I’m exposed to more drama than people living on Broadway. That’s because my daughter is in middle school. We see drama about mean girls and feeling left out. Drama about boys and how confusing they are. Drama about changing bodies and how no one else has ever had to feel all the feelings she feels. Don’t get me wrong: I know that to my daughter, all of this is very real. And I know I have to be patient with her emotions. I need to listen, to soothe, to console.
But what I don’t need to do is get on the emotional Tilt-a-Whirl with her. Crazy as it sounds, I see moms buy into drama every day and make it bigger than it actually is. These are the moms whose own latent middle school insecurities rush back to the surface. This is the exact opposite of what your daughter needs. What she needs is for you to help her keep her feet on the ground by being a low drama mama. Here’s how.
Remember what it’s like to be her age.
Sometimes our kids paint such a convincing picture of their desperate social, academic, artistic, or athletic woes that we buy into their hype. But slow down. Think back to sixth grade, when you didn’t get invited to the sleepover of the year and you knew the world would end because of it. You never recovered, did you? Wrong. You felt sad for several days, yes, but none of it really mattered in the end. Use that knowledge as a tool to cope with disappointment and to help your daughter do the same. Before you start calling other moms or staging a protest, ask yourself if it will really matter in a year—or a week.
Repeat after me, Mom: “It’s not about me.”
Much mama drama is rooted in the mother’s insecurity, which she projects onto her child. This looks like a child who is disappointed after not making the cheerleading team—whose mom thinks it’s a conspiracy rooted in the community’s jealousy and total devotion to keeping her daughter down. If you are quickly offended or upset regarding your child’s perceived successes or failures or you constantly worry about where your kid fits in the social hierarchy, you may have Stage Mom Syndrome. Seek help and everyone, especially your child, will be better off.
Give other kids, parents, and teachers the benefit of the doubt.
Do you quickly assume that others have the worst motives? Or do you choose to believe that most people are decent, even if imperfect? Giving others the benefit of the doubt will save you and your child a great deal of unnecessary drama. Just because the coach says your son needs to work harder at practice in order to deserve more time on the field during the games doesn’t mean the coach doesn’t like him. Maybe the teacher really does want to see your child succeed but thinks a B now will be worth more to her in the long run than an undeserved A. If you are struggling to understand a coach’s or teacher’s perspective, be slow to anger and ask him or her to clarify. When we assume the worst, we amp up the drama and we train our children to do the same.
Focus on the goal.
Even when other people are acting badly or your kid is getting a raw deal, dial down the drama anyway. Why? Because you can’t reengineer the world to be consistently good and fair for your child. Your primary job as a parent is to teach your child how to respond to and cope with an imperfect world. By sinking lots of attention and emotional energy into what other people do, you allow your children to avoid the more important question of how they should respond. Dwell briefly on the offense, but move on to what you and your child should do in light of it. And they have lots of options.
Your primary job as a parent is to teach your child how to respond to and cope with an imperfect world.
How do you stay above the kid drama as a parent? Do you ever see moms who get sucked in?