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A gaggle of mean girls in a small school with clueless teachers, clueless counselors, and ''too-busy'' administrators are damaging other students' sense of self worth.
The nastiness these competitive girls spew-out ranges from (#1) a never-ending stream of ''[What I have is better than what you have],'' no matter what object is being discussed to (#10) frequently making-up really-creative lies that another student was ''caught'' doing something ''wrong,'' which, of course, the mean girls repeat over and over again until all the students in this small school ''know'' that the target of the mean girls' most-recent campaign is ''bad''. An ever-changing variety of nastinesses fill numbers #2 through #9 on the mean girls' #1 to #10 scale of nastinesses.
It seems these mean girls really dedicated to see which of them can
be meaner and more destructive than the other mean girls.
When these frequent attacks on the well-being of other students have
been brought to attention of teachers, ''counselors'', and
administrators, the responses have been:
''Well, [mean girl] was only saying how proud she is of herself.''
''She says things like that because she's immature.''
''She's only in [kindergarten / first / second / third] grade; she'll grow out of it.''
''It's a competitive world we live in.''
Do these teachers, ''counselors'', and administrators not realize what damages these nastinesses cause the victims of these on-going attacks ? Our family has complained to teachers, ''counselors'', and administrators of this small private school, but, to date, nothing has been done to STOP the nastiness . . . nor has ANYTHING been done to help to heal the substantial damages done to these MEAN GIRLS' victims.
Please, other than ''Take your kid out of this expensive private school'', is there something we can do ?
I wouldn't let the school go on ignoring the issue and they should come up with a plan to help the students learn how to socialize appropriately.
I teach 5th grade and have had bullying problems in my class that I wasn't equipped to handle until I started teaching an anti bullying program called Steps to Respect. It is amazing what the program can do to help empower students. It teaches skills that can last a lifetime. The 4th-5th program that I teach starts by teaching students how to make friends, then covers bullying and how to address the issue, it also talks about face to face bullying and behind the back bulling (something mean girls are very fond of). It covers why people bully and is very upfront about people who bully being insecure. It really makes the students who are doing the bullying look weak and shows it as an undesirable behavior. There are parent letters, videos, skits, role plays and games in the 12 week program.
If your daughter is old enough, I'd read The Skin I'm In By Sharon Flake to her. If she isn't old enough, I'd read it as a reminder of what it is like to be a young girl and save it for when she is ready.
I wish that every school taught the Steps to Respect program. We'd have a better country if they did. You should bring a plan to the school so that they can more easily implement the program. There is plenty on information on the detrimental effects of bullying online. Mean Girls have killed students and the issue shouldn't be ignored.
I'd be happy to talk to you about setting up a plan. k.
I don't think mean words have to damage the recipient of the mean words. Kids say mean things a lot. We would talk about how X was saying mean things because his parents were splitting up and he was living in crummier housing than before, and just to try to ignore his comments. Or about how Y would criticize in PE if anyone makes a mistake because he's bad at sports. Our school has rules -- no namecalling for example, which you can report to a teacher, but mean comments happen a lot -- ''that joke's not funny'', ''you made our team lose'', ''that looks like a girl's lunch box'', etc.
It might be more helpful to simply schedule a talk with the teacher and the head of school together and ask them what comments should be reported/addressed, and when/to whom. You should try to have respectful communication with the administration/teachers. If your child is affected, tell them how (crying at night? etc) and ask them what you can do to improve things. Maybe increased social opportunities-- I do believe sports teams (or other things like scouting, tennis class etc) reduce the bullying factor. Good luck. anon
im so sad to know that this stuff goes on at ''expensive private schools'' as well as my kid's more-than-decent public school which is large, diverse, and fortunately has taken a very hard line against this sort of crap at ANY age/grade. Her specific teacher was missing it until i brought to her attention and, with her watchful guidance, as well as my support of my daughter and her own resourcefulness (she actually went up to the poisonous little ringleader in front of her band of sheep and said,'' look, we don't have to be friends, but you DO have to treat me respectfully, and if you don't i'm going to my parents and our teacher EVERY SINGLE TIME.'' ) things have simmered down. I wrote earlier this year about it and found this venue to be kind and supportive; I'm trying to be the same for you, but if you have the resources for private school and the administration is so unsupportive and clueless why would your family stay there when there are so many better options??? proud of my daugher and her school
My daughter was in a very similar position at one time. We ended up moving from her public school to a private one, but I know you asked for other options. Here are suggestions:
1) A friend told me that she did this at her daughter's private school in fourth grade when bullying was getting bad and that it did help somewhat. She started a book club/discussion book with all the moms of daughters in the class using a related book (suggestions: Simmons: Odd girl out: The hidden culture of aggression in girls or Wiseman: Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends, and other realities of adolescence.) The group can be a way to honestly discuss their daughter's behavior in a collaborative (not confrontational) way and try and get some parental support to change bullying behavior from home. It can be somewhat tricky depending on how the moms react, but it is potentially helpful too.
2) Here's a website that discusses the Twemlow program, which it seems is supported by evidence as being helpful in reducing bullying: http://www.parentingscience.com/bullying-in-school-interventions.html. I personally think if peers or bystanders can learn to speak up it's a better solution than if teachers/counselors step in because the mean girls will often just get sneakier about how they hurt your daughter. I let the teacher handle things as she advised me and it wasn't enough. Things just got worse for my daughter.
3) Keep on the administration to do something. I think esp. the counselor should act! That is why she is getting paid and she should do what she can to make the situation better.
Well best of luck... I hope things get better! Christina
If they are doing nothing, they are like many small private schools (not all) around. Some private schools are incredibly passive about this kind of thing, maybe not wanting to alienate the parents of the mean girls. I understand that you don't want to move your child as it is unfair to the victim, I felt the same way. Yet I know parents who stuck it out for 4 and five years, but it became too awful, and they had to move anyway, and have their child suffer the effects of all of that time.
You probably don't want your child to lose out all other benefits that this school has to offer. However, based on our experience, I would beg you to switch to a larger public school immediately. Our child's reading and math skills soared when we finally switched to a public school. All the enrichment opportunities are available in some form. The public school is big enough and has such diversity, that while kids can bicker with one another, there has been nothing like those mean girl groups that gang up on individuals. She feels safe and secure, and that has made a huge difference in her academic achievement.
You know, when the last teacher I spoke with about this at the private school suggested that parents have to ''drop off their kid and let go,'' it finally hit me that I was the one driving her to this school everyday. In other words, it wasn't the clueless teachers, clueless counselors or clueless administrators who were responsible for her suffering, it was ME. I was the one delivering her directly to these mean girls, without me they wouldn't have the opportunity. She has been happy from the first moment at her new school, and I only regret not doing it sooner. Find a good math tutor, though, because from what I have heard, almost every kid coming from private school needs one to catch up. Best wishes from one who has been there
I'd like feedback from parents of 6-year old girls. After two years at her private school, my daughter seems to be being shunned or treated badly by many of the other girls. My daughter is somewhat shy and high-strung, and can have difficulties sharing, etc. but generally is typical in behavior, interests and appearance. Her kindergarten teachers last year told me she was sweet, respectful and behaved appropriately with peers.
Last year, however, she didn't make any friends, despite her strong desire to do so. I invited several girls over for playdates, which seemed to go well, but were never reciprocated. The response to her birthday party invitations was lukewarm, and she was only invited to a few birthdays last year.
Throughout the year, my daughter sometimes said she didn't have friends, or anyone to eat or play with. She also said other girls made mean comments to her like, ''Stop following me!'' and ''You're a crybaby!'' However, whenever I spoke to her teachers, they told me she was doing fine with her classmates, albeit with the normal ups and downs.
During this summer, except for one birthday party invitation, my daughter has not received any invitations for playdates, or contact with her classmates, other than the few initiated by me. At the birthday party, it looked like my daugther was being actively ignored, and was spoken to harshly by her classmates, when she was spoken to at all.
I've talked to some other parents about the social interactions and behavior of the lower-grade girls at this school. My observations are that the teachers/staff intervene appropriately to resolve conflicts, but perhaps there is more going on than what I've observed.
I'd appreciate hearing from other parents about their daughters' social experiences at this age. Is it common for girls this age to exclude/be mean to other girls? If so, is it a function of the school atmosphere, or just the nature of girls this age? (If we were to change schools, is it likely the same thing will happen since my daughter, obviously, will be the same person?)
Any ideas of what I/the school could do to help my daugther? If we stay at this school, can we hope it will get better in later years, or do the girls become even more cliquish?
Thanks very much for any responses. Worried Mom
One thing: the teachers don't really know what goes on at lunch because most do not eat with the students. Lunch can be the hardest time of day for kids that tend to be excluded. Definitely keep in touch with the teacher, and maybe suggest that kids eat in groups. I volunteered constantly in the classroom so the teachers got to know me. I went through the same birthday party situation as you did: sent out lots of invitations, received lukewarm responses or no response at all and we rarely received invitations to other parties.
I want to say that it will get better, but unfortunately it did not for us. The ''queen bee'' girls were just too powerful and the exclusion became difficult for me to watch. The girls even did it right in front of me on the field trip, telling my daugher ''we don't need you here'' and ''this group is full'' and ''this seat is saved'' even though seat saving was not allowed (but also not enforced).
Can you try to find something that your daughter is really good at and encourage it? We found that dance class worked wonders for my daughter's confidence, and we made friends through the classes.
We also really like the classes at the Lawrence Hall of Science and made friends there. Camp Galileo in Lafayette was also good for quiet girls. The counselors were great (lots of enthusiastic, smart but unemployed college grads). Karen
Our son was also feeling left out in his private school, not invited to parties, and so on. We took him out and put him in our rather ho-hum public school, thinking it was a huge sacrifice for him to make, and guess what? He thrived, had loads of friends, and had exciting and engaging teachers! What a difference!
My advice? Visit your local public school and consider giving your daughter a chance to succeed in school, because at the end of the day, if it is not working socially for her, it is not working. Made the switch and am happy
I am the mom of an 8-year-old girl going into 3rd grade. From my experience and the experience of others with same-age girls, I do think there is some relational aggression (excluding, talking behind backs, saying mean things) among children this age. But a) 6 is pretty young for it to be happening, and b) I DO think that the school environment can make a big difference in terms of condoning or stopping this type of aggression. There is almost no relational aggression at my daughter's school, which is something I hear consistently from my daughter and from other mothers. This is in part because of the kind of kids who attend my daughter's school but is also because the teachers and staff would not tolerate it. They make a BIG deal about community building, being respectful, being inclusive. And it is more than talk. They really walk the walk and I think this is reflected in the children's relationships.
So, on the one hand I don't want you to panic because your child hasn't had a lot of play dates. On the other hand, I think it is quite possible that the teachers aren't really observing and managing the social interactions at school. Relational aggression is typically quite covert and hard for teachers to keep an eye on.
Regarding what to do: 1) do whatever you can to help your child cultivate friendships outside of school (Girls scouts, sports teams, neighborhood friends, etc.) and 2) Is there a psychologist at your daughter's school that you could talk to? and 3) If your daughter is being rejected by her peers, perhaps a social skills group would be a good idea. Liz
A) to continue doing playdates, whether or not they're reciprocated. Kids don't always have the power to request playmates and may want/enjoy one with your daughter anyway. I think friendshipsth have a better chance when they're on on one and not while being herded at school. Do it because your daughter enjoys them. And do it now while the kids are still young and relatively open minded and unscheduled. It gets harder when the kids are older and have less flexible routines, opinions.
B) cultivate friendships elsewhere, either through sports, language music or a knitting class. There are so many wonderful people out there for your daughter to meet (while wAiting for her classmates to mature). My son only has ''two friends'' at school but met someone he likes at summer camp, so I got the mothers email address and hope to nurture that friendship..
C) see if you can volunteer or observe in the classroom to get an idea of exactly what's going on. Maybe you'll get an insight into how you can support your daughter more. Even the smallest clues can be a huge help. Or find a teacher whose judgment you trust and see if they will be honest with you about what's going on, get past the niceties.
D) not sure how much you nurtuRe friendships with the parents (moms) but that's another possible way to get to know what's going on. I got a lot of my info from one mom whose daughter told her everything. (and took it with a big grain of salt!)
E) what about befriending boys? There are some boy-girl friendships that work really well. Hope this helps. Meddling when necessary Mom
You may want to get an in-depth idea of what the teachers define as OK behavior. Maybe there is a ''kids will be kids'' attitude and they do not understand just how difficult it is for your daughter. Possibly more communication with the teachers will alert them to be more vigilant because this strikes me as a big problem.
Also, maybe you could get your daughter in other activities where she will find friends; soccer, dance, and art classes come to mind. She may not find a best friend but it will take her focus away from school friends.
You didn't mention if finding another school was an option. Maybe a smaller/larger venue would be more helpful or a school that stresses proper social interaction because (IMHO) your current school does not. anon
You say that your daughter is sweet, and that may be the problem, as the more cunning and strategic girls seemed to dominate the private kindergarten our daughter attended. The public kindergarten was virtually free of this behavior for what I think are a number of reasons: 1) the first is simply size, the larger social field takes lots of pressure off the girls 2) kids are sent to the principal's office all the time while the private school seemed afraid of curtailing mean girls in any way 3) there are many relaxed public school parents and it makes a difference.
Anyway, based on our experience, I would say to move her immediately. The public schools have got to take you, and it will most likely be a lot better. One warning: you may be surprised that your daughter is behind the other students! Our daughter attended an academically orientated private school, and was already far behind the public school students in math after less than a year. We left a huge amount of money behind, and it was the best money that we have ever spent. Good luck with your new school!
Like the other parent who responded, when we made the switch to public, we found that our children were about a year behind their public school peers. However, they were accepted on the first day of school, and made to feel welcome and a part of the community (something that at the private school was simply rhetoric).
My biggest regret is that I did not remove my two children from private school sooner! Public school will give your daughter a much larger pool of friends to choose from, and she will feel much better about herself. Mom of two happy kids
I want to check something out with the group and see if I am overreacting or if this is the beginning of ''Mean Girl'' exclusion.
My daughter is in third grade in a public elementary school. There is a group of four third grade girls, with one girl being more dominant, another being second in line and two others who ''hang out'' together. The girls do not play with anyone else.
When I was taking my daughter to school one morning we were talking to one of the girls (one of the hang out girls) before the others arrived at school about summer plans, laughing about camp, and flying alone on a plane. The dominate girl of the group arrived, grabbed the arm of her friend, pulled her away and both girls looked back several times, pointed and laughed. At first my daughter didn't react, then she pulled her knees to her chin.
Eventually another friend of my daughter came over and started to talk to us. By that time the other two girls joined the group and all four were looking over, pointing and laughing.
When I mentioned it to the teacher, she said it was just friends having fun and being with their group. I felt it was the beginning of the ''mean girls'' we have in fifth grade who taunt less popular girls and their parents.
I should also mention that this is a sensitive subject because several of the mothers of the group of girls give a lot of time and money to the school.
Opinions please. Sensitive Mom or Mean Girls or Combination?
Your child deserves to be in a safe environment that provides them with dignity and respect, and you deserve to know that they are in such an educational setting. If the Bullies are allowed to ''reign'' they are also being given the wrong message and will suffer. Stand up and say something and do not take NO for an answer and do not allow anyone to tell you your child is too sensitive and should toughen up.
I suggest the book ''Say Something'' by Peggy Moss for both you and your child. Been There & It's A Very Sad & Scary Place
When we were young - and I just turned 40 - there were ''school fights'' after school, nothing too serious but yes kids would ''call you down''. Then, the next day usually, everyone was back to being friends. It wasn't the best part of our lives but something that kids did and learned from (hopefully!). I know that nowadays fights can get more violent though this is not the norm. But, girls hanging out with their friends, not being sure how to react around others who are ''not'', laughing and seeming to laugh at you (when really they may not be), this is all something to just learn from. Talk with your daughter and teach her how to respect herself and how to hold her head up high; but you can't protect her from this. It will do her no good when she gets older and realizes there are a lot of ''mean'' people in the world.
And your assumption that they may be mean because they have more money - is that so wrong that the families have more money? Do you really think the families flaunt this and tell their children that they are better off than you? Probably not. Probably these families help support your school. Probably you are being too sensitive. there are things your kids have to learn to accept
I'm in an unsettling situation at my daughter's preschool. Unfortunately, my daughter really admires the queen bee of the school. I don't use this term indiscriminately--she truly is a 4-year-old excluding, snobby, snubbing mean girl. Examples of this child's behavior include telling my daughter that she isn't her friend (only the friend of two other children in the preschool) and she doesn't want to play with her; when my daughter goes to show her something cool, like her new tights, she rolls her eyes and says, ''so what??''; and she has barked at kids on the play structure and got her two friends to join in (the other two kids are actually sweet, but follow her every command) in an attempt to intimidate everyone. I wish my daughter didn't want to be her friend!!!
Complicating the scenario, I am on the board with the girl's parent and actually get along quite nicely with the parent, though we don't know one another well. This parent is generous with time and money at the school and is deservedly adored by the directors. Time and again, the senior director has glossed over this child's behavior.
I don't want to single out my daughter for even more exclusion. I have turned over the problem in my head, and I fear that any action I take will be met with weariness, or worse, defensiveness. After all, the adults in this child's life can't make her be friends with other children, right? Also adding to the problem, my child is shy and strong-willed all at once. We are working with her, but she can fly off the handle (she's 3) when something goes awry in her life. I own up to the fact that this behavior may have led to the exclusion, but it is just the mean-spirited attitude of this girl that is driving me nuts. Is there anything to be done? Odd Girl Out? Not on my watch!
Here's my two cents (since you asked). First off, kids have all sorts of social behavior on the playground and what they report later on is usually very...well...one-sided. Also, it's an important part of social development, that is, to learn to handle social situations. So let them be, or talk to her about how she could deal with her own feelings. Just as an aside, last year (much to my embarassment) I went to a teacher about one of these playground situations only to discover that the report I had gotten from my child was completely skewed. In fact, my child had been bothering a younger child for about 3 months (while reporting the opposite). Good luck anon
My daughters have a friend who likes to make clubs and exclude certain kids, usually boys and younger children. I have two daughters 6 and 4 who have best friends who are sisters ages 6 and 4. They live very close to us and we carpool to many activities and their mom and I trade childcare often. In other words these are valuable friendships for all of us. The problem is that my 6yo daughter's friend, let's call her Hanna, likes to make clubs and exclude other kids. Usually she and my daughter exclude their younger siblings. For a long time the exclusion was in theory only and the little kids didn't seem to care. But now my 4yo is very upset by it. She didn't want to sign Hanna's birthday card because ''she won't let me in the club'' . I talked to my older daughter about it and she agreed that it was unkind. She has tried on numerous occasions to convince Hanna that they should let the younger girls in the club, but Hanna says things like, they can be in YOUR club, but I'm going to make a club with Ashley and Michaela. We have a longstanding ''you can't say you can't play'' rule at our house, so I always step in and say ''You can play by yourself, or with everyone, or you can go home, it is your choice.'' She always gives in at this point, but the problem comes right up again the next time. And she is starting to exclude my older daughter now that she is sticking up for the littler kids. She'll say things like ''Michaela and I are going to have a my little pony slumber party at my house, but you can't come because you don't have any my little ponies.'' I have tried talking about how it hurts people's feelings, but it doesn't seem to make a dent. So, I'd like to get some books to read together of the ''How would you feel?'' variety. And maybe some team-building and cooperation activities to do with the kids. I would appreciate suggestions for books and activities and any other advice. By the way, the kids usually pair off and play, so it is not like the older kids are not getting enough one-on-one time. They get plenty.
Thanks! frustrated with exclusion
My daughter started K this year, and has at times come home saying children will tell her ''you can't play'' when she tries to join some game at recess etc. I don't think she is consistently being excluded, and I know she plays with different groups of kids, but being told she can't play seems to have such an impact on her that I want to help her figure out how to respond.
I know kids probably go through different groupings etc. throughout the year--I remember an acquaintance of mine telling me years ago when her daughter was in 1st grade, that girls are particularly prone to forming little subgroups and excluding others, and that they can also be fickle in that someone who is a favorite one week may be left out the next. I hope this hasn't already begun! Anyway, when my daughter tells me she was told she couldn't play, I have said stuff like ''well, they may just want to play with each other at that moment, you could try later'' but that seems so unsatisfying! From what she tells me, I think she reacts to their comment by either seeming sad or by giving some snappy retort, which may not help her in the long run! So, any advice in terms of what you're telling your children if this has come up for you? What could she say when she is in this situation, when some kids have told her she couldn't join in? anon
My 8-yr-old daughter has been complaining recently that nobody will play with her at recess. She says that she asks if she can play with one or more of her friends but the friends go and play with someone else. Apparently this happens often, even when my daughter has asked in advance, say, before school, if this friend will play with her later. My daughter says that several of her friends do this to her. She is pretty social but not very assertive and tends to hang at the end of the line, which gives me the idea that she may simply be arriving late when everyone is already busy, but she denies this. She doesn't want to talk to her friends about the problem, and I don't want to talk to her teacher until I'm sure that there really is a problem, but it has come up a couple of times. I'm willing to discuss the matter with her friends' parents to try to problem solve. Can anybody suggest ways to approach the subject with my child to come up with solutions, or things I might do to make it better? anon
Wonder if anyone could refer me to a person, book, or group or could give me some insight as to how to handle this issue. I have a 9 yr.-old strong-willed girl who listens to her own drummer and used to have many girlfriends. Last year and this year her public school chose to put her in classes away (not intentionally) from her friends. Now her former girlfriends have become very clique-ish and tell other girls not to play with her. When I talked to her teacher and the school about it they haven't a clue what to do other than to acknowledge it and recognize that it's not uncommon since there are almost 2 boys for every girl at her school. The teachers seem to be clueless about how to handle social problems that don't involve physical violence or they claim they don't see. It's hard to listen to some of the things these girls are doing. Although she tries to be a trooper about the whole thing, I can tell it affects her self-esteem. Seems to me that girls at this age are starting to grow up but need to be able to recognize & express their feelings without excluding one another. I didn't expect girl cliques to happen until middle school. I don't know what my role is, if any.... do nothing?....just offer comfort to my daughter?... try to give insight?... talk to the parents of the other girls?... get the school to do something, but what????? Would love to hear suggestions from parents whose girls have experienced this (from either side of the clique) or have had success in dealing with these kind of issues through their school. Thanks!
Long story short: the parents threatened to sue the school district, and the child was returned this fall to her old haunts. We learned about this the week before school started, and we were very lucky to find a more nurturing school, with a culture of kindness, and moved. The lesson learned was that some people in life will act in ways that hurt others, and we can try hard to change that, but failing those changes, we can also go where the abuse doesn't exist.
I don't know what it is about fourth grade. Boys seem to do their hierarchical sorting in ways that are much less cruel. You'd have to consult a room full of psychologists to get a good explanation for some of the girl behavior we've witnessed.
My heart goes out to you. It's a horrible thing to witness, and I suspect that the bullies are -- somewhere in their little lives -- just as miserable as they'd like to make their targets. Your daughter needs to find circles of friends elsewhere -- through activities she will enjoy, preferably. If you cannot instigate change at her school -- and I acknowledge, it's tough to do -- you might have to weigh whether you'd all be happier somewhere else.
Sign me -- another anonymous mom who's been there!
5 years ago when my daughter was in 5th grade there was a real shift in the social spheres, and suddenly two factions were formed. Girls who used to be best friends became enemies and girls who used to be indifferent to one another became best friends, and the whole thing got really ugly. After some increasingly nasty exchanges, some of which were initiated by my daughter and some of which were aimed at my daughter I had had enough. I was teased mercilessly as a child and was not going to tolerate my daughter participating in this dynamic on either end of the meanness.
I phoned the mothers of the girls who were most involved and we set up a meeting at a cafe with us and the girls . We gave the girls an opportunity to voice their concerns and offer some solutions. And then we made it clear that no matter what their differences, none of us parents would tolerate cruel behavior. They didn't have to like each other but they could not continue with this teasing, excluding, etc. It had an immediate and long lasting effect. I can only imagine why it helped: hearing how their behavior had hurt others, knowing that we as parents were in communication, taking the wind out of the whole escalation, etc. Bottom line is that it did work and I would highly recommend it.
The article also refers to several books to be published this spring: Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and other Realities of Adolescence;" Rachel Simmon's "Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls;" Emily White's "Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut" and Phyllis Chesler's "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman."
These should make fascinating reading! Frances
One may need to register, but it is free, at least for a short time. After a period of time, I think one needs to pay to retrieve articles. Sherry
I need advice about dealing with my 10 year-old, 5th grade daughter's sudden change in playmates. Until December, her friends had always been girls. In fact, she'd often complained about how disruptive boys were in class and boys, as a group, were scorned. In early December, she went to a sleepover with the 7 other girls with whom she's been friends for years and allegedly had a great time. But, the following week, she began playing exclusively with boys in her class. I asked whether anything happened with the girls at the sleepover and about the change in playmates (as they seem connected). My daughter (who has always been very athletic) says nothing happened and that she prefers to play 4-square with the boys because they don't change the rules. I talked to her teacher, who said that my daughter and her 3 friends are "a group of like minds" (e.g., they are bright, funny, like playing with Legos, are athletic, etc .) and that their relationship has nothing to do with "the boy-girl thing." That soothed my concerns, somewhat, until my daughter came home last week and announced that the girls said she could no longer eat lunch with them because she plays with boys; she seemed ok about that, but I fear that she'll now be an outsider as the girls enter middle school.
Thus, my concerns are how to get my daughter to want to rejoin the girls and how to deal with typical adolescent girl behavior of cliques, exclusion, etc. Anonymous
It does sound like something went on at the overnight, or perhaps, over a period of time, culminating at the overnight. Or not. Maybe you won't know. What you do not want to do here is to instill any idea in your daughter's head that her platonic play with the boys is for some reason, inherently not good, and that she should do something ingratiating to those girls so they'll include her in their pack. Why does she need friends like that? There is a bad lesson to be learned here. Your daughter is finding out what a friend is. Should she, then, shun the boys, even if she enjoys their company, and let the girls hold the key to all social acceptance for her? The girls may or may not come around. Eventually, of course, they will all grow up and make some sense of their behaviour, but they're not about to do it now. The teacher's description of the comraderie among your daughter and the boys sounds healthy. Why not encourage it, and take it in stride as a phase of development? It may be a good idea to legitimize the relationships by having your daughter invite the guys over for (supervised) play at your house. Get to know the parents. And if the ostracization of the girls intensifies, you're going to have to get to know the girls' parents as well. Have you talked it over with them yet? Suppose that you were to be "successful" in encouraging your daughter to ditch the boys who are treating her well, and "successful" in getting her to "rejoin" the girls who are treating her badly and telling her whom she may and may not like: aren't you teaching her to behave like those girls are behaving? Chances are, she will begin to look outside the clique of girls who have removed their friendship from her, and will find other girls, who have hearts and character. She will get a lot more from those friendships. And, who knows, maybe those boys have hearts and character! (By the way, by the time she gets to middle school, she won't be the outsider if she's playing with boys.) Tobie
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