How Do We Protect Our Daughters from Mean Friends

Updated on February 14, 2011
A.L. asks from Marksville, LA
18 answers

I know that there are many, many things that are more important to protect our children from...this just set me on fire and I need some feedback! My 7 soon to be 8 year old daughter went to a sleep over birthday party last night with a little girl that she has been friends with since age 2. I love the family, and completely trust them. When I picked her up from the party this morning I could tell that she was upset about something, she was moody and aggravated. Over lunch it finally broke. "Mom, A--- ----- says that I have chunky legs, do you think so?" I could have melted into a puddle in my chair and fallen on the floor. These girls are in 2nd grade. I can't believe that I am having to do damage control at this point while I try to build her self-esteem back up. Where does this little girl get such hurtful comments from? UGH! I am so angry. My question is how do we protect them from degrading comments from other children? Is this bullying? I am done with the friend and we will not have play-dates anymore. I can control that much, but I cannot control what happens at school. This other little girl is so sweet when I am around her, but daily my little one comes home with comments and behavior concerning her "friend" that I am so fed up with. This did me in. My daughter isn't upset at all about backing off form the friendship, I think she's relieved.

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So What Happened?

WOW! Thank you to all of you that posted back, I really took all of it in and thought, thought, and thought about this! My daughter and I had a lengthy discussion on what is really important in life and to her, (on her level of course) and then I took her hand and lead her to a mirror. I asked her what she saw; she looked at me like I was crazy and said "ME DUH," laughing a little I told her all of the beautiful and wonderful things that I saw. Then, I turned her to me closed my eyes and put my hand on her heart and told her what I knew about what she looked like on the inside (none scientifically) to me. I gave her some examples of life and how people we care about will not always treat us the way that we wish they would, but that what mattered is how we reacted to them. Then I reassured her of mine and her dad's unconditional love and open arms. I realized that I did overreact when I posted, probably because it was all so new. This is a learning experience indeed for her and me as well. Thanks again.

More Answers


answers from Albany on

A 7 year old telling another 7 year old girl her legs are chunky is not bullying. It's just a 7 year old girl with no filter telling it like she sees it.

You cannot 'protect' your angel from 'mean friends' and if you try to REMOVE your daughter from these relationships you may just render her incapable of manuevering herself this VERY diverse world of ours.

You can only build her up, teach her to shrug it off, show her how to be above it all (absolutely by NOT severing relationships with any child or adult who may have said something to her non-complementary), be BIGGER than the offender.

Honestly WHO cares whether your daughter has chunky legs or not? Does that define her value as a person? Of course not!


9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You're done with the friend because she said one mean thing? Unless it was a pattern of mean comments and behaviors throughout the course of the night, I think it makes much more sense to teach her to shrug it off and move on. And you need to make sure that she's really being mean-spirited. She just might not have much of a filter. And you have to make sure that when your daughter's feelings are being hurt, that something is legitimately wrong. My almost-6-year-old will often say "So-and-so hurt my feelings" but when I ask why it's because of some perceived slight that was so clearly unintentional by the other little girl. Some kids, like my own, are very sensitive. I think it's my job to teach her how not to be wounded by the world, rather than try to change everyone else to accomodate her.

You say, "Of course you don't have chunky legs! I think you're perfect. Did you tell A--- that she should get glasses? Silly her." And let it go.

Honestly, girls, and boys, are going to say much much much worse stuff to your daughter as she gets older. And she's going to say it back. Growing up is figuring out how to be kind and how to wield power with words. All kids end up on both sides at some point or another.

So I think if your daughter doesn't want to be friends with this girl, that's fine. Friendships grow and change and sometimes dissolve. But if you teach her that this comment is a _very big deal_ then she'll internalize that being "chunky" is a _very big deal_ which I think is perhaps more damaging than the original comment. We all just gotta roll with the punches.

Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I feel as if my daughter should learn that these people are part of life. I will be diligent in keeping my daughters self esteem intact, and try to explain why people say the things they do, out of insecurity.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

Don't get mad at me, but I'm wondering if you could handle this in a different way.
I mean, you are done with a friend that your daughter has known since 2 who comes from a family that you love and completely trust.
You said it yourself, these kids are in the second grade.
"Mom, A......... says that I have chunky legs, do you think so?"

It sounds like immediately you went into "now I have to build her self esteem back up and stop the friendship".

Did you say, "What did she mean by chunky legs? I don't think you have chunky legs. I love your legs just the way they are."

I don't know that it's bullying. It depends. Does the girl tell her she's fat and ugly or did she say she has chunky legs? If what she says hurts your daughter, your daughter should be empowered to tell her friend that what she says hurts her and she doesn't like it. Her friend may not realize that she's hurting her. I don't know all the details, but just ending the friendship, it seems to me, won't teach either one of the girls how to handle something like this.

Your daughter should at least tell the girl how she feels first. If your daughter never wants to be around the girl again, fine. But, how will she handle it next time someone says something to her that hurts her feelings?

I got teased all the time for being scrawny. Let's face it. I WAS scrawny. Even my best friends called me "Bones". Also perpetuating that was the fact I seemed to have a cast on something quite often.
I didn't take it personally. I had lots of friends and was invited to all the parties, cast or no cast. My friends weren't being mean to me.
I wasn't hurt by it, so that's the difference, but I'm glad my mom didn't take me away from my friends because of it.
If this girl is being mean to your daughter at school, talk to the teacher.
Mention specific things.

The main thing though is that throughout our lives, people will say things about us or notice things and make comments. We can't let it make us feel inferior or like there is something wrong. Little kids can be really cruel, but they can also say things without thinking or meaning anything by it. There is a difference. It's hard, but we need to teach our kids that no matter what anyone says, they are loved and worthy and words from someone else can't change that.

You'll do what you feel is right, but I'm not sure I would think this is bullying just yet. Given the details.
Let your daughter know she is fine and beautiful no matter what anyone says so that she can navigate her way through all situations.

Best wishes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Since you've been friends with this other family for this long, why not talk to the mother about it? Because unfortunately little girls seem to be having body image issues at younger and younger ages, and for all you know, your DD's friend could be making these comments because of stuff she has seen on TV, or because of things her own mother has said about herself ("Ugh! I need to go on a diet! My legs are so chunky!").

It does not sound quite like bullying to me, and unfortunately we can't always protect our children from every negative comment that another child might make. All you can do is let your DD know it's okay for her to stick up for herself, or for anyone else that others are being mean to. I would also be asking her if she thinks what her "friend" is doing is any way to treat a friend, and how she thinks real friends should treat each other. Get her involved in some other activity, like Scouts or a church group, where she can meet other girls that are hopefully going to be nicer to her and will become better friends.

Martial arts, like karate, can really help with their self-esteem and self-confidence too.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Dont feel this is not an important issue, she will be confronted with "mean girls" again and again (and girls who are not mean but just dont want to play with her the way she'd like) It is important for her to learn to defend herself (verbally) and not need to go to a teacher or parent unless it is physical or continued harassment. Boys are more comfortable practicing their not nice side or dealing with others not nice side. Practice at home, if this dolls says your hair is funny looking what could the other doll say back?
"My that's a mean thing to say? Does it make you happy to be mean?" Dont let the other oerson see you are now worried about your hair, but call her on saying something impolite. At seven they may or may not know what is appropriate to say, but if its happening a lot this child needs to be called out. "why are you being impolite? Hasn't anyone ever taught you to be polite?" The goal is to turn the tables instead of wondering if your leg are chunky or clothes are unfashionable, get everyone around to wonder why is this girl being so rude? this is NOT easy for young girls practice, practice, practice! Let her tell you how bad this makes her feel and step in if its gets worse but teach her how to react

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I don't think her comment was neccesarily a mean comment to make. Maybe she was just speaking what she thought to be true and it surely could have been done in a more tastful way, but kids (especially at that age) tend to speak only truthful and don't think before they speak. My four yo son told me once that I have chunky legs. He didn't mean it to be mean, he was just speaking what he saw! Nor was he being a bully and it doesn't sound like this other girl was either. We have become way to sensitive to bullying!!

Maybe you can take this opportunity to teach your daughter to be stronger, because this is just the beginning of hurtful comments by girls. Lets face it...girls can be pretty nasty!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yes, it was a hurtful comment. No, it is not bullying. Kids this age say alot of stupid stuff. They can be mean to each other one minute and BFFs the next. Learning to deal with negative people and comments is a part of growing up. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater (terminating the friendship) seems somewhat extreme to me, unless there are other compelling reasons to do so that you haven't gone into in your post. Either way, I would consider talking to the other mom to get things out in the open. If I were the other mom I would appreciate knowing if my child was saying hurtful or insensitive things about another child, so I could address it with them and hopefully nip it in the bud.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I was about to say, it's one comment one time, until I saw at the end of the post that your daughter says this same girl makes other comments "daily."

All I'll add to other posts is that you might want to get, for yourself right now and for your daughter to read with you maybe a bit later, the American Girl books, "The Smart Girl's Guide to Friends" and I believe there is an AG book on bullying too. (Though I don't think from what you describe that this rises to the bullying level.) These books give you as the adult some good, kid-friendly language to use when talking with your child about dealing with other kids and when talking to her about discerning what a true friend is and how a true friend behaves. I've found all their nonfiction books pretty good guides for me when talking to my daughter -- they put things in ways the kids understand, since kids are their audience. You can judge whether you think she's old enough to read them for herself.

Meanwhile, I might take a little time to calm down a bit before talking about this to your daughter again. Naturally you're angry, upset and sad -- I totally understand, I've been there, it's killing to hear your child has been made fun of or told something cruel! -- but you don't want her picking up on that adult anger and worry. It sends her a message that this is a huge deal, when instead she needs reassurance and the ability to walk away.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

There isn't much you can do about it. Kids are mean. Kids have always been mean and will always be mean. They pick on the weak and exploit weaknesses. Wait a minute, so do adults and dogs and horses and just about everything else. The only thing you can do is teach your daughter to be a good person and not to pick on others herself (which is easier to say than to do). I am not sure that keeping this child from her "friend" will not do more harm than good. It will certainly fuel the other child's desire to be mean. I honestly think that unless there is risk of bodily harm, you should let the children work out their childish snits. In my experience as a child, anytime an adult got involved in a child's social problems, the social problems got worse. Good luck to your daughter!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

The best thing you can teach your daughter, is that no matter what mean thing one person says to another, the person with the problem is the one saying something mean. Not who they are saying it about. No matter what the thing is.
My daughter (5) knows (well I'm teaching her, it's human nature to feel hurt) that if someone says something mean, it only shows that they are a mean person, nothing more. Her little sister (18 months) has a big birthmark on her face, and she has heard other kids say insensitive things about it at the park etc. I have told her, "They said something rude, that's not polite, but it doesn't hurt us. We know our girl is beautiful right? You can tell them they are being mean, but don't let them make you feel bad. Just go find some nicer kids" type stuff.

So far, no one has said mean stuff to her, but it hurts her when they say it about her sister, which I'm teaching her to deal with. As for herself, when it's her turn to get picked on, I'll remind her (I've told her before when we talk about bullies) her that those types of kids have always been around and will always be around, and they are the ones with a problem if they're saying mean things. They have bad parents and they don't know better etc.

Also, it sounds like the comment the girl at the sleepover made was parroted from a catty mom who gossips. Or a TV show, or other shoddy environmental stuff she's heard. I wouldn't get so entirely furious about it, just tell your daughter the girl said something rude, and that's not the last rude things she's going to hear in her life, so get used to letting it roll off a duck's back. She doesn't have to be friends with the girl, but she shouldn't let it upset her. Don't give her the impression that a dumb comment about something as superficial as chunky legs has the power to totally destroy people.

I'd probably sit with my daughter and think of some good child appropriate come backs for that, or at least tell her to tell the girl that it was a mean thing to say, and not to say it again, or she won' be her friend. Or if she already doesn't want to be friends, I'd tell her to tell the friend why. Who knows, maybe she'll apologize. I'd give her some practice for standing up to these types. Tell her, "Next time say something like, 'I may have chunky legs, but you'll never have any friends because you're mean '" or something.

My daughter's favorite come back now when she hears people comment on her sister's birthmark with things like, "Hey, she has something on her face!" or something is "WOW, what great EYES you have" in a super sarcastic tone we rehearsed. The parents are always super embarrassed and impressed. I tell them it's fine, kids say crazy things. My daughter needs to know rude comments don't have the power to make me mad.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You should just talk to the mother about it. Before my oldest daugther spends the night anywhere I always have talks with the other child's parent about things I allow and don't allow and I have always said (and been truthful) that my daugther simply is not allowed to say negative compliments and she is fully aware that she'd be in big time trouble if I found out she did, I have told other parents this and never had a problem. I agree with you, it was SO rude of that little girl and its a shame it starts that young now. I would simply talk to other mother saying that it really upsets you and your daughter. I am simply astounded at the amount of parents who don't teach their children respect these days.

That being said, although i'm careful about where my daugther goes and the people she's surrounded with I tell her she's beautiful and allow her to do things that make her feel better (dress up at home in my clothes, let her come shopping with me, she dances and does gymnastics etc.) and my daughter has become a very "shrug it off" type of girl, because she simply has confidence

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I do agree that your little one will need to learn to navigate the world on her own. But let's really think about this for a second... As a grown women would you continue to be friends with someone who constantly says mean things to make you feel bad about yourself? I'm guessing not, at least I wouldn't. If it were a one time thing then of course she should be prepared to tell the other person that is not a nice thing to say, or your being rude, or I don't like it when you speak to me that way, or whatever fits the situation. However, since this is an almost daily issue with the other child I would take this opportunity to teach my child that we are all not going to get along and it's perfectly ok to decide not to be friends with someone that doesn't treat us well. I'm teaching my daughters just as my parents taught me...God put us here to make the world a better place. Always treat people as you would want to be treated. People are not always nice and sometimes say and do things that will hurt your feelings. Determine in that moment whether that is someone you value in your life. Make an attempt at being friendly and offer love/comfort to that other person. But if they continue to treat you badly then just move on and make new friends. People can only hurt you if you let them. My parents taught me above all else to respect myself, respect others, and ignore those that could or would not treat me with respect. It's a valuable lesson that I still use 40 years later.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

You teach your child... to be themselves. And have a good self-image about themselves.
Over time. It happens, and they will gain that 'skill.'

ALSO teach your child, how to speak up.
My Daughter will do that. She is not afraid.
She will, stand up for herself, and correct or tell the other kid to STOP and that it is mean.

I have always taught my girl, to KNOW Herself. Not what others say about her. To TRUST herself and make her own decisions. She is good at that. She is now 8 years old. Other kids, yes, they can be mean and say things like that or worse. So, you have to teach your child to have their own, minds. To DISCERN what good/mean comments are. And not just be a Sheep following what other girls are doing.

Start teaching her that, now. So as she gets older.... she will get better at that.

BUT, do keep encouraging her to tell you things, to ask questions, to tell you what others say or do. And from there, guide her. Teaching her common sense, and how to be Herself.

Kids, from this age on up, it will happen. Some kids are just mean. And say things like that. So, you teach your Girl, how to discern.... meanness. And how to be happy with themselves.

And, if this Girl is continually being 'mean' to your daugher.... tell the Teacher. I do. AND then the Teacher, usually knows, which kids are like this. My Daughter's Teachers... THEN will talk to the ENTIRE class, about appropriate behavior. And what is tolerated or not. And the Teacher will then, talk to the offending child, too. That is what my Daughter's Teachers, have done.
My Daughter's Teachers, also teach their kids, about things like this. Not only about academics.

all the best,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Oh -- I totally understand wanting to protect our children from all hurts big and small. But I also know that insulating our kids (or ourselves for that matter) from real life isn't ultimately a good idea -- It will eventually seep in. So instead of 100% protection, try 90% and 10% skill building. And as your child grow, decrease the protection factor and increase the skill building so that by the time they are 18, you are holding steady at 10% protection and 90% sitting back and watching them use the tools you helped them build.

No, I do not think random comments like "Your legs are chunky." is bullying. And I also think this little girl is merely parroting something she heard elsewhere and probably has no "intent" or understanding behind her comments. And that as much as her comments might hurt you and your DD, this little girl might be hurting too because is someone saying these things to her?

However, if your DD is feeling less friendly with this girl than she used to -- Let her take the lead in creating some distance. Distance -- Don't burn any bridges because they might decide they are besties again next month.

That's what happened w/our youngest. He was being bullied in kindergarten by a child a head taller and almost 2 yrs older (DS is an August baby and so among the youngest in kndgrtn and L was held back and therefore among the oldest). And by bullied, I mean pushed and held down, put in head locks, fingers pulled all the way back, bitten (bitten?! seriously.). Our DS reported something to us every other day and he seemed mostly unconcerned and told us what he had done to stop or prevent L from his bullying which we encouraged and gave him tips on. We did eventually request intervention (which the teacher was soooo happy about -- she had her own problems w/L and was finding the parents recalcitrant about finding solutions).

Things worked really well and while L occasionally regresses, he and my DS are now friends. As our DS told us (and here's what I mean about letting the child tackle things if they can), "You know what? L doesn't have any friends and he can't read. That must be pretty hard for him but when he is ready, I think he'll be my friend."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tuscaloosa on

I dread that age for my kids, because around 8 years of age it is developmentally NORMAL for kids to start noticing differences in other kids, and unfortunately pointing them out. It's very possible the little girl doesn't even realize she's being mean. It's a hard age, but like others have said, you can teach her important life coping skills by listening to her, and helping her learn to cope with things others say to her. Teaching her to avoid all people who say negative things to or about her, doesn't really help her learn how to deal with it. It's so painful though. Rather than cutting them out of her life, perhaps you can broaden her social circle with some outside activities involving some new girls (maybe you already do this) and just play with that girl less often. It may be that your daughter is already sensing that the 2 are growing apart, and that's OK. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Mobile on

Well, I've been on the other side of this. I'm sure it's not exactly the same situation because kids are different, but my closest friend totally let loose on my then 5 year old one day in carpool when she (my daughter) told her daughter that she was shocked at her behavior and that she'd "failed as a friend." My daughter was upset that the friend wouldn't help her carry her stuff (she had extra that day) to class. Now, my daughter certainly could have handled things better and more calmly! but my friend let loose on her with "Don't you scold my child!" and left her crying on the curb at school with a "Well, I'm sorry, but you have to!" when my daughter sobbed that she didn't want to go to school anymore (this was in the early weeks of Kindergarten). When we talked about it later, my friend said that she did have hostile feelings toward my daughter, and it think it was a relief to her to finally let her have it. Her daughter tends to tell her everything that another person does wrong (I think the mom even called it the daily police report), but, of course, she doesn't mention when she is moody or bossy or braggy or feels like ignoring her friends. To me, none of it was really extreme for two girls of the same age who spend a lot of time together, but my friend really saw it as one sided with her daughter as a victim. Both kids are good kids, and neither is a pushover, they are just competitive and sometimes clueless about what's okay to say. The mom mentioned that her daughter didn't want to come over for a while, but I seem to recall that she also didn't want to go to another friend's house or even out with her dad! so I think that had more to do with her needing to be close to mom at that point than anything. Also, whenever they were in my car, they were always begging for playdates (when they weren't bickering!), and V was often the first one to ask. So, long story short, kids aren't perfect friends, and they are moody and competitive. They still really don't know when they are crossing the line. It will take a long time and a lot of talk to keep getting better at it (and we're still not so perfect as grownups). My fear is that this (former) friend will end up isolating her daughter if she's looking for the perfect friend. I wonder if her experiences growing up have made her super sensitive to seeing her daughter as potentially a victim. She isn't though. Both kids are bright, full of life, and generally quite confident, though sensitve. Losing the friendship has been a serious loss for my daughter and (I'm sure) hers too. They still play together at Daisies or on the playground when they can, but what has the other girl learned? That she was a victim. That she can't negotiate her own friendships through the highs and lows. Again, different girls, but maybe a view from the other side might help.


answers from San Antonio on

Here's a good book to read called Queen Bees and Wannabees:

Have seen this book recommended over and over when ever this bullying/ mean girl topic comes up. Hope it helps.

Good luck to you & your daughter.

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