about it and give me an opportunity to respond. I think this will improve things between us and our kids and avoid future misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Jane so likes playing with your Cosette, and I think you’ll agree that it would be a shame if miscommunication between us put a damper on their friendship and fun.

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