Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Parenting Handbook

I have been such a blog slacker. I am still working on (re) balancing my home life. I forgot that ANY change in your life is an adjustment. Not necessarily a bad adjustment, but still an adjustment. Keri has been on the outs with her best friend for several weeks. They went from spending all their free time together, to not speaking at all. I have to confess, I am at a loss on how to help her. She tells me how mean the other girl is being and that she called her stupid and a brat. Of course those of us dwelling in adult land realize that this is not the end of the world. Nine year old girls don't.

I am supposed to be full of motherly wisdom and advice yet I find myself not really knowing how to help her deal with the name calling and spiteful attitude. Unfortunately, there is not a chapter on name calling in my parenting handbook. You know, the one they all come with. I don't want her calling the other girl names. The protective part of me would love to tell Keri to smack the snot out of the girl, yet I realize that it would wrong. Yes, that would be wrong. I have told her that it is normal to have fights with your friends sometimes. I have told her to ignore the name calling. Is that the right thing to do? Am I making the situation worse? I don't know. Contrary to popular belief, I don't know everything. Keri is not a shy or timid child. As a matter of fact she can hold her own pretty well. I just don't want her to turn into a "mean girl".

I told her that maybe if she ignores the name calling, the girl will get bored with trying to get to her, and move on to something else. Sometimes I can't fix it. Sometimes I don't know what the solution is. If anyone has dealt with this type of nine year old drama, I am not too proud to accept some advice.


Jen said...

((hug)) from another mom of a nine-year-old. They are definately challenging. I hope you can find some great advice, I haven't gotten there YET, but I know I will be soon.

Don Mills Diva said...

I wish I had some advice. I hear from everyone that the world of pre-teen girls is extremely hard to navigate these days...HUGS

HW said...

Is Keri in 4th grade? Because that's when it started for us.

Here are some things we tried:

Encourage your daughter to say "you know? that really hurts my feelings. What did I do to make you so mad at me?" Sometimes that takes the other girl off guard enough that they stop. Kids don't often expect other kids to articulate themselves well, so when they do, they are thrown off and don't feel quite so confident to call names. A friend of mine suggested teaching our daughter to use a very calm, soft voice and even putting her hand up, palm facing out in front of her, in a "stop" signal to show confidence.

Encourage Keri to find another friend to hang out with, maybe invite her over or to go somewhere with your family. I encouraged our daughter to seek out another girl who seemed to not have a close friend. Sometimes we (and I do mean adults too) spend so much time thinking about who is NOT our friend that we minimize the opportunities to be friends with others. I reminded my daughter of this a lot. Some adults don't get along and the same will be true of kids.

If the situation gets really bad, I'd talk to the teacher and be kind of casual about it - maybe say something like "Have you noticed any problems between Keri and so and so? Because Keri seems to be really upset about something with her and I'd like to be more clear about what's going on." In our experience teachers are very perceptive in the interactions between students.

Um...that's it for now.
Good luck.

Karen Deborah said...

oh man. I dunno, I'm trying to figure it out with the older teens. My hubby the smarter one of us says to just listen that they really don't want any advice, they just want to be heard. Odds are they'll make up and it all be forgotten pretty soon. Let them work it out.
You know it never really is over this stuff. I have been wondering about bloggers who never comment back; like is this the 4th grade all over again? The blogger way of saying, "I don't want to play with you", too weird. BUT the main thing is to reassure her that it will not last forever and how about a movie and some popcorn? I'm great with diversion over drama.

John said...

That's good advice hw, but I'm not to sure about the teacher part. I feel bad for Keri, she lost her best friend.. :(

HW said...

Our daughter went through continuous problems with one girl starting in kindergarten. In the fourth grade, at parent/teacher conferences, I brought it up because they had been having problems again. I remained casual and started by saying "If our daughter is doing something to stir up trouble we need to know. I say this because..." And before I even finished the teacher interrupted and said "yeah, she and so and so are having problems right now." And then she explained the dynamics in the classroom, which were actually BETTER than I had thought. And I was relieved to have a different take on the matter, one from somebody who is a little more objective.

That's why I mention speaking to the teacher, but keeping it very low key and casual.

Bottom line, there is no magic cure for this except to be there and love her and do your best to give her the tools to handle it as maturely as a 9-year-old can.

HW said...

It's me again. I was assuming Keri and this other girl were in the same class, that's why I mention the teacher. I realize that may not be the case.
So maybe you all need to disregard everything I've said.
My mind is clouded with grief....and I guess I'll milk that one for a couple of weeks.

Astarte said...

Ooohh, ouch. Do you have any idea what has happened? This is the kind of thing every parent dreads, because there's so little you can do to make it better. What I've done when someone is being mean to Josie is try and think about what may be going on in the other kid's life to make them act out like that, since understanding sometimes helps coping. Losing a best friend, though, is something that she's going to have to mourn and grieve, and figure out how to deal with. That's definitely one part of being a kid that sucks; as an adult, if we don't want to see someone, we don't. If it's a co-worker, we can change jobs. Kids are stuck where they are, with those same people, for a looong time.

Does she have any other close friends that may travel in a different circle? You could help her foster those relationships by offering to take her and a friend to a movie, or something, or get her involved in something where she could meet new people, like a church choir. Good luck.

Susiewearsthepants said...

HW-Yes the girl is in her class. She actually went and spoke to the guidance counselor on her own today. I am so proud of her. Apparently Keri isn't the only girl that is bearing the brunt of this name calling. I love your suggestion. I will definitely try that. Thanks!

Farrell said...

I think all of HW's advice is very, very wise. Is this what age it starts at now? 9? Because it didn't start for me until 6th grade, when my best friend turned against me, and turned others against me. It was BAD. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never really gotten over it; it changed the way I thought about myself, etc.
My mother too told me to "ignore ignore ignore." But that didn't work. I like HW's calm and controlled yet assertive approach much better. When you ignore, you just look weak. And while you obviously don't want to teach Keri to "fight back" with her own insults, you do want her to be able to stick up for herself.
Another thing I think we all need reminded of - that as adults, we've been through so much/seen so much, and it's so easy to roll our eyes at the little girl drama. But to them, that IS their world, and it DOES feel like it's ending/all consuming...