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Health & Parenting

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How to Stand Up to a Bully's Mom

Step 4: Give just the facts.

When you describe the situation, leave out words like "bullying" and "mean." This woman loves her child as much as you love yours, so judgmental language will antagonize her. Instead, just convey the basics, as in: "A month ago, Emma told me that Nicole banned her from the clubhouse the girls use, and started calling her 'stupid' and pushing her away. Emma asked Nicole to stop, but she hasn't. I know Emma may not have told me the whole story, but something's up."

Step 5: Know what to say if she's receptive...

She may promise to talk to her child and make sure the behavior stops. That's great. Thank her for her time and add, "I hope you'll tell me if my child ever does something you think I'd want to know about." This conveys a feeling of goodwill and makes her kid less of a villain by acknowledging that all children need adult guidance at times.

If she makes a more cautious promise to discuss the matter with her child, that's okay, too. Thank her and tell her you look forward to hearing from her. (If, after a few days, she hasn't gotten back to you — and her child is still being beastly — call her to check in.)

Step 6: ...and know what to say if she stonewalls.

She may think that you're being overprotective or may have trouble admitting that her child ever misbehaves. If so, she's likely to subtly make it sound like you and your child are the problem. She might say, "My, I hadn't heard about this; then again, I don't get involved in every little relationship my Bluto has." Or, "Kids will be kids, won't they?" Or, "I'm sorry your daughter is upset; she sounds sensitive."

Avoid the urge to go tit for tat and subtly put down her child, as in, "Gosh, my child hasn't had this problem with anyone else; I don't know what to say." Says Wiseman: "You'll only be sinking to her level. Plus, it will make her even less likely to cooperate." Instead say, "We see this differently. That's fine. And I do realize that our kids don't need to be friends. But I know what's upsetting mine, and I'm asking you, as a fellow parent, for help in stopping it." Your firm determination may make an impression on her, even if she doesn't show it. She may rethink things after you leave and may even tell her kid to lay off yours.

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