Need Advice on How to Respond to Neighborhood Mom

Updated on May 03, 2018
A.P. asks from Altamonte Springs, FL
20 answers

I have a neighborhood mom who has approached me to say that while playing in our cul-de-sac my 8-year-old son called her 7 year old son weird and told him to go home. They have known each other and been friends since babies and while I know kids will be kids, I do not actually think my son said this. I told her the same and said I would speak to him about it. I did and he didn’t know what I was talking about… I am not one of those moms that says “not my son…” But… I really don’t think my kid said this and so I reminded him to always be kind and just move on. My question is how do I respond to her if she approaches me again about this? I kind of feel she might, as she is not a happy person and thrives on the drama… I’ve been able to steer clear of it until now… help!

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I would just tell her that you've taken care of this and not respond in any other way. Be neutral. Don't get caught in her drama.

It doesn't matter if he said it. Kids do have this sort of spats. It's best to stay out of it. It's likely that the boys have moved on. When parents focus on the spat it does create unnecessary drama and can make it more difficult for the kids.

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S.R.

answers from Phoenix on

I wouldn't assume that it will come up again. If it does, tell her the truth. Just say, "my son didn't remember saying that, but kids can have short memories. If it happens again, let me know and I'll have another talk with him"
Otherwise let it go. Most people do have short memories when it comes to this stuff.
Also, my kid and her friends used to call each other weird all the time. It was done in fun and nobody ever took it seriously.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

You simply say “I spoke to him.” And change the subject.

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J.K.

answers from Wausau on

" I do not actually think my son said this. I told her the same..."
"I am not one of those moms that says “not my son…” But… "

You literally did the one thing that qualifies you as that kind of mom. Whether or not you're correct is irrelevant. Doesn't mean you're a bad mom, just that you knee-jerk reactioned yourself into an awkward spot.

You and the other mom need to get the kids together and sort it out face to face. You pack away your defensiveness and be ready to apologize. If she was asking, I'd tell her the same thing.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

As soon as you tell yourself "I really don't think my kid said this" you HAVE become "that" mom.
If she approaches you again simply say I've spoken to Johnny, we've handled it.
If another incident occurs (although how one kid calling another kid weird could be considered an incident is beyond me) then have the boys get together to work it out.

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B.A.

answers from Columbus on

We had so much drama in our neighborhood last summer for similar situations. I finally realized that adults intervening in the situations only made them worse. If we just stayed out of it, 90 percent of the time the kids would work through it on their own and start playing with each other again. The other 10 percent of the time they'd decide that they didn't really like being bullied and they'd move on to other things.

We also had one girl in the neighborhood that would lie to us and her mother about our son. And we knew that she had a propensity to lie because we caught her doing so a few times. One time she told me that my son told her that she couldn't ever play with one of his toys. But I was in the next room and clearly heard him tell her that he was playing with it and she could have it later. Another time she told her mother (who then told me) that our son had gotten into a physical fight at school and was given time out during recess. When I called the school they told me that nothing like that had happened.

But I also knew that my son made his fair share of bad choices. So what I started doing was telling him what I expected if the accusation was true. "Sophia's mom told me that you called her a mean name. If that's true, then I think you need to apologize to her.": "Jonothan's mom said that you pushed him. If that's true, you need to remember our rules about touching other people." By prefacing things with "If that's true.." he understood that the behavior was a problem, but he also knew that I was in his corner.

If the mom approaches you, simply say "I took care of it" and then walk away.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

You just tell her that you spoke to your son and reminded him to always be kind to others and leave it at that.

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L.U.

answers from Seattle on

"I spoke with Jimmy about it. We talked about being kind to other people and making sure that we use words that are not hurtful. He states that he doesn't remember saying anything, so we just had a refresher on kindness!"

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

First of all, I think that most moms can have a gut feeling about how their kids interact with others and the kinds of words and phrases they use or don't use. You are not "that mom". You used the word, "think". Moms can have opinions without immediately taking the other mom's/kid's accusation as the concrete truth. Secondly, you did the right thing by saying you would talk to him. I think you handled it well. And I would leave it alone.

Children growing up together in neighborhoods can have a sibling type familiarity/relationship. They play with each other day in and day out for years. I don't know about the rest of you guys but my brother and I called each other weird all the time! Heck, he still is, but I love him to pieces. My neighborhood friends and my son's neighborhood friends all have had a fair share of bickering. If it is on-going and targeting just one child, an adult should step in. Otherwise, in the big picture of childhood, calling or being called weird is not that big of a deal.

Avoid the drama. Tell her you talked to your son. If she doesn't think that's enough, maybe you should say the boys might need a little break from each other.

Added: just read Barb's below. A million flowers to her.

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L.C.

answers from Washington DC on

My answer to her would be that it’s not my issue and that the kids can handle it. If she presses, tell her that you refuse to micromanage the relationship between the boys and if she has an issue with your child misbehaving or being mean in her yard, to send him home. And, that you will do the same.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

It's hard to know. Did she say she heard your son say this? Did she say anything to your child at the time? Or did she say her child reported this to her? Probably the latter. So you don't know.

It is routine for kids to say stuff like this and have no memory of it - it was an automatic response, and to them it's often like saying, "Hi" or "It's sunny today" - not memorable. But, there are others who deny it because they know you're upset about it. It could also be that her son didn't want to play outside or just wanted an excuse to watch TV, so he blamed something on your child. At 8 and 7, you don't know. I don't think you have to get into the "not my child" thing, even though you already doing it.

So I would say you spoke to your child about it and in general about the importance of being kind, and leave it there. I might make a statement about parents always having to remind kids this age of what things sound like to other people, and how it's always a balancing act to figure out how often and how deeply to get involved. What I would not do is get all revved up about what to say if she says X, vs. what to say if she says Y or Z. There is no nice way to say, "You know, Jennifer, I listened to you and then I listened to my son, and I believe my son."

Moreover, too much "what if" beforehand will make any response on your part seem rehearsed, and will make you more tense in her presence (which may make her think you are defensive).

Beyond that, it's important to realize that we need to raise our children to not fall apart every time someone says something thoughtless, hurtful or downright mean. We cannot police every child (or every adult, for that matter) and intervene in every interaction or relationship our kids have. We can't put a bandaid on every boo-boo - some just have to scab over and heal in time. If neighborhood kids can't negotiate their differences and find a way to play together, then they have to stay home, because Mom isn't setting up daily playdates with "acceptable" friends. So I suggest you take the long view, encourage your son to do so as well (while being kind and thoughtful), and (gently) encourage your neighbor to do the same.

I had a pretty good network of friends and neighbors, and my son knew that there was "community parenting" going on - for good and for bad. There were over a dozen homes where he could go to use a bathroom or get a scraped knee cleaned up, but also a dozen families who would let me know if he did a good thing or did a crappy thing. Rollerblading downtown without a helmet on? I knew about it before he got home. He learned a lot that day - that people care about his safety, and know my values.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

it's not on you to placate her (assuming she's not correct.) you did the right thing by checking with your son.

but while it's always good to take things with a grain of salt, of course you're not the truth police. if you really believe your child is being truthful, and she's a drama queen, then put it back on her.

'sounds like the kids may have had a moment, belinda. i don't know what happened here, but when my nathan encounters a friend being disrespectful my suggestion to him is that he speak up and leave. maybe that will work for your xavier too.'

don't tell her 'my son didn't say that.' she doesn't know if it's true, and it's not the central issue. just keep giving it all back to her. if she wants to stop them from playing together it needs to be her bag. it's not your job to police the boys interactions, especially when the friction may not even be real.

khairete
S.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Kids call each others names - sometimes it's not so nice.
It's gone on forever - and it's something that will always be with us.
"Weird" by itself is not on my list of unforgivable offenses.
There are many other much worse words kids use all the time.

Unfortunately kids feelings get hurt and sometimes there's nothing to do about it.
While approaching you to let you know her kids feelings got hurt is fine, all you do is talk to your son, hear his side of the story and ask that if it ever comes up again (don't assume he did or didn't do anything) - he should just try to be kind.
If he did some name calling - then he should apologize for hurting the kids feelings.
If he didn't - then he didn't do anything wrong.
While bullying certainly isn't allowed, no one is responsible for someone else s happiness or lack thereof.

That being said - he's not required to like everyone and some kids will get all butt hurt over the stupidest things.
The 7 to 8 yr age group can suffer from bouts of tattling and teachers sometimes have a hard time dealing with it.
And sometimes the parents get all over it and are up in arms while the tempest in the teapot has blown over and the kids are quickly best friends and playing happily together again.
It's hard to know how involved you should get.

If this parent approaches you again, tell her you've discussed it with your son and you've dealt with it.
If she wants anything more - tell her you think it might be best if the kids take a break from each other and just not play together for awhile - a week, or month - pick a convenient time period.
My mom always said 'if you can't play together nicely then don't play together at all'.

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K.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

Tell her you spoke to your son about the importance of being kind and never excluding anyone from playing. Say that he never intended to hurt her son and that he considers him a good friend and likes playing with him.
After that, there's nothing more you can do. If she wants to create more drama, just don't get wrapped up in it.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Kids at this age may not want to play with the same kids every day - they are forming friendships based on interests and may not want to play with Johnny today. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between what both boys said.

I say things like "Thanks for bringing that to my attention Cindy" and leave it there. If pressed I just let them know my approach. I find letting kids handle it works best, because there's a natural flow and ebb to this, and kids need to figure it out - with guidance sure. The more we parents step in, the more we will have to keep stepping in. I just let parents know I will keep my eyes and ears open and have talked to my kids.

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N.K.

answers from Miami on

I would tell her that you asked your son about it and he denied it, you have spoken to him about being kind regardless, and hope no future incidents like this take place. Getting the kids together to make up/sort this out, like others suggested below, would not be a bad idea. That way, she can see that you really DID address the issue and think the kids should be mature enough to resolve it, plus, you didn't just sweep this under the rug and want to address it so everyone can remain on friendly terms. It's possible the other kid misunderstood, just like it is possible that your kid isn't telling the truth for fear of punishment...

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R.J.

answers from Tampa on

If she does, you can say I asked my son about it already and he said he did not say that. I am going to believe him until I have a reason not to. I think it was a misunderstanding, and let's let them try and work it out on their own.

T.F.

answers from Dallas on

You say you're not "one of those moms" yet you clearly acted like one of those moms.

You don't automatically jump on the defensive wagon if dinething negstive comes up about your child. You need to be open minded, objective and realize that your son may have said something ugly and he may "conveniently" not recall the incident.

You get the 2 boys together with you and other mom supervising and address it with the boys. Neither you or other mom heard it or witnessed it so the boys need to work it out.

The other boy could have "thought" he heard something stated a certain way or misinterpreted what your son said.

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D..

answers from Miami on

I actually think that what you said to her is okay. Like another poster said, you said the word "think", and you don't have to agree with her. She wasn't present any more than you were. You also told her that you would speak to him about it. If she brings it up again, you should say to her "You and I have already talked about it." And that's it. If she starts pushing it again, she is being rude and wants to punish you.

This being said, be introspective here and honest with yourself as to whether or not you give your son a lot of leeway in your thinking. It's important to believe in our kids, but it's also important to not think that they can do no wrong. Sometimes our kids really surprise us and show their butts to other kids. And some kids DO have poker faces when we face them with behavior questions. Does your son have a poker face? Or does he always look guilty when confronted with something he did wrong?

If she is a real drama queen and continues to harass you about this, then it's pretty clear that she does this to other people and wants to argue with them and "win". You don't have to play that game. But if she won't let it alone, you CAN add that the coming years with her daughter and other kids will be pretty hard if she does this with everyone who she feels slights her daughter, and that if she wants her daughter to have friends, she needs to change her way of thinking.

She will most likely want to keep arguing, but you can walk away. And you should. And if it gets to that point, tell your son not to speak to the girl for a while until she gets a little older.

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S.H.

answers from Santa Barbara on

In most cases it is easier to remember what we heard vs remembering what you've said. Think about the old saying 'We were given 2 ears and 1 mouth."

Obviously there is no way for me to know if your son actually said it and if that boy is either lying or thought your son said that.

You told the mom "I don't think my son said that, but I will ask." Next time consider saying "I will talk to/ask my son."

I have been around enough children to know that the sweetest most innocent kids are capable of saying things that are not very nice. Regardless, you believe your son and that other mother believes her son. It is not your job to convince her your son is honest and hers is a liar. Also, would you rather her go around the neighborhood behind your back or confront you and let you know about it.

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