Aug 11, 2012

Conflict in class

There's nothing like a mean little girl and a clueless coach to bring out the Tiger Mom in all of us.  Especially if the mean girl's mom is blaming your blameless angel (ahem). Directly. As in, yelling at her without involving you.

Kids in skating classes can get into it, especially where the class is run by the less engaged and experienced, or more clueless and uncaring coach. One mother writes:
A mother yelled at my 5-year old after a class, while I was elsewhere. When I challenged her about it, she claimed my daughter was mean (the kids had been jostling each other to secure their favorite spots). My daughter claims the mom physically grabbed her to stop her leaving the ice, and yelled at her (daughter was crying, and didn't understand what the problem was.
She went on to ask what she should do-- talk to the mother? The coach? The Skating Director? Switch classes?

My first reaction was "yank her from the class" but on consideration I think that no one really learns anything from this tactic. First, unless you are in the room, you don't actually know what happened. It could have been entirely misconstrued by the offending mother, or she might be way overprotective. It's hard to really know which child is at fault if you don't witness it yourself (whatever "at fault" means in a young child, I mean, kids are mean to each all the time and survive).

This being said, it's never okay to discipline someone else's child (unless you're the coach!)

So here are some actions to consider:

First, if two kids are going at each other repeatedly in class, think about setting up a play date. It seems counter intuitive, but these kids are already aware of each other. So make the kids friends. If the mother objects, tell her it's so that they aren't mean to each other any more.

Talk to the coach privately. Ask her if she knows what happened. Tell her the other mother's story (that the kids were fighting in class-- leave off whose fault it was). Express concern that the kids are not being disciplined for unacceptable behavior in class and ask the coach to be alert. Tell her you don't want to change classes, but will have to go to the skating director to request that if the situation doesn't improve. Leave out personal opinions about the other mother's parenting, psychology, and irrelevant externals like race or income.

Don't confront the mother, but don't leave the rink for a second during class, especially at the beginning and end of class. This is especially imporant with very young children in beginning classes. If your child is 6-7 or younger, you need to be watching. (NOT standing in the door. Just be in the stands, or at the observation window. You can pee after class.)

If your child's nemesis continues to be a problem, or the offending mother continues her assaults, let the coach know that you are reporting the mother's behavior (NOT the coach's behavior) to the Skating Director, and asking that your daughter be placed in a different class.

This will take a few weeks to cycle through, but I think is a solution that offers a better long term outcome--the coach is alerted to the problem, the mother is on notice that her behavior is unacceptable, and maybe the kids become friends.

How have you dealt with conflict in class?


  1. I've never had this type of situation! I do agree, as a parent, for a 20-30 minute lesson, please watch your five year old. At the very least it shows your child you are interested in what they are doing and learning. Don't be "elsewhere".

    I have disciplined other people's kids at the rink (a stern voice asking them what they were thinking and to knock it off). Even 4 year olds. Some parents think their kids can run free and cause destruction and just don't care. One child (about 5) was kicking their skate into the wall making a hole LOUDLY while mom chatted on the phone outside totally oblivious.

    When I told her what her kid was doing she just stared and said "he's just a kid" until I told her I'd be happy to get the manager over to assess her repair cost to the rink.


  2. my kid is 11 and I still do not leave for lessons or practices. bullies come in all shapes and ages (parents too) and it is a wonder how another parental presence can deter all bullying behavior. It even works if a friends parent is there. DD's freind was being bullied and when the offenders saw that I knew her and watched out for her too, miraculously it stopped. The parents now take turns being body guard