9 Tips to Cope with Drama-Mama or Pushy-Papa


The scenario goes something like this: You want to watch your child’s class or practice. And your enjoyment of that is disturbed by the behavior of another parent.

It could be the mom who insists on cross-examining you on why your child is taking a private lesson, who wants to complain about another gymnast or parent or who wants to gossip about the latest gym drama. Or it might be the dad who is calling out corrections to a his child while video taping the entire practice and muttering disparaging comments about his kid, or another kid, or the coaches…

Welcome to the world of CGPs—Crazy Gym Parents.

How do you avoid engaging with such people? Sure, there is the obvious solution of dropping off your child and running out the door. But, if your child is very young and needs you there, that is not a solution. Besides, there are times you, your child or even the coach want you to watch practice, so what is a parent to do?

  1. Set Boundaries. Physical ones are the best if possible. Distance is your friend. That’s right, simply do not sit near these people. If the space is too small or they get up to come find you, keep your interactions brief and set verbal boundaries. A simple “I came to practice tonight to watch my kid, so I want to concentrate on that. Have a good night.”
  2. The Nod and Smile. Just at sounds like, nod and smile, don’t say a word and turn your attention back to watching your child.
  3. Planned Ignoring. This amounts to choosing your battles. Don’t engage every time someone is annoying or irritating. Sometimes like a toddler who whines, not responding let’s them know you aren’t going to engage.
  4. Blatant Honesty. You would be surprised how quickly you can stop a conversation by saying “I am uncomfortable with this conversation, so I am going to end it now.”
  5. A Book or Computer.   Being engrossed in a good novel or your work on a computer sends a message of “Do Not Disturb.”
  6. Headphones. Headphones are your friend. They let people know you aren’t open to conversation. You don’t actually have to play anything if you don’t want to.
  7. Safety in Numbers. Pair up with another parent or group of parents who are not into the drama and sit together. You are less likely to have a Negative Nelly or Nasty Ned head your way if there is a posse of positive folks clustered together.
  8. Ooze Positivity. Your sunny disposition and smiling face can serve as a repellant for these kinds of parents.  Once your reputation is that of Pollyanna, these parents will stop looking to you to feed their negative souls.
  9. An Exit Plan. If all else fails, have an exit plan in mind. An errand you “forgot” you had to run. A telephone call you suddenly urgently need to make or another child who needs to be picked up. Whatever you can think of. Get out of the conversation and leave the gym.   You can always try again another day.

Remember, try as you might, sadly you are not likely to impact these kind of parents by trying to engage or argue with them. They won’t change their behavior unless and until their child or the club pushes back. And even then, it’s not likely. They thrive on being the highest stress point in all interactions so just remember, you don’t have to give them the spotlight or your attention.  Then go back to enjoying watching your child.