Dealing With Adults . . . Who Act Like Children

Written on May 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm , by

Age, as they say, is just a number. Yet so many of us still believe that once we register to vote, get married or buy a house, we’re magically teleported beyond the messy social situations of middle school. Not so. Case in point: two women who wrote to me with stories of grown-ups behaving like little kids—or if we’re being truthful, less mature than children.

Mom #1: I offended another mom with a joking comment on Facebook. I apologized twice via FB message, but never received a response and she unfriended me. Now when I see her, she ignores me. I don’t have to be friends with her. We weren’t really to begin with. But I am frustrated she won’t accept my sincere apology. What to do?

Mom #2: I play Bunko with some other mothers who always make plans for their families to hang out together but never invite me. When my kids are in similar situations, I tell them: “You can’t be invited to everything.” But I am really mad at these moms and have no idea what to do.

No matter what, it’s really helpful as a parent to have these moments to remember what it’s like to be excluded and how hard it is to confront people. But the silent treatment? The cold shoulder of the cool clique? What’s next? Arguments over buying the same prom dress?

So let’s get something straight: maturity, no matter how old you are, is about self-reflection. It’s about knowing how you contributed to a problem and being able to speak out when you don’t like something—all while treating yourself and others with dignity. And, as in the cases above, it’s natural to have the feelings these women are having.

What’s not OK (i.e. you’re now acting like you’re 12) is to allow those feelings to control your reactions. So here’s what I advise Mom #1 to do. Apologizing after she realized her mistake was exactly on point. But after the first apology on Facebook, she should have gone up to the woman in person and apologized again. So now, if she wants, she can apologize one more time in person to this woman. If the other mom really is an adult Queen Bee, she will pretend that she doesn’t even know what Mom #1 is talking about or offer a fake smile, tell her don’t worry about it, and not mean a word of it. If she’s not an adult Queen Been, then she’ll genuinely thank her and both of them can move on.

But if Mom #1 does offer an in-person apology, no matter what, she knows she did her best and it’ll be easier for her to put this behind her. That’s because managing social conflicts online almost always makes the situation worse and at the least isn’t as satisfying.

Mom #2 has two options. She can decide she wants to talk to the women about it, but then she has to be prepared for the outcome she really may not want: they now invite her to their social activities. She has to ask herself if she even wants to hang out with these people. If she doesn’t then her options are to focus on playing Bunko or leave the group entirely. And this, by far, is one of the great benefits of being an adult. It’s not like when you’re in 7th grade and you have to go to school with these kids all day. You can pick up your stuff, turn on your heels and just leave.

What do you think about how these women should handle the middle-school situations they’ve become a part of? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the best-selling Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to www.rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question? E-mail askrosalind@familycircle.com.

5 Responses to “Dealing With Adults . . . Who Act Like Children”

  1. On point again, Rosalind! I especially love the part about owning our part in things. If we could all just get off the blaming/shaming thing, relationships couldn’t help but improve. Thanks for applying your expertise about bullying to adults. Next book?

  2. I recently had a situation like that. We moved far far out in the country. When attending a reception in the closest metropolis, my dh met a woman who headed a dance group. “I know there are several such groups in the country,” he told her. “But my wife misses the city and would love time with city women. Please talk to her. She even has all the costumes.” The woman found me and merely told me that she heard I had the costumes and informed me that I could sell them for a lot of money.
    The reason Mom2 is not asked to those family outings is that they don’t like a member of her family. Something similar happened to a friend of mine when her sons were little. She believed discipling children squelched their spirit so her sons were loud rude profane bullies. They would curse and get in fist fights with each other while Mom chatted blithely on. She and her dh would get invited to adult only parties all the time.

  3. I’ve been in similar situations with friends and even more hurtful, my own family members. I’ve spent many years searching, praying, seeking answers to that dreaded cliche that I need to own up to my part in all of it. Not so, I’m sorry to say. I gave every ounce of my precious energy, I was sincere and honest the whole time in dealing with these people and still I got my heart trampled upon. I was more brave and honest and willing to do the work that needed to be done, but still I was harshly judged by those who could do nothing as whole-heatedly as myself. The fact is this: there exsists in this world toxic people. They are not even aware of it most of the time, they delight in the joy of making snarky comments, talking about you behind your back, excluding you and shunning you. You can try to make them aware that they need accountabilty, but their own behavior will shame themselves in the end. So leave it to that. Just know the universe will take care of them in the end and it’s really not our place to try to help it along. These types have emptiness of spirit, no depth to their souls. For if not, how can it be that they allow themselves to act that way? They hurt others around them and they shame themselves. Our real part to play in it is never allowing yourself to let peolpe -even family- and even yourself to treat YOU like that! The best is yet to come dear one *smile* . I realized I needed to let everyone of my toxic hosts go and I’ve never felt so free, so confident and sure that my life really is mine. It’s never OK to let it slide, to go back over and over to the ones that hurt you. Why slap you down only to pick you up again? Thats not right. You are too beautiful to let that happen and so what if you end up alone on a friday night or friendless? Were those really true friends? Get rid of the old to make way for the new. The best, healthy and aware new, the right ones. We should try to nourish each others’ souls, people. Not waste time hurting one another. Many blessings

  4. My mother acts like a hormonal 16 year old. I’m 19 I know how teen agers act. No matter what any does for her she complains. My fiance is always trying to be nice to her and she acts like he’s nothing, basiclly she’s just plain rude towards him. My mother’s drinking has gone up A LOT since her and my dad split. Keep in mind she’s the one who left him. She’s always either complaining on facebook and wanting someone to bring her beer cause god forbid she go a day without getting drunk. What sucks is I can’t say a word, because when I do she threatens to kick out my fiance. She complains about us living there and then when we try to move out she gets upset and says that were leaving her. I don’t understand it anymore…ugh. Someone please help me…

  5. Bethany, I just read what you wrote, and for you to really become an adult, you need to get independent and not live at home with your boyfriend. If you are going to take this kind of charity from your mom, you really need to stop judging her actions and look at your own. Your mom probably is an alcoholic and that is a huge issue, but you are muddying the situation by staying with her. Show some maturity and maybe go to the support groups for family of alcoholics and seek professional help to intervene if your mom is indeed addicted.