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Raising assertive, confident kids who don't get pushed around...

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I am looking for advice, children's books & parenting books that could help us teach DD how to stand up for herself more, not get pushed around & handle her emotional reaction to situations that upset her.       


DD1 just turned 4.  She is very sweet, free spirited & also a little emotional.  She is a beautiful little girl, small for her age & also sometimes still a little goofy/silly.  She doesn't have a mean bone in her.  We have noticed lately that the 7 year old girl next door, as well as her 8 year old female cousin have been kind of mean to her, impatient & sometimes downright nasty.  Sometimes DD doesn't quite notice & kind of lets it happen, other times she gets really upset & cries.


The girl next door is the older sister of DDs best friend, a 5 year old boy.  DD goes to school with him & plays with him everyday.  They bicker like an old married couple somedays, but he is never mean to her.  His sister is mean.  DH & I have actually always had a little problem with her-ever since they moved in 2 years ago.  She is sneaky & dishonest about things.  She pushes DD to do things after we say not to.  Like when I give them a snack & say to all of them clearly-don't ask for anything else because we don't have anymore, 10 mins later we hear her outside telling DD to go ask her Mom for more.  Or when I say they can't play inside our house today (they regularly trash our house & then run out the door & say they are going home right when I say it's time to clean up) she will keep sending DD to the door asking to play inside.  Often when they will come over to ask DD if she want to play outside, I will ask them to wait one sec while DD puts her shoes on (her brother always does that when it's just the 2 of them) and she will just grab her brother & run out the door laughing leaving DD hysterically trying to put her shoes on & catch up with them.  Last night, DH witnessed a really upsetting moment where she said something so mean to DD that he collected our kids & said it's time to go home & left without even looking back.  DD didn't even notice what she had said and was only upset about having to come home.  We are moving in a few weeks so we won't see them anymore but I would still like to teach DD about not giving in to peer pressure & not letting kids talk nasty to her etc.  


My niece has been meaner and meaner lately.  Also really sneaky.  She tries to get my other niece (5 years old) to leave out DD all the time.  We catch her whispering about DD & doing things that she knows she isn't supposed to be doing etc.  When she gets caught, she lies initially & then comes clean.  She also starts other kinds of trouble, tattles inaccurately & more.  DD doesn't speak up when they are leaving her out & if she tries to tell us what really happened with a situation, she can't get it out before the tears start flowing.  


My 5 yo DN & DD have been inseparable since birth.  But recently, my 5 yo DN started K & soccer & has new friends.  So now of course she has the older cousin trying to monopolize her when the cousins are together or when we go to her soccer games, she gives DD the cold shoulder.  DD takes it & continues to follow her around like a puppy dog.  I want her to say something like "if you are going to be mean to me in front of your new friends, i will go play with someone else".  


I am not saying DD is perfect.  She is going through a cry baby/whining phase, but she is never mean, always includes everyone & doesn't look for trouble in the least.  And she is so loyal to her cousins & friends, even if they aren't.


I know once she starts school full time & gets involved in her own stuff, she will have her own thing going on too which will be good.  


I want her to be kind, gentle & all that.  But I do not want her to get walked all over & kicked around either.  I think I feel like I need help in this area because I was always very popular BUT too nice & even now still...tend to give more than I get in my friendships & relationships.  I am too loyal.  DH also tends to be a giver & I see him letting his family walk all over him often.  Neither of us like conflict. 


Advice & reading suggestions?  

post #2 of 8

For your dd the American Girl how to books are very good. They have a couple that are aimed at the early grade school years ( The Care and Keeping of Friends and Friends: Making Them and Keeping Them ) and then some aimed at middle school. Ask your librarian for some picture books about friendship, too. There are tons of those. I think Mr Rogers has a good one. 


Sadly your dd will probably run into more and more of this type of behavior. Not to condone it, but it does seem to be fairly developmentally on track for the elementary aged girl. For parenting books I like Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident Courageous Daughters by JoAnn Deak. It doesn't really address the preschool years, but starts in about 1st or 2nd grade. 


Good luck!

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thx sooo much Beanma.  It's so funny you mentioned the American Girl books...I somehow got on their mailing list, got a catalogue & threw it out but now wish I had looked closely.  I will check out the library for all those.


And you are right...there will be more of this. irked.gif  I want to make her a little tougher though...the world is harder on the kinder, gentler ones unfortunately.  

post #4 of 8

I agree with the pp that that kind of behaviour is kind of par for the course with 6-7+ yo girls.  I see it in my own dd and her friends.  It is not unlikely that your own dd will go through a phase like that at some point.


My ds is the same age as your dd and he has his big sister to contend with, who sometimes engages in those behaviours that you see in your neighbour and niece.  There are times when, like your dd, he just doesn't even realize that he is being mocked/whatever.  In those cases I don't bring it to his attention, but I do have a talk with dd. 


Sometimes I go the pre-emptive route.  If all the kids (mostly it's 7yo dd, her best friend who is turning 9 and 4yo ds) are playing here I'll make sure to announce *before they start to play* that everyone is allowed to play and no one will be excluded.  I also keep an ear open to nip any undesirable behaviour in the bud.  If I hear ds asking dd to stop doing something and she continues I go to them, get down to her eye-level,


I guess my point is that if I find the older kids being mean to the younger ones I don't hesitate to call them on it.  I have also ended playdates when the kids didn't "obey the rules" (after a warning).  IME at the tender age of 4 they still need some parental help and guidance in navigating these waters.

post #5 of 8

A couple of thoughts:


First, your 4 year old is at a very different stage developmentally than the 7-8 year olds who are being mean to her. They're showing the worst kind of 'mean girl' behavior, but your daughter may not even recognize it. I'm not sure it's reasonable for you to expect her to be able to understand what an 8 year old is doing and then be able to stand up for herself. So, I'd recommend modeling by your interactions with the older kids. Call them out when they're being mean. "Hey, that wasn't kind. If you want to play, you need to be kind." You can role play with her when doing pretend play how to stand up for herself, but realistically, it's going to be a couple of years before she can.


Second, I think you need to stop and set some very clear rules with older kids in general, but you can practice on these kids because you'll be moving (and one is a relative, and you will be seeing her, I'm assuming):

-At our house, everyone gets to play. You can choose to go play by yourself, but if you're playing with someone, then everyone gets to play. If you can't follow that rule, I will send you home. (If you're babysitting, I'd make her sit out for a bit.)

-If you take it out, you help clean it up. If you can't do that, you won't be asked to come inside the next time. (And if it happens repeatedly, I would tell the kids and their parents that you're sorry, their kids can't play inside your house because they trash the house and then run off.)

-When they come the next time and ask to play inside, remind them that they can't come in today because they didn't help clean up. Tell them that if they ask, even once, to come inside, you will walk them home.

-Keep your language polite and kind. If you slip into being mean or gossipy, I'll give you one reminder. If you can't stop, I'll ask you to go home for the day.

-Don't ask for snacks. It's rude to come to someone's house and ask for food. If you badger me for snacks, I'll send you home.


While these older kids seem a lot older than your daughter, remember that they are still very concrete thinkers. They still need to be taught social niceties. If they aren't getting it at home, they'll need you to be very clear on expectations. If they are getting at home, they'll still need you to remind them. They need rules clearly spelled out for them. They aren't able to pick up on subtle hints of disapproval. I'm not even sure that they understood why your husband walked off in a huff yesterday. They might have, but if he didn't say anything, they just might be clueless.


In other words, when you've got such a large age gap, you need to monitor the interactions much more closely than you do when they're closer in age.


Several books that might help you:
Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children

Playground Politics: Understanding the Emotional Life of Your School Aged Child

Great Kids: Helping Your Baby and Child Develop the Ten Essential Qualities for a Healthy, Happy Life


One that I haven't read but am going to:

Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades




post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

These are all excellent posts with great, great tips & advice.  This is what I needed.  And the book suggestions are fantastic.  Thank you so much.


I realize now we are not supervising the play close up as much as we should be.  I am going to work on that.  

post #7 of 8

More supervision is a good step, but I think something LynnS6 said is key: from your own accounts of these interactions with other kids, you and your husband are not modeling the behavior you want to see your daughter learn and act out.  Maybe you just didn't say what you guys said/did, but for instance whatever the neighbor girl said that was SO mean to your daughter and your husband collected the kids and said "It's time to go home", to me that is a golden opportunity to say (not angrily of course, but definitely firmly and clearly) to the girl "It is very mean to say _______.  Why would you say something so mean?" and either ask her to explain herself (which, at her age, she should be able to do) or if you don't want to ask her why, then at least say "It is very mean to say _________, and if that's the way you're going to treat DD, we won't be playing with you."


Then if your DD didn't really get the mean thing but was upset that she had to leave, it's also important to explain to her that the other girl wasn't being nice and that it's not ok to be mean.  You can say you are glad the little brother (who you said your DD is close to and who isn't mean to her) isn't mean and that's a good thing.  You can also take that opportunity to ask your DD if she ever feels people are mean and what she'd like to be able to say to them or to do when someone is mean, and then help her think through her responses.


And given what you said about you and your husband not liking conflict and often being too nice/accomodating, maybe this is an opportunity to work on that too if it's not working for you, in the name of helping your daughter with it?  There is a difference between being conflictual and simply being able to set your own boundaries and expect others to respect those boundaries... and then to be able to walk away/distance yourself from those who can't respect your needs.  That is of course some of the hardest work some people will ever do in their lives, being able to stand up and say "Actually, that doesn't work for me.  This is what seems fair/right to me, and here's why..." and then be able to say "No" unapologetically - that's big stuff for many many people.  But boundary-setting does NOT equal being mean. 


Think about people in your life that maybe you or your husband are more accomodating to/can't say no or set boundaries with, and then ask yourself how you'd hope your daughter will deal with people and situations like that when she's an adult.  The seeds all get planted and nurtured now, which is why it's so great that you're asking the question.  But it's what you do that has much more of an impact than what you say, so all the best advice from books and talks with your daughter won't be nearly as effective without modelling from you. Kids are smart... they get the difference between what we say and what we do.  And where there's a gap... it either confuses them or they absorb the "do" part.


Of course modelling is not foolproof... we all know kids have their own minds and temperments and modelling doesn't mean they'll always do the same thing.  But this is about what has the most influence, and actions are way way more influential (in both positive and negative ways) than words.  



post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thx for your PM LROM. smile.gif I hadn't had a chance to come back to this thread & reply.  


The situations where DH is getting pushed around by his family have been more on the phone & email so I am not sure how much impact they have had on DD.  She really isn't aware of them.  


She definitely sees me as being a very nice person, polite, friendly...if anything though, not being there to supervise is where I feel I am letting her down.  And I think I have been expecting her to have the emotional maturity of someone older & that's not fair either.  I need to sympathize more when she is upset, even if I don't know exactly what happened.   


I am trying to catch situations when they happen & address them the way I want DD to.  But since I often don't catch the full story, I don't always feel like I can approach it.  Sometimes I am only going on what DD tells me after the fact.  That's why I think for now, I need to supervise more too.  The situations are normally not ones where you would have to overly supervise but as the PP mentioned, when you are dealing with older kids playing with your younger DD, supervision makes a difference.  I think the older ones are not going to behave in some of the ways they are behaving to the younger ones when there is more supervision AND I can also address things that come up in an effective manner to protect DD & help teach the older ones.    


DH is a different story.  He is not comfortable addressing other people's children & doesn't seem to have patience for them either.  I think we will need to do work there.  It's a real challenge for him-he is so quiet to begin with, even with friends/adults.  And for him, reading about something is a way he learns & takes it in.  




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