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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I also posted this in Parenting Issues . . .

Some of you may recall my posts from last summer about this relationship, but I'll give the brief scenario: We live next door to a family that has one daughter a year older than my older DD, and another daughter the exact same age as my younger DD. I like the parents and older neighbor girl, but the younger NG has caused me many sleepless nights.

My younger DD and little NG played together a lot when NG first moved in, and it soon became clear that DD was being steamrolled. NG is bossy, manipulative, controlling, competitive, argumentative. DD is a people-pleaser who will sell her soul to keep the peace. I saw this unhealthy "friendship" developing and realized it needed some intervention when DD came to DH and me last summer and, sobbing, asked us to help her "remember what I want" when she was with NG. I started listening in on every play session at our house, heard some horrifying exchanges, had little success in helping DD stand up for herself, caught NG many times attempting to verbally manipulate DD when she thought I was out of earshot. ("If you don't do what I say, I won't be your friend anymore." "That's not very nice if you won't do it my way." "I'm your guest, so we have to play what I want." "My mommy will be mad at you if you don't let me have that toy.")

Seeing no graceful way to CUT OFF the relationship, we tried more moderate tactics of helping DD. We limited her time with NG, we role-played to help her get some language for sticking up for herself, we made sure she saw friends who she has an easier time with. I had an awkward discussion with NG's mom (when she asked) about DD's issues in the relationship. (NG's mom knows NG is "difficult" and admitted to me that she worried that NG "just has a mean bone.") When the girls started kindergarten this past August, I was apprehensive about how all the unsupervised playground time would go. (Unsupervised as in no yard duty is going to listen in on little girls' conversations.)

The social climate in this kindergarten class got intense fast. Playdates for many kids outside of school, sometimes every day (DD did about one a week; we declined other requests). A Daisy scout troop was set up. (We didn't join.) Many of the girls, including NG, go to church together. (We do not.) Despite our lower level of socializing, DD got along well, loved school, made many friends.

But all the friends she made also are friends with NG, and NG is by far the more "popular" girl. I heard rumblings among some of the moms about NG's competitiveness and bossiness and manipulation tactics, but basically, it sounds as though other parents are able to blow off these problems without too much concern. Granted, I haven't talked to any of these women about DD's issues in the relationship--as much as I'd love to know how they're dealing with NG, to talk about mutual acquaintances that way seems high risk.

And NG's shenanigans continue. DD hasn't played with her as much this year outside of school, but when she has, there have been problems. On one occasion, DD went next door and when she came home, she reported that NG said a lot of mean things about a mutual friend. Another time, DD came home and said, "When I had to go to the bathroom at NG's house today, she told me that her mom and dad don't let anyone go to the bathroom at their house." (Consequently, DD didn't go to the bathroom. Told me she didn't have to go that bad and that even though she knew NG was lying to her, she didn't want to get her in trouble or hurt her feelings by either telling on her or going to the bathroom anyway.) Just the other day, on the way to the end-of-year swim party, NG leaned over and whispered in another girl's ear, "My sister told me she doesn't like your bathing suit." (At which point, NG's mom, who also had overheard, grabbed her by the arm and gave her a stern lecture between clenched teeth.) There have been numerous incidents of DD being left out by NG on the playground. Each time there's been trouble, DD gives in, then later gets upset with herself for giving in, but then later wants to go back for more. I'm not sure I've seen a relationship this twisted since some of my friends got involved with overcontrolling men in college!

Then last night, NG showed up on our doorstep as part of a scavenger hunt for her older sister's 10th birthday party. The older sister used to play a lot with older DD, but since older NG made some fourth-grade friends, she and big DD have drifted apart. Plus, the limitations we've placed on the little girls' relationship has impacted the older girls as well, I believe. Anyway, big DD wasn't invited to big NG's birthday party. I knew there was going to be party--NG's mom had mentioned it in passing one day--but I didn't see any reason to tell older DD that she had been left off the guest list. So there was this group on our doorstep last night (big NG was not part of this particular scavenger hunt team), asking for items, and my daughters were happily running around the house collecting stuff. Then little NG said to big DD, "Gee, too bad my sister didn't invite you to her birthday party, huh?" I turned around and the look on big DD's face was heartbreaking. She didn't know how to respond and I could see she was very upset. Little NG continued, "I told her she should invite you but she didn't want to because . . ." So I said to the girls, "Okay, that's all we've got." and began to shut the door. The older girls looked puzzled--obviously they sensed a shift in attitude. They hesitated to leave, so I said more firmly, "That's it, guys. Good luck." and I shut the door practically on NG's foot.

If you've read this far, thank you! Now, tell me how I can help my mild-mannered, nonconfrontational daughters deal with this type of kid. NG isn't going away, and I'm seeing that my daughters--especially little DD--are screwed either way: If she's friends with her, she's in the fire. If she's not, she'll be in the fire.

Here's where we are right now: After I shut the door last night, big DD burst into tears. Yes, her feelings were hurt that she wasn't invited to the party, but she seemed to be able to see the reasonable side of that: She and big NG don't play together that much, big NG is older, maybe it was just fourth-graders. But she couldn't get over the way little NG seemed to obviously be trying to rub it in. She asked, "Why would she WANT to hurt my feelings?" And little DD spoke up and said, "Because she's mean." I was mad, and so I blurted out, "You know what? She's right. NG is mean. She's the meanest little girl I've ever met."

I've never come right out and said this to my daughters about a child before, and I'm not sure it's a good thing that I said it this time.

What are some ways to help my daughters deal with having such a toxic child right next door, on the playground, in their social circle? Am I overreacting here?

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witch's mom, that is so heartbreaking! I have no advice, but just wanted to send you some
and support. I think you are handling it amazingly well. I do not think you are overreacting and given the circumstances, I think it was ok that you said nd was "the meanest little girl in the world" bc I think your daughters needed to hear that to validate their feelings. And by goodness, she is incredibly mean. What makes a child act that way?

I wish I could give you a magic solution, but I am not sure there is one. Maybe some other mamas will have BTDT and have some good advice.

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Mostly, just hugs...

I can only speak for me, don't think I am telling you what you should do, but I would handle it by easing this child and the family out of my own family's life. Just because they are neighbors, doesn't mean socialization beyond an occasional wave hello is necessary. JMO

I am an older mom, and I probably see things differently some of the mamas here. I just think that life is short enough, than to have this type of situation going on.

You and your child deserve so much better. Please let your sweet child know that it is not HER, and that the other child must have difficulties in her own life or family that cause her to say mean things to other people. I would put it in a context of feeling sad for the NG that she has a need to say such mean things, etc.

You are not overreacting, what matters here is how your daughter feels, and she should not keep having her feelings hurt this way, so anything you can do to buffer in a gentle way, I am all for...

I don't know if I have helped you at all, but I wanted to reply.

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What a nightmare. No you aren't overreacting.

There is a book you should check out if you haven't already.Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara Bottman
My 5 year old son loves this story. I think it's validating for a child to see this story (the reality of some really mean kids) on the printed page.


Originally Posted by Simply Nurtured
I would put it in a context of feeling sad for the NG that she has a need to say such mean things, etc.
Yeah. It's important to model it too (hard to do). For example, if someone at a supermarket says something rude/mean to you (or someone drives aggressively) instead of getting defensive and feeling hurt or upset, it's better to look at it objectively (because it is RARELY about you) and empathize/be observant,

"wow, that person is really is upset.
she said something so mean.
I'm OK. My feelings aren't hurt. I was suprised, but I wonder why SHE is so upset."
"wow that person is driving so recklessly. That person must be feeling angry about something right now. He needs to go somewhere quiet to calm down instead of acting it out."

Because honestly, it's usually 100% about them, not you. And she has to begin to see that. That way she can recognize when she is being manipulated. It took me 25 years to learn that.

I like the advice of avoiding NG, but unfortunately, from your post, I can see how difficult that is.

I try to be as honest as possible with my DS. There is a boy up the cul-de-sac (1 yr older) who has no interest in my son. My son still wants to play with him. It's sad because NB and friends will pick fights with him because NB gets frustrated that DS is trying to follow, talk, interract with him.

I just let my son express his sad feelings and told him the plain truth (which DS already knows, but doesn't want to admit) that NB just doesn't want to be friendly - which is fine. Not every kid will like every other kid (for whatever reason.)

I just encourage my DS not go to over there, but he says he still wants to.
So, we'll deal.

And I'll do what I observed at my local co-op preschool.... I'll intervene and help the kids if there is a conflict. I love this because you CAN be more proactive to help and perhaps it would your DD if you were right there, helping her speak, in front of NG. It's a non-violent way to deal with this problem and you are teaching BOTH of them how to properly problem solve (NG isn't getting any of that education and she needs it. All she is getting is shamed and reprimanded... that cause kids to be more angry, lash out at others, go on power trips (since they learned big means powerful, etc...)

Conflict Resolution by Bev Bos

When the conflict is between two children, do not let children be victims. When one child comes whining, instead of attacking the other child because yours got hurt, a better way is to help your child tell the other child what they do not like. Check first to see if the child is physically hurt, holding them and consoling -- then ask, "Did you like that?" And, "What would like to say to Michael?" Take the child by the hand, stand by for support and help your child begin the most important thing they can do -- communicate with words how they feel and what they don't like. And remember, for goodness sakes, that this kind of conflict resolution takes more than once, it takes TIME. But it is a gift which pays enormous dividends. You cannot hold your child's hand throughout their life so the earlier you help them learn how to resolve conflict without inflicting physical pain the more productive and happy their lives will be. Let me give you a four step plan for helping children resolve conflict.

1. Take the hand, firmly, of the child who is hurt and go find the other child. Hold the hand of the other child and say, "Emily, tell Julie how you feel." Then, "Julie, tell Emily how you feel." Now, do it again -- they always have more to say. Do not interrupt the children and do not put words in their mouths. You want them to develop the skills to communicate.

2. Next, say to each child, "Anything else?" Provide ample time for each child to respond. If one child interrupts, very calmly respond, "Emily isn.t through."

3. "Give me three solutions? How can we solve this problem? How could this be different?" This sounds very sophisticated for little kids but you would be surprised at how quickly they get the idea when adults are supportive. Sometimes a child's solution will be punitive like, "Well, I could hit her!" At this point, without raising your voice, you say, "That's not an acceptable solution." Always go for three solutions.
I think you being there * during * the conflict, helping you DD communicate her feelings, would go a long way. Over time, she would do it on her own.

PS - forgot to add, I've been thinking of adding a baby monitor to his room to listen in on playdates (he's all the way upstairs)
because I want to be able to anticipate/deal with conflict. I know it sounds horrible, that's why I am just thinking about it.

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I'm sorry, I don't really have any advice except to limit contact whenever possible. It sounds like the younger NG has some issues and there isn't really anything you can do about that. If your dd has other friends outside of school, I would encourage those as much as possible. I also agree, being neighbors doesn't mean you have to engage with them. Having good neighbors is wonderful, having bad neighbors is a nightmare. I only know my neighbors in passing- don't even know most of their names- we're just all too busy to have a relationship.

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I don't know if my own experience will help, but lets give it a try

IMO your daughter's are getting a valuable lesson young in how
some girls/women choose to live their lives controlling situations and
downright being mean at times because of lack of self esteem in their
own lives. This is something we all deal with, and I would rather my own
dd deal with it younger instead of later in life, and this is why.

When I was younger (maybe age 5/6) we got new neighbors. They had
two dd's, dd1# was one grade younger dd2# was two grades younger.
dd1# was to this day one of the rudest children I have ever encountered.
dd2# was so sweet and I really liked her company, even if she was two
grades below me. Which back then was a big deal...:LOL, 2 years.
I always wanted to play at their house, and would usually get hurt in
the process. Examples I still remember (all with dd1#)
- She told me I repeatedly I was going to hell because my family
wasn't as Christian as her family, and I hadn't talked in tongues so
that meant that God didn't like me.
- Making up horrible, detailed stories about me to her Mother who
would then take it upon herself to sit me down and explain to me
why I was an "evil" child. While her daughter sat there and smiled
watching her Mom lay into me.
- The only time I was EVER hit as a child (my parents didn't believe
in spanking) was at their home when dd1# told on me for something
she did, and her Father pulled out a paddle and told me to bend over.

Okay you get the picture. I kept going back because I liked to play
with dd2# she was creative and imaginative. We would play house
and dolls when my friends were starting to want to play older games.
But the rule of their home was that if you wanted to play with dd2#
you also had to play with dd1#. After a few years I gave up. I
stopped wanting to play with either child, and just stopped going
over to their home. I remember once seeing dd2# by herself outside
and I told her I was sorry I didn't come and play anymore, and told
her the truth that I liked playing with her, but didn't want to play
with her sister anymore.

Okay so because I went threw this, I learned from these girls at age
6-9 that some girls are mean. I also learned that I didn't want any
thing to do with it. When I went on to middle and high school I didn't
put up with it. I didn't get involved with the gossip, the lies, the talks
about the "one girl everybody is suppose to hate".

Okay so my very long story of explanation is, everybody learns this
lesson. Since your daughters have you as a Mom to talk to, to vent
to, to learn from. They will also learn this lesson, young, AND I think
it will make them stronger for it. It's a shame that this lesson has to
be taught. I wish more parents of daughters took the time to discuss
this together, and with their daughters. I am not saying that boys
don't also go threw popularity games. I just think that girls/women
can be especially cruel in their ways to the top sometimes.

When I look back on my experience it gave me a lot of strength. My
Mom helped with the talks we had regarding this family. I think I gained
my love for the underdog and unpopular while in school threw this family.
So as much as I was hurt, I have always had a special place in my heart
for this family, for the lessons I learned threw the pain. Plus in my adult
life I searched and found dd#2 and we are now email buddies.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the feedback! It gives me lots of think about. I love the book recommendations, too.

As I obsess about this topic again this summer (just read my posts about it from last summer to know how invasive this problem has been in our lives), I realize that it's got to stop. This relationship must end. For a year, we've done behind-the-scenes work with little DD--soothing her hurt feelings, coaching her about what's a true friend versus someone who just wants to control her, role-playing to help her find language to stick up for herself on the playground. I even tried the approach Tanibani suggested--explaining that NG must be very sad, etc.--and it backfired dreadfully with DD, who re-committed herself to being NG's friend no matter what because, she reasoned, if NG was sad, maybe she could help her be happier.

Yesterday morning, my DDs and I were running an errand and while we were in the car, little DD said, "I don't want to play with NG anymore." Big DD said, "Good." I asked, "At ALL?" Little DD confirmed, "At ALL. I've got lots of friends who are more fun to play with." She went on to say that NG bosses her and says mean things. "And Mommy," she said, "I don't want to invite her to my birthday party because I'm afraid she'll ruin it by having a great big noisy fuss about who she sits next to."

I was heartened to hear that little DD seems ready to let the relationship go--and, really, there's not that much to let go in terms of a personal friendship between the two. Since the problems last summer, we've scaled back on much playtime outside of school. And for next year, I've requested to have DD separated from NG. I am a little worried that with the summer yawning before us, NG might be on our doorstep seeking DD's company, but I'm committed at this point to lowering the boom and just saying no thanks, we're busy. And saying this every time. (Little DD may SAY she is ready to do this, but when faced with NG, she'd be incapable. NG would demand explanations, DD would freeze, NG would badger, DD would give in to keep the peace.)

Another level I've gone to in the past day or so: I've developed a pretty high level of fury with NG's parents. So far, I've been sympathetic to them--gosh, too bad such nice people have to deal with such a troubled kid. I've seen their intervention as "at least they're not ignoring the problem" and I've given them the benefit of the doubt in almost every situation. Well, after big NG's birthday party arrived on our doorstep the other night, I realized that little NG is not operating in a vacuum. She may have been the one who said the meanie things to big DD about being left off the guest list, but she's not the one who left big DD off the list and then sent the party to our doorstep. That was the height of insensitivity on the part of the parents.

I'm now seeing these neighbors more and more as users. They didn't know many people in the neighborhood when they moved in, and my big DD took big NG under her wing. She was a good friend to big NG when big NG had no one else. When school started and big NG didn't know anyone, big DD invited her to join her group of third-grade friends at recess. When big NG made some fourth-grade friends, she dropped big DD like a hot potato. Not in any overtly mean way--she just no longer had any use for her. I'm realizing that the only time my DDs have been sought out as playmates for the NGs in recent months, it's been when their other friends aren't available.

My anger about the birthday-party-on-our-doorstep has led me to some judgment, as well. I'll probably get flamed for what I say next, because it is truly judgmental, but I'm going to say it anyway. In looking back over the past year or so, I realize that little NG is seeing no real consequences for behaving the way she does. A child who says mean things to others shouldn't get to have friends over that day. A child who criticizes another child's bathing suit shouldn't get to GO to the swim party after a mere chastising by Mom. A 5-year-old child who creates a big loud noisy fuss at a birthday party when she doesn't get to sit by the birthday child--well, that offending kid ought to be removed from the party and taken home. These kinds of things happen all the time with NG, and--if her mother is present--she gets pulled aside and spoken to between clenched teeth, then returned to the scene. But there's no real consequence.

And much of the time, NG's parents aren't present, which leaves other parents to try and manage the problems. I watched one mother roll her eyes in frustration when NG argued incessantly about where she should sit at a birthday party. And another mother struggle to reason with NG when she didn't want to sit in the carseat on the way home from school. Parenting NG has been put off on other mothers who are part of the kindergarten social scene, the Daisy troop or the church group. And everyone's bound by the laws of an overpolite society here--I doubt anyone's any more eager to complain to NG's parents than I was last summer. Because, quite frankly, the way NG's mom wrings her hands and sighs about her daughter brings out every parent's sympathy and makes you wish you'd never spoken up. We've all had kids who've behaved in ways we wish they wouldn't. My realization is that NG's parents garner a lot of sympathy because they make the appearance of trying to manage their daughter. They're friendly people on the surface, and on the surface it appears that NG is an anomaly in the family. I'm just beginning to apply some more critical thinking to the whole scene and I'm realizing that we've GOT to disengage. For my daughters' emotional health, and for my own!

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Good for your dd! And good for you! You've given her the support, structure and opportunity to experience other friendships, you've stepped in when things are really out of line and then it seems like you have stepped back to allow her to come to her own conclusion that she doesn't enjoy playing with NG. That sounds very healthy. It sounds as if it has become clearer and clearer to you that this is not a healthy relationship and that your dd doesn't benefit from it. For her to end it, or even to put boundaries around it, on her own terms sounds like an empowering experience for a 5-year-old. As a parent, I think I would follow up on her proclamation that she doesn't want to play with NG with as many fun other activities as possible for a little while, so the contrast between playing with NG and the FUN she has without NG is quite concrete and easily apparent to her as a 5-year-old.

QUOTE:[ Yesterday morning, my DDs and I were running an errand and while we were in the car, little DD said, "I don't want to play with NG anymore." Big DD said, "Good." I asked, "At ALL?" Little DD confirmed, "At ALL. I've got lots of friends who are more fun to play with." She went on to say that NG bosses her and says mean things. "And Mommy," she said, "I don't want to invite her to my birthday party because I'm afraid she'll ruin it by having a great big noisy fuss about who she sits next to." ]

What a mature perspective for your dd! Again, good for her to come to these conclusions and take the empowering step of deciding she wants to make a change for herself. Thanks you for sharing this experience. As you know, we have been involved in a somewhat similar dynamic with my dd - your experience helps me to clarify my thinking on our situation.

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I am very happy to hear that little dd decided she no longer wanted
to play with NG. It's odd that sometimes the mean kids become so
popular (if I remember correctly that NG is popular in the class). I
guess it's fear based. It's sad.

Good for little dd's choice. YAY LITTLE DD!

I agree with you about the parents, and feel free to vent away, I
won't flame you for it. It's hard sometimes cause as parents we
understand how our children aren't always angels, and we don't
want to fault or offend other parents. But when it becomes such
a problem that you can almost predict that if a certain child is at
a party or an event that there will be drama, I wouldn't want to
deal with that. The parents should be taking that under control
or NG shouldn't be allowed to attend. It's not fair for one child to
always ruin a fun time for all the others, and to the parents of
other children having to control that same child at the events that
she parents just drop her off and run.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Yeah, well, now the challenge will be to hold to our decision. Little DD may say NOW that she doesn't want to play with NG anymore, but I believe much of her statement was based on my ranting and raving the other night. I don't want to drive home a whole bunch of negativity with my DDs, but I'd like to keep it fresh in their minds somehow that these people are not showing the characteristics that make for good friendship.

And it's hard for me, too, to stay angry without starting to feel guilty. I forgive people way too easily sometimes, mostly because I don't want strained relationships. I am still very mad about the way that birthday party turned up on our doorstep, and about the things little NG said, but I already am catching myself thinking things like, "Well, we can't just leave little NG off the birthday party list for little DD--it would be too hurtful." Or "I can't imagine saying 'no thank you' every single time they come to the door this summer. They'd figure out that we're shunning them." I think the healthy person in this situation would be mad enough to march over there and tell them all off, or at the very least be cold as ice, but I just imagine myself being as friendly as ever next time I run into them, because to do otherwise will only invite conflict and trouble and awkwardness.

As you can see, my peace-keeping daughter comes by it honestly!

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I think it is important to be honest with your dd in the respect that she deserves to be treated with respect by her friends, and that she definitely doesn't have to take this treatment.

However, rather than getting militant about NG, I would maybe encourage my dd to understand that sometimes folks ackt this way when they do not feel good about themselves. We do not have to be friends with everyone, but it is good to have compassion for those who are struggling.

Also, I do think your youngest dd might do well to take a martial arts class or some other type of sport which might help boost her self esteem. If she is able to develop a strong sense of self, she will be more prepared to deal with this type of friend.

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There was a recent study that found that meannesss in girls starts as early as age 3. It also confirmed what you said about the mean girls being able to be popular with some kids too. Very interesting.

We have one in our neighborhood but she isn't very popular, the mother has to really seek out friends for her because many kids stay away from her. Her technique is to get friends by befriending needy people (those who are desperate for childcare of new in the neighborhood and eager to make friends.) We have gradually weeded her out by finding nicer friends and better activities which meant physically avoiding her at the neighborhood park when possible. It appears that this mean girl gets it from her mother and it is scary because the mannerisms, dirty looks are SOOO very much like her mother's despite the fact that the mean girl is adopted and of a different race from her mother.
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