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Teens: Bullies, Cliques & Ostracism
Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Bullies, Cliques & Ostracism
My daughter is 12 years old. She does not like a particular girl I will call Emily. My daughter met Emily through a friend and from the beginning Emily was aggressive and told her mother stories that were not true to get others, including my daughter, in trouble.
We have brainstormed about how my daughter wants to handle the situation. She avoids Emily whenever she can, even to the point of changing her plans because Emily's mother yells at the girls or their parents who do not want to spend time with Emily.
It should not be a problem at all. Initially the girls went to the same school, but my daughter transferred. Emily has few friends - none that I know of that her mother is not friends with the moms of the girls. This has become a problem because Emily joined the same recreational soccer team, the same girl scout troop and the same Spanish class as my daughter. My daughter simply avoids Emily. Sometimes my daughter says hi, sometimes not. She really does not want to be around Emily, yet does not want to end activities she has participated in multiple years.
According to my daughter, the soccer coach and the girl scout troop leader, my daughter avoids Emily. Each of the women also said something similar to what my daughter expressed and that is that Emily has said things that at the very least stretched the truth and sometimes were outright lies about and to my daughter.
Emily's mom has now called others on the team and troop to find out why my daughter is ''so mean and excludes Emily.'' She has not contacted me. Emily's mother can be loud, abrasive and coarse to me, my daughter and others.
I believe that by age 12 girls should try to work out their differences. I will brainstorm ideas but think that my daughter should work to resolve her differences with others. She has successfully done so for many years, even with other girls, boys and adults with whom she has had conflict.
Should I take a more proactive role? Should I let the coaches, troop leaders and teachers handle the problem? Should I make my daughter address or say hello to Emily? It has only come to a head because other parents have approached me and quite frankly I simply state that I do not want to hear it. I believe that I should discuss it only with the adults who are in a position to work with both girls (teacher, coaches, leaders, etc.) Is 12 Years Old Mature Enough to Handle Conflict?
It takes bully to raise a bully. Take what you see ''Emily's'' mom do and multiply that times 10 and you might have some idea what Emily's life is like. Now, how else do you expect Emily to behave? Aggression may be all she knows.
It sounds like Emily is directing much of her aggression toward your daughter, more than toward other girls - hence the pesky questions from other girls and their moms who don't really ''get'' what's going on.
I suggest that YOU step up to the plate and contact Emily's mom. Try a one-on-one convo to get a feel for her before trying a meeting of the 4 of you. If things don't go well (and sadly, I have a feeling they won't - but you need to try) you can then consider trying a meeting between Emily and your daughter. Perhaps, away from her mom, Emily will behave differently? But I would only try the meeting of the girls if you can approach Emily with genuine concern, kindness and compassion - which are probably very lacking in her life. Honestly, it sounds to me like Mom may have a personality disorder. Perhaps Emily's survival strategy is to join up with her mom in the aggressive behavior. She may not have much choice.
Once you have tried speaking with ''Emily's'' mom, and/or with ''Emily'', you'll have a better feel for what is really going on there, and can then decide what, if anything, you want to tell the other concerned parties. The fact that Emily's mom has complained to all the other moms, but has made no effort to contact you, should tell them the whole story... but people usually only see what they want to see.
Don't expect your daughter to have a clue how to handle this - it sounds WAY bigger than ''12 girls should try to work out their differences''. signed, sad for your daughter, but for ''Emily'', too
My 13 years old son attracts negative attention from his friends. Often happen that a fun game with friends easily turns into an attack of jumping, stealing his hat, calling names and so on. At first it seems like he enjoys it but then he looses control and can not stop the friends from doing it. The result is that he ends up feeling a victim, avoids friends and panicking before we go somewhere. Does anyone has an similar experience or advice on what to do to help him? Thank you! anon
we spent a lot of time talking about why kids bully. we talked about bully personalities. we read and discussed lots of ways to deal with it. we practiced ways to talk back, etc. we discussed scenarios. he was adamant about me NOT contacting the school, for fear of reprisal. i gave him some time to deal with it himself, but told him that if it didn't stop after he tried to deal with it, i would go to the principal immediately. (although, i did begin communicating with the school immediately - to make them aware)
he was able to get it to stop - he built up the confidence to stand up and tell his friend to STOP or that he would indeed talk to the principal. i think he told them he was tired of dealing with it and wasn't going to continue to let it happen - and that they could deal with the result and aftermath of getting in trouble. he also made a showing at the lunch table that same day to show that he wasn't afraid or backing down. he gave himself the confidence to let them know the next few times, that he meant business. he used the phrases that we discussed during our conversations.
empower your kid. give him some tools to deal with these situations. help him gain confidence. teach him what to say. practice. and if it's happening at school - talk to the school. help yourself by educating yourself. i had no idea either how to deal with it - but a simple google search got me on the right path to help my kid deal with it, in his own way. he felt empowered. i stopped worrying so much. lauren
My sweet, 14 year old daughter has gone to Marin Academy for one year now. Although she started out there strong, happy, lots of friends, lots of invitations, phone calls, everything came to a complete stop about 3 months ago. No one ever calls her anymore. Tomorrow is the last day of school and she has no plans with anyone after school. My heart is absolutely breaking for her. She was very well-liked in middle school, and many of the same girls she was friends with then now go to MA. One in particular, who I never trusted, and was supposedly one of her best friends, seems to be the source of the rejection. I just made the mistake of reading what this girl wrote to my daughter in her yearbook, ''I understand how you must feel - I hope you are able to find your place to make things better for yourself . . . etc.'' It was more than condescending, and my daughter seems to just be taking it. I wish she'd show some anger. My question, should we change schools? If things keep going like this, I'll never forgive myself for not taking action. On the other hand, my daughter seems to think the school is really good, and things will turn around. There are only 50 girls in her class and it just seems so hopeless right now - I absolutely don't know what to do. I could send her to the local public high school, but she doesn't want to go. ELA
Having said this, sometimes a school peer environment is simply toxic, and why should she have to endure this for another three years? My suspicion, though, is that the ringleader girls who want a scapegoat will get tired of their current fodder and switch their attentions to someone else. Ideally, this bullying needs to change, not your daughter's location. However, as I said at the start of this response, it would also be good to get an outside grown-up's opinion as to what is going on between the girls. P. K.
As for changing schools, I really think what she wants at this age is primary, even in this situation. She thinks it's a great school and wants to stay. Your taking her out will be a problem for that reason, and who knows what the situation would be like at the public school (though it may be better socially for sure), and then there's the change itself to be coped with. My daughter wanted to leave after soph year and then we did.
I'd say with trepidation to not take her out. Talk to her as much as possible about this - that can be hard at her age. I think the subject has to first come out between you. This did not happen fully with my daughter. I didn't know what had happened until way later, and every time I noticed her sadness and offered to listen, she wouldn't talk. I'm sure she was embarassed too, thinking she failed and was to blame somehow. My daughter did go to therapy a bit later for issues stemming to a high degree from this. To mention therapy now, if you can frame it as her coping with a traumatic event, which it is... if she's not taking it in and blaming herself and discounting you due to her age so that she won't believe you're suggesting therapy because it's her fault, then do it.
She's a bit old for the mothers to be getting together about problems, but... MA is small. Do you know other mothers? What about teachers or counselors there - can you talk to them? Can you talk to your daughter about getting into activities? Doing special projects in and out of school. Summer's a time to start something different and fun.
Looking back, I think my daughter and I both did the best we could at the time, AND it hurt short and long term. Don't give up talking to your daughter as she allows it. If it helps, you can tell her the story of my daughter. A few years later she realized how hostile that act was and how the nastiness resided in that girl, not her. She realized that it was a trauma, she realized she could have spoken up but forgave herself because it would have been daunting for anyone alone against a number of others. She also realized that all the others were not the same as that girl and she could have approached things one new friend at a time but she didn't have the confidence or skill. She had to forgive herself for that. And at one point, the perpetrator allowed her briefly back in with some sweet talk, and my daughter allowed that so that she could be accepted. She had to forgive herself for that and for never telling that girl off. She realized it was not her fault and there are nice people out there who don't operate in a group mentality. Easier to find after high school. She still has trouble trusting girls her own age. Anon
I think her road to recovery began when her three best friends didn't speak to her for 3-4 months and she weathered the storm with the help of a male friend. Boys see things differently and that male perspective really helped my daughter. She was unwilling to see a therapist.
If your daughter wants to stay at MA, then that sounds like a viable solution. One way to have some social life apart from making close friends is to join a sports team, or musical group, an ongoing multi-day dance or art program, or other group activity or hobby. Or take on something big - horse jumping, hang gliding, auto racing (my daughter's choice). mother who's been there
It's difficult given that a concerned parent (esp. in affluent school districts - I know, I'm in one) expects some kind of responsiveness from school officials, but given how this stuff usually originates, how do you control socially inept parents? But there are ways to mitigate and bypass these idiots. Often this means deleting some of these kids from your kid's life, for a while - my youngest talks to some of her old friends from middle school on occasion, and is noticing the beginnings of lightening up, but it is *slow*. But they'll recover nicely, and you'll feel better.
My oldest got into a sports group (volleyball and track) in 6th grade. That became her support group. That was close to a decade ago, though, and I think times have changed. Parents are more desperate to hang with a crowd, and that translates into meddling into their kid's lives.
My son got so bummed about middle school I took him partially out of 6th grade (he stayed in history), did some home schooling and time off for fun, then put him back in. Yes, I gave him a scholar's vacation (he learned Fibonacci sequences, for example). It was the beginning of rebuilding his confidence. I also got him to enter science competitions, attend colloquia on science topics, and work on tech projects. He did a lot of independent research (with awards) and eventually built up a social and professional network independent of other students (although had involvement of high school teachers). That led to a summer physics internship at UC before senior year. He's now going to UCLA and works for *two* startups in Silicon Valley. He also has begun to build a college group of friends (they've escaped their parents) who matter. He stayed in middle school and high school, but built a life outside of school - one that transfers nicely to the ''real'' world. It was important to teach him to keep his eye on his goals, and not get swept up in petty matters like high school.
My youngest was also in sports (basketball) since 6th grade, but got pushed out of her sports group once the season ended. Unlike the oldest, she had no teacher support or other activities since they'd cut them due to budget. She knew her goal - she wanted to study physics at UC. She said she wanted out, because they were going too slow. So after 7th grade, she was off to college: Ohlone College in Fremont has a K-12 ''exceptional student'' admission policy. She's spent a full year there, and while her cohort are getting ready for 9th grade algebra (or maybe geometry) in fall, she'll be doing calculus, freshman biology (she did the college chem and English sequences already) and history classes. She's even got her own ''all girl'' study group (Ohlone has a good number of bright young women, often from conservative immigrant families, who are serious about their studies). She does star parties for elementary school students with her dad, is an EYH Ambassador, and has her own video production company on the side. And she still has friends her own age (but not at her old school - they're friends from Montalvo art camp - and they're together because they love art).
All I can say in watching three different kids and how they handled stupid (parent-promoted really) kid behavior is ''life is too short to worry about this stuff''. There is a wonderful world of ideas and hobbies and competitions, art and music and literature, and friends to be found bound by interest and ability - not a happenstance of geographic locality. So get her out of herself and about - to talks, to camps, maybe even to college. And expect to put in a *lot* of time. It's not about money - it's about time. It took years to get our kids up-to-speed on their scientific interests (like astronomy or computers). Many years of ''family star parties'' and ''family physics lecture at Cal''. And lots of time now commuting to college 50 miles away when the high school is 10. But I am so glad we did. Good luck. Lynne
My son is a 6th grader, age 12 years. He is very selective when it comes to kids he wants to spend time with. He has about 4 friends he will call to invite over to play. The problem is, these 4 friends are popular kids that are part of a strong clique, and these kids only occasionally accept invitations to play. It's also hard because he is often not invited. Just recently, he attended a party with these boys. When it was time to leave, these boys carried sleeping bags with them as they got into the car of a parent. My son was hurt that he was not asked to join them for the sleepover. Am I being too sensitive in thinking that parents should be more considerate of other children's feelings? Also, what are some ways to encourage my son to expand his circle of friends.
The sleeping bag incident is particularly harsh but in line with stuff I've seen. Should the parents know better? I think so. The kids? The amount of empathy I've seen in most 12 year old boys could fit in a thimble. I think some kids are born sensitive to others, but with many it needs to be learned. One way to learn is from being on the receiving side of oafish insensitivity.
A big factor that helped my son cope was that he was involved in
theater programs that emphasized team building and support. He
developed a nice social network through that. Probably other
types of sociable extracurriculars would be as helpful.
At present, he gets along with the kids that he had wanted to be
friends with but doesn't see them outside of school. His best
friends are ones he found through theater. But even if this
doesn't happen for your son, he would still benefit from having
a side of his life that is his and is not dependent on school
Glad to be done with that phase
Anybody got any good reading suggestions for how to deal with middle school girls and their proclivity to selectively exclude people from their in-group from week to week? I am about at my wit's end as to how to advise my daughter in dealing with these sorts of "friends".... N
We moved to the East Bay 3 years ago, at the time our daughter was entering middle school. During her years in middle school she made a small circle of friends, most of them other girls who, like her, were good athletes who played team sports. Last spring, during her last semester of middle school, she decided to leave the local recreational sports program so she could play fastpitch softball with a highly competitive travelling team. Immediately she was dropped by nearly all her school friends, who saw her as "betraying" the local program. She finished middle school with almost no local friends. Over the summer she made new friends through her softball team, but none of the girls are local, so socializing is difficult. When she started high school this fall, we were hopeful that the passage of time and the transition to high school would allow her to re-establish her old local friendships. But if anything, the ostracism was worse this year, and is being deliberately orchestrated by one or two girls who enjoy the status of opinion leaders in the freshman class. Our daughter says that even girls who are not part of the athletes' group now walk the other way when they see her coming. Our daughter is miserable and keeps pressing us to move so she can go to another school.
Has anyone faced this sort of situation? If so, are there any answers to the problem? Moving is not an option, but we're not ready for our daughter to spend the next 4 years like this either.
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