It’s that moment every parent dreads. Your daughter stomps into the house, slings her backpack on the floor and bursts into sobs so hard and heavy that she can barely breathe, let alone intelligibly tell you what is wrong.
One of the most hurtful things a young girl, or boy, can go through is being ostracized by his or her friends. Yet, this seems to be the first line of attack by some kids, particularly those who are socially adept and skilled at getting others to follow them in this behavior.
As hurt as your child might be, it’s important to know when it’s time to step in or if you simply need to offer some gentle words of encouragement and advice.
Let Your Child Talk
Hug your child. Wipe away tears. Then, let her calm down and tell you what is going on.
Listen and try your best not to get angry at the other child who is inflicting this pain on your daughter. Also, remember that you are only hearing one side of the story.
For example, your daughter may tell you that her friends are ignoring her for no reason at all. When you get angry enough to call the other child’s mother, you may discover that your daughter did something which she didn’t want to confess to.
It happens. No child is perfect. I truly believe they all make mistakes. Some just get caught more than others.
Ask Your CHILD’S Advice
Find out if your child even wants your help in this situation. Often, a parent getting involved can make things worse. Given a little time, these situations do tend to work themselves out one way or another.
The exception is if you feel your child’s safety or mental well-being is at stake. I once pulled my daughter out of a school because there were girls there calling her names and pushing her into the lockers as she walked down the hall.
Whether she started the argument or they did, I couldn’t tell you for certain. The point is that this was not a safe situation for her, the school refused to do anything about it, and I made an executive, parental decision to get her out of that environment.
She’s been much happier for it. There are some groups of kids that just act mean. When your child claims that the kids are just mean for no reason, she may not be exaggerating.
What If Your Child is the Mean Girl?
Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, your child probably isn’t perfect. We all want to believe our child isn’t at fault, but the truth is that every child has faults, just as they have strengths. As parents, our role is to enhance the strengths and help them overcome their character flaws.
If a parent phones you and says your daughter called hers fat, ugly or told all the other kids to ignore the other girl, listen to what that parent has to say.
I know that my immediate reaction is often to get defensive, because I know my daughter’s heart and that she is a compassionate and loving person who truly tries to reach out to others and is very good to the underdog.
However, she also has a fuse that once lit is pretty fierce and the mean words that come out of her mouth once she’s been angry are a flaw that we’ve worked on for years. Actually, it might be something I’m working on still myself in my 40s. In fact, my fuse is very similar to hers. I will take abuse and take it and take it. I will try to be nice and work things out, ad naseum. It builds, builds, builds – EXPLOSION.
If you suspect your daughter or son is being mean to another child, please don’t just ignore the situation and think it will go away. Remember that another parent’s child is in pain because of something your child did. Instead, talk to her about how excluding someone can be hurtful and remind her of a time when she was excluded from the group and how that made her feel.
I’m going to lay out a scenario for you. When Alison was treated badly by a group of friends, Rachel stood up for her. She called Alison every day, sat by her at lunch and invited her to her birthday party. She tried to be a good friend to Alison.
Now, Alison has decided she is mad at Rachel but won’t tell her why. She has told the other kids not to talk to Rachel and to ignore her. When Rachel gets near, they all run away or refuse to speak to her.
Even though you want to give Alison and likely her mother a few choice words, your focus should still be on your daughter (or son) and how she can grow through this experience.
Explain to her why it was important for her to be a good friend, even if the favor is not returned. Talk to her about true friends and people that pass through your life and leave. Reassure her of her value to you personally and that things will get better soon.
Some Words of Encouragement
As the mother of two daughters, now 18 and 21, I can tell you that it does get better if you put the effort into building their character and refuse to focus on fixing the other children–you can’t.
Over time, your child will gain confidence. While the actions of so-called friends may still cause hurt feelings, your child will understand that friends come and go and that “this too shall pass”.
Over time, your child will figure out who his or her true friends are and will keep those and weed out the rest. Isn’t that what we do as adults? Isn’t that what we want for our children?
Good luck to those of you still winding your way through the friend minefield of grammar school, middle school and high school. Remember to focus on your child’s character and the rest will work itself out.
Image Source: Morguefile