Help Needed: How Bow Out of “Girl Drama” With Other Grade School Moms?

Hi sfznffdrta
Folks! Here’s a mom who requests your help on one of the issues of the day: The out-sourcing of playground squabbles to parents.  I DO believe in being tuned in our kids, and  providing them with comfort, support, wisdom and discipline. But what happens when the world around us expects something else: minute-by-minute involvement? Got any great ideas for this mom? – L

Dear Free Range Kids: I am trying to raise 5 Free-Range Kids. My oldest is 9  and in Grade Four.  I am struggling with how to deal with “girl drama” issues  in a Free-Range  way. When I was a girl and having these same friendship issues, our moms basically let us deal with things ourselves.  They would provide a listening ear, a hug and some words of wisdom, and sometimes even join in with some private name calling (“Wow she was mean,” or one of my favorites, “They are just a bunch of Nellie Olsens”). But they never got involved beyond consoling their own daughter, and most of the time us girls would be back playing together before the day was up, hurt feelings forgotten. Once in a while it wasn’t worth it or just could not be worked out and the friendship was lost. No calls, texts and emails to the other moms, no calls to the teachers and principal, no finger pointing. No moms against moms.

And this is where I am struggling now. The expected parental involvement in these friendship squabbles and school yard dramas is exhausting.  I refuse to call another mom (or worse yet, the school) every time my daughter gets her feelings hurt. I realize the world is attuned to bullying, but we can not be labeling every incident where one kid is feeling bad or left out bullying, can we?

At this moment my daughter is in a friendship with a child who runs hot and cold, but for the most part they have a lot of fun together. But the child also leaves other kids out and my kid goes passively along. Now the mom of one of the ones left out  is constantly bombarding me and the other girl’s mom with texts, emails and phone calls about each and every conflict the girls have.  I feel for the girl and the mother, and I know how painful  the world can be at this age sometimes. I know she feels my daughter is partly to blame and I think she wants me to forbid the friendship.

Anyway, I guess what I was hoping for was some insight: Living in such hands-on parenting times, how do I escape the constant expectation that I need to intervene with every relationship issue my kid has?  Help and thank you,
Emotionally Exhausted Mom

76 Responses to Help Needed: How Bow Out of “Girl Drama” With Other Grade School Moms?

  1. Earth.W December 14, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    As a father of four, there are times when our children feel the need from a parent to do more for them than just offer an ear and a few words of wisdom. There really isn’t much a parent can do for children do need to learn how to handle their own dramas. Unless of course the problems are more intent such as violence which is when a parent need to become involved.

    As for parents taking up the bat, I’d recommend not jumping in willing to swing. Nothing worse than seeing two parents have a go at each other as if they are still in school themselves.

  2. @winecolleen December 14, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    I think you are right to not intervene in every situation. I’ve seen what a teen looks like when helicopter parented and it isn’t pretty. Plus, I think parental involvement in day-to-day squabbles simply magnifies the problems, not solves them.

    Unless the relationship issue escalates to a point your kid is bullying someone or your child is being bullied, I’d try to stay neutral on it. I would talk to my kid about if he or she is having any difficulty handling it, but I would make it clear that it is their issue to handle.

    When moms call and try to get me to swoop in, I usually say something like, “I have every confidence that they can work this out.”

  3. Warren December 14, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Just do not get involved. Inform this lady that you have told your child to just deal with things as they happen, and that as much as you will be there to listen to your daughter, that is as far as you are going. You are leaving it in her capable hands, and you trust her. Tell this lady that you do not want to hear from her anymore about these things, and if she does not like that, then sorry, but this is the kids issues to deal with.

    If it continues, then you simply tell her to stop living her life thru her child, and piss off.

  4. Kimberly Schimmel December 14, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    You are not responsible to other moms–only to your own daughter. I would suggest talking with your daughter about standing up to the hot/cold friend who leaves people out. That is a skill that will be valuable her whole life. and maybe the hot/cold girl would learn that she doesn’t run the show all the time.

  5. Sue December 14, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    The replying text to the mom should be something along the lines of:

    “Our kids are at an age where they need to learn that they, themselves, have to cope and learn to get along with other kids. Our job as parents is to guide and support them but they need to take responsibility now and figure things out for themselves. Hopefully by now we have taught them the skills to problem solve and become self-reliant. It is time we throw them into the deep end and let them swim on their own.”

  6. EB December 14, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Also, you can point out to the other mother that Mean Girls are given even more power when they see that they have the ability to entangle adults in the conflicts they create.

  7. Selby December 14, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    I love your way of thinking and totally agree that you cannot get involved in every single soap opera that goes on.

    Personally, I think at the core, this is less about the other daughter (she’d probably be mortified to know her mother is sticking her nose in to this degree), and more about the mother’s own baggage from that era of her life. Maybe, if you are feeling up to this, when she calls you (NOT email or text, that is passive-aggressive and juvenile, do not engage electronically) you could totally deflect the conversation away from the girls, and steer it towards, “God, remember when all that drama started when we were young? Ugh, I wouldn’t go back ot middle school if you paid me a million dollars. How did your mother handle it back then? My mom always did [xyz] and I hated it at the time, I wanted her to fix everything, but now I see she was absolutely right not to get involved and I’m trying to do the same. Yeah, I know, it sucks, you don’t want them to hurt, but you have to be realistic about it. Anyway, my dinner is burning, I gotta go.”

    That way you ask her how SHE is feeling……which I think is the true crux of the issue here.

    Stand firm and don’t get sucked in. You have a superb head on your shoulders and your kids will have superb heads on theirs, too. Good luck!

  8. Selby December 14, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    And EB – that is an EXCELLENT point, I am totally filing that away for future use.

  9. marie December 14, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    we can not be labeling every incident where one kid is feeling bad or left out bullying, can we?

    Judging by the Facebook emoting by my adult friends, we CAN. My opinion: The word “bullying” should be stricken from the language. All the recent concern (workshops, seminars, strategies) about bullies has created an atmosphere where bullying is wrong unless you are picking on the bully and then it’s good. Adults are teaching our kids that this is okay.

    Among my FB friends, the ones most likely to post the “stop bullying” crap are the ones I remember as bullies in school. The lesson is that we all feel picked-on at one point or another; we all think we know what it feel like to be bullied. I think we forget the times when we were the bullies.

    As for what to tell our kids? My son came to me with a problem: He has a ‘friend’ that he wishes would go away. The kid doesn’t fit in with my son’s current group of close friends. He asked me how to get rid of this kid. My advice was to ‘do the right thing’. I’m sure my son knows what the right thing is and I expect him to act that way. He may not; he may choose to be a jerk but I fully expect that choice to come back to haunt him. Especially if I catch wind of it.

  10. Karen December 14, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    The mums definitely need to extract themselves from the situation. They are exacerbating the issue. The mum if the left out girl is making it worse and not allowing her daughter to confidently move on to different friends. All kids need to learn that not everyone is going to be your friend and that’s okay. My daughter is in grade 8 and there is another girl in her class that is quite the little messed up manipulator and somewhat hands on with numerous girls. Nope I have not called the school. I did however tell my daughter that she has to keep speaking up to good girl and not allow the behavior. People will only treat you the way you allow them to. The kids being harassed by this gi have spoken up to an adult at school who now has all the kids involved meeting together giving them alternative tools to work it out. I am proud that my daughter doesn’t shun this other girl but is willing to be a good citizen towards her, but setting clean boundaries without ME!

  11. TRS December 14, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    IMHO – exclusion is bullying behavior by girls. I would talk to your daughters that this is not right and she needs to be nice and work with the other girls not to exclude even if it means that these girls will turn on her. I teach my daughters to have meaningful and real friendships and pay no mind to friendships that have strings attached. I do understand the other moms angst and she feels her child is being bullied and she is. Since I am a mom in that situation – I did try once to get the offending girl with my daughter to talk. It resulted badly. The other mom told me my daughter was too clingy and the other girl called her a stalker.

    That was the end of that. I discussed with my daughter why this is not a good friendship and provided other outlets for her to make friends.

    She is now in 7th grade and doing great. She has a few true friends, doing well in school, and has many outlets to keep her involved…..

  12. Morag Lonergan December 14, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    It’s a difficult decision, when to.get involved. However, if bullying is suspected then I think you have to do something. My own son has been bullied on and off for three years, at school. Nothing physical, but constantly being excluded from playing with his friends at break by one boy in the group. We have left the school to deal with it, left the kids to sort it out, and intervened. Nothing has worked and three years on it is still happening. We talk to our son and support him, of course. But when a school effectively tells you, “we have to give your child the skills to cope with being bullied” rather than taking action to stop the bullying from happening then, I think, you have no choice to step in and ensure appropriate action is taken by those with influence over the child. My kids are as “free range” as possible, and able to build and manage their own relationships, but sometimes other children are just cruel.

  13. Molly December 14, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I believe the best thing to do is to STAY OUT of the majority of kids’ conflicts. You’re right, usually they end up figuring things out and playing together again in no time. I have had many instances like the one you describe come up in our neighborhood.

    I would say to the Mom, “I’m sorry the girls haven’t been getting along lately, I know that can be hard. I don’t believe in getting involved in nine year olds’ squabbles, I think its important for them to learn how to negotiate those social conflicts on their own. I hope your daughter has told the others that her feelings have been hurt lately. If she needs to find some other friends to play with for awhile, I would certainly understand that.”

    As far as my own child coming to me with tattles/stories about other children, this is what I do. “I’m sorry you’re having a rough day getting along with your friends. Would you like to come inside and have some time to yourself for awhile, or would you like to go back out and try to make it work?” I would encourage my child to tell the others that his feelings have been hurt by their behavior.
    This leaves the responsilbility of getting along with others on the child, where it should be.

    Don’t be “bullied” by Moms who cannot stand to see their child suffer in any way. Life don’t work that way! Your parenting style is just as valid as theirs, don’t let them make you think otherwise.

  14. Mommela December 14, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    When my daughter changed schools in Grade Four, she encountered a difficult social situation that, to her, was simply perplexing. Another girl, J, was openly hostile and jealous if my daughter even spoke to anyone J considered her friend; J was possessive and defensive.

    Simply because we were new to that school, I did involve her teacher to help me understand some of the personalities involved–not to draw him into the mess or to intervene, but for my own private understanding.

    What we did find helpful is the book Queen Bees and Wannabees (not a book to just hand your daughter because it includes older-girl issues). We used the book to identify the major types of roles in girl social situations, to discuss situations that fit those roles, along with making sure she understood that she had a role in all social situations, too. There were good script outlines to follow when talking with other girls.

    But I stayed out of it when it came to other parents. Good luck!

  15. Karin December 14, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    It may not make you the popular mom among moms but staying out will be best for you and for your daughter! I would simply make it clear to the texting mom that you are not going to engage in these squabbles. I often find, because I had my kids just a little bit later in life than some of the other moms, that I can get away with simply saying, ‘this is how I do it…’ and let them either learn from you (which is the best outcome!) or simply talk behind your back. Depending on your daughters knowledge of this, it may be a good learning tool for both of you and help her to grow to be a strong, confident woman!! Be the example…

    and good luck! we have a son and a daughter and there is SO much less drama with boys:)

  16. Melissa December 14, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I’m going to agree that this has more to do with the mom’s past than what is going on with the girls. Do you know little girls? My daughter is 4 and there is already a ring leader in her preschool class. This is just how it is. The Queen Bees! Wait until high school. I would tell her that you did speak to your daughter but now you are staying OUT of it and you have no plans of discussing it with her (the mom) further unless something very serious were to happen.

  17. Brian December 14, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    I would bifurcate the issues.

    Take the other mom out for a cup of coffee and hear what she has to say. Maybe there is more to it than your daughter is sharing. Maybe she is less passive than you realize. Hear the other side and show the other mother that you are listening. Don’t offer to DO anything. Just listen and explain that you are sympathetic to the hurt but think it is important that your kids learn to work it out themselves.

    For your daughter, I would let her figure it out for herself but encourage her (through stories about when you were growing up) to try to be more of a peacemaker and less of the one excluding.

  18. Lisa December 14, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Does anyone have a suggestion of a good book or resource for me about how to help your kids learn to be a good, appropriate friend? I have a 3.5 year old daughter and I am quickly realizing that since childhood friendship was such a rocky road for me, I am completely lost when it comes to helping her navigate the world of friendship herself in a healthy way. It already seems so complex in preschool that I would love to learn some tips so I can be ready to help her (in a freerange way, of course!) 😉

  19. Claire December 14, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Make polite sympathetic noises, then do whatever it was you were gonna do anyway. Maybe take a few days to respond to texts, because, obviously, you are super-busy and exhausted what with five kids and all, yeah?

    Marie, that’s an awesome point: we do tend to forget the times WE were on the aggressor/ostracizing end of it! I remember being in middle school and feeling like I was most definitely pretty low on the social order. I had relatively broke parents, bad haircuts, worse fashion sense, and precious little social grace.

    But there were definitely some untouchables and I was certainly not interested in being seen fraternizing with any of them! I don’t think I ever went out of my way to pick on them but if someone else was making fun of some poor fat shy girl I can imagine I might have gone along to put some social distance between me and the “very bottom.” ugh. The things you want to tell your 13 yr old self! “none of this matters in ten years. At ALL.”

  20. Janet December 14, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    I think that while staying out seems to be a good idea. Hopefully she will also stay out when her daughter is the one being left out and made to feel bad which will surely happen if she is so passive.

    My daughter had a similar problem in 4th grade and I stayed out of it and now that girl is gone and my daughter is so happy with many friends. Let them deal with their own problems or they may never be able to.

  21. derpdedoo December 14, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    … I’ve always wondered — how do these people get your cell number, home number, email address, etc?

  22. Frau_Mahlzahn December 14, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    I think nobody wants to be left out — it sucks and hurts, and may (depending on how severe the situation really is) not necessarily be reduced to just another school yard drama. So I would take a close look, and find out myself, if the other mother makes too much out of it, or if it actually is an issue.

    And I would do this in my own kid’s interest, too, because by no means I would want my kid to run passively along while somebody else is being treated poorly.

    So, yes, too much parents’ interference can be nervwrecking — but do consider, that in some cases it’s a bit more than just a little schoolyard drama.

    So long,

  23. Frau_Mahlzahn December 14, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    @ claire:

    ****“none of this matters in ten years. At ALL.”*****

    Well, it _might_ still matter to that very fat girl on the social bottom…

    So long,

  24. Tamara December 14, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    American Girl puts out some great books about friendships…how to deal with different types of friends mean girls, etc. My girls love them.

    I stay out of their drama for the most part. If I feel my kid is being a jerk, I do tell them they are being a crappy friend. With responses to the moms of kids involved in the drama, I tell them our job is to listen and console, not fix. I let them know I have talked to my child, but I cannot force friendships and have explained to my kid that if they continue to act a certain way, they will likely lose a friend. However, that is life, and they have to learn from their mistakes.

  25. Kelly December 14, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    I have to say that I feel bullying is more of an active thing. Not involving someone in your activities isn’t bullying, it’s just having specific friends. Bullying is where people take an active role in putting others down (one could argue taking an inactive role and letting others do it counts too but for some kids I’m not sure they’re up for confronting situations they’re not involved in.) People need to learn that hurt feelings happen, not everyone wins at everything or has all the friends. You need to learn to be happy with where you are in life or learn to change it.

  26. Liz December 14, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    I love what the other commenter said above about the response of “I have every confidence they can work this out on their own.” If your child sees you worrying about these types of issues, she will take it as her cue to worry about it as well. Agree with what others have said to stay out of it and don’t borrow the other mom’s worry.

  27. Stephanie December 14, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    As a now-grown-up unpopular kid who was constantly left out by a lot of other kids in my class throughout middle school – PLEASE don’t get too involved in this!

    It’s on thing to talk to the left-out girl’s mom and find out whether this lady’s daughter actually wants her mom to intervene. Personally, I know I’d have been mortified if I knew my mom was going around telling other girls’ moms to make them be friends with me. And more importantly, I those would not have been genuine friendships.

    As much as it stunk that I didn’t have many friends through middle school, those tough years helped me learn how to tell who my real friends were, and I found great groups of girls in high school and in college, most of whom I am still good friends with today.

    I would, however, suggest that this woman speak with her daughter to determine whether she might actually want to be friends with the left-out girls and to an extent might be a victim of the hot-and-cold friend’s bullying herself (the hot-and-cold friend may say that if the daughter hangs out with the other girls when she doesn’t want to, they can’t be friends anymore, or something to that effect). In that case, it would definitely be a good opportunity to discuss with the daughter what a real friendship is, because perhaps she would be happier being friends with the left-out girls regardless of hot-and-cold friend’s threats.

    On the other hand, the daughter may simply not like those other girls either… In which case, what is really accomplished by intervening? The daughter would be forced to feign friendship with girls she doesn’t even like, and those girls won’t have the benefit of being able to develop genuine friendships with people who actually like them.

    There is definitely a difference between bullying and simply not wanting to be friends with someone. I’ve been a “victim” of both. I could have done without the bullying, but in the end I appreciated not being lied to about who my real friiends were.

  28. Brenda December 14, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I thought I was the only parent feeling this kind of pressure. I only have boys, but boy oh boy is there 4th grade drama among the Mamas!
    I found that listening to the other mom, is helpful, though I make to no commitment to having my son’s normal, playing with this kid, then that kid stop.

  29. Claudia December 14, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I think that meeting up with the parent and laying out your feelings is a good, if possible. It will show you’re not brushing them off, but leave no doubt (hopefully) about how you feel these things should be handled and help them to understand it.

  30. Abe December 14, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I like what Momella and Tamara say about finding books for kids to read about the challenges of friendships. Even a good movie can be helpful.

    I’d just add that it’s important for our kids to see how we as adults deal with friendships and conflicts in appropriate measure. If they see or hear about us being inclusive, standing up to judgemental hostility and being our own people, they’ll have good role models to emulate. If they never see us deal with these challenges, whose example will they follow?

  31. Sarah in WA December 14, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    My son is in preschool and I’m already seeing situations where other kids are leaving him out just to be mean, etc. He cries sometimes, I comfort him, and seeing him like this sucks–I won’t lie. I talk to the other kids about hurting others’ feelings (per the teacher’s guidelines), but the bottom line is this:

    You can’t force people (children or adults) to be friends.

    If some kids are chronically leaving a certain kid out, they are not that child’s friends. As a former unpopular kid myself, I remember situations where my parents tried to get me to invite the popular kids over, etc., thinking that if we just hung out more I’d have more friends. Well, surprise surprise, those kids always found some excuse not to come over and nothing changed. In fact, it made things worse. The thing is, I grew up, I have a lot of friends now, and I’m fine. To a certain extent, growing up needs to suck a little bit so that we can learn from it.

  32. Rob December 14, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I actually dealt with something like this a couple of years ago. My daughter, Brianna, then age 21, had rented an apartment near her college campus with a long-time friend. She had been off and on with this friend since middle school and when they got along, they got along great. When they didn’t, it was hellish. Brianna is stubborn and her friend can be cruel and they are both very self-centered. We all recommended against this living arrangement. Naturally, the problems began within a week of them moving into their apartment. And they had leased it for a year. I will spare you the details, but it was not pretty.

    One major difference between the girls was that we raised Brianna to work out her own conflicts. Her friend was helicopter parented by TWO sets of parents (hers were divorced but lived only a block away from each other), and she expected her parents to swoop in and take care of conflicts for her. So almost on a weekly basis, Brianna had her friend’s mom and step father at the apartment attacking her.

    We held off getting involved for a very long time, but we finally agreed to meet with mom and step-dad to see if we could come to some sort of a solution. The meeting involved us sitting there for an hour listening to them trash our daughter while putting theirs on a pedestal, and every time we tried to start a productive line of dialogue, they would talk over us and continue to demand that we step in and “make” Brianna do what they wanted.

    Point is, you can try to reason with the helicopter parent, but don’t give it too much time or effort because chances are you’re not going to be able to get through. Give it one shot and if Coptermom doesn’t relent, take Warren’s advice and tell her to piss off. I’m convinced that if Brianna and her friend had been allowed to work out the conflicts on their own, they would still be friends today. Instead, they won’t even look at each other if they happen to meet in public.

  33. Molly December 14, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Kelly, that is a great post! Kids need to feel that they have the power and resources to change their situation if necessary.

    Don’t get me started on “bullying.” It has turned into a catch-all label for any misbehavior or bad choice. I agree with you that is should be reserved for behavior that is “actively aggressive” and happens continually.

  34. Jenna K. December 14, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    @Lisa, I don’t have a book suggestion, but why not just teach your daughter to be kind to everyone and try to include everyone and treat everyone like she wants to be treated? That is how you become a friend to others.

    This is news to me. My older kids are boys and boys don’t create this kind of drama. My daughter is four and so far we haven’t had any issues of this sort. I do know it will happen, I remember being the one left out many times and having many “fair-weather” friends. There was one incident in sixth grade where a girl was taking it to a bullying level and my parents did confront her parents, who said, “Our daughter would never do such a thing.” The girl did finally leave me alone and we eventually became friends by high school.

    It sounds like this other mother is the one who is insecure and too meddlesome and maybe you just need to let her know that you want your daughter to solve her own conflicts and that while you are sorry that they are having trouble, you can’t force your daughter to be friends, all you can do is try and teach her to be nice to others. If she isn’t, you will talk to her about it, but you still can’t force a friendship.

  35. Ann December 14, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    This is such a hard one. When my oldest daughter was that age, I just let the friendships run their course.. gave my daughter suggestions on dealing with problems but did not intervene. When one of the other parents emailed me to try to suck me into it, I just told her directly that I thought the girls could work it out. They did. The friendship was on-again, off-again, but the girls worked it all out. Now that my younger daughter is that age, the friend problems have resulted in the girls getting in trouble with both the bus driver and principal. The situation has ramped up to the point that I really feel like now it IS my responsibility to be more involved. The 4 parents and 4 girls ended up having a meeting to discuss appropriate behavior, hurt feelings, passing notes, leaving people out, etc. It ended up being a positive “intervention”, but I only got to that point because the girls’ behavior was causing more serious problems in school and on the bus. For your average “girl drama” though, I would just say to the other mom that you are talking to your daughter about how to be a good friend, how to treat others, how feelings get hurt, etc. and just leave it at that. Let her know that you aren’t ignoring the problem completely but that you expect the kids to work it out themselves… that that is just part of growing up.

  36. Betsy December 14, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Boy, or should I say Girl, can I relate to this. With two daughters, I am suffering from serious girl-drama mama fatigue. And I find I just don’t want to know, don’t have the energy to give to, each and every nuance of social jockeying these poor kids seem to have to go through to figure it all out. I think the parental involvement can make things worse, or unnecessarily blow things out of proportion and should avoided as much as possible. It makes me realize how much I got away with by being such a devout tomboy I essentially shunned any and all female friends until I reached junior high….

  37. valleycat1 December 14, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    You can’t actually avoid contacts from the other parents. But assuming they’re contacting you about issues the kids can work out themselves, I would handle the parents the way I would a nagging or whiny child. The good old ‘broken record’ tactic. Come up with a succinct, short sentence stating your position. [I would include something to the effect that you definitely want to be in the loop if a truly serious issue arises.] State your position. They ask again, you state it exactly the same way again. No additions, no changes, no clarifying, no excuses, no complaints of your own. Continue as necessary til they understand they’re not going to draw you in.

  38. SKL December 14, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    I think a response of “thank you, I’ll speak to my daughter” should be enough. Then have a heart-to-heart with your daughter. My kid sometimes acts before she thinks and I’ll hear about it later. What I want my kid to understand is that when she does mean or thoughtless things to other children, they feel the way she’d feel if it happened to her. Short of forbidding the breaking of school rules, I don’t tell my kids what to do, but rather encourage them to be in the right mindset. I think every mom has this obligation to her daughter, and hearing of playground tiffs opens the opportunity to get these points across.

    In the “old days,” you would have heard about these things from your daughter’s siblings, or directly from her neighborhood friends. The fact that we have fewer kids and live farther from each other changes how in tune we are with our kids, their friends, etc.

  39. Emily December 14, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Miss Manners gave some great advice about this in her book, “Miss Manners’ Guide To Raising Perfect Children.” Granted, it was written in 1981, so “cyberbullying” wasn’t an issue, but I still think the advice is useful. A young girl wrote to her and said that she was new in school, and didn’t have any friends, and the other kids didn’t talk to her. Miss Manners replied that, ironically, kids (and adults) don’t want to make friends with someone who seems lonely, or desperate for companionship. So, instead of advising this girl to attempt to initiate friendships by talking to the other kids, Miss Manners advised her to “appear quietly interested in your surroundings, and make it look as if you’re perfectly content to have no one to play with.” This may seem counterproductive, but it’s not–kids are far more likely to engage with the “new girl” if they see her, say, happily swinging on the swings by herself at recess times, rather than moping in a corner by herself, or throwing herself at people trying to insert herself in whatever they’re doing.

    This approach also works if you’re being ostracized by friends, and have to take a break from them, or even start over from scratch–I did in in high school a few times; I’d just go about my business as if everything was normal. It completely took the wind out of people’s sails to be ostentatiously “excluding” me, only to see me walk past them and continue on with life as usual. It helped that I was a music student–I often used lunch/spare periods to practice my clarinet, so if I didn’t want to be social, for whatever reason, I had a built-in excuse not to.

    Also, I know I had it easier than most people, because I had multiple groups of friends, so if my music friends were being drama llamas, I still had my student council friends, theatre friends, and “been-around-since-grade-nine” friends, so I was never completely without friends; I just spent more time with different groups of people at different times.

    So, to recap–don’t look desperate, find positive things to occupy your time that you can do alone (but still be nice to anyone and everyone who engages you first, until they give you a reason not to like them, at which point you just walk away), and cultivate multiple (preferably co-ed) groups of friends. If I’d known that during grades four through eight, then I would have had a much easier time in school, from a social standpoint, but I’m glad I at least got the hang of it in high school. I’m not saying that it’s fair or right, I’m just saying that there are ways to get around this whole “girl drama.” Male friends are useful for that reason–they don’t engage in drama, and they can be a breath of fresh air when the Mean Girls brigade starts up.

  40. Lollipoplover December 14, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    With my girls, I encourage them to seek drama-free friendships. When they have friends over to play, there are some that are a bit too eager to involve the adults in every minor disagreement.
    They don’t get invited back.
    We have a “work it out on your own” philosophy that seems to work. I like the friends my kids play with- they can play happily with no drama. I hate to be sexist, but boys really are so much easier with this.

    Part of the problem with kids that seek out adult intervention for every minor squabble is that it teaches them to seek help. It stunts their emotional maturity. You develop little tattletails and “I’m telling on you” power that should never, every be encouraged. I

    My older daughter is also in 4th grade. The girls seem to get particularly nasty at this age (I’ve heard stories!) and girl drama may be unavoidable. My daughter likes to play sports mixed with boys and girls to avoid the petty stuff. Kickball, soccer, and manhunt usually keeps drama off the radar.

  41. Mike December 14, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    “Hi, this is Mrs. Boring, did you know that your daughter blah blah blah?”

    Reply: It’s their problem, they can work it out. Bye!

    Then hang up the phone.

  42. backroadsem December 14, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    As I think we all agree upon, all you can do is work on your daughter. I do like the idea of talking with your daughter about her behavior toward this other girl–but without any preaching or constant reminders. One lesson, and she has the option of learning it or not.

    As for the response to this other mother: “I’m sorry about your daughter, it must be very painful. I promise you I’m doing nothing to encourage it, but I truly feel it isn’t my place to add to the drama.”

  43. Ali December 14, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    A book that helped me, “Odd Girl Out” by Rachel Simmons was really good at giving advice on how girls put together their social hierarchy and how you can help your daughter cope. It’s a good read, most libraries have it. The basic gist is:

    1. Don’t get caught up in it.
    2. Bullying for girls is exactly the behavior you describe, “odd girl out”. For boy’s it looks much different.

    You’ve gotten a lot of good advice on how to diffuse the other mom. She might just need some handlholding. (Although personally, I’m not into playing into that with other parents, it’s too exhausting). Good luck!!

  44. Neil M December 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    EB: Excellent point, and one we see not just in children but adults. I have witnessed people who undoubtedly derive pleasure from knowing they have the ability to throw an entire social circle into a tizzy over some spat or another. I don’t see why children are immune to the faults their elders display.

  45. JJ December 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I agree that kids need to negotiate these situations themselves and that your role is to listen, offer advice, teach compassion. As for being bombarded with texts, emails, calls–I think you should ignore them. When you run into the mom (hopefully weeks later) you give her a sincere smile and say “I am sorry I didn’t get back to you, but I figured the kids worked it out”. Not responding is the best way to send a signal that you won’t get caught up in this because, well because you are an adult.

  46. Rob.D December 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    I would suggest you encourage to stand on her own, make her own decisions and not let this other girl mske decisions for her. Perhaps befriend this girl that gets left out.

  47. Aileen Journey December 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I used to live in a neighborhoods where the kids would all play outside with each other a lot. One mother, in particular, would come to my house with her five year old son to complain to me about what my five year old son had done or said to him. Her son had some social difficulties which were not apparent to her. Her complaints were about pretty normal kids problems (toy sharing issues). I realized that her issues may have come from her own feelings of vulnerability as a child. Instead of involving the poor children, I tried to listen to what she said and be supportive of the fact that she and her son felt hurt without implicating my son or promising anything. It seemed to help.

  48. pentamom December 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I’m with SKL. Being dismissive isn’t good because there could indeed be something your child needs to be corrected on. Just assuming they’ll work it out isn’t always good because the outcome could be your child bring reinforced in a negative behavior.

    But once you’re aware of a potential problem, it becomes strictly between you and your own child. It’s your job to parent, which means it’s your job to influence and correct *your own child.* It isn’t your job yo ensure the other parent or child’s preferred outcome. If after you’ve talked with your own child and counseled, corrected, vindicated, or reassured her as appropriate, if the other parent persists, simply reiterate that you’ve addressed it. It only gets reopened if the other parent cites problematic behavior that has arisen SINCE you talked to your own child about it.

  49. Tsu Dho Nimh December 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    But the child also leaves other kids out and my kid goes passively along. Now the mom of one of the ones left out is constantly bombarding me and the other girl’s mom

    Why are the other girls being left out? Is it because of the activities? I remember systematically leaving one girl out of almost everything we did because from my perspective then she was a whiny, helpless tattletale (now I realize she had been helicopter parented before it had a name and had very limited life skills).

    Is there a history between the other girls? We’ve all had to balance the “can’t invite Mary if Suzy will be there because Mary’s brother dumped Suzy” equations.

    Maybe there should be an intervention of the sort where ALL the mums get together and collectively decide they are not going to get drawn into the fray. Because it’s a source of power to some kids that they can get their parents drawn into a fight.

  50. Fuchsia December 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    We try not to get involved in girl drama for the most part. There have been some friendships that DSD (now 15) has had that were fraught with drama. We have consoled, coached, been vented to etc. but we haven’t gotten involved. It isn’t our place. How will DSD learn how to navigate human relationships if we don’t let her navigate her own.

    All of that said I think there is a time for parents to step in. If someone will be physically hurt or something dangerously illegal is going on. We had an incident with DSD’s friend last year where someone was going to get beaten up or arrested with the way things were going. I did call the friend, the school and the girls dad. We also informed DSD that she was no longer friends with the girl because things had gotten way too out of hand and DSD was not walking away. I had no issue doing that as DSD had tried and failed with that one. And the friend was kinda nuts! And someone was going to get physically hurt or end up with a criminal record for assault.

    I think there is a time for parents to step in. But that is not at the start of the drama.

  51. fookie December 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    re marie’s post:
    “Judging by the Facebook emoting by my adult friends, we CAN. My opinion: The word “bullying” should be stricken from the language. All the recent concern (workshops, seminars, strategies) about bullies has created an atmosphere where bullying is wrong unless you are picking on the bully and then it’s good. Adults are teaching our kids that this is okay.

    Among my FB friends, the ones most likely to post the “stop bullying” crap are the ones I remember as bullies in school. The lesson is that we all feel picked-on at one point or another; we all think we know what it feel like to be bullied. I think we forget the times when we were the bullies.”

    Marie, as someone who has worked in educational publishing, specifically on the topic of bullying, I have to disagree with a number of your statements. The workshops, books, etc. attempting to deal with bullying do exactly the opposite of making it ok to blame the bully. There is a lot of time and money spent on developing peace and justice councils in schools so that bullies aren’t in turn victimized by anti-bullying efforts/campaigns.

    As for your claim that the people on facebook posting against bullying were the bullies (I THINK you were saying that they don’t like bullying b/c they felt bullied by people standing up to them??), who knows if that’s true at all or for all. There was a period of my childhood where after years of bullying, I became the bully. It was more than 23 years ago, but I still remember it. I wasn’t “movie quality bully”, but I had some moments I continue to regret to this day. And the knowledge that I did harm (as well as knowing exactly how it felt to be harmed) is what has led me to be an advocate today. So when I post “don’t bully” articles on Facebook it has nothing to do with hypocrisy or the like. It may well be that others that could have been described as bullies at some point in their lives have had similar awakenings. I certainly have not forgotten neither the times I was bullied nor the times I did the bullying.

    While there are certainly adults (parents and teachers included) who are bullies and may be teaching kids that it’s ok to pick on bullies, nobody who is trained to intervene in bullying or advocates intelligently against bullying thinks it’s ok to pick on the bully.
    To the original poster, I agree that you don’t need to get involved in the mommy drama, but would like to point out that the power to end bullying is in the vast majority of cases held by the bystander(s). It sounds to me like your daughter may be playing the role of the bystander. I still don’t think the other moms should be involved, but it might be worthwhile talking to your daughter about the power she holds as a bystander. And that standing by the friend who is doing the excluding is giving her friend the power to continue doing it. Standing up to the friend about it doesn’t have to be loud or aggressive, but just be about not “standing with” her when she does it. Physically leaving when it is happening can be as effective as saying “hey, don’t be a bully, let’s all play together.” And of course getting the attention of an adult after leaving if the bullying is physical or verbally aggressive. Your daughter choosing to walk away when others are being excluded will take the wind right out of the bully’s sails.

    Excluding other girls intentionally to hurt them is a form of bullying and although I will again say that I do not think mommies need to be involved in this situation, I do think that you could investigate your daughter’s role in this a little bit with the goal of giving her the confidence to stand up (however she feels comfortable) to this girl’s habit of excluding others.

  52. mollie December 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    I have come to understand that anything anyone says or does is an attempt to get them closer to something we all value.

    So. In this situation: “Mean” girl “excludes” other girls from play at recess by saying, “You can’t play with us, you’re too stupid for this game.”

    What does this “mean girl” value?

    What this girl values could be a sense of power and influence (“Hey, I can affect things around me, I can affect other people.” I’ve explained to my kids that random acts of kindness are an extremely powerful way to have influence. There are many ways to have power.) You don’t have to like what someone is doing to see what they value, what we all value. Maybe it’s connection this girl is aiming for; perhaps she finds that the sense of connection may be enhanced with her selected playmates by telling others they can’t join. Again, we may not enjoy the behaviour, but if we can see how much longing this girl has for connection, and how tragic her strategy actually is, there may be a way to talk to her about her behaviour that doesn’t label it “bullying.” Maybe she’s after safety; after all, if I’m the one doing the excluding, then I am safe from being excluded, safe from feeling pain and loneliness. A sense of belonging and acceptance may be factoring in as well. Again, seeing a child who is doing things we don’t like and unearthing what it is they want more of is a very constructive way of entering into a conversation than trying to “correct” them. My tagline as a coach is “Connection before correction.”

    Moving on: What does the girl who is being “excluded” value? Belonging, fun, connection, community, caring, consideration, ease, harmony, enjoyment, to know she matters, maybe even safety. If we can reflect back to her what we imagine she wants more of, instead of taking sides, promising to fix it, or giving advice, she can come to her own conclusions about what to do next. When we’re upset and someone reflects to us what we value, there is a sense of shifting from blame and distress to a kind of sweeter sadness, and then creative problem-solving. Urgency to alleviate suffering takes us away from this kind of open-hearted listening that doesn’t even have to involve saying anything out loud, but I have found that this kind of empathy is truly healing.

    Okay, now the “affected” girl’s mother: why does she call this other mother? What does she want? Perhaps responsibility, support, clarity, understanding, shared reality, safety, well-being, and influence. And maybe respect, to know she matters too. Lots of things to guess about there, and the conversation doesn’t have to be about fixing the girls; it can instead be an opportunity to receive this woman’s distress with empathy. If she values well-being, she can come to her own conclusions about what to do next to get more of that for herself and her daughter. We don’t have to take responsibility for her emotions in order to receive her with compassion.

    And now the mom who is getting the phone call: Sounds like she values peace, ease, responsibility, trust, to be seen as she is, to have autonomy and choice in how she parents, and maybe growth and learning for the girls. Again, if she tells the other mom what she values in this situation, instead of telling the other mom to get lost, or to not get involved, “directing” her to not call again, whatever… if we connect with the other person by naming what we value, then there is a sense of partnership, even if no strategies are involved.

    Anyway, my two cents. I reject the idea of labelling anyone “bully” or “victim,” and imagine that empathy would bring a whole lot of relief to these situations.

  53. GiGiSeattle December 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    I think part of the issue (which was briefly mentioned above) is that the mom is texting you. I think if she really cares, she needs to put a call in and ask to meet up. If she doesn’t have time to do that, then it probably isn’t that important.

    I think if it were me, I would text back that if she would like to talk about it, she should call you to set up a time to meet.

    Likely, the other mom will never get around to doing this, but if she does… I would listen to what she has to say and then respond that you have discussed the issue with your own child and feel that that is the end of it. You will continue to parent your own child from home, but won’t involve yourself in the details because you really want your child to learn how to function in the world on her own terms.

  54. ifsogirl December 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    I’m dealing with a similar issue, but it’s my ex husband sending the emails. Our older daughter and her best friend squabble, they have been doing this since grade 1 and are now in grade 3. My daughter is on the smaller side and her friend is about 6 inches taller. So sometimes when they play her friend gets a little too physical with her. At times like those we reminder her to be a little more gentle.

    But I get emails from my ex telling me I have to deal with the problems that crop up between the two girls. He has told our daughter that her friend is a bully and she shouldn’t be friends with her anymore. That really upsets our daughter because she really likes her friend. Usually it is the normal little girl drama fights. She said this, she doesn’t want to play what I want to paly etc… Our daughter is usually the “victim” but she can be just as bad as her friend at times.

    My ex thinks I should be contacting the parents every time something happens. I happen to be friends with the parents and we had come up with a way to deal with the girls as we saw this coming well ahead of time. We listen to what they say and then ask them how they are going to work it out. If it is a big deal we will sit with them and talk it out, but no one is called a bully. And usually it’s not nearly as bad as it’s first made out to be. The one time there was a big incident, the offending child was punished and the kids moved on.

    I have tried to tell my ex that the kids need to learn to fight these small battles so they can learn to fight the bigger ones. He seems to think the best way to deal with it is to tell her these kids aren’t really her friends and she shouldn’t play with them any more. I do my best to balance it out and just hope I do a good enough job of it.

  55. marie December 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I reject the idea of labelling anyone “bully” or “victim,” and imagine that empathy would bring a whole lot of relief to these situations.

    I like that a lot. Labeling someone as a bully or a victim is sticking them with a label they may struggle to live down for years.

    fookie, thanks for the thoughtful response to my comment. If you are able to educate people on ways to stand up to bullies without the bully/victim labels, more power to you. Sounds like your educational units on bullying must not be the ones my kids have gone through. They both roll their eyes at the attempts at school to encourage them to “tell a teacher” when they see or experience bullying. Kids understand quite clearly that telling a teacher is the best way to be labelled a snitch or, in other words, “target for bullying”. Kids need to learn mollie’s methods of pulling the rug out from under the bully.

    I agree that many adults (myself included) have come to look back with regret at something they did in their youth and have profited from that realization.

  56. Amanda Matthews December 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Block her phone number and email address. If she tries to talk to you about it in person, walk away.

    While yes exclusion is often a bullying tactic, trying to get the adults to force inclusion won’t work. You can’t force kids to be friends. Oh they’ll let her in to their game or whatever, but they’ll hate her even more for it, and they’ll find other, more hidden, more emotionally abusive tactics to bully her.

    The girl just has to learn that if she’s being excluded, to go find some other people to be friends with. Her mother obviously never learned this (seriously, this is the behavior of a mother of a 9 year old/fourth grader?! Sounds like the mother of a 3 year old!). I know that’s hard when your parents make your only options for friends your classmates. it may be years before she is able to find other friends – it was for me. I was exclusion bullied (among other forms of bullying) for the majority of time I was in school. Whenever they sensed this was hurting me or when a teacher forced other kids to include me, the emotional bullying got worse. It took years, but eventually I realized: why they heck would I WANT to be friends with those @$$es? and I was able to find some other people that I actually got along with – most of them were being excluded too.

    As for your daughter, if this really is a case of going along with bullying – and not just the fact that she doesn’t particularly want to play with this kid (just like you don’t want to talk to the kid’s mother) – she will eventually realize the kid doing the bullying is an @$$ and wonder why SHE ever wanted to be friends with such a person. I’d have some conversations about empathy to help this along, maybe encourage her read some books about kids that are bullied, but I would not talk to the girl’s mother.

  57. Jill December 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    I do think it’s worthwhile to try to find out what is really going on, and the perspective of the other person, so that you can ask your daughter about what is going on from her perspective. One of the goals of parenting is to raise well mannered children, and this could be a good learning opportunity for your daughter, if it does turn out that there are some not nice things going on. But you would be doing this for the sake of your daughter and her social development, not for the sake of the other person’s daughter.

    I do agree with what the majority of posters have said, it wouldn’t be good to get ultra involved, have meetings/discussions in the group, etc. unless conflicts reach extreme levels where bullying is obvious and/or it’s interfering with school. Otherwise it just needlessly blows things out of proportion.

  58. rhodykat December 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    The texts are from the mother whose daughter is left out – I would put myself in her shoes, and give my daughter a talk about empathy and inclusion and “how would you feel if it were you” but ultimately respect my daughter’s decision re: inclusion, so long as she wasn’t being nasty to the other girl. Kids needs to pick who they are comfortable with. It won’t benefit anybody to force a friendship if it isn’t genuine.

  59. linvo December 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    That’s tough. I have a 8yo and she went through some friendship dramas in her first 2 years at school.

    I talked to her about it a lot and my message was always “Yes, it’s tough, but no one can fix it but you”. I can highly recommend the book “Speak up and get along” to teach kids resilience, assertiveness, self-esteem and confidence. We used it a lot and it was good to be able to refer to some of the techniques in the book when my daughter felt powerless against consistent teasing.

    What I did find was that interference from teachers (not requested by parents as far as I’m aware of either) seemed to make things worse. It seemed to fuel the girls’ hunger for drama and I am sure that at times they initiated conflict to get attention from their teachers. The dobbing culture also made things much harder for my girl because she had had a pretty bad experience with being dobbed in and punished for something she didn’t do when she was very young. So any time anyone said “I’m going to tell the teacher” she would do whatever they wanted, even if she had not done anything wrong. That has been the hardest issue for us to work through. I did once talk to her teacher about it, but my message – which was basically ‘let them sort it out themselves because you’re making matters worse’ – fell on deaf ears.

    Thank heavens she has had the most fantastic teacher this year who has enough common sense to tell the kids that she doesn’t have time for such petty squabbles. I worship the ground she walks on! And I have witnessed the whole class playing games together in the morning and have not heard any stories about being excluded or teased. Which makes me very happy and my girl can concentrate on what she is really there for: to learn.

    This is all more advice for the other mother. But if she doesn’t realise that she has to teach her daughter to deal with this herself and the interference from adults is senseless and counterproductive, I do not know how you would get that message through to her.

  60. Katie December 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    I understand not wanting to intervene on behalf of your daughter in these squabbles, and that would be my approach, but if another mom has come to you about not only someone else’s child’s behavior but your own child’s behavior, I think it’s worth at least talking to your child about it. I don’t think forbidding a friendship is the correct approach, but maybe having a quiet chat about being kind to everyone and not just following along with what your friends do–perhaps without referencing any specific activities–might not hurt.

    It’s one thing when your own kid is the victim of other Nellie Olsens. It’s another when your kid IS one of the Nellie Olsens. I’m not saying you need to get deeply involved, but I also think there’s an opportunity here to have a constructive conversation with your daughter about the right way to treat other people.

  61. Karla December 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I didn’t read all the other comments, so I hope this isn’t repetitive. I’m a school psychologist and have been reading up on bullying with the goal of developing a good level of expertise.
    So first – bullying involves a power differential. Two girls disagreeing is not bullying, even if some meanness is involved. The other situation, though, with the girl who gets off on excluding other girls and gets her friends to join in – that is absolutely girl bullying, otherwise known as relational aggression. In this case, your daughter doesn’t necessarily have to give her up as a friend, but she should be encouraged to make and keep her friends based on her own preference, and not go along with what the other girl is doing. The only reason that girl can cause so much trouble and pain to others is because of the other girls in the group who go along with it.

  62. renee December 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    The thing that popped out to me was “I think she (your dd) wants me to forbid the friendship”. Unless you were actually talking about the mother (gasp).If you think your dd is wanting you to forbid it – then tell her that she is welcome to use you as an excuse. There were several times in my life that my parents said I could do something that I knew was wrong, or a bad decision, but were going to allow it. So I blamed my parents to my friends “Darn, I wish I could but my Mom said NO!” It was very freeing. I wasn’t strong enough to go against my friends on my own.

  63. marie December 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    renee, my daughter has done the same thing. “Mom, just tell me I can’t go.” I love that she has that tool. She uses it less as she gets older and is able to say No on her own.

  64. Jiltaroo December 15, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    I think there are times where it is OK to intervene. I have 4 boys and they are generally free range. However, I believe it is useful to help them know how to deal with certain situations by example if what they have tried hasn’t worked out. We are new to our court and my second eldest (12) came in and told me that he was having problems with the boy up the road who had been somewhat territorial from the start. He also told me he was partly at fault as he had exploded with some choice words out of frustration when an apology wasn’t accepted for something he had done. I wandered up to have a chat and ended up meeting the Mum. I introduced myself and we agreed that both boys needed to clean the slate and start again. There was no need for name calling between us, anger or blame andI think it helped both boys to see that we were interested in friendship rather than a mummy war. That boy popped around today to see if anyone wanted to play. It was nice.

  65. Donna December 15, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    It depends on what you are talking about here. If it is just kids selecting friends and this woman’s child being unpopular, then stay out of it. If it is just kids picking who to play with at some particular time, butt out.

    However, if this is a concerted effort on the part of this one girl to exclude this girl from the social fabric to make her feel bad, that is bullying!!! That is how girls bully. Bullying is not exclusively violence, in fact with girls it almost never is.

    I am more free range than many and mostly let my daughter handle things herself with her friends. She is currently embroiled in a very toxic relationship with a girl who sounds exactly like the girl the writer is talking about. It is well beyond squabbles and involves one girl who loves my daughter one minute, and then the next will hate her and make it so no other child will play with her. If my daughter tries to play with her, she refuses. Not a problem and something my daughter needs to learn how to deal with. However, when my daughter tries to play with another group of kids, this other girl interferes, runs the other kids off and then refuses to play with my daughter again. I’ve intervened numerous times in this relationship. The other girl’s mother (who sees and achkowledges the issues) and I have worked together with both our children (me on getting mine to be more assertive and her on getting hers to be less of a b$%&*) and things seem to be on a much more even keel now. It isn’t about forcing the two girls to play together – frankly, I dislike this other girl and would love nothing more than for my daughter to find a new “best friend” – it is about getting them to interact appropriately if they going to insist on being “friends.” Friendship is a learner behavior, not something that everyone is born knowing how to properly manage.

    My suggestion is to talk to the other mother and see what her concerns really are. Maybe it is an overly sensitive mom. Maybe more is going on than you are observing or your daughter is telling you. You don’t have to do anything, and should tell the other mother upfront “this is something for the girls to work out” if it is just a routine squabble. If your daughter is part of bullying this other girl, you need to deal with it. Don’t just blow it off as helicopter parenting just because the other mother is involved since even free range parents occasionally interfere when the situation warrants.

  66. Donna December 15, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    I think a talk with your daughter is also in order regardless of what you do with the mother. Why are they excluding this girl? Is it because they simply don’t like her? Because Mean Girl makes them? Because they want to be mean? How does she feel about it? Does something in your daughter’s part in this scenario need to be addressed?

    People are not born knowing how to manage friendships and how to treat each other. Everyone keeps saying to let them navigate their own friendships, but have said nothing about the fact that they need to learn skills to navigate their friendships. Free range kids is all about teaching your kids to function in the world. We insist that we don’t just throw them to the wolves, but carefully skill them to survive. But with friends we are supposed to just throw them out there and assume they’ll pick it up with no guidance? I don’t expect that I will need to be involved in friendship issues when my child is 18, but I also don’t expect her to be able to handle everything thrown her way at 6 or 9 or 12. I don’t need to be involved in every squabble, but I don’t expect my child to just figure out the intricacies of human relationships completely on her own either. While I expect that my daughter will talk to me when her feelings are hurt, I’m not dumb enough to think that she’ll come rat herself out when she is hurting others feelings so we can discuss her choices. I have to listen to her friends and their parents for that.

    I note two things about the letter. First that you go through all the things you want to do if your child has hurt feelings but don’t address what you do if your child is the one hurting someone’s feelings. It is as if that thought never occurred to you as a possibility. Second, you seem to be saying that you see that your daughter’s friend has some negative “mean girl” behaviors (I don’t know if she does or not but I get the impression from the letter that YOU think she has some negative behaviors), but don’t really seem to care because your daughter has fun with her. You don’t even seem to really care that your daughter goes along with this behavior.

  67. bobca December 15, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    The mom bombarding you with email messages, texts, and phone calls is actually the bully. There is nothing wrong in leaving someone out, as long as it is just a choice, and not an act of meanness. People, children included, are still allowed to choose their friends, yes?

  68. pentamom December 15, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Donna — very well said.

  69. Jynet December 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    After determining that this is simply a case of your daughter and this girl just not being friends (as apposed to your daughter being a bystander to bullying by the ‘hot and cold’ girl), I think you have to do with the other mom is the same thing you do with your daughter.

    Listen, console, commiserate even, but then let it go.

  70. Amanda Matthews December 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    “People are not born knowing how to manage friendships and how to treat each other. Everyone keeps saying to let them navigate their own friendships, but have said nothing about the fact that they need to learn skills to navigate their friendships. Free range kids is all about teaching your kids to function in the world. We insist that we don’t just throw them to the wolves, but carefully skill them to survive. But with friends we are supposed to just throw them out there and assume they’ll pick it up with no guidance?”

    Free range is also about the fact that a lot of things must be learned by doing, right? A parent can sit you down and talk to you about independence until their face turns blue, but until until you actually go out and face it yourself, you won’t learn it. If you’re teaching a kid to read and never let the kid work through new words on their own, they’ll never learn to read without you there telling them the new words.

    I think friendships are the same way, especially with the fact that friendship dynamics change a lot from generation to generation (example – when I was a kid, the kids on computers and other electronics were weirdos that were excluded. Nowadays, the kids without electronics are left out of the social loop, and communication via electronics is rampant). Social interaction in general, I think that is mostly learned from observation at a very young age, the same way language is learned.

    By 6 or 9 or 12 I think the foundation has been laid and they need to experience it and work through it on their own in order to learn it. Especially since a parent attempting to help usually makes things much worse. (Example – When I told my mother I was being bullied and some of the reasons why – because of the way I dressed, because of the things I liked – and asked her how I could make friends despite this, her advice was to start dressing like everyone else and start liking “normal” things. Because that was how people managed to fit in during her generation, in the place she was from. Today we would encourage the child’s interests and help them find groups of other kids that share the interest (or explain to them how to do that on their own) – that’s easy to do now because of the internet. It was not as easy in the past couple of generations if you didn’t live in a community where there was an OBVIOUS group that liked the interest.)

  71. Elizabeth December 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    For those asking for a book – I like Little Girls Can Be Mean, which is focused on “girl drama” for young tweens, and how (and how much) parents can get involved.

  72. beth December 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    It’s the hardest thing to do as a mom but having been “too involved” and having seen “too involved moms”, it never ends well when parents get involved. For a gazillion reasons but simply think of it this way, if we are constantly stepping in and getting involved and over involving ourselves in kids issues, we never teach our children valuable skills and we never instill in them their own tolerance gauge to be able to assess and evaluate what makes them unhappy or happy, comfortable or uncomfortable, angry or not angry. We as parents really are reacting to our own unresolved issues and past hurts which we find hard to control when we see our kids being treated unfairly. It’s so important to know where our reactions are stemming from and to manage overeacting as a warning sign that the feelings that are coming up really have little to do with our kids and everything to do with ourselves and our past traumas. I know when I see an exchange between my daughter and one of her friends and I get that crazy feeling inside like someone just did something totally uncool to my kid I have to take a deeep breathe, come down to earth and walk away. Yes sometimes I may have a discussion with my girls exploring how they felt about certain instances but usually even those loving little small talks end up being about me and my perceptions and insecurities where they really have to be about my daughters.

  73. Maegan December 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    When my sister and her boyfriend broke up, his entire family got involved. My sister was 18 years old. I’ve seen talk show hosts recommend calling the parents of your child’s boyfriend, too. I didn’t realize that parents were getting so involved in schoolyard dramas, though. How do so many parents get another parent’s information? I don’t really call, email, or text strangers. I guess people can always find me online. But even then I’d probably ignore them for the most part. It only turns into parents “bullying” parents. Offering some straightforward explanations in addition to the ignoring is probably the best.

    It’s true that we’ve become hyper-sensitive to bullying. I wish our society was a bit better at moderation. I agree that the recent bullying awareness is a good thing. It’s obviously important to identify and stop extreme cases where children are dangerously distressed. But, sadly, it has evolved into a fear of conflict of any kind. I believe adults are more sensitive to conflict, too.

    It’s also true that parental involvement can sometimes make things seem worse than they are. I got into a physical fight with a girl in elementary school. We had to go to the principal, but I don’t remember my parents ever having been informed. A few months later, I was invited to her birthday party and had a great time. It was treated as a common incident that would work itself out, and for that reason, I barely even remember it. If our parents had fought over it, it would have taken a much larger toll on both of us.

  74. mary December 17, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    I only have boys (three of them) so have watched from afar the other school mothers having these dramas, which were clearly about their own feelings and over-identification with their daughters. But last year I caught a glimpse of how this could feel when a mother emailed me about something my oldest son had remarked to her daughter which had ‘upset’ her (the daughter). I honestly couldn’t see why his innocuous comment had caused any upset and I certainly didn’t think there was anything to be gained from telling me about it – as if he’d introduced her to porn or drugs or something rather than simply making a lame joke about school. Talk about an over-reaction. I can’t tell if the girl manipulates the mother or the mother is re-living things from her own school years. I just went along with the ‘boys are so clueless’ line (even though I don’t actually think so) to appease her and keep out of it. I know all this would have driven me mad if I had a girl, though hopefully any daughter of mine would not have engaged to such an extent in such over-sensitive silliness! I agree with much of what others have written – you should draw an explicit line and make it clear to your daughter and the other mothers that you don’t even want to know about these dramas.

  75. Nicole March 1, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    I would try activities where as a parent you could observe in a closer way. Then discuss some scenarios with my child. i would also look at the time of day, day of the week. This may sound a bit out there but times it involves the amount of rest a child has had, their diet, the sweets or junk food. All types of outside environmental influences can affect behavior and interaction. Age has a huge part in this as well as preteen and teen hormones.


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