Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mommy Gossip: Curbing “Blacktop Talk”

Gossip.  I often wonder if Shakespeare ever considered writing a tragedy about a poor soul falsely accused of an action he did not commit, or unfairly condemned for a foolish mistake that was distorted and extolled upon by the gossip of a jealous neighbor.  But the truth is - people love to hear about someone else’s misery and misfortune – it makes them feel better about their own troubles.

As a parent, “checking-in” with our children is part of the daily routine for most of us. You pick the kids up from school, ask about their day, talk through any difficulties and embrace the successes they have had. That’s our job - to nurture and guide our children through these formative years and help give them the grace and tools to survive whatever difficulties they might face in life. For our kids though, gossip has graduated from the blacktop, scrawled on the bathroom walls and broadcast for all to see on the inter-net where it can’t be washed away.  What’s even more tragic is that often times the “blacktop talk” about the behavior of a child or parent is often a string of untrue statements and unconfirmed reports about that person’s mistake that spreads like wildfire not only among the children, but among their parents and to other schools.

We as parents need to effect positive change here and be leaders to teach our children compassion, forgiveness and civility.  The reality is – everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of every single human being’s journey in their life.  We trip and we fall. It’s how we handle those falls that define who we are that makes us stronger.  It’s choosing to get up, learn, try again and be resilient.  It’s choosing to have empathy for someone struggling to find his or her way.  Teach your children to learn from that mistake.  As I comment in my book, we must be Ambassadors of Goodwill and effect change by being grateful for what we have, supporting our community through strife and spreading love.

So what do you do when you are shopping at Target and a parent from school finds you in the freezer section and begins reporting, “Did you hear?” You become stiff, wondering what juicy tidbit this mother who’s-in-the know holds.  Your ice cream melting, she goes on, filled with internal power, “But you can’t tell anyone!” Her eyebrows raised as she looks around already condemning the information. Without hesitation, you swear your undying allegiance, willing to miss your Drenched Cardio class even if it would help you burn off that creeping muffin top. Trust established, the floodgates of gossip open and the contorted twisted story is carried on to the next person – you. The gossiper pauses, gauging your reaction, because for them that’s the best part – they are going for shock value and that’s what keeps the gossip spreading.

But wait - here’s the problem.  My mother always says, “Those who talk to you, talk about you.” It’s so true. Whatever you say next, will be carried forward, “Well, Mrs. Green said that she thinks what happened is terrible, and that they should (insert here)!” Now you’ve been quoted, perhaps you did say that, but the delivery of “what Mrs. Green” said has transmuted from a comment of empathy and forgiveness for the victim of the gossip, to one of condemnation. Suddenly, without even knowing, the poisonous sting of gossip has pulled you in – and you still have that muffin top.

Here are some tips to help you survive gossip and help you kick it to the curb!

10 Tips to Curb “Blacktop Talk”
  • Gossip tends to be unconfirmed reports about someone else’s personal hardship or adversity. 
  • Whatever gossip you hear, know it will never be the whole truth.
  • Worry about what’s under your roof – not someone else’s.
  • If you hear gossip that is potentially harmful, report it to the school – not to another parent.
  • Let the gossip you hear, stop with you.
  • Be a role model for your children – teach them not to spread someone’s misfortunes, but have dignity and compassion.
  • Try to keep your family “business” and personal details of your life to yourself. The less information people have about you the better.
  • If you’ve been a victim of gossip, hold your head high – the gossipers are looking for a reaction, don’t give them one.
  •  If you inadvertently hear gossip, don’t give any information or say anything other than, “I’m sorry to hear that,” or confidently say, “I don’t think that’s true,” and make an excuse to move away from the gossiper.
  • Encourage your school to educate their students and parents and call upon them to be Ambassadors of Goodwill and affect change in your community.
Kelly Browne - Copyright 2013

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