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Play Nice, Mommy

by Vivian Scott
March 2011

From Vivian Scott's Conflicts Of InterestBlog

Vivian Scott

Have you ever noticed that adults could use a time out for childish behavior every once in a while? Being a working mom (stay at home or otherwise) brings a certain level of stress and frustration that can spill over into interactions with others. No one expects that every mommy from the Wednesday morning dance class will become the best of friends, but nasty looks and equally nasty remarks sometimes make me wonder what sort of examples we’re showing our kids about how to get along with others. If asked, would you be able to answer your child’s questions about a tough relationship with his best buddy’s mother? You could start by talking about point of view.

The way another mom sees the world is largely due to a combination of her experiences, background, and values—just like you, by the way. When the gal sitting next to you sees the world through a similar lens as yours, it’s easier to develop a friendship with her than it is to be friendly with the woman you think looks at the world through a busted kaleidoscope. Her unique point of view doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong, though, it just means she’s seeing things differently. Plus, you never know what’s going on in other areas of her life so to assume that her thoughtful expressions are scowls directed solely at you or that her motivation for heading up the fundraiser is to get back at your best friend for personal reasons may be all wrong.

We all know that facial expression and body language can speak volumes. Think about the times others have made you feel small. What were they doing? Not looking at you, preoccupied, or using a sharp tone of voice? If you have a tendency to do those things, work to correct them and be a little forgiving if you see another mom using sour expressions or biting language. When I observe that kind of behavior, I often ask, “Are you having a rough day?” If she is, she almost always melts, and if not, she at least knows she’s doing it. Of course, any time I ask I do so with the intention of being compassionate, not judging (which isn’t always easy, by the way).

So why bother to improve your relationships with other moms? No man is an island and no mom can go it alone. We need each other! The best thing about getting to know other moms is realizing how normal your struggles are. Plus, moms not interested in developing other mommy friends could be wasting their own talent and knowledge. There’s always going to be a mom experiencing a road you’ve yet to travel and another one who will be following on the path after you. Share what you know and be open to learning more.

Keep in mind that if a conflict arises between you and another mother, she’s not against you, she’s simply for herself. That means that if she’s disagreeing with you she’s probably defending something that’s important to her; like maybe respect or security. Seeing things from her perspective (which is not the same as agreeing, by the way) helps you figure out a solution that would work for both of you. Also, the words you choose can make a big difference in resolving issues. Use “and” instead of “but”; “I” instead of “you”; and be especially careful with words like “always”, “never” and phrases such as “that was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.” That kind of language just makes the conflict about the words and doesn’t get to the core of what you really need to resolve.

Lastly, look at conflict as an opportunity. Many people see disagreements and tension between moms as a symptom of something that’s wrong. I say it’s an indicator for an opportunity to model good behavior for the kiddos. Improved relationships, better play environments, and strong alliances with other moms are all things that have the potential to come out of conflicts. The sooner your little one knows that, the better. Oh, and I realize dads have their own issues; but that’s another story.


Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.     

Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways.  “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity.   Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.   

Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington.  She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes.  Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm.  Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.   

Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on,, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.    

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