Just like kids can be mean, so can their moms. If you’re dealing with mean-girl moms either at playgroups, on the school run or in your neighbourhood, we have some expert tips on how to handle a mean mom in your presence.
We turned to Sheri Meyers, Psy.D., licenced marriage and family therapist, for her insight into how to handle a mean mom in your midst.
Types of mean moms
There are a few types of mean moms to watch out for, and Meyers shares some of the most common:
The superior mean mom: This person wants everyone to know what a good, protective mom she is and, of course, that she’s a better mom than you are. “Superiority bullies can’t stop bragging about their kid’s successes and all the wonderful things they do as a parent,” explains Meyers. “It is a blend of narcissism and one-upmanship.”
The organizing mean mom: This is the mom who organizes the playgroups, outings, parties and events but who intentionally leaves you and your child off the invite list, says Meyers. She explains that this is a particularly malicious form of bullying, because it not only attacks you but your child.
The over-involved mean mom: This mom has her hand in every part of the community. She is head of every school committee, a hockey mom or a dance mom and maybe even the PTA president — and she pressures you to get involved. “She badgers you until you agree to chaperone a field trip you don’t want to go on. She pressures you to make a donation you can’t afford. She makes you feel like anyone who gives less than she does is a delinquent parent,” Meyers explains.
The gossiping mean mom: It’s obvious that this mom is talking about you behind your back, and what she has to say isn’t nice. You feel like she is mocking and judging you, and you likely end up getting excluded from play dates, playgroups and birthday parties.
How to handle a mean mom
Staying rational, reasonable and calm are key no matter who you’re dealing with. Meyers advises shifting from being reactive to proactive and analyzing what’s going on before you let yourself get heated. Here’s how:
Inquire vs. attack: Find out what’s really going on. If you feel like you’re being “attacked,” ask the mean mom what she is upset about, advises Meyers. “This will show that you are interested in communicating rather than in arguing. The burden of responsibility is now back on her.”
Try to see both sides: Ask yourself whether there might be a kernel of truth in what she says. “Rather than going into defence or attack, if you can find one small fact where the bully is correct, let her know you hear and understand her point of view,” Meyers advises. “You can more easily defend yourself when you are not defensive or emotionally worked up.” The goal in this case is to work toward a solution and open up the line of conversation.
Kill her with kindness: We’ve all heard the saying that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so give it a shot. “You may have to dig deep, but find something you appreciate about her, and genuinely compliment her on something good, be it how pretty she looks, how well she did something, what a beautiful smile she has…” says Meyers. “This is a good exercise and important skill set to develop. Choosing to look for the good keeps you from getting sucked into and stuck in negativity and promotes more inner peace,” she explains.
Look for lessons: Whenever a difficulty, problem or mean mom shows up in your life, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Sometimes you have to ask over and over until you’re ready to hear the answer. But Meyers notes that usually the challenge you’re facing and what you can learn from it will help you in the end.
Don’t take it personally: It’s not about you; it’s about them. “When people are mean and negative, it’s a mirror of what’s going on internally that is being expressed externally,” explains Meyers. “Whatever darkness you are feeling from them, feel sorry for them. They have to live with themselves. You don’t.”
Have you ever dealt with a mean mom?