Neighbor Kids Excluding Our Daughter

Updated on October 29, 2018
C.T. asks from Red River, NM
20 answers

I am feeling worried about my 3rd grade daughter. She is becoming more and more upset by the neighborhood kids who have started a pattern of excluding her. There are about 8 other kids that all play together. Before they all became a cohesive group she played well with each of these kids one on one. At first one girl and one boy started telling her she can't join them. It just sort of got worse from then on out. I have had quite a few talks with her about why this might be happening. For example we talked about why they might be unhappy with her...not to be bossy, or not to brag, etc. I've also talked to her about friendships in general and what it means to be a friend. I've invited over a classmate she gets along with who is kind so she has someone to play with. I distract her and she is busy some days with soccer practice and her school club. But almost daily she sees this group of kids all playing and they actively shun her. The parents are all friends with us and invite us to join in with whatever we are doing. Tonight was a town Halloween event and we ran into most of this kid and parent group there. The parents were happy to see us and we walked around with them. I was hoping our daughter would just mesh in to the group, but no, they still made her feel like an outsider and when we left she was upset and sad. She wants to know why other kids don't like her. It breaks my heart! This is not true...she is a great kid and does have kids she plays with in school, yet she does not have any "best" friends or really close friends. I know this is what she hopes for. On one particularly bad incident I spoke with the parents of one neighbor boy because he was so cruel to her and got the whole group to exclude her. I'm good friends with both his parents and so we all talked...they came over...they had him apologize and the kids seemed to make up. He acted very sweet then, but I think I might have made things worse and now he's much more sneaky about it. I thought with time this would all blow over, but it now seems to be a set pattern. It's unfortunately making my daughter feel bad about herself. She no longer wants to go play outside anymore and is becoming more of a homebody. She asks what is wrong with me? Now we have Halloween coming up and have been invited by a parent to join the group walking around trick or treating. It is this same group of kids. I'm torn bc I keep hoping they will start including my daughter and she WANTS so badly to be friends with them. But I am almost 100% sure if we walk with them she is going to feel worse by the end of the night. Has your child been excluded? Any advice?

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone. I reached out to a brand new family in the neighborhood and we trick or treated with them. We didn't run into the neighborhood gang of kids. My daughter had a lot of fun and it was a happy evening. I will encourage her to play with kids we know she is nice and I'll try to invite over classmates more often.

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S.B.

answers from Houston on

Generally forced apologies don't work. I would have her invite a school friend over and trick or treat. OR she goes with you and hubby.

Not all kids are going to get along especially in the neighborhood. I would say "this is not about you honey its about them. They seem to be followers, which is sad for them." I wouldn't want my daughter exposed any more to these brats than she has to be.

I would also start limiting my time with these parents. What worked a couple of years ago, doesn't anymore. You all need to adjust.

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Z.B.

answers from Toledo on

This group of kids isn’t right for her, and that’s ok. Time to let it go. Would she like to invite a friend to trick or treat with her in your neighborhood or go to a friend’s neighborhood or just go with you?

It’s time to show your daughter that she has plenty of friends and activities and doesn’t need this group.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

i get why you feel you needed to intervene. there are few things as hard as watching one of our kids get hazed.

but it's also impossible to impose friendship from the outside. what happened to your daughter is what always happens- a reluctant non-apology, followed by more pointed and vicious shunning.

and it's not an altogether bad thing, although no one enjoys it and no one wants to see it happen to any kid. the rough treatment of the wolf pack is actually very useful for knocking the edges off kids who can't or won't conform to an acceptable degree- the ones you described to your daughter, who are bossy or braggy or can't ever stop nattering.

but the dark side is this- the subtle emotional manipulation.

the solution isn't in fixing the wolf pack or their parents. you need to help your daughter become strong enough to withstand and ultimately not care about it.

that could mean finding her new friends, cutting one or two from the herd and arranging for her to play with them outside the group, helping her discover amazing solitary pursuits, teaching her about psychic shielding, and the benefits of reverse psychology (ie her shunning THEM.)

probably a combo.

no one group should have the power to fundamentally alter your child's personality. don't let them have that power over her.

find ways to help her find her own power and build on it from within.

khairete
S.

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J.☯.

answers from Springfield on

That’s very sad and hard to hear, but that’s also life. Your daughter is not going to be excepted by every group that she hopes to be a part of. That’s true for all of us. Rather than continue to try and “fIx” the situation (somehow force these kids to accept your daughter), teach her how to hold her head high and move on from this group of kids

There are other groups that she is already a part. It’s ok that this is not one of them. She needs to know that she can be just fine without them.

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T.D.

answers from New York on

Sounds like my childhood.. I was excluded. Never had a best friend.
For Halloween I trick or treated with just my parents and brother. There was no group for drama.. No one slowing is down.
If I were you I would see if she wants to trick or treat with a school friend and if that does not work show her how much faster you can go with our others dragging her down. (You can even head to another neighborhood of you want to) for the rest of it I would decline any invitation by parents saying your kid is always excluded and you don't want to put her in a situation that upsets her. Then make plans always to be doing family stuff, sports stuff, school stuff, and just being busy!
My kids don't have anyone their age in the neighborhood. and we have fun all the time. We go swimming, we play games, we go bike riding, have school friend get togethers and it does not bother us that there is no one living close to play with! Have your daughter pretend that those mean kids don't exist. She will have a much better time without them

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B.A.

answers from Columbus on

We had a similar situation last year. What the two kids did originally is an example of relational aggression or emotional bullying. Instead of using punches or kicks, they use manipulation and exclusion. Other kids go along with it because they don't want to be the next victim. And the dynamics can fluctuate. At one point the ringleader decided to exclude someone else and all of the sudden my son was his friend again. And I watched in horror as my son started excluding the ringleader's new victim.

I also found that the more I intervened and tried to rectify the situation the worse it became. It gave the other kids a more legitimate reason to exclude him.

My advice is to stop talking with your daughter about what she did wrong. Because the reality is that she most likely did nothing wrong. And she certainly didn't do anything to justify being completely ostracized. She needs to know that she is ok the way she is. I think you need to avoid hanging out with the parents as a group. That must be so hard on her, to be forced to be with them. If they ask why you.aren't with them on Halloween, just tell them you are doing what is best for your family.

Once your daughter at least appears to stop caring, the instigators will move on and try to gain power over someone else.

Someone once told me that kids should ideally have 3 groups of friends-- friends from school, friends from the neighborhood, and friends from an activity. The rationale is that even if they start having trouble with one group they still have 2 other groups to fall back on. That rationale made so much sense to me.

The book My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig may help her understand what is happening.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Since we hardly had any kids in our neighborhood we never really dealt with this drama. But I can imagine how hard it would be!
First, remind yourself and your daughter that "besties" don't really happen at this age. My own kids tended to play the most with whoever was in their class that year, and friend groups shifted ALL the time. There were a few friends that lasted longer, but this was actually worse in the long run when the friendships drifted apart, as most of them do, because as families we had gotten attached and it just made everything awkward.
So instead of focusing on the neighborhood kids let your daughter invite over her actual friends from school (or church or sports or whatever.) We did this all the time. Like I said, very few kids in our neighborhood and our town was not friendly to walking and bikes so we had to drive to get together with anyone. Having a friend over on Friday after school was great because they usually stayed for dinner and if there was nothing early the next day sometimes they had a sleepover.
You can't choose your neighbors but you CAN choose who you spend time with, so focus on that!

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

What happened with this one boy is why most teachers and many parents do not force apologies. When they are insincere, they backfire. Kids think it means "do over!" and that it erases all they have done. And it often emboldens them because they realize that their parents are just making them go through the motions but won't really monitor subsequent behavior. So, unfortunately, your efforts to work with the parents seem to have backfired - 8 other families aren't noticing that your daughter isn't a part of the group, not ever.

I think, in retrospect, walking around with the other parents whose kids are horrible to your child put her in a tough spot. One would hope she would be strong enough to handle that, but she isn't there yet. It's hard to expect that of a 3rd grader. In her mind, she may be asking why you think these people are such good friends, when they raise and supervise (or fail to supervise) kids with totally different values.

I would NOT have her trick or treat with this group! If the chaperoning parents would supervise and ensure kindness, that would be one thing. But it's clear they will not. And if the kids are going unsupervised, well, you already know what will happen to your daughter. I would say to the inviting parent, "Thanks for the invitation, but the kids have made it clear on multiple occasions that they do not like Petunia. So she's going to go with another group." If they protest, say that a discussion has already been held with a few parents, and while they demanded an apology from their child, it made it worse." Do not name the child or family. If pressed, say it doesn't matter and doesn't change the problem. Not one child in the group is standing up for your daughter, and it's kind of a gang mentality now. So your daughter is moving on.

I would connect with a kid or two that she does like, and split the trick or treating into a couple of neighborhoods - so it's not all in your neighborhood where your daughter will run across the kids she doesn't like. And I would start phrasing it that way. Yes, these are kids who don't like her. But as a result of their cruelty and clique formation, she doesn't like THEM. Give her back this power to move on, to reject those who reject her.

And I would cut back your social activities with people you are "close to" but who don't see what's going on or care about it. It's okay for your daughter to see you take a stand. While I don't think all kids in a neighborhood have to get along, and it's fine for 2 or 3 to be special friends with each other, I think it's wrong for parents to see and allow a group of everyone except 1, and think it's okay. In my neighborhood, we have a kid who's a problem. The other kids are told they don't have to seek him out, but if he comes by when they are playing outside, they are not allowed to exclude him. When he starts swearing and screaming insults, one of the other parents will tell him he has to go home until he can control himself and act appropriately. But they never ban him entirely. It's on a case-by-case basis.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Two things.

Being excluded sucks - but I think talking to the other parents about it generally makes it worse. Kids see that as a child tattling on them. You found this to be the case. Unfortunately, that's usually what happens.

I would instead encourage your child to find a new friend group/friend to hang around.

The second thing is - I would not make it about your child. This is likely one kid who is being a jerk or testing out social power. He/she got it. So now other kids won't test it and are following along.

Do the kind thing - take a break. That's what we've done. Her self esteem will thank you. Don't send the message that she deserves to be treated like this. Unless you've noted that she's got some social skills to work on, don't focus on her behavior. Teach her some coping mechanisms for when kids are nasty, but otherwise say "It's fine to take a break when kids aren't being the kindest - this kind of thing happens unfortunately".

*likely, when others see your daughter is doing fine without them, one or two will break off from the back in a few months and your daughter will have a pal again in the neighborhood. These 'gangs' don't usually last once you remove the target.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

You should definitely NOT trick-or-treat with that group. Don't go another round three days from now with a group that made her "upset and sad" last night.

Can you meet up with any of her friends from school? Even if it means trick-or-treating in a different neighborhood, maybe that would be a good change?

No one is close friends with everyone. Ovbiously mature people would not actively exclude someone out of politeness, but that is a much higher level of social development than you should expect from a group of eight-year-olds.

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N.Z.

answers from Los Angeles on

So sorry this is happening to your daughter. How heartbreaking it must be for you.

I think the best thing to do in this situation is to cut your losses. You "keep hoping they will start including [your] daughter" and you were "hoping [your] daughter would just mesh." How long are you planning to take the "wait and see" approach?

Take a step back and read what you wrote. You'll see that for whatever reason these kids decided to target your daughter and there is no sign of letting up. IT'S NOT HER. IT'S THEM. Sometimes, certain friendships don't work out and they certainly can't be forced.

The sooner you and your daughter move on, the better. I understand your daughter wants to be included, but talk to her about what being "friends" really means. Ask her what she thinks it is. Because friends shouldn't do this to each other. Does she really want to be friends with kids who are nasty, mean, and rude? I think she's smart enough to say no. Hopefully, having these types of open discussions can help her come to her own conclusion that she should move on.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

having a FORCED apology doesn't help. He talked with the other kids and now "the word" is out.

I would tell my child to make other friends. The more she "wants" this group? The more they will exclude her. It's really that simple. They have formed a clique. It sucks. It's not nice - but this is life. SH*T happens and she's seeing it first hand.

So you have a few options - break the kids up by inviting one or two over at a time so they can get to know her outside the clique....that MIGHT help.
You can keep your daughter busy with other activities that keep her away from the clique.
You can ask your daughter if she really wants to be with people who so easily rely on the word of another and shun you??

As to Halloween? I'd go and see the interaction and go from there

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

With kids that age, sometimes adults need to step in and show what is and is not acceptable.

I would refrain from all social activities with other families that permit exclusion. We are a
"you can't say you can't play" household. Otherwise it turns into mean bulling during the later elementary years. This also encourages learning to get on with others.

Tell your daughter there is nothing wrong with her and that they lack basic manners.

Start a family tradition this year. Create happy memories. It's only excluding if you want to hang out with them. If you decide they aren't worth hanging out with, and have fun elsewhere, no negative feelings will occur, and life will go on.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

First and foremost, while you should always be your daughter's advocate and champion, you need to stay out of her relationships with other kids. As you can see, interfering only made things worse.

Why are you pushing so hard for these kids to include her? I'd not want my kid to eventually be accepted by a bunch of excluding brats. Even if it is just one boy kind of ringleading the whole thing, that just means there is one brat and a bunch of followers. Very "Mean Girls" if you ask me.

I'd focus more on why it is important NOT to pick friends who act like that. That by excluding her, they are manipulating her into wanting to be their friend even more - that's not friendship, that's terrible.

Foster ways for her to make friends outside the neighborhood - you don't need to go all out, just provide opportunity. She also has the opportunity to make friends at school - she doesn't "need" to be friends with folks just because they live close.

Oh, I'd be finding a different place to trick or treat - why subject her to feeling bad on a feel good day? There has to be a ton of other neighborhoods that you guys can trick or treat at (or a Halloween activity rather than going door to door). No one has to bring up the why you guys went somewhere else (including your daughter) - there is no law that you can't trick or treat in a different neighborhood.

Good luck.

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A.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

My daughters went through neighborhood friend drama too. Trick or treat was tough because all the parents wanted all the neighbor block kids to walk together, as they did when they were little. But by 3rd grade, the kids had other ideas. They didn't all get along and groups were just hard. One year we invited a school friend of my daughter's to trick or treat with her and, though kind of oblivious to my daughter, this girl acted like she only wanted to come to our neighborhood to pal around with another girl on our block. The next year that girl's mom asked me if she could come with us again to our neighborhood because her daughter had so much fun last year. Well my daughter wanted me to say yes, so I did. At the end of then evening, I had about five 5th graders at my house and let's just say overhearing their dynamic in the next room, well it was very rough. Apparently, they didn't all agree on where to go, how long to go, how to trade candy, etc. The next year I just decided to take my family to a waterpark hotel out of town instead subjecting us to the increasingly difficult drama. The following year, my older daughter was in 7th grade, she invited one school friend on her own to go trick or treat with, no group. I was out of the loop, and it was much better. I think adult ideas of the great big fun neighbor group, just stop working as kids get older, it can't be forced. No, I would not try to walk with your neighbors. Tell your daughter, "that didn't seem very fun last year, so let's plan something else instead" Show her she always has choices to make her own plans and to not be forced into uncomfortable situations.

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N.C.

answers from San Diego on

Rent a bounce house...the kids will come.
Your daughter needs to be in charge of the turf.

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G.S.

answers from Raleigh on

We have been in a similar situation so I definitely understand what you and your daughter are going through! Neighborhood situations I feel are so difficult because it's where you live and you want to feel peaceful and happy at home...not watching as your kid looks out the window at a group of kids playing that she knows won't include her.

Our oldest daughter went through this a few years ago when she was in 1st and 2nd grade and really all it takes is one kid to get an idea in their mind about excluding and then a bunch of followers and it happens. In our situation, even though our daughter was young, she just doesn't have that exclusion mindset even if 2 other kids are doing it or 20 other kids! She would be the type to go up to a kid all alone on the playground and ask if they want to play and in fact she's made some good friends that way! On one hand I was always proud of how strong she was in that area but on the other hand it was soooo hard to see it happening. Our oldest also isn't the best at just playing, she likes to try to organize an activity, she's still like that to this day and sometimes that just didn't go with what the other kids wanted to do. They wanted to just run around on the playground and swing, but our daughter wanted to give everybody specific roles and have a game to play. So we've had lots of conversations about taking turns, going along with what your friends want to play and then switching, etc.

Our daughter is now 11 and in 5th grade and we've pretty much been drama free for over a year now. Granted, we no longer live in that same neighborhood and there really isn't anyone her age in our new neighborhood, but even at school she's been drama free. We just had a sleepover birthday party with 6 of her friends and, honestly, I was worried about how she would do with a bunch of girls in the house and I made sure to talk with her about how to be a good host ahead of time. And you know what? She has some really good, sweet friends! The party was a success and everyone had a good time.

But my advice for your current situation is to keep having school friends over, go trick or treat somewhere else (we also had to do that!), keep her busy with some activities, maybe try having a kid from the group over individually that your daughter likes and observe their behavior together and just tell her that not everyone is going to like her and she won't like everyone and that's life. I tell this to my daughters often and they get it. Also, does she have a sibling? Siblings can be such a saving grace in situations like this! If she has a sibling who is close in age, have them play together, ride bikes in the neighborhood, draw with chalk outside, etc. I tell my daughters all the time that it's great to have friends but they are each other's best friends (sometimes worst enemies too, lol!) but they also get that. They know the other will always be there for them if they need her.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

Our neighborhood is a mix of kids that don't all go to school together and there seems to be a big riff in the private vs public school kids. (Mostly propagated by the private school parents.)

My daughter has one friend a few houses down that they play great together. This same girl has several other neighborhood friends that my daughter doesn't care for and vice versa. So, the girls plan days and times to get together when the other girls are busy and that way they have different groups that play well but they don't ALL have to be friends.

Maybe your daughter could reach out to just one other neighborhood child she gets along with and have an inside play date at your house or her house.

I don't expect all the neighborhood kids to like my kids and it goes the other way as well. So, I encourage them to be nice to everyone but form friendships with other kindred spirits I don't care where they go to school. As long as they have fun together.

Good luck. (Oh, and as you have learned stay out of kid drama...unless a child actually purposely injures another stay out of it...they will work it out without parental assistance.)

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S.H.

answers from Santa Barbara on

This happened to someone in a nearby neighborhood. She had to reach out to different groups to have playdates for her son. The neighborhood boys became mean to her son. It is hard for us adults to see it, but some kids just decided to not like one kid and enjoy ignoring or leaving the child out. I wouldn't try to change her too much. Try to coordinate with a child who looks forward to being with your daughter.

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R.K.

answers from Appleton on

I was 'that kid' and it's hard. She has done nothing wrong. It sounds like the boy may be the neighborhood ringleader and if he doesn't like her the other kids can't like her either. I think maybe asking the kids one at a time over to play at your house might help. Have them play inside and see what happens.
I agree with the others that you need to talk to the parents and remind them that exclusion is very painful. They need to talk to their children and explain them you did nothing wrong and she needs to be included when they play.

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