February 14, 2011,
A.L. asks from Marksville, LA on February 13, 2011
How Do We Protect Our Daughters from Mean Friends
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.
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.
T.N. answers from Albany on February 13, 2011
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!
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J.M. answers from Boston on February 13, 2011
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.
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A.G. answers from Houston on February 13, 2011
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.
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S.B. answers from Redding on February 13, 2011
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.
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M.V. answers from New York on February 13, 2011
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.
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K.U. answers from Detroit on February 13, 2011
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.
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S.L. answers from New York on February 13, 2011
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
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K.S. answers from Kansas City on February 13, 2011
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!!
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