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6 Ways to Respond to a Mommy Troll

Photograph by Twenty20

I've written about how to know you're dealing with a Mommy Troll, but once you've identified one, how do you deal with her? More importantly, how do you avoid getting sucked into her toxic world of her vs. you? Here are a few gentle but firm ways to disengage from the Mommy Troll without losing your cool.

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1. "Really? Isn't it great that we all have such different parenting styles? I love it."

When the Mommy Troll starts a sentence with, "I could never…" you can be sure that whatever follows will be something you are doing. For example, "I could never go back to work and leave my baby," "I could never send my daughter to public school," or "I could never feed my kids processed food." Whatever the scenario, the Mommy Troll is saying one thing: "I love my children more than you love yours." While the temptation may be to get defensive or find some critical flaw in the Mommy Troll's parenting, take the high road.

A thoughtful expression, a nod and a well-placed, "That's really interesting," will get you through the next PTA meeting, family gathering or soccer game.

2. "Fascinating. Thank you for sharing your perspective."

When the Mommy Troll offers her unsolicited advice, you might feel like reaching across the table and strangling her. When that moment passes, smile gently and say, "Fascinating. Thank you for sharing your perspective." You can, of course, emphasize the word your, hoping she will take the subtle hint that everyone has an opinion and hers is not wanted. But Mommy Trolls generally don't understand subtlety, so don't expect her to shut up. Just keep smiling and repeating, "I appreciate you sharing your perspective."

3. Let her one-up you.

The Mommy Troll is queen of one-upping. No matter what it is you have experienced, she has done it better. There are two ways you can go here: Either avoid sharing your experiences with the Mommy Troll, especially anything you think will bring out her competitive spirit, or respond to her one-uppings with, "You are so incredible. Wow." Throw in a little smile and a head shake and she'll think you're talking about her 76 hours of labor or the fact that she taught her 2-year-old a second language in six weeks, when in reality you're referring to her utter lack of consideration for your experience.

4. Deflect when she's talking about other moms.

Other moms are always a topic of conversation with the Mommy Troll. And she's not lauding their accomplishments (unless she's taking credit for them doing things her way). Instead she's gossiping about them. Once again, you need to take the high road. No matter how tempting it might be to dish about the other moms, you can be sure you're being talked about when you're not around. Anytime the topic of another mom comes up, deflect the Mommy Troll with, "My philosophy is live and let live. Now, what are you doing this weekend?" It's not at all subtle, but the Mommy Troll will have no choice but to let you change the subject or look like the gossip she is.

5. Flatter her—whatever will get her off your back.

According to the Mommy Troll, there is only one right way to raise a child: her way. And no one is doing it right, including you. When faced with the stack of Internet research, the Mommy Troll produces to prove her superiority (and it doesn't matter if her research comes from the WHO or some quack website), pretend to seriously consider her point of view. Then take whatever printout, pamphlet or URL she gives you and say, "That's really interesting. I'll look into it. I admire how conscientious you are on the subject." The flattery will get her off your back—for now.

6. "You're a great mom."

The Mommy Troll enjoys being a martyr. When she's not picking apart your parenting choices or gossiping about other moms, she is bemoaning her own sacrifices. She fails to recognize that we all have made choices for the sake of our kids, families and relationships, and she truly feels as if she has done more and given up more than all of us. The only response you need to give her (and, in truth, the only response she wants to hear) is, "You're a great mom." The validation you give her might allow you to change the subject. If not, this is the point where you remember you have to make an important phone call. Then walk away and let her wallow in her martyrdom.

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Make no mistake: No matter her place in your life or how long you've known her, the Mommy Troll isn't really your friend. If you can't entirely cut her from your life because she's someone you have to see regularly (or worse, are related to), then you need to remember that you can't count on her to be your friend when you need her. Don't learn this one the hard way—no matter how she insists she cares about you and wants to help you, what she's really saying is that she wants you to admit she's a better mom, wife and person than you are. If you put your faith or trust in her, you will be disappointed and feel betrayed. So nod and thank her for her concern, but when you need help, ask one of your real friends.

If it seems like it's exhausting to deal with a Mommy Troll, it's because it is. But there are times when you have no choice, when you are in close proximity to a woman who thinks she's superior to you in every way, and truly the best thing to do is to kill her with kindness. A thoughtful expression, a nod and a well-placed, "That's really interesting," will get you through the next PTA meeting, family gathering or soccer game. Keep your contact to a minimum, remember that her issues are not your issues and keep smiling.

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