7 Ways to Deal With Moms That Bully Other Mothers

Nervous young woman using smart phone
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Everyone knows at least one: The mean mom. The monster trolling playgrounds, school hallways, soccer games, and even the online community group; and she is making everyone's life miserable. She's THAT MOM who feels it is fine to openly exclude others and then post the pictures online, to spread rumors, and to stab others in the back.

She blasts people on her Facebook page, gossips about her neighbors, and makes thinly-veiled remarks about other moms that do not live up to her standards. She may even criticize another mom right to her face, reprimanding her for everything from breastfeeding to volunteering.

Regardless of her methods, or her message, there is no doubt that she exists. And she's mean. Although the bullying tactics used may vary from one mom to another, these adult mean girls have always been around. What's more, the rise of social media, online discussions, and community groups have given them new outlets and new weapons. As a result, to the women targeted by these vicious moms, it feels like a growing problem—one that they cannot seem to escape.

Why Do Adult Women Bully?

Adult women who bully others do so for the same reasons that teens bully others. They want power, especially social power. And they often use relational aggression as their weapon of choice. This covert type of bullying is both subtle and hurtful. And it's effective.

When bullies use their relationships to create social drama, they are preying on the very nature of female connections.

This power makes them feel strong and in control. They determine who is in and who is out. Meanwhile, the victims are left wondering what just happened.

Some mean moms are motived by jealousy and envy. They turn green every time someone else's child gets an award or recognition that their child didn't. Or, they covet the relationship another parent has with a principal, teacher, or coach. This jealousy then leads them to try to bring the other mom down. Her goal is to take away or diminish what the other mom has.

In general, a mean mom has a very hard time being happy for someone else's success. And if you happen to be "friends" with a mean mom, you need to realize right away that this is not a healthy friendship. Instead, it is more likely that this friendship is a toxic relationship with a fake friend.

How to Respond to a Mean Mom

When you are on the receiving end of a mean mom's attacks, it is easy to start doubting yourself. Your self-esteem may suffer; and you may feel alone, isolated, and embarrassed. These consequences are especially painful if you once considered the bully a friend. But you owe it to yourself, and to your kids, to stand up to the bullying. Even though doing so is not always easy, it can be done. Here are some ways to deal with the mean moms you encounter.

Realize It Isn't Really About You

You are not the one with the problem. She is. So, stop blaming yourself for being bullied. Most likely, her bullying comes from a place of insecurity. There is something wonderful or unique about you that has her running scared and feeling insecure. Maybe she feels threatened by you or your child in some way. Maybe she is jealous of your success, your house, or your marriage. Who knows?

The key is not to take her bullying to heart. There is nothing wrong with you. Don't waste your time trying to figure out what you need to change or how to make her like you. Also, remember that you are probably not the only one she is picking on. And not everyone believes her lies.

Remain Calm

If at all possible, do not argue with a mean mom. Getting emotional, upset, or even angry only makes the bullying worse, especially if the bullying is online. Bullies tend to feel empowered in cyberspace because they can hide behind a keyboard. Engaging with them only fuels the fire, and they often spew out even more hatred and cruel remarks. Instead, stand strong against her bullying.

Remember, she may make the choice to bully, but you have a choice in how you respond to her. When you remain calm in the face of bullying, you are taking away her power. Conversely, if you allow her to get under your skin, she will feel more powerful and in control as a result. And, she will likely keep targeting you because it is working for her. Bullies want to get a reaction. Be sure you refuse to give her one.

Call Her Out

Meet with the mean mom privately and let her know that you're not going to put up with her insults. Tell her that you're on to her. You know exactly what she is doing and you won't stand for it. Be assertive, but also be respectful. You need to set some boundaries with her, but you should be polite in doing so. 

And if she threatens to turn other moms against you, don't worry about it. If these other women are willing to side with her mean behavior do you really want them in your life anyway?

The important thing is that you're defending yourself against her attacks.

Be prepared for her to respond negatively. She may just roll her eyes at you and deflect responsibility for the bullying. At the very least, it might make her question whether or not it's worth it to attack you. It also shows her that you won't willingly take her backbiting, snarky remarks, and name-calling. Regardless of her response, stick to your guns and call her out for being mean. Bullies count on victims remaining silent. Disappoint her by speaking up.

Pick Your Battles

Sometimes it is just easier to ignore a mean mom's pettiness. If you try to engage with her over every mean thing she does, you will become exhausted. What's more, you could spend more time trying to call her out for her mean actions than you do on things that really matter.

As a result, make sure a situation is worth the effort before you step in. Many times, when moms who bully are left to their own devices, they self-destruct. Eventually, people will see through a mean mom's conniving and manipulating; and she will have less impact over time. So be patient. The end of her rule may be closer than you think.

Give Up on Seeing Change

Bullies pick on others because it works for them. Consequently, it is very hard to get a bully to change, especially once they are adults. Instead of trying to get a mean mom to see the error of her ways, focus on things you would like to change in yourself. For instance, do you need to develop assertiveness or polish your social skills? If so, focus on that instead.

Remember, for a bully to change, she has to be able to recognize that what she did is wrong and hurtful. Unfortunately, most bullies feel entitled to treat others the way that they do. What's more, they are often lacking in empathy and emotional intelligence. They are not able to see the impact their words and actions have on others. It is much better for you to focus on things you have control over than it is to try to get her to change.

Own Your Parenting Style

There are a lot of opinions out there on what constitutes a good mom. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what others think you should be doing. Instead, focus on what works for you, your children, and your family. Do your own research on parenting and motherhood and do what makes sense for you.

In the meantime, don't stress out about what others think you should be doing. And definitely, don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Remember, no mom is perfect. Even the mean mom down the street isn't perfect despite the fact that she pretends to be.

Cultivate New Mom Friends

Keep in mind that organized groups and activities, like playgroups and PTOs, create forced friendships. In other words, the women in these groups are together because of the group and not necessarily because they are looking for friends. What's more, they also can be a breeding ground for cliques and mean moms. While there are times you will find a friend or two in a group like this, you are just as likely to run into a few Queen Bees along the way.

Instead, look for other ways to develop healthy friendships with other moms. Sometimes this begins with you reaching out and making plans with other women that you have just met. And as hard as it may be, keep in mind that someone has to take the first step.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, healthy friendships don't require that women have carbon copy personalities. Instead, look for healthy character traits like kindness and compassion. Surrounding yourself with these types of people will lessen the impact of the mean moms.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.