Tell Me About It: I cannot chat to the other mothers at the gate anymore and I am afraid that this woman will shout at me
My son is in 6th class and I have been friendly with the group of mothers for a long time. We meet up regularly and go for drinks and there is often a lot of support in the group. I’ve come to rely on them a lot as I do not have many friends. I am not from Ireland and they have become my social group. The problem is that one of the mothers in the group has accused my child of bullying and she has gone up to my little boy in the middle of a whole school rehearsal demanding that my son stop bullying her child.
My son is now terrified of her and I think it is the exact opposite that is true. This mother is very scary and her son is super confident and I cannot imagine that what she says is true.
My son is now afraid to go to school and he does not want to meet me at the gate as he always did before but he waits until everyone else is gone. I’m also so shocked that I don’t know what to do.
I cannot chat to the other mothers at the gate anymore and I am afraid that this woman will shout at me – she sent me a very strong email that felt very threatening to me.
The school are aware of this and they have gone through the bullying process and have gotten both kids to shake hands but it is not over at all and my life is now so much worse than before. I feel shaky and worried outside school and I do not want to put the other Mums in a difficult position but also I am afraid for the effect of this on my son.
Conflict is a very difficult for most of us and our attitude is usually to avoid it at all costs. It seems that you and your son are trying this tactic but it is at a huge cost to both of you.
Your sense of confidence has gone down and your son is also operating from a place of fear and it is not good for either of you that this continue. Of course, you are both frightened and angry and this is understandable as you feel an injustice has happened but how you deal with this might offer your son a model for dealing with conflict for a long time to come.
The group of mothers at the gate are your social group and if you want to keep them you will need to engage with them. It is not necessary that they become involved in this incident but you may need to talk to the other Mum to see if you both can find a solution.
What splinters groups is side-bar conversations and hidden agendas so you do not want this to happen
The bullying incident has been dealt with by the school so this is not a conversation about that but rather a conversation about allowing you both to participate in the larger group without awkwardness. You can ask her to meet with you for coffee and say that you would like to find a way to retain your acquaintance and the bigger group cohesion.
What splinters groups is side-bar conversations and hidden agendas so you do not want this to happen. Ask her how she thinks you might both stay in the group and how she sees the way forward. This will give her a sense of ownership and perhaps make her feel that it is her idea to be magnanimous and kind. I am not suggesting that you trust her but rather try to understand where she is coming from so that you can get an outcome that might work for you.
Your son has had a frightening experience and he may even have had a part to play in the bullying incident that he was unaware of. For real bullying to take place, it must be repeated and deliberate and it seems that this is not what has happened in this case.
You could set up a game or reward system where both of you set a target of speaking without fear once a day
Your son has had a shock but it might offer him an opportunity to become far more aware of where other people are coming from and how they experience him. In order to retain his confidence, he will need to engage again with everyone and learn to speak without fear.
You and he could set up a game or reward system where both of you set a target of speaking without fear once a day – this means saying something that you would normally not say or offer a white lie about.
You can give him a sticker for walking out to meet you at the gate every day and if he gets 10 stickers, he gets to decide what the reward is. In this way, both of you approach your fears and conflicts and you become gradually less fearful and begin to grow confidence.