Stop the Mama Drama & Coach Your Kids to Manage Conflict
Mama Drama occurs when parents get involved in the normal conflicts and social challenges of their children. I’m not talking about issues related to safety or bullying—those are times when parental involvement is warranted. I’m talking about parents engaging other parents in attempts to resolve their childrens’ social issues (i.e. “Your Susie isn’t playing with my Janie at recess,” “Your Kyle called my Mae a bozo.”, or “Calvin’s feelings were really hurt that he wasn’t invited to Will’s party.”)
This generation of helicopter parents may be erring on the side of over-involvement. Subsequently, we’re causing ourselves stress, taxing our relationships with other parents, and robbing our children of the experiences they need to develop effective communication and conflict resolution skills.
Furthermore, by overly protecting or rescuing our kids from social woes, we may be communicating to them that we don’t trust their ability to resolve conflict. It fosters dependence rather than instilling confidence, empowerment and independence. It makes bigger deals out of smaller issues that may have blown over more naturally without parental involvement.
- Recognize we are all biased and partial to our own children. Gain objectivity by “zooming out” and looking at the situation from a larger perspective. There is probably more to the story than what your child realizes or is reporting.
- Separate your own emotional response from your child’s. Make sure you’re not overly identifying with your child or that your own issues are not getting triggered. These may be your own childhood issues or current issues with the mothers of your child’s friends. Pause before becoming reactive.
- Maintain good boundaries with your kids. We cannot control our children’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors. We can only control our own. We cannot force our children to be friends with our friends’ children. Conversely, we should not change our social plans to accommodate our child’s issues.
- Practice detachment. Emotionally unplug from your kids stuff in a loving and healthy manner—separate yourself a bit from their pain so you can tolerate it and be supportive. It’s much like what we needed to do when they were tantruming toddlers. Kids need the experiences of making their own independent choices and sometimes if the consequences are negative that can be just as important a learning experience as a positive outcome, perhaps even more so.
- Take care of yourself. Practice good self-care and stress management so you can best cope with your child’s emotional and social issues. Get support from your friends who are not the parents of your children’s friends on how to cope with the heartache and stress of your child’s social bumps and bruises. Make sure your life is full and meaningful so that you are not becoming overly involved in the lives of your children.
Provide the following for your child:
- Empathy: Reflect that you understand their feelings and that their feelings are a normal response to the situation at hand. This can be very normalizing and reassuring for your child.
- Support: Provide TLC and a safe place for them to process their feelings.
- Insight: Ask questions that will promote higher emotional/relational thinking and insight (i.e., “How do you think that made Katelyn feel? Why do you imagine she may have responded that way?”)
- Coaching: Role-play with your child to practice working things out with their friends. Teach them communication skills to successfully navigate conflict by being respectful, direct and authentic. Encourage them to develop those friendships that make them feel supported and positively about themselves, rather than succumbing to peer pressure and group social dynamics.
- Modeling: Children learn by example. Be mindful of how you and your partner deal with conflict or how your child sees you managing your friendships and social relationships. Set a positive example.
Find the healthy balance between providing support and letting go.
“Two great things you can give your children: one is roots, the other is wings.” ~Hodding Carter
The Psychology of Success, Free Webinar via PsychCentral
Marter, J. (2013). Stop the Mama Drama & Coach Your Kids to Manage Conflict. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 1, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/success/2013/08/stop-the-mama-drama-coach-your-kids-to-manage-conflict/