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DD (11) dealing with mean girls at school... Am I giving the right advice?

(27 Posts)
twelveyeargap Thu 15-Feb-07 22:37:43

DD is 11 and is very bright for her age and behaves in a very mature way. She's not precocious (in the perjorative sense) and does have some good friends.

However, she was crying her eyes out tonight, partly with frustration and partly with pure misery about the girls in her class (all girls school), who make fun of her for being clever, and make snide comments about her being helpful and kind to other girls in the class or for putting herself forward to do things.

DD knows that pretending to be 'fick or not doing her work is not the answer, thankfully, but I didn't really know what to say to her, other than that unfortunately there will always be b'tchy women and girls that we need to deal with and that we will never be able to change that. I said that what we could change is how we feel about them and that whilst she mustn't stick her nose in the air, all she can do is try to learn not to care about what they say. That these people will probably never enrich her life in any way and that it's a shame for her to get upset and worry herself about people who don't really matter.

Is this the right thing to say? I feel so sorry for her. She really is a lovely kid. Not in an "all parents think their own kids are great" way - adults and even other children say she's nice and teachers always say how polite she is and what a pleasure she is to have around.

I know I can't stop other children from hurting her feelings, so how can I help her to deal with it?

saadia Thu 15-Feb-07 22:42:59

she sounds lovely, don't know what she can do about the nastiness but your advice is definitely the right approach IMO.

mythumbelinas Thu 15-Feb-07 22:45:16

She does sound lovely and level headed.
I have no advice, but what you did say to her sounds right to me

donnie Thu 15-Feb-07 22:45:23

maybe you could say that perhaps these girls are jealous of her and secretly want to be like her - so in thta sense she should pity them. A horrible situation though.

KTeePee Thu 15-Feb-07 22:46:37

I remember suffering this at a similar age - being called a swot, etc (which I wasn't because I didn't have to try very hard to do reasonably well - and in fact lots of these girls were equally bright...)

I would say the best thing you can do is boost her self-esteem in other areas - don't just praise her for doing well at school, tell her she looks pretty, make sure she has fashionable clothes to wear - these things are probably far more important to the average 11 year old!

Has she got close friends who will take her side at school? I think one of my problems was that when I started secondary school my previous best friend was put in a different form and I found it hard to make equally close new friends for a few years...

will try to think of more things and post again tomorrow....

twelveyeargap Thu 15-Feb-07 22:48:00

Thank you. It's really hard to know what to say. It does help to know that I might be approaching this in the right way.

I feel a bit overwhelmed when I can't just "fix it", as does she, I think. Clever me for passing that unhelpful personality trait to her!

BuffysMum Thu 15-Feb-07 22:48:31

I think what you said is fine, just make sure you are there for those days when it's been hard and she needs hugs and tears to get it all out.

Twinklemegan Thu 15-Feb-07 22:55:03

I agree with what KTeePee said. I too suffered this kind of bullying at a similar age. I was (was being the operative word )fairly clever, but didn't do nearly as much work as some of the girls thought. I was also good at music and didn't enjoy sports. Not a great combination as far as popularity goes. But there are always girls who manage to be really clever, kind and helpful and still be popular. I think it's because they're also seen to be "cool". Encouraging her to fit in, in the sense of wearing fashionable clothes, etc. as KTP said, is great advice. I could have done with some more encouragement in that vain from my parents tbh.

RosaLuxembourg Thu 15-Feb-07 23:24:14

Am following this thread with interest because it has already started happening with my DD1 who is 9. One girl turned round to her this week and said 'Just because you are on the top table doesn't mean you know everything' which really upset her because she didn't mean to be a knowitall.
Then tonight she was writing in her reading diary for her teacher and mentioned that she had spotted a mistake in the book she was reading - and then asked me if she should cross it out because it would sound boastful. Also last week she made herself a lovely necklace and didn't want to wear it to see friends in case it looked like she was showing off.
I feel terrible that she is being made to feel like that but like you I can't think how to advise her on dealing with this stuff.

twelveyeargap Fri 16-Feb-07 09:07:22

KTeePee - you're absolutely right in saying that I need to keep her confidence boosted. Her form tutor, at parents' evening on Weds said that she was worried about her because she's seemed very scatty in the last few weeks and its very unlike her. I realise she's had a lot on her mind. She's gone to a new school where she knew absolutely nobody, we've moved house twice in the last three months, her commute to school has increased from 30 mins to an hour and we're having a baby in May. There's so much going on her life and I've been so busy that I've neglected her, I think. Poor thing.

We're going away on Sunday for the mid-term, just me and her. It couldn't come at a better time, really.

She does have trendy clothes (I'm only 28, so I'm still fairly in touch!) and she is friends with some lovely girls, although most are outside her own form. She's just found it incredibly frustrating to be in this environment where the "mean girls" seem to be so popular. I asked her if she'd actually like to be friends with these kinds of girls and she said she really didn't, it was just annoying how they were perceived.

I also realised because of her "Miss Fix It" approach to things, she seems to put herself forward for things, like during games (which she's not very good at) and then gets well, abuse, if the team doesn't win. Told her that PE was probably the one thing where people always feel they have the right to tell you you're rubbish and to blame you when things go wrong. Unlikely to happen if your science experiment doens't work... Said that she should channel the "fix it" attitude into leadership in other ways, like suggesting random ways of picking people for tasks in PE when the girls are arguing about it, instead of just getting exasperated and saying, "Oh I'll do it then."

Rosa, I feel for your little girl, becuase I think it must be harder to know how to cope at 9 years old because she's dealing with even more immature girls than mine is. My DD used to come across as "bossy" to other kids, whereas now most other children are learning to value leadership. It's much more difficult for yours. When similar (though not quite so nasty, I admit) things happened to DD in primary school, I sometimes used to ask her exactly what was said and how she reacted. Sometimes I was able to say, things along the lines of, "Well that girl probably doesn't understand where you're coming from, because between you and me, she sounds a bit unhappy/ immature/ confused, so perhaps if you said x in this way instead, it might make her react differently to you." It's a HUGE concept for young children to understand - that you can say what you mean in lots of ways to suit the person you're speaking to. I suppose it's never to early to start leaving how to do it.

So I suppose with the necklace, perhaps I might have said that she really should wear it, but if people asked if she made it and she was embarrassed, that she should do what older women do all the time and give a "This old thing!" type answer and play it down. I related to DD last night about how bloody awful I think the people I work with are, to the point where even I was in tears the other night, but that I'm stuck with them and I'm just reminding myself to take a deep breath in the mornings and not take to heart how obnoxious they are. It seemed to help her when I found a similar situation to hers in my life and told her how I would deal with it and asked if she thought that kind of approach would work for her.

Gosh, this is a long post. Sorry!

RosaLuxembourg Fri 16-Feb-07 12:16:48

Brilliant post 12yeargap. I have been somewhat working on the 'you can't change other people's behaviour but you can control whether you let it get to you' sort of strategy similar to what you describe. I really hate it that even at the age of nine there is a pressure to play down your academic ability in order to fit in.

My daughter has a friend of 12 (year 8)who has a similar personality and is getting the same sort of treatment that you describe your daughter getting at school - her mother went to see the head of year who was extremely helpful and supportive - maybe that would be an option for you if it carries on like this.
This girl's main problem is that she wants everyone to like her, even the nasty girls. She tries to win them over and of course she can't, they just snub her worse than ever and then she gets upset. Her mother is trying to focus on making her see that the best policy is just to walk away and ignore everything they say. The other thing she has done is enroll her in Aikido classes where she is having fun and meeting children who don't know her from school.

KTeePee Sat 17-Feb-07 14:24:33

I think it is very good that you dd is confiding in you - I didn't feel able to with my parents (that's a whole other story...) I think you really need to keep that up - might be harder when the baby arrives and you are tired...

I would also have another chat with the form tutor - this is a form of bullying really and she should know so they can do something about it too. Would also encourage her to keep up the friendships with children outside her form/school.

Like I said before, I think the main thing is to keep her self-esteem high - that way she won't care what they say because she won't value their opinions. I think it is much harder when a child desperately wants to be accepted by the very people who are being vile to them, as in the child Rosa has posted about....

twelveyeargap Sat 17-Feb-07 14:46:20

Thanks for all this. I'll be on maternity leave for a year at least and although babies are hard work, at least I'll be at home. I'm currently regularly working 50 hour weeks, so just me being around at home more will help her feel more secure I think.

Thanks for all the advice.

Fauve Sat 17-Feb-07 14:57:26

There are quite a few kids' books which deal with bullying and how to deal with it. DD and I are just finishing The Doll's House by Rumer Godden which tackles the issue very effectively - admittedly dd is only 8 but I thought the book very moving on this issue. There's also Amazing Grace, and your library should be able to point you towards more.

I think it's appalling that kids - and girls esp - have to deal with this kind of behaviour. It's effectively like sticking them into the Big Brother house with Jade and the other bullies - only it's for six years. IMO the teachers ought to intervene actively but whether they do is another question.

I am quite concerned about how my dd will cope with bitchiness in secondary school. ATM she is quite good at standing up for herself, I think - the main danger is that she likes to be friends with the mean girls, and I have to watch that she is never a mean sidekick, IYSWIM. And of course it doesn't stop them being mean to her periodically, either. We do have lots of discussions about what gives rise to mean behaviour.

twelveyeargap Sat 17-Feb-07 15:08:50

Oh I read The Dolls House when I was younger. I'd forgotten about it. Thanks for that.

It never ceases to amaze me how vile young girls can be and it's so disheartening when you try to bring your children up to be nice people and they get abuse for it.

And yes, it's hard to keep an eye on them to check they don't ever copy the very behaviour that upsets them.

KTeePee Sat 17-Feb-07 16:23:15

The other thing I was wondering was if all the changes that have gone on recently have left you dd a bit vulnerable and so less able to cope with this and stick up for herself? It just remined me that I had a real "annus horibilis" when I was 11/12, various deaths in the family, etc.

twelveyeargap Sat 17-Feb-07 16:28:29

I think it has a lot to do with it. My mum reckons DD has been "subdued" for a couple of years now! She decided to tell me this last night... We've lived in five different houses in the last four years. ALthough she hasn't had to move schools all those times, it's still incredibly unsettling.

We really need to focus on having a stable family life from now on, with plenty of routine time that we spend together. I'm sure it hasn't helped, in many ways, that I have been a young mum. I'm sure I've been less reliable than an older parent might be. It's something that I'm only realising now.

KTeePee Sat 17-Feb-07 16:35:16

Yes but you've probably got a lot more energy than I have! Has the moving house thing settled down now or is it likely to continue? How does she feel about the new baby btw?

twelveyeargap Sat 17-Feb-07 17:28:23

Never moving again! Have finally bought and we're settled. She's very excited about having a sister. I suspect it feels like she'll have another person on "her side". A councellor told me once that only children (like me and up til now my DD) often feel "left out" of their parent's relationship, but don't necessarily realise it.

tigermoth Sat 17-Feb-07 18:04:52

Your dd sounds lovely and it is great that you and her can talk about this.

I was a shy, quite bright child when I was 11 and got picked on at my all girls school. I know this isn't the same thing exactly, but what helped me a lot was having groups of friends outside school.

I went to various dance, drama and pottery classes mixing with other children my age. I got on well with them and had lots of good friends in the neighbourhood. My mother encouraged these friendships - I had a very full social life for an 11 year old - so I never felt lonely, even when I was alone at school.

I was well able to detach myself from the comments I got from the nastier girls, knowing that they had a one sided view of me and that I didn't particualarly need their friendship.

If I had had no separate life outside school, I know I would have easily got drawn in and felt victimised. So now could be a good time to make extra efforts on your dd's life outside school and her outside interests.

The other thing you could consider is asking your dd's teacher whether she can see a mentor at school My 12 year old son was given a mentor who sees him every week (not because he was bullied, more because he was disorganised). The mentor is another teacher (not one who teaches my son). DS talks to her about any issues - academic, social, etc - that have worried him at school. The advantage is that his mentor knows exactly what he is talking about, knows the personalities involved often, as she has inside knowledge of the school. But as she is not one of his actual teachers, there isn't that limiting teacher/pupil relationship. He really has thrived since having this extra support - it has really helped him settle down. Something similar might help your dd.

TenaLady Sat 17-Feb-07 18:06:34

My mum gave me tea and sympathy and advised me to ignore them in the literal sense.
Simply turn and walk away from them.

There is nothing more insulting than being ignored. She was right!

KTeePee Sat 17-Feb-07 19:08:16

Oh and I don't think things would necesarily have turned out differently for your dd if things had been more stable in terms of houses - I lived in the same house from the age of one until I left home - I actually think it can be worse living in the same place all the time - especially if it is a small town - because people can pigeon-hole you from an early age and it can be hard to change their views on you....

I'm sure she will love the baby but as I'm sure you are aware they may not be close like friends until they are adults, being at different stages all the time when they are children. I'm a lot older than my siblings too....

KTeePee Sat 17-Feb-07 19:10:43

Got interrupted!

The sister I am closest to was still at primary school when I started university, had just done her Inter Cert when I moved to the UK - but although we don't see each other very regularly I do feel close to her now....

slouch Sat 17-Feb-07 19:15:11

I dread dealing with this sort of thing with my girls.

I think one thing you could say is that people who are mean are generally unhappy, and therefore to be pitied.

I hope it all eases up soon.

manuka Sat 17-Feb-07 20:09:26

I read your first post but not the rest of the thread. What you said to her was great. Life is a test on every level. There's a great book called Psychic Protection by William Bloom that's perfect for this kind of situation if she and you are open to that kind of stuff. Its very practical. Its got easy to do meditations on self protection which changes how you come accross to people so they step back from you. It gives you an inner strength which people can subconsciously sence.
Karate also gives this strength to people. Maybe she would benefit from learning it?

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