School Gate Etiquette
For some mothers
(and a few fathers) the school gate ritual is a highlight of the
day - a chance to meet and socialise with other parents. For others
it is a minefield, littered with needy, pushy, or boastful mums who
must be avoided at all costs. Some school gates are dominated by
tight cliques of old friends, who are not particularly welcoming to
newcomers - hanging around on the periphery, day after day, with
nobody to talk to can be very demoralising.
Picking your child up from school should always be a pleasure, never an ordeal. Follow our suggestions, and you'll make the school gate a better place:
School Gate Tips
- Direct the conversation away from your children. Make general remarks and head people off school-related topics (an obsession with education can get very monotonous). You might actually have some interesting chats and make some good new friends.
- Never boast about your child's achievements. Droning on about your child's advanced reading age to the mother of a dyslexic child who's struggling to keep up is the height of bad manners. It's no good excusing yourself by saying you didn't know; this is an area that's full of pitfalls, and it's much more tactful to play your cards close to your chest.
- Never question other mums about how well their child is doing. Even if you're madly competitive and obsessed by your child's comparative progress, this is not the way to proceed. Other mums may well respond with boasting or exaggerated modesty - you'd do better to have a quiet word with your child's teacher.
- Don't gossip about the shortcomings of certain children to other mums. Yes, you may have suffered at the weekend when the class troublemaker trashed your garden, but this is something you should only discuss with the child in question's mother. She already has enough problems, without becoming aware that she is the subject of playground gossip.
- Don't gossip about other mums at the school gate. You may think you're being discreet, but his sort of poison leaks out (possibly with the children as the unwitting conduit), and can cause real distress.
- Take your criticisms of the school directly to your child's teacher or to the head. Moaning about perceived shortcomings to other mums will just stir up dissatisfaction without actually achieving anything.
- Look out for the lone mums and try and include them. Not everyone finds the casual socialising of the school gate easy. Often whole groups of children have been together since nursery school, and by the time they get to 'big school' cliques of mothers have formed. Mothers who are coming in from outside the clique may find themselves facing a seemingly impenetrable group of old friends. This can be an alienating experience; it may also mean that their child suffers from a lack of invitations.
- Make it clear that you're always willing to help with pick-ups, after-school visits, school-runs etc. Other people will reciprocate.
- Don't show off. Roaring up to the school gate dressed to the nines in a huge SUV is just vulgar.