September 26, 2008,
M.J. asks from Port Republic, MD on September 24, 2008
Middle School Drama
My daughter is having a struggle with a friend. This one particular friend seems to seek attention thru gossiping. My daughter is middle school age (that is torture right there) She is a very attractive young woman so the boys gravitate to her. They all talk to her at lunch. She is very nice girl upholding her standards.
The other little girl we'll call her Hannah does things to deliberatlly start drama. For example she told a girl that my daugter liked a certain boy and the my daughter was flirting with him...So the girl attacked my daughter. She yelled at her, threatened her and then hit her, pushed her down jumped on her and tried to choke her. My daughter defended herself. Both were suspended.
Now that very same day after all the mediation and talks with principle and things seemed to be calmed down that same girl (Hannah) said to my daughter...."hey she said she's still going to fight you"....
We spoke with the vp and She knew this child (Hannah) by reputation. She said Oh yes she likes to create drama.
So my question to you mothers is this...do i talk to the mother? Because here is the rest of the story...I am "friends" with her mother. Sorta....We were friends in the beginning. But her little girl has created so much drama in my family's life that I just stopped allowing her in my home.
I have 6 children. 4 still at home one of whom is mildly autistic. That girl was playing with my daugther and demanding my austitic daugther leave the room...she didn't want to leave and it was her room too ...the girl started hitting her....I wasn't home at the time and was told about it later. She has not been allowed in my home since that time.
I don't want to offend the single mother who i know is struggleing but i do not want this child in my home nor around my family. How do i handle this situation?
I look forward to your imput.
C.D. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
Ahhh, the middle school year. How much fun it is!! :o) We have a friend who's daughter acts in a very similar area. I am friends with the mother and she is a part of our "circle" of friends. The problems started in fifth grade between my daughter and her friend. it came to a head in seventh grade. My advice is to speak to the mother, explain that her daughters actions are harming your daughter and that it would be better to keep them apart. Your daughter needs to remember her other friends and they need to stick together against the other girl. That is what happened with my daughter. If the mother becomes offended, so be it. Do you really need to be friends with someone who accepts this type of behaviour from her daughter. Would you? Middle school is hard enough without having to worry about your friends betraying you. Keep the lines of communication open with your daughter and don't worry about the feelings of the other mother. In my opinion, you need to support your daughter 100% and give her the confidence to stand up to the other child. "Hannah" is a bully, pure and simple. There should be no tolerance for bullying. Good luck.
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L.R. answers from Washington DC on September 24, 2008
Hannah has assaulted one of your children-- in your own home!-- and caused another to be assaulted. Don't worry about "offending" the mother. Cut the family out of your family's life. You sound as if you almost want to help the mom, which is nice, but the first priority has to be keeping your daughter out of the drama. You might be able to direct the mom toward some resources like the school counselor if the mom seems overwhelmed, but this is the time to focus on your middle-schooler and not on the other mom.
If your daughter wants to remain friends with Hannah because she has to see Hannah at schoo, you need to have a calm and serious discussion with your daughter about how real friends do not cause this kind of drama; real friends do not gossip. Get the school counselor to back you up if needed, but don't drag Hannah into any talks. This is about your daughter moving forward without her along.
Then steer your daughter towards other activities that do not involve Hannah or others who are drama queens -- or who are violent. Get your child into supervised clubs or afterschool activities, Girl Scouts (she's not too old! Scouting goes through adulthood), church activities, dance or art classes, sports that aren't too competitive, etc. that give her new places to make real friends and keep her occupied so she doesn't pine for her so-called friend Hannah. Don't shove activities at her, and don't say "This is to help you not see Hannah anymore" because that could make her resentful. Present activities as great fun that you're willing to help her have, and match them to her interests. Good luck.
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D.K. answers from Washington DC on September 24, 2008
I would absolutely talk to the mother. It is not the school's place to impose moral guidelines on children (even though they try and consistently overstep their bounds in what approaches brainwashing - yes I am a homeschooler :) I understand your reluctance based on your initial friendship with the mother, but as you well know, your children and their welfare come first and one of our most important jobs as mothers is to eliminate such negative influences. That mother needs to talk to her girl about the far reaching effects of such gossip. It can get quite dangerous as you have seen for yourself with the attack on your daughter (I hope you pressed charges).
There are many ways to approach her gently about it, but firmly. Make it clear that you aren't out to "get" her daughter, your only concern is protecting your own daughter. Maybe say to her that you realize her daughter may be doing it without any knowledge of what the consequences might be for others, and maybe she's not actually being malicious she's just ignorant of the pain she is causing in her quest for some excitement, or in her childlike oblivion to other people's feelings. This gives her a way to save a little face and may make her less defensive while at the same time letting her know that her daughter's behavior is intolerable and needs to be corrected. Do make sure that she knows that your daughter was assaulted as a direct result of her daughter's rumor mongering, this not only drives home the seriousness of the situation, but it gives her a really good example to use with her daughter to illustrate the dangers of such social tinkering.
I would also let her know that you are bringing this to her first instead of using legal avenues because you believe that the girl didn't really mean any harm. (Maybe you believe she did, but this is a gentle way to get your point across.) There actually are legal actions open to you, including restraining orders, and formal charges (I can't remember the name of the charge right now, but I think it's something like slander, or defamation of character). This is a tactful way of saying, "I could be sueing you, but I'm going to give you a chance to correct the situation first." I am NOT a litigous person, but very often the knowledge that the other party HAS legal recourse will correct the offenders.
Well, that's all my boys gave me time for. Gotta go
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K.M. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
Hello M.! First I feel compelled to say this but what does her being a single mom have to do with anything? I don't know if you meant it to come off like this, but it sounded like you feel the problem is b/c she's a single mom. If that is what you meant by it I would suggest when you talk to her, you make sure not to mention that. You might offend her and things may get worse. Middle School is very hard for children, I teach Middle School so I know where you are coming from! If you have a relationship with " Hannah's" mother I strongly suggest that you talk to her. Let her know that you've noticed a change in the friendship, and it's not for the better. Tell her about the situation, she may not know and probably doesn't approve of it. Be prepared and open to hear her side ( or Hannah's). I'm not saying your daughter started anything but be open to the possibilty that she may have. Just let her mother know that the friendship has gone sour and you and your daughter just want " Hannah" to leave her alone and not spread lies and rumors about her. Hopefully that will work. Good Luck.
D.J. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
Greetings. I taught 7th and 8th grade middle school, and will be a MS mom in a few years. I have seen these kinds of things happen, w/girls especially. I would definitely talk to the girl's parents; maybe even have a meeting w/the principal or VP with the two girls. Also, does the school have Peer Mediation where the two girls can attempt to work out their issues. Sometimes that works--students can come out agreeing to disagree and being cordial to one another. My old school even had a program called Second Step where students can recognize their emotions and talk out what they are feeling instead of "acting out". Maybe "Hannah" is going through something at home or somewhere else and is using your daughter as a scapegoat. I bet if someone was gossiping about her, she would not like it and try to do something about it.
Well, I hope my suggestions help. Let me know how things turn out.
S.S. answers from Washington DC on September 26, 2008
M., first of all i am proud of you for being at home working the most important job in the world. i encourage you to stick it out.
i am a sub teacher in elementary schools in arbutus. kids can be sooooo nice and then turn around and be soooooo mean. i encourage you for your daughter to seek out other friends. maybe talk to the teacher. maybe even have a talk with hannah.
B.D. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
I would definitly speak with the parent of the child u call "Hannah" & the childs parents who attacked your daughter & anyone else you think nesscary. This is very scary. Somnetimes when a child has this kind of behavior, unfortunitly it is learned ( toleralted) at home. Good Luck ...please,definitly get involved!!! I aggree with you that Id NEVER let that child in your home again! Esp. after hitting your other child. SOunds like your daughter needs some new friends :0)
D.G. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
Pick up the book Queen Bees and Wanna Bees. It really does help refresh our memory of middle school girl politics and offers solutions
C.O. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
This "Hannah" needs some serious help! Tell her mother - if she's a struggling single mom, this could be the only way Hannah knows how to get attention.
The school should be stepping up to the plate - if they know she likes to create drama - then they MUST intervene before someone gets seriously hurt. I would demand that the school do something about her - put everything in writing as well so you have documentation that you have done your part. Because God-Forbid, Hannah really do something bad everyone will be pointing fingers elsewhere. I know it's not the school's job to raise chilren, however, they have to give them a safe environment in which to learn.
If the school doesn't do anything - go the to school superintendent. If that doesn't work - go to child protective services - just keep going.
It is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for this girl to hit another child, especially one who is autistic. Hannah's mom MUST know why she has been banned from your home. I'm sure Hannah has put a spin on it and if she hasn't said anything who knows where she is when her mom thinks she's at your home.
Explain to Hannah's mom why you are concerned - give evidence of what Hannah is doing at school, I realize she's probably overwhelmed by raising a child and working but the mom must step up to the plate as well. She has to take responsibility for her child.
Please keep me informed. I truly hope things work out.
I will keep you in my prayers.
K.S. answers from Washington DC on September 26, 2008
If your only issues w/ her currently are at school maybe you could have the school handle it. Have the girls in separate classes that should put some distance between them. I think inevitably this child will always find someone to pick on. Perhaps the school needs to know of her home issues so they can more effectively deal w/ this child. If she is continualy causing drama maybe she needs some 1 on 1 counseling that the school might be able to help w/. Talk to them privately about the options and if they cannot help you then yes you should go to her mother. Perhaps the child is acting out because of things that are going on at home. If Home can be tended to then maybe she will settle down.
E.S. answers from Roanoke on September 25, 2008
I, too, would suggest talking with the mother. But, you have to keep in mind that you won't have any control over what she does with the information. You can successfully handle this with tact and diplomacy, and everyone could come out better in the long run. If you are close friends, and you care about the little girl, you could approach it from that direction. "I'm worried about Hannah. She has been doing some things at school that don't seem right, and I just wondered if you were aware..."
At the time of the incident with your child with autism, did you contact the mother to explain why Hannah would not be allowed to return to your home? If not, this may be the time for that message, too.
Yes, you have a responsiblity to keep your own children safe. . . .but it sounds like this young girl needs help finding her way. That is not your responsibility, but if you speak up, perhaps her mom will be able to take steps to improve her life and both girls will benefit.
Middle school is hard--especially with girls. Unfortunately many girls are mean. Stick to your guns and give your daughter a hug. You can't go through this for her, but it sounds like you are a very supportive mom, and she's in good hands.
L.L. answers from Dover on September 25, 2008
I can completely empathize with your situation! When my daughter (now 19 years old) was in middle school, she was "friends" with a couple of the meanest girls I'd ever seen. They seemed to thrive on creating drama and causing fights between the other girls. It seemed to me that they had to plan how they were going to target each girl because the things they did were just so "complicated"...no way they happened by accident. I would try speaking with the mother. Maybe she has no idea her daughter is behaving this way?? And if she does, and still allows it, then you probably don't want to friends with someone like that anyhow!
Unfortunately, there's no way to fix this for your daughter since she has to be in school with the girl. Keeping this child out of your home (especially since she's physically violent!) is a great idea. And I have a feeling that your daughter probably won't want to hang out with her after all the trouble this girl has caused.
You can request that the school makes sure they are not in any classes together and don't have the same lunch (if that's possible). I wish I had some magic advice to give you, but in my daughter's case, the "good" girls separated themselves from the troublemakers on their own. Seventh grade was the worst year for drama, but by 8th grade, things were much better and my daughter was friends with a much nicer crowd.
Good luck navigating the teen years!!
A.S. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
Girls, girls, girls - they sure can be meanies sometimes...I have 2 girls and 1 boy - still young, yet I can already see the difference between the two sexes. We are not yet middle-school age...we have a couple more years before the "real" fun starts. (lol)
Yet, I understand what you are saying. Truth be told, as hard as this is to teach, friendships change and evolve, esp. during this pre-teen stage as girls start to really begin to understand themselves and their likes and dislikes. You have a housefull - which sounds amazing - I am sad we stopped at 3 - You just do not deserve to have other chaos (kids like "Hannah")in your home. Your dear daughter - although I am sure she still wants to be kind to "hannah" should surround herself with other friends. This relationship seems toxic. Being empathetic to another's situation, as in Hannah and her single mom, is great. It should, however, not be done so as to cause undo stress and frustrations for any of your own family. Your daughter comes first - it is a shame that she has been hurt, both physically and emotionally at school. Keep up the great work as you seem so proactive about this entire situation. Thats what your kids need. Try to respectfully weed "Hannah" out of the equation. Perhaps she will grow also from this experience and become the good friend that your daughter deserves!!
N.R. answers from Richmond on September 25, 2008
We homeschool, sorry I can't help with this problem. But I had to tell you that I love that you recognized your calling to be at home caring for your children. It's not the easiest 'job' but it can be the most rewarding one we will ever have.
I know that many moms want to become SAHMs but they just don 't know how they can do it. I love to help them see, through my experiences, that they really can do it.
N. ;) SAHM homeschooling 3 boys 12, 7 & 2yrs old and married to a loving, sweet and hard-working man for almost 15yrs. I love to help other moms, who want to become SAHMs, reach that goal!
K.H. answers from Dover on September 25, 2008
I see no problem with not allowing a certain child into your home that you feel is not safe for your children to be around, I know a certain child that is the same! And again, I am friends with the mother as well.
That is too bad that your daughter was suspended for defending herself, what did they expect her to do?
As for talking to the mom, definitely. Even though I'm sure it would be uncomfortable- and awkward- you want to try to prevent this from happening in the future. Talk to the mother about what had happened at school, and the part you believe your daughter has played in it, and see how the mother reacts. If she is in complete denial, there isn't much further you can do with her in helping your daughter out...but if she is willing to believe it is possible her daughter was the participant, maybe she could talk to her own daughter.
I think you should also talk with your own daughter. You said she is friends with this girl that is gossiping about her, maybe she should try to stay as far away from her as possible. Still be kind when she is around, but try to avoid. We all know that people who treat you that way are not true friends, make sure your daughter knows this. Also, a bit more touchy of a topic, did she really flirt around with someone else's boyfriend? Of course if so, doesn't warrant to be choked, but if she knows that some guy is going out with a crazy girl in school, try not to get all super flirtatious with them, just to prevent another occurance. I know it is all stupid for someone to have to go to that length to stay out of "trouble" in school, but if it does the job...
T.C. answers from Norfolk on September 25, 2008
Absolutely talk to the mother. Just do it in a way that is more like offering help instead of critisizing her child or her parenting of her child. Explain the situation and admit that your daughter may have had something to do with some of the issues (we all want to believe that our children are the good ones, but we have to be honest and even if our children are almost perfect at home -- we do not know how they act in school or around friends and sometimes its not what we would want them to do), but that you have handled your daughter's part of the problem and that you would like to get both girls past the situation. Its obvious that this mom needs help and that this girl needs help or she is only going to get worse and be in more trouble. Also, keep in constant contact with the school. If your daughter is continually being harassed about this stuff then that is a form of bullying and it needs to STOP!!! Encourage your daughter to always be the bigger person and walk away -- even if someone takes a swing at her. Obviously just defending herself gets her into trouble so if you want her to continue to be innocent -- walking away and holding her head high is the only way to do it. Swinging back will not help. Its hard for a teenager to do that b/c they don't want to be called weak or whatever, but in the long run it will be the best thing. Good luck with this. High school is around the corner and it only gets harder (I have a 16 year old daughter and have seen the jealousy of other girls take its toll).
K.M. answers from Norfolk on September 25, 2008
I know exactly what you are going through. I have a daughter in middle school and she has been fighting with her best friend (since kindergarten) all summer and there has been all kinds of drama at school. It has not gotten physical like yours but it is still there. I too am very good friends with the other girls mother. She is one of my best friends. My advice to you is to talk to her but do it very cautiously!! Every time the girls would fight, we would find out and talk about it. We got to the point that we were doing the fighting for the girls-- ex. well she said you daughter did this and she said your daughter did that. I finally had to tell her that we should not discuss the girls anymore because we were actually making the situation worse. The girls were lying to us and we were desperately believing our child's side of the story. I think it made the girls even more angry at each other and also made them very uncomfortable around us. In your case where the child is being mean to your other children also I agree that she does not need to be in your home. Stress like this effects the whole family. It did our house. It was all we talked about it. It seemed to consume us. We have decided to take a break for a while from the other girl. They are friends now but we are limiting the amount of time the spend together. We explained this to our daughter and she was ok with it. We told not to ask her to spend the night for a while and that she would not spend the night with her either. They can see each other at school, talk on the phone or computer, and occasionally hang out in the neighborhood. We think it is best for a while until things settle and they grow up a bit. Maybe you can explain something like this to the other mother and also to your daughter. We did not want to be ugly but we needed some peace back in our home and this has helped. I have four children and I understand the stress it brings to the family. I also had to find ways to keep my daughter busy. If she is busy then she does not have time to have problems. So we got her involved in activities after school and hopefully this will help. I hope you can find a happy solution to your problem. I feel your pain. Middle school is the pits! Good luck!
T.C. answers from Washington DC on September 25, 2008
M., you've gotten a lot of advice, so I'll try to keep this short. I second the recommendation about "Queen Bees and Wanna Bes" and would add also another book "Odd Girl Out." Not all of it applies to your child but lots will.
Yeah, you should probably talk to the mom, but don't expect much. Go in there with very specific things: dates, places, exact quotes, witnesses, etc. Then say, "What do you think we can do about this?" Or, alternatively, say, "This is what I plan to do, on MY end." If you put yourself in the position of requesting that she solve the problem, a) she will get defensive (she'll do that anyway, it's unavoidable) and b) nothing will happen.
Finally, the advice that your daughter just walk away from encounters is one of those things everybody says, and it sounds good, but it's not always the best way. There's a middle ground between walking away and getting in a fight. Sit down with her and role-play some possible comebacks. "I know that's not true, and YOU know that's not true, so why would you say that?" Or, "Man, you must be really bored today, to need all this drama." Or just, "Oh, PLEASE" (and roll her eyes). Or play dumb: "Let me get this straight: X isn't talking to Y because Y thinks I said something nasty about Z? Can you walk me through this again?" (repeat as necessary, until "Hannah" realizes she's being had.) Walking away can be good in some instances, but many times it just rachets up the teasing/bullying or whatever, because it's a challenge to the perpetrator to keep trying until they DO get a response. A quiet, level-headed verbal response can often work wonders. My 11 yr old was dealing with a bully at camp this summer who just kept saying snarky things to her--drove her to tears--until we did this. The next time it happened, the bully says to my daughter something along the lines of "WHY are you wearing THAT?" and my daughter said, "Oh, Megan, you know, my plans about what to wear changed suddenly last night, and I didn't have your home phone, so I couldn't call and let you know." The whole class laughed and it shut Megan up for the rest of camp. It was a line my daughter and I had rehearsed together before the fact. When it comes to bullying, kids need a whole tool box of options, not just one.
Also: look up your school system's policy on its website, and contact the school's parent liason, if they have one. When it comes to bullying, schools are programmed to deal only with physical altercations (and not even effectively with those, lots of times). Verbal bullying of the type girls do tends to be off their radar screen unless you put it ON their radar screen. In my daughter's case, she was never told she could file a written complaint about some other kids--I had to find it out on the school's website. When I mentioned this, suddenly I got a whole lot of attention; educators are VERY sensitive to paperwork requirements. We never used this mechanism but it was good to know it was there. Good luck
C.E. answers from Norfolk on September 25, 2008
M. J -
Definately tell that mother what is going on. I used to be a single mother myself, and that made it hard for me to always keep up with what my children were doing. When they did something wrong, I always took it from other parents as constructive and did something about it. Let her know so she can handle it with her daughter, if she ignores it, then you aren't any more worse off since she is longer welcome in your home.
It is strictly my own theory to approach something rather than ignore it and hope it goes away. Not always the easier approach, but if the mother is not aware, don't you think she should be?
Just my advice, I am still learning how to deal with my own children. I am sure I will spend the rest of my life doing that...