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September 04, 2010


This is such a hard topic. I agree that sometimes we think of "bullying" as a big kid beating up on a little kid. But there are all different kinds of bullying. Last year when my daughter was in Kindergarten she was assigned a seat on the bus by a first grader and a third grader. The third grade was very mean and would tell my daughter where she had to sit and little things like that. One time my daughter got upset and cried and the girl made fun of her. When she told me this it gave us a chance to talk about some important lessons and the next day she talked to the bus driver about switching seats and he agreed...which is good cause the mama bear in me would have insisted. :)

My own 7-year-old daughter Eliza is dealing with this mean girl stuff right now. She sits next to a girl in class who delights in making little comments to Eliza - "you better let me copy you or I'll tell the teacher you pinched me" "don't you wish you had a mom like me that gives you every single thing you ever want?" "did you know i have a swimming pool?" "don't i look so beautiful today?" Eliza doesn't know how to respond and is scared by this girl's extra-large personality and confused by her bragging and concerned at how this girl treats other kids in even more mean ways than she treats her. Last year, Eliza's best friend, Olivia, a very mild-mannered sweet girl, made a new friend who was very hot and cold with her - either saying how wonderful and cute she was or calling her "stupid" and "not cute at all." Eliza hated seeing this go on at recess and tried to invite Olivia to play with her and get her away from her problematic friend - but this friend was very possessive of Olivia and tried to control her friendships.

I don't remember this "mean girl" stuff when I was a little girl - not until preteen years and high school. I don't know what's going on in our society that's promoting this but I hear stories about "mean girls" all the time...

Very interesting. I can't say my boys have experienced this, that I know of. And I do now want to know. Thank you.

My daughter has suffered with bullying since the fourth grade, involving the same group of girls. It is very hurtful to feel you have a "best" friend who turns on you and sides with the "mean" girls. This has happened more than once, but my daughter, after 2 years, is starting to stand up for herself and let others know that she is not going to be pushed around or belittled. We, too, had meetings with teachers who told her to find different friends and "girls are mean". We found new teachers. I think one of the hardest parts for me, as the mother, is that these girls' parents don't see what is going on. They don't believe that their girls' could ever be involved in such behavior, and they always side with their daughters. I have been very disappointed with the integrity of these women. I guess it's not surprising that their daughters' act the way they do when they have the example of a mother is denial or disbelief.

Girl bullying is often the subtle variety. Exclusion, teasing, name-calling, etc. The problem is that adults rarely see it happening, so find it hard to believe. We need to educate not only the targets of bullying, but also the observers. It's the power of the activated bystander that can change an environment of bullying.

Tara, It is so empowering for our daughters to be able to come to us with their struggles and for us to take them seriously. I can relate to the mama bear wanting to swoop in and fix things, but I love that you and your daughter together faced this situaion, and as a result she was able to assert herself to the bus driver. Kudos to you both! :)

So many young girls experience what your daughter is experiencing, and they too are confused and often scared that however bad it is now, it might get worse. And your point is so well taken--to face these issues when you are a teenager is bad enough. When you are still knee-high-to-a-grasshopper is just a fundamentally different thing.

Amy Jo,
I think its great that you are invested in finding out more in terms of if your boys have faced some of these same issues. Relational Aggression is more common amoung girls, but unfortunately it is on the rise with boys as well. One thing to just be aware of is that kids often don't realize that the friendship struggles they are having are actually examples of social cruelty. It can take come conversations and education for that awareness to incease and for them to realize, label, and talk about these experiences.

Allison, I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's struggles. It can seem unbelieveable that girls can suffer for so long without adults being able to support or protect them. There is so much more we can give the schools in terms of recongizing these issues and addressing them. Good for your daughter that she is beginning to stand up for herself more! :) The other piece that makes the situation so tough, as you point out, is that you are often working with your daughter in a vacuum. You cannot count on a receptive response from teachers, other parents, or the other girl. It changes the dynamic entirely and really changes how you approach situations, but there are still lots of ways to work within the realities of the situation. Congratulations to you for finding some!

Matt, you are so right in saying that those who witness the social cruelty are the target's best allies. Giving kids the language to understand what the community will tolerate (and not!) in terms of peer interaction, etc. can make a huge difference. I found a cartoon I love that brings the issue to light: it has 2 women drinking tea and the host's dog is peeing on the leg of the guest. The host is saying, "just ignore it!" To me, this is exactly what we say to girls all the time: "Yes, I know someone is peeing on your leg, but just ignore it!" :)

Thank you for sharing Kylie's story with us. My daughter is in first grade and she is dealing with sever bullying issues. It is to the point where she is having nightmares and wetting the bed at night. The school is trying to help, but the bully is a special needs child (and our school is an inclusion school) so the matter is very complicated. I just want my sweet, happy little girl back. Girls can be so mean.

Thank you so much for your story and book. I've worked so hard to raise a my daughter to be confident and free to express herself. We recently moved to a wealthy suburb (which we are not) and I am now seeing all those years of a strong, full of life, outgoing and smart young lady being chipped away at in a matter of a few days by "mean girls". I did a google search looking for productive advice (even though my momma bear instict wants to get mean back) and came across this blog. I just ordered the book and will share it with my daughter. I am SO grateful that we have such a great relationship. Thank you!!! Grrr to the mean girls!!

I found out last night that 'mean girls' are rampant in my grade 1 classroom. I knew there was a problem but never would have guess the scope. I am heading out right now for this book. As an educator it is killing me to know there little girls are not 'safe' in my care. If anyone has any suggestions on group activities to do to help a class cope with a few 'mean' individuals while still letting those 'mea' girls know they are loved and cared for, too. I would great appreciate any insight

I don't know what to say... other than this describes my early years at school. My name is Kylie Hunter (no joke, it honestly is) and I spent my first years in school struggling to fit in, trying to understand why my best friend of the time did and said the things she did and figuring out how to survive in an environment where all the adults had to offer was 'get used to it' or 'toughen up princess' (not necessarily in those words). My only difference to your daughter is that I lost myself in the fantasy world of book rather than writing, for a few blessed minutes in class and at lunch I could forget where I was a who I was and become a favorite character in whatever book I was holding and go on amazing adventures and escape. Even after my so called best friend left I struggled to make friends and be like all the other girls, until I discovered that I didn't need to be like the others, there is nothing wrong with being different and that I did have to conform to everyone else's idea of normal. I didn't have to have a 'best friend' telling me what to do and when to do it. It was a hard and long discovery and like your daughter I didn't want to let go of the only friend I had. But sometimes the right choice is the hardest. My best wishes to your daughter and I hope the rest of her schooling life is easier than mine was. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and my 2 best friends that I met in high school are still with me today. In a funny way I almost feel I want thanks the adults and my friend from earlier years because without them I wonder if I'd be the same person I am today.

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