Ugh! Can’t we be civilised?

I know it is a natural urge on the part of most parents to become defensive when another parent comes round with a slight issue about their child’s behaviour. I know I have done it, and perhaps it’s the natural way of things: parents defending their cubs against the ravages of the pack.

I have learnt one thing from my all too many skirmishes with parents though: eventually the truth will out. There is absolutely no point denying point blank that your child could ever do anything wrong/mean/beastly/untruthful/silly. How can you know for sure? Children make mistakes, that’s the whole point of being a child. And teenagers’ mistakes are arguably so much more public and visible nowadays than before.

Yes, I’ve done it myself. I write this as a parent who used to deny her child could ever do anything wrong and has preferred to shift the blame off onto someone else’s offspring. Bitter experience has taught me that that is totally the wrong approach and that the only way we can help each other’s children is to try and be calm, factual and direct, civilised if you will, about it all. But being civilised, assertive, only actually works if the other party is willing to be rational, sensible and polite. It is all too easy for a situation that stokes a parent’s insecurities about their child, that taps into our parental weak points, to descend very quickly into a slanging match where no-one wants to listen. The situation then remains unresolved.

It is so much easier for a parent who feels threatened to go all out on the attack. Instead of sitting down calmly and admitting that there might be a problem – the first step to finding a solution – they will blame everyone else and their arguments will become less and less rational and more and more rambling. It doesn’t matter that logic is sacrificed or that what has been said cannot be unsaid. It does not matter that they refuse to see anyone else’s side of the story. It doesn’t matter that they claim to know the whole situation without having been there. Irrelevant situations and people are brought into the story as are hearsay, gossip and words meant to taunt and provoke the other person. How grown up and civilised is this? What sort of example are we setting our children? We expect them to be civilised and grown up yet some of us persist in behaving like tantrum-throwing two year olds. And we all suffer from this.


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