Helping 7yo daughter navigate difficult social situation - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 09-27-2011, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I need some guidance and perspective desperately.

 

My 7 year old is having difficulty asking for space from a child (5yo) in our homeschool group.  I will call this child W. There is some history but i'm not sure it's relevant and i'm liable to get bogged down in it if I begin typing it all out...

 

W is obsessed with my daughter and being next to her and copying her, etc.  This has been going on for about 1.5 years.  Her mother absolutely believes our daughters to be peers, despite the age difference and social maturity level differences.  My daughter has complained about this little girl from the start.  The little girl's older brother and my son were friends so I made the huge mistake of trying to convince my daughter to play with W.  Getting the boys together wasn't possible without the girls along, if you know what I mean.  

 

We spend 6 hours in a cooperative homeschool group 1x per week - herein lies the problem.  W follows my dd the entire day, insists on sitting next to her and doing everything she does.  She is very pushy and persistent.  My dd is afraid of hurting her feelings because in the past, when she has tried to set boundaries, W has completely melted down and W's mother has been very very upset about that.

 

My attempts at communication with this mother have been a total failure.  In fact, communication with her tends to cause a great deal more distress and I always regret it.  So I think my only option is to arm my dd with some type of strategy - or tell her she has to suck it up - yet again.  

 

Here is an example of the conversation dd and I had on the way home from co-op this week.  DD is upset that she will be spending the next 14 weeks in a class with W (class has a very wide age range) and that W absolutely insists on sitting next to her.  Given the history, I can understand dd's wanting space.  My first reaction to these things is wanting to keep the peace and avoid the wrath of W's mother.  I realize this is not honoring my dd's needs, though.  I am afraid my perspective is out of whack due to the history we have with this family and my interactions with the mom.  Please help me figure this out.

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#2 of 12 Old 09-27-2011, 02:46 PM
 
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Is there a 3 year old in that group that you could set W up with?  mischievous.gif

 

Seriously, I would just give your dd permission to make her own friends, sit with whomever she wants.  Roleplay possible scenarios to help your dd kindly assert her boundaries.  Let your dd know that as long as she is kind to W, she is not responsible for W's happiness.

 

 

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#3 of 12 Old 09-27-2011, 03:01 PM
 
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I think having your daughter "suck it up and deal" would not be a good idea at this point. It sounds like she has dealt with this long enough, and her needs certainly are not being met by having to put up with this little girl in her space all the time.

If you feel that you are not able to deal with the mother and child how about starting with a little outside assistance? Who teaches the class? What are the possibilities of whoever is heading the class making some kind of seating arrangement or partner for your daughter? Perhaps explain the situation to them, make clear that your daughter needs space from this other child, and make sure that you have support in keeping them apart.

If something like this won't work for your situation perhaps it is time to simply put your foot down and insist that your daughter have her space. If the mom is truly unwilling to compromise or listen then might well lead to fallout: the mom could backlash, lay on the guilt, yell, keep the boys apart... I wouldn't let that stop me, though. I don't like to let bullies win, and from what you described that is what this mom is doing: emotional bullying, using upset and her anger to keep you and your daughter from setting boundaries.
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#4 of 12 Old 09-27-2011, 05:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sebandg'smama View Post

Is there a 3 year old in that group that you could set W up with?  mischievous.gif

 

Seriously, I would just give your dd permission to make her own friends, sit with whomever she wants.  Roleplay possible scenarios to help your dd kindly assert her boundaries.  Let your dd know that as long as she is kind to W, she is not responsible for W's happiness.

 

 

 

Thank you for the role play idea.  I hadn't thought of that.  I did tell dd that she isn't responsible for W's happiness.  DD has worked very hard to be kind and respectful with W but in the past she has gotten fed up and not been as kind as she could have been.  This has muddied things a bit for W's mother as she focused on the times, last year, that dd had attempted to assert her own wishes and wasn't as kind about it as she should have been.  DD has been particularly careful over the past 9 months, to not upset W - in fact, I think she worries too much about upsetting W, at this point.
 

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by tinuviel_k View Post

I think having your daughter "suck it up and deal" would not be a good idea at this point. It sounds like she has dealt with this long enough, and her needs certainly are not being met by having to put up with this little girl in her space all the time.

If you feel that you are not able to deal with the mother and child how about starting with a little outside assistance? Who teaches the class? What are the possibilities of whoever is heading the class making some kind of seating arrangement or partner for your daughter? Perhaps explain the situation to them, make clear that your daughter needs space from this other child, and make sure that you have support in keeping them apart.

If something like this won't work for your situation perhaps it is time to simply put your foot down and insist that your daughter have her space. If the mom is truly unwilling to compromise or listen then might well lead to fallout: the mom could backlash, lay on the guilt, yell, keep the boys apart... I wouldn't let that stop me, though. I don't like to let bullies win, and from what you described that is what this mom is doing: emotional bullying, using upset and her anger to keep you and your daughter from setting boundaries.

 

You are absolutely right.  Of course I have never told my dd to suck it up but I feel like it may have seemed that way to her in the past.  For this, I feel terribly.  I also know now that I should have set some boundaries early on.  Perhaps then things wouldn't have gotten to this point :(

 

A wonderful friend teaches the class and I don't feel right putting her in the position of having to manage W, who can be very disruptive and persistent.  I may have to sit in the class myself which also is problematic as I have jobs to do at the coop and my own class to teach.  Sigh - I will at least speak to the teacher/friend and see what her thoughts are.  I just don't want to put her in the middle.

 

You are right about not letting fallout stop me from doing what's right for my family.  I just have to manage it in a way that doesn't impact other families in our group.  It's tricky. 
 

 

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#5 of 12 Old 09-27-2011, 06:23 PM
 
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This is a boundaries issue, and you probably can't really do anything that doesn't impact the others in the group. However, that being said, they will likely be affected differently. There are probably some in the group who have & understand healthy boundaries, and they will be thinking "you go, girl!" and then there are those folks who use their feelings and your fear of upsetting the apple cart & wanting to keep peace in order to prevail.

 

I am looking at this from the outside and of course it's easy for ME to say, since I am not in the middle of it. But what I say is true. Your daughter needs to have some assertiveness/boundaries training, role play, whatever it takes. And if W doesn't give your DD her space after DD has been clear about it (not mean, but CLEAR), then if DD has to be more forceful and ruffle some feathers, then so be it.

 

Remember whose problem it is. Right now it's your daughter's problem but it should be put back where it belongs: with W and her mom. W needs a little training in manners, OK social interaction, boundaries, whatever.

 

My own son is like that sometimes (like W) with being clingy, and I would be mortified if someone had to speak to me about it, but luckily I am observant and I can see when he's being inappropriately in someone's face and *I* intervene to teach him before it goes further.

 

Best of luck!

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#6 of 12 Old 09-27-2011, 08:23 PM
 
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I don't have a solution to this, but you have my sympathies! My sister dealt with a similar thing for ages - a "friend" the same age, but a bit socially clueless (Aspie) and frankly, not a very nice person. When my sister was hanging out with her R would spend a lot of time being mean, but if my sister tried to ignore her R would get very upset. Then when a new girl my sister's age came on the scene and they became friends, R would be furious and complain she was being left out, and her mother would get involved, and... it was a mess.

 

My sister basically just put up with it - she's very polite and didn't want to cause hard feelings. Mum's of a similar bent, but also didn't want my sister to get trodden on, so... yeah. It was awkward. It's improved a bit now, because R's grown up a bit and seems to be less snotty.

 

I do think boundaries should be tempered with compassion - throughout life people are going to get saddled with other people who admire them/are slightly obnoxious/are needy/whatever, and telling them to get lost isn't always a) possible or b) kind. But if the kid's actually being malicious, not just annoyingly hanger-on-ish, and if it's really ruining your DD's day out, then yeah. Boundaries. Does your DD have another particular friend she'd rather hang out with, so she can say "W, I already said I'd sit with Jess", or something?


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#7 of 12 Old 09-28-2011, 12:00 AM
 
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Setting and sticking to appropriate boundaries is a life skill I want my kids to learn. Boundaries can be set kindly, but if they are not respected, it is appropriate to get more and more firm about it... and for me, I feel it is 100% appropriate in my life and for my kids for us to be able to say, "If you don't respect my boundaries, I don't want to be around you."


The boundaries need to be specific, with positive language if possible. "There are some times when I need some space to myself" is an okay thing for a kid to say. Everyone needs space to themselves sometimes.

 

What are some specific situations that your daughter has a problem with, and what are some situations where she might be able to be more flexible?


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#8 of 12 Old 09-28-2011, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Part of what complicates the situation is that dd does enjoy playing with W sometimes.  She does not seek W out for play or ask to see W for a play date ever.  DD enjoys playing with pretty much anyone and is generally fairly flexible - though she has her spunky moments, for sure.  The problem is that W wants to shadow dd at all times and controls situations making it difficult for dd to move freely, play with older kids, etc.  The more dd expresses interest in joining play with her own peers, the more W clings to her.  Then W's mom feels that my dd is excluding W and states that it isn't fair for my dd to want to play sometimes with W but not other times.  You see the conundrum.  There are layers of issues - sigh.

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#9 of 12 Old 09-28-2011, 10:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Then W's mom feels that my dd is excluding W and states that it isn't fair for my dd to want to play sometimes with W but not other times.

Well, that's just weird. No (functional) relationship works on the principle of "I'll either interact with you on every possible occasion, or not at all". If W's mother feels your DD is sending mixed messages, though, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to set some concrete boundaries - like "DD will play with you before noon, but spend time with her other friends afterwards". Seems a bit odd and overly formal to me, but if the mother and child both need the relationship to be stated that explicitly, it might work.

 

Again, I'm sorry you're in this situation. Homeschool groups tend to favour less strict age segregation, which is cool; but most homeschoolers I know realise that kids still want to be with kids their own age, without younger kids tagging along the whole time. Sounds like this mother doesn't quite grasp that.


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#10 of 12 Old 09-29-2011, 02:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I spoke with dd today at length.  We talked about boundaries, personal space, and discussed possible ways to handle W.  We role played a little and had fun with that.  The plan for now is that I am going to spend more time monitoring things and seeing exactly where I can intervene and redirect.  DD also wants me to come and interrupt her play often - giving her a break from W.  DD needs help dealing with W and I don't think she is ready to set boundaries with W in a way that will stick.  She tells me that W is so pushy and that she is afraid W will be upset, etc.  In the past, what dd says and does has been grossly misrepresented by W to her mom, which has caused all kinds of trouble.  I need to avoid that for the sake of everyone.  

 

We need to co-exist with this family for the forseeable future so I have to tread carefully.  It's so unfortunate when communication amongst adults is as difficult as it is amongst young children.

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#11 of 12 Old 09-29-2011, 05:17 PM
 
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My daughter is a lot like W.  I am struggling with how to parent her so as not to follow one child around all the time.  She tends to gravitate to older girls.  What I notice is that most kids know they are not supposed to say "I don't want to play with you" so they will either be nice and put up with her or run and hide.  I try to redirect her but she is sure these kids are her good friends. 

 

"I need space" is a good statement to use, but it sounds like what your daughter needs to express is "I need space from you so I can play with someone else" which is much more difficult to say politely.   I am curious to hear how it all works out, maybe I will get some ideas!

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#12 of 12 Old 10-01-2011, 03:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by rainbringer View Post

My daughter is a lot like W.  I am struggling with how to parent her so as not to follow one child around all the time.  She tends to gravitate to older girls.  What I notice is that most kids know they are not supposed to say "I don't want to play with you" so they will either be nice and put up with her or run and hide.  I try to redirect her but she is sure these kids are her good friends. 

 

"I need space" is a good statement to use, but it sounds like what your daughter needs to express is "I need space from you so I can play with someone else" which is much more difficult to say politely.   I am curious to hear how it all works out, maybe I will get some ideas!

I'm sorry you are dealing with this from the other side.  It must be very difficult for you.  You sound like a wonderful and engaged parent - i'm sure you will guide your daughter through this.  Let me know how things go.

 

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