Seven ways to survive parenting politics

Some issues are going to surface throughout your little one’s childhood. Best to have some tactics...


1. The frenemy

Most of your child’s interactions with other children will hopefully be pleasant. From time to time however, there may be an altercation with a frenemy, that child who comes across as a friend, but who on the side likes to knock your own child’s confidence or wind them up at school or humiliate them in some way. Sometimes the school’s approach doesn’t have much impact, so you need to impart your child will skills to deal with the frenemy. Sometimes saying ‘stand up for yourself’ isn’t specific enough for a child, so give examples. Show your child how to stand confidently and use strong body language, to look someone in the eye and use strong language like, “No, go away, I don’t like what you’re doing.’” If your child feels threatened, tell them a great way to see this threatening person in a diminished light is to imagine them in a silly costume or speaking in a high-pitched squeaky voice. The idea of ridiculing this person in your child’s head is an empowering technique that can give your child courage.


2. Defensive parents

Often if there is behaviour that is frequent, annoying and aggravated, you may find that the school has lost all power in dealing with it and you have to summon the courage to speak to the parents directly yourself, which can be very daunting. In an ideal world they are as reasonable and understanding as you are, but sometimes parents will fight back defensively and will not accept their child has done anything wrong and they absolutely hate any criticism. As this is often the point of no return, you have to then empower your child with losing a friend and turning instead to those friends more who are supportive.


3. The school parents association

Some parents are utterly driven and are at the forefront of every event, organising, planning and also noticing who didn’t bother taking part, or who could have done more. The parents association can be a political hotbed. Believe it or not, you are better having some role, after all, research has shown that parents who engage in school life and get involved have more academically successful children. So play your part and do your bit by all means, but know your limits. It is after all a ‘group’ effort.


4. The competitive parents

There you are thinking it’s all going swimmingly when you meet the ultimate competitive parent, who on top of a school day and endless work hours, seems to turn up wearing the height of fashion and has their child enrolled in everything that you never even thought of. A few minutes in their company and you’re left wondering where exactly they actually fit in French and Chinese language classes, gymnastics, tennis, drama and grinds when you all have the same number of hours in the week.  Is it even possible? There is no point even comparing yourself with competitive parents, as their radar is way off and it brings them comfort to know they are doing more than anyone else – but in addition, they feel happier when everyone knows.  Just know that you’re doing a grand job and there’s more to life than schedules and racing and running the kids to back-to-back classes.


5. The gossips

Some parents know everyone’s business and have no qualms about spreading it about. A half hour in their company and suddenly you know whose marriage is in trouble, whose child is always talking in class, and who had the unhealthy school lunch. In fact, it’s fair to say there are no boundaries with a gossipy parent. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Everything you say even in confidence will be spread as thinly as margarine, and you’ll hear your own words come back full circle. Say nothing, smile politely and move on. And close your ears, because what you hear has most likely been already misinterpreted.


6. Teachers

We feel your pain. You want to have a superb relationship with your child’s teacher. After all, it underpins so much. And yet occasionally, something surfaces that can create an irreparable rift, or your child and their teacher have a personality clash, and you switch to survival mode to get your child through the year. It’s really important however difficult you find your child’s teacher, of finding a way forward so that your child’s happy in the classroom. Teachers have a difficult job too, as they have to take on board everyone’s opinion and everyone’s voice so that no child is left unheard. So having a good relationship with your child’s teacher means not losing your head, speaking calmly and clearly about your expectations, documenting every meeting, and following the school’s complaints procedure properly if required. Some parents will resent you having a problem with your child’s teacher, but you have to stay true to both your and your child’s feelings.


7. Other parents’ boundaries

As your child gets older and wants more freedom, you may feel increasingly under pressure when it comes to make-up, dates, discos, relationships, social media, alcohol (should you allow your teenager to drink at home for example) and money. Your child may often use the “all my friends are allowed” or, “everyone in the school has one” (iPhone, over 18s game etc) tactic. It’s very easy to compare yourself with other families and feel you’re falling short when your child complains but you know your child best. Remember, your boundaries are perfectly okay for your child, but as they get older you need to allow them a little more say in how their lives are run. Some parents can find this incredibly difficult and see it as a sort of relinquishing of power. But actually if you see it more as your child growing more independent it makes it a bit easier. 

Catherine Devane