M.N. asks from Plano, TX on September 23, 2010
My Daughter Cannot Stand for Herself. How Do I Help Her?
We recently move from Plano internationally. My question is about my 7 year old daughter. She has made a friend who lives in the same community and goes in the same school bus and is in the same grade though different section. My daughter is too polite and always wants to please others and cannot say no to her friends. I fear that her friend is taking advantage of her. They are small things but they really wrench my heart. for eg. The breakfast and lunch is provided by the school for all kids but most parents send a snack box. My daughter is not used to spicy food so I do not know how much lunch she is actually eating. The snack box is for the afternoon when they are hungry after lunch.(daughter is gone from 7.40AM - 4:15PM). That friend of hers insists that she share and finish her snack box when they sit in the bus in the morning. My daughter did complain to me once and that is how I got to know. I asked her to say no to her friend but she informed me that she has done that but still her friend insists so she has to do it. There are other small things she has told me for eg. if she sits with her small sister(3.5 years) in the bus the friend does not like it and tells all her friends at school and then they do not play with her. I fear there may be other things that she has not told me about. Though she has other friends at school this friend is her only one in the community that we live.
Am I being overprotective. Should I interfere or just let the kids sort it out. There is a big cultural adjustment for my daughter, though we are natives here but my daughter has only lived in US and is not exposed to the culture here. She has to learn to stand for herself but I do not know how to help her do it. She had wonderful friends in Plano with whom she had played since she was in play school. At school also she was very well adjusted and I never had to worry about her friends.
J.K. answers from Gainesville on September 23, 2010
I used to assist in self-defense classes for women and children. One of the most valuable skills you can teach your child is verbal self-defense. You do this by practicing scenarios and giving her the words to use to defend herself. You pretend to be the girl on the bus, the bully at school, etc. If she practices her responses then she has them ready for the next situation. It really does work. For bullies at school, we just taught the kids to say "see ya later!" and walk away. On the bus, maybe "oh, I can't eat it now, it's still frozen" or "no, it's for later" or "you wouldn't like this food; it's Hungarian" or, in response to her friend saying "friends share" she could say "let's share your snack box." She could also ask her friend why she's so hungry in the morning and why she wants her food when the school gives them breakfast. Anyway, some suggestions to start the brainstorming of responses to have her practice.
On a side note, this approach is also useful to teach her how to respond if adults are acting inappropriately or, when she's older, how to handle pushy dates. I am also a huge advocate for women learning self-defense, so I would recommend finding a KidPower class in your area if you can. I also second the suggestion to get her into martial arts for confidence and coordination, and for finding other friends.
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B.C. answers from Norfolk on September 23, 2010
This 'friend' sounds like she's plenty friendly as long as she can use your daughter. In our district there are strict rules about no eating on the bus.
Just my opinion but your girl would better off without this friend.
Sign her up for taekwondo. Not only will she meet new people, but she'll learn how to stand up for herself.
In the mean time, if you drive your kids to school, there's that much less time for this 'friend' to bully your daughter.
You might want to talk to the school (teacher and principal) and let them know what's going on. This other girl is a ring leader and is creating an uncomfortable environment for your daughter at school. They need to know because they are duty bound to put a stop to it (on the bus and every where on school property).
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S.D. answers from Grand Rapids on September 23, 2010
I would talk with the teacher about this. It sounds like the friend is being a bully, and that is not tolerated at schools anymore. She is threatening your daughter, just not physically YET.
I would let the school know that your daughter can't have her snack becasue the friend wants it. your daughter can't sit with her sister, because then your daughter has no one to play with. It starts small like this, and as they get older the bullying gets worse.
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L.A. answers from Minneapolis on September 23, 2010
You can say no without actually saying no. For example, she could say "I'm saving it for afternoon" or "My mom said I HAVE to save it for the afternoon." Not sure the size of backpacks, but could you camouflage it so it doesn't look like food, like in a pencil box. Or you could pack a small breakfast box and then your afternoon snack box kept separate.
If my son were in this situation, I would also talk about different personality types. For example, this may be a girl who at home gets what she wants by being super insistent (and wearing down the parents). Or maybe that a friend who is a friend just for something you have isn't really a friend after all. A real friend may be disappointed at first, but will come back to the friendship. In an extreme case, I would talk for my child to the other child, or maybe have a teacher help them through it.
Good luck. It's a great opportunity for her to find her way to honor herself and her wishes. I do hope she has more opportunities where the situations are relatively safe so she can be ready when she is faced with tougher issues.
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T.F. answers from Dallas on September 23, 2010
I have not been in your situation because my 15 yr old is very outgoing and strong willed.
However, when my 15 yr old was around 7, she expressed an interest in martial arts. We went to a private martial arts school, (not one of the belt factories where you pay your fees, kid passes the test and moves up). This did a world of good for my daughter. She is a black belt now in Tang Soo Doo and not only is she very capable of physically defending herself, she is mentally capable as well. They learn much more than simply self defense, they learn perserverance, respect, etc....
If you choose not to go through some sort of class route. I do like the "role playing idea" someone mentioned where you work with your daughter to understand what is ok and what is not (ex: eating snack early because a friend said so).
Best wishes to you and I am sure your litle girls will adjust well. it takes time.
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A.B. answers from New York on September 23, 2010
It's best to work it out with your daughter. Talk to her about how she can better assert herself and when she says no she means no. She is new, she is in a new country, she is timid, so sadly for a bully, she is a target. I bet the parents of the bully girl have no idea that their little girl is a bully. I have always said to my son a kid bully's because something isn't right at home. They are having a hard time with something and this is how they act it out. Once I told him that he sort of had simpathy for the bully in his school and sort of felt that the bully was less threatening. If I knew what country you were in , it'd be easier to assess the culture. Some countries haven't adapted the no bully rules, and some cultures don't have a problem with it. In the end if your daughter doesn't respond to your suggestions and role playing I would go speak to the 'bully's" mom. Good luck, it's hard enough moving let alone all these other issues.
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C.C. answers from Philadelphia on September 23, 2010
Your daughter sounds very polite. She is probably a first child. I would go thru pretend scenarios to practice a better outcome.
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C.H. answers from Dallas on September 24, 2010
No matter your daughter's personality, someone, somewhere will try out their skills on her and she needs to be trained on how not to become a victim. Admittedly, I don't know the best way.
I picked up a CD audio book explaining all the various ways that kids can be bullied, including the internet which has caused some suicides.
I do know that your child needs to know that you know it happens all the time and that you will support her and try to give her the tools to deal effectively with it. And if those tools don't work for her, know what your tools are (e.g., in speaking to the parents, etc).
Some people do it with a counselor that specializes in that. Some people read books on the topic and share it or role play it with their child.
After you get educated, educate your daughter. Give her good choices in specific things to say or do, to react or not to react. Does she involve someone else. She may need to develop some attitude or being non-plussed. It certainly is crutial over time to give her things that keep her self-esteem really high (try out lessons in this or that and find out what she likes and is good at and support that). Listen to her carefully and don't give her the brush off. Then ask her how she feels about saying or doing this or that instead. If she acts like your suggestions won't work, keep getting more educated. My mom gave me some dumb advice a few times and I stopped asking as I was certain it was a waste of breath. The problem was, then I made all decisions myself or ran it by equally naive friends.