Nasty little girls- clarification update


Thanks for your input, everyone. This is the problem with a huge time difference…I go to sleep with no comments, and wake up with lots! Had I been awake, I would have stepped in to assure you that of course I will be letting the school know. In fact, I did talk to the teacher and her coach about half an hour after this all came out. Her teacher is horrified, and her coach is pissed. The coach cracked me up…she said she was going to teach her to use her low centre of gravity (did I mention that the nasty girl is a good foot taller?!) to really shove her back and knock her flat. snort.

So it wasn’t so much “Should I step in?” but rather “How serious is this, really?”. This is also compounded by the fact that my daughter really isn’t interested in telling this girl off. In fact, yesterday she willingly included her in her game (with a friend that she picked out! yay!)! I asked her how on earth L was going to know that she didn’t like being treated like that if she never tells her and if she lets her play with her whenever she asks. Her response was “She should know better. And if she doesn’t, it’s not my job to teach her.”. Ummm…okay. Not really my philosophy, but I guess that’s fair.

I had a chat with another parent at school, who gently pumped her child for information. She relayed that this girl bullies everyone in the class at various times, and you just have to ignore her…everyone knows that’s how she is. And that my daughter really likes reading in the library at lunchtime. She is actually willingly excluding herself, but everyone really likes her and would love to play with her if she wanted to. I can understand using the library as a defence…both against the bully and against the possibility of being rejected by her friends (who she perceives as being in BFF pairs).

Ah…primary school. The joy.

Now that I’ve done some contemplation, my question is: what exactly do I expect the school to do? What is a fair and reasonable request? What I WANT if for my child to be protected at all times. Which could only really be done by watching the nasty girl constantly.  Is that reasonable (I doubt it)? Is that even possible? And is that really good for her anyway?


I’ve got a WWMTD moment, ladies.

My girl (year four this year, and we’re halfway through the year) has had a problem girl in her class for several years. We know that this girl is a problem. She’s just not nice. Actually, it’s worse. She’s nice sometimes and really nasty at other times…completely unpredictable. She gloms onto new girls and then discards them once they catch on to her capriciousness. She’s incredibly nasty at times..and this is one of them. However, it has always been just snotty comments and “I won’t be your friend” nonsense before. Now it seems to have escalated to hard thumps on the back, pulling hair out of ponytails, and nasty comments about “Well, you just shouldn’t be on the netball team then.”

This all came out this morning. My stoic daughter, who NEVER complains about this stuff, was sitting on my lap with tears in her eyes. I said “You know that L is like that. Stay away from her. And you can only be bullied if you let yourself be. You need to let her know that it’s not okay to treat you like that.” Then I asked her what her other friends do when this happens.

She told me that she reads during lunch because she doesn’t have anyone to play with. She has plenty of friends in the class (she is invited on playdates, she has lots of people to call on for after school fun), but the girls have paired off this year into BFF’s (her words). And according to her “Someone always gets left out when there’s three.”.

While she is telling me this, she begins pinching the inside of her arm. Hard. Hard enough to leave marks. I hold her hand and ask her why she’s doing that. “I dunno.” I ask her if she does that sort of thing at other times. No answer.

So…three problems:

  • Nasty girl bully is escalating and getting nastier. My girl won’t stand up to her and won’t ask for help.
  • She doesn’t have a crew to protect her. Even though she has friends outside of school, the pairing off has left her alone during school. She is retreating into her book to save herself.
  • Self harm starting??? Or is that an overreaction?

My real question is: is this all normal stuff? I know that a certain amount of conflict is actually good in the long run (according to psych books anyway). There is a nasty person in every school, and workplace. Often that nasty person is in a position of power over you. You have to learn to deal with that and protect yourself.

Friendship stuff….it comes and goes. Should I be worried that she doesn’t have a BFF? She’s not really the sort to obsess over one kid. She would rather hang out with a variety of people. But that preference means that she is without a buddy to help protect her.

Anyway…I’ve spoken to her teacher and her coach. I’ve hugged her and assured her that it will get better. I’ve told her that I had trouble in year four and five. I’ve reminded her that this nasty girl is leaving the school next year, and that the BFF’s will all be broken up and reformed.

So…MT’s…a worrying situation or just typical primary school girl nastiness that we all have to figure out eventually (with help and loving support, of course)?




34 thoughts on “Nasty little girls- clarification update

  1. I believe very strongly that adults need to stand up to nasty girl/boy stuff. Yes, a certain amount of back-and-forth is needed for good personality development, I guess. But kids look to adults to fix this. Both DD and DS had nasty kids in elementary. There was a bully in DS’s 1st grade, and at the time I felt awful thinking of him that way (he’s only 6, I thought). I also think that a 5 or6 year old bully has her/his own psychological issues….but that’s. It your concern. I don’t know what the easy answer is, but hold the school accountable, dont let them shrug it off as “nasty girl”. We heard” boys will be boys”. Ugh.

    Also, talking to teacher might help some of the more mild stuff do “pairing off”

    Hugs to you and LR

  2. Just got here. I definitely agree with Sue that adult intervention is necessary. I would talk to the teacher *and* the principal. What I found with Jess and her bully is that after I alerted the teacher, the teacher would act on what she saw in the classroom, but was not there to see what was going on in the schoolyard at recess. Jess’s bully now does the majority of her mayhem in the schoolyard. Or did, until I went to the principal. I also found in my case that the principal was able to do some administrative-level strategy/guidance with the teachers to give them support to better remedy/facilitate the situation.

    Good luck, and definitely kick this one up the food chain.

  3. Sadly, I think this is both a worrying situation AND typical primary school nastiness that we all have to deal with. I ditto all the advice above — adult intervention is definitely necessary. I’d also double ditto what Sue said about “hold the school accountable” — check back in your daughter, teachers, and admin regularly about the situation. Make sure it IS improving, and if it ISN’T, request additional support from the school.

  4. I agree with the others. The fact that the girl is leaving school next year is good, but that’s an eternity away. I was mildly bullied in middle school, and telling me I only had to put up with it for six more months would not have been a consolation. On the other hand, both my kids’ classes had bullies who left after first or second grade, and their leaving made a huge difference in the classroom dynamics.

  5. I appreciate what Sue said about adult intervention. I loathe hearing adults lecture other adults with “let them work it out”; that only goes so far (we call it the “raised by wolves approach” in our house). Children count on us for help; they don’t learn these skills through osmosis. We can tell them to advocate for themselves, but it works best when we show them. DH once took our son and knocked on a door, spoke with another father/son and resolved a bus issue (and he told him, ‘this is how men resolve issues when they’re grown-up. You need to see this and so does the other boy”). Definitely assure her that you’re there to help her navigate, whatever form that takes.

    One other thing: bullies fly under the radar. Without the cloaking, their social tactics don’t work. If you can help her find a way to identify those moments and call them out appropriately, you go a long way in stopping the behaviors (even if only around your child).

    As always, I recommend the book, “Queen Bees and Wannabees”. As a matter of fact, I’m going to re-read it this summer. I devoured it the first time (when my boys were little and I suspected the girls were using one of them as a trophy-ugh).
    From her website (and so true!):
    “When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, it fundamentally changed the way that adults look at girls’ friendships and conflicts”.

  6. I second those who say that “let them work it out” is a non-starter. They’re doing their best and it’s getting the result you described. Having lived this with both kids at younger grades, I’d agree that getting on this thing asap is going to be important. Have you considered a little therapy for her? I’m starting to think that going to a shrink is just as much a part of living a healthy life as visiting the dentist or the doc. This is a complicated situation and having another grown-ups perspective could help.

    Hugs to both of you mama.

  7. I agree with the others regarding letting adults at school know about what is going on.

    Interesting question about whether it’s important to have a BFF. One of my kids is very BFF-oriented, in fact he really only wants to hang out with pretty much one kid. Other kids he could take or leave. The other one is much more social in general, an extravert who craves human interaction, but doesn’t have that one special friend above all others at the moment (he sort of has at times in the past but not for a few years). The BFF son has actually gotten burned by his exclusiveness when the target BFF moved on to greener pastures, whereas the more generally social one doesn’t really have that issue, if one drops off or moves or whatever there are others who can take his place. But I don’t have girls, so I don’t know if that’s a difference. I always (at least starting in 4th grade) had a BFF who is to this day pretty much still my BFF although she lives 3000 miles away so it makes daily interaction impossible, but I do appreciate the value of having that person who always has your back.

  8. No one has talked about the pinching part yet. My inclination is to say it’s probably not a big deal, but keep an eye on it. She was a lot younger, but my DD1 started pinching her neck in times of stress at 18 months, when she was recovering from the illness that nearly killed her. I remember telling her “no pinching!” when I saw her doing it, and her teachers also did this. But it seemed to be drawing attention to it and making her do it more. Then I asked the doctor about it and she said it was probably kind of an anxiety/self soothing thing and probably nothing to worry about. We now ignore it, but we’ve kept an eye on it and noticed that she does it when she’s tired or stressed, but that it has turned out to be no big deal. Now she mostly just does it in her bed or while lying on the couch, I think. She makes red marks, but they go away quickly. In fact, when I clip her nails she does a test “pinch” to see if they are short enough to not hurt when she pinches. I’ve almost forgotten she does it, it has lessened so much. If your DD’s is getting worse, more frequent, leaving marks like bruises that don’t just go away, then I’d definitely mention it to the ped next time you are there.

    • The pinching reminds me of something DS1 did while DH was in the hospital two years ago — he started twisting his bangs CONSTANTLY. He twisted them so much that he had a permanent curl on his forehead (which is no small feat for a kid with stick straight hair). After DH came home and the stress level decreased, DS1 stopped the twisting, though I catch him doing it now and again when he’s worked up over something.

    • Thanks. That helps. For some reason, I’m on high alert lately over self harm and eating disorders. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s something that I’m sensing in the group, or maybe it’s just media influence. My husband described it as a stress response…which is probably a good way to look at it. Still a little disturbing though.

  9. Thanks for the update, Aussieyank. That adds to the picture, and I think it intensifies the need to speak with the principal. “That’s how she is” is *not* an acceptable justfication. She is exhibiting anti-social behaviour, and must be brought to understand why this is wrong. Her victims must also be made aware that it *isn’t* okay to be bullied, even if they’re all being bullied.

    If this girl is allowed to keep going because she does it to everyone, that speaks to a school-community problem. Bullying is wrong, whether there’s one victim, a few victims or many victims. The end.

    I spoke with one of Jess’s friend’s mums about this – the woman is lovely and a primary school teacher herself. The woman said that she is very down-the-line about bullying – verbal as well as physical. It cannot persist, she says, because it teaches the bully and the bullied that it is ok. Can’t be let to persist.

    It’s fine if LR is in the library reading because she likes it. It’s fine if LR chooses not to have a BFF because she doesn’t feel the need. It’s still not fine that this bully is out there.

    (I recogize that I feel biased about this because it’s very similar to what Jess is/was going through. But I don’t think that mitigates the fact that it has to be dealt with.)

    • Okay…but what exactly do I want the school to do about it? Being on school council makes this harder, to be honest. I need to have a specific request for the school, I think. Or at least some idea of how I want it solved. And I just don’t really know. She only does it when adults aren’t around. She has done it for years. What do you actually do about it? And what do you do that isn’t unfair and damaging to the other girl?

      And a corollary…this is something that some kids do. They go through it. No school is immune. Some are better than others (and we really have a pretty low rate of such things compared to other schools…we have very tolerant and accepting kids, generally), but it happens everywhere. It seems to just be a part of some peoples’ personality (and no, that doesn’t make it okay). So is it actually something that a school could remove? Or is it more that we can be aware of it, name it, say that we don’t accept it…but it’s never going to be gone?

      I’m all confuzzled. I’d like the other girl to vanish. But that’s not going to happen, is it?

      • I really, really empathize, because ultimately I want Jess’s Other Girl to vanish as well, which of course isn’t happening.

        When I went to the principal, I went in to ask questions and find out what she knew and what the administrative response was, rather than with a firm “this is what I want to have happen” line. I found out that the school was aware of the problem and was working with the family, and that was reassuring. The principal also had some plans of her own, such as taking down some of the cubbies the kids had built because they were becoming tools of exclusion.

        Why should you know how to solve this? You’re one girl’s parent. You’re not the administrator. Shouldn’t you deserve support yourself? That’s part of the principal’s job.

        • Yeah, but I’m on council, so I already know what the party line is. I already know what the school does. I know what is reasonable to expect…and that’s why I’m stuck. Because I truly don’t know what else I can expect the school to do. Apart from pulling this girl up in front of everyone and telling her to knock it off, having a teacher follow her at all times, having her banned from the playground, or making her leave the school….I just don’t think that there are a lot of options. I’ll have a chat with the teacher today. Maybe she’s got some clues. But you’re right…I just don’t have the expertise for this.

          • I have a great packet on coaching the bully and the child who’s the victim that I’m happy to e-mail you if you’d like. One of our former coaches (Kim John Payne) uses it in his Social Inclusiong (aka bullying prevention) work. Drop me a note at lthomas413 at mac dot com if you want it.

            • Cool. Will do. The teacher said in our meeting today that three other girls have now come forward about being tormented by this girl (and another girl co pilot). There’s a girl circle happening tomorrow in class…and from the sounds of that, I’d hate to be in these two girls’ shoes….

          • Another great resource is the book, “The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander”. The book identifies the triad that exists in the world of bullying. The author does an outstanding job of discussing the school’s role in the cycle/triad. When schools fail to act, they are the bystander! They become a part of the problem. (I think Jim Wright also writes about the bystander, but I don’t know if he IDs the school as bystander). I’m throwing the concept out there because it sounds like the school isn’t willing to acknowledge their role/responsibility (yet)? It sounds like they could/should take more professional responsibility.

            • Nah…it was more that I just wasn’t aware of what could be done. It sounds like they’ve got it all sussed out. The principal mouths some catch phrases and a policy, but I had never actually seen anything done. But the coordinator for the upper school and our teacher had a meeting today, and they’ve got a good plan. A proactive one.

              I will check out that book though…it sounds like a good read….and I might need to know more about this stuff. :)

              • that’s funny – I had the exact opposite. I felt like the teacher was mouthing the phrases (and doing a decent job of supporting/nurturing Jess), but it was the principal who was on that stuff like ants on honey. So long as someone in charge is off and running.

              • Glad to hear there is a plan! As Rachel says, good to know someone has taken the lead.
                This thread is timely for me. I need to revisit both books (Bully and Queen Bees) as my girls start high school.

                • ditto — glad there’s a plan now in place. FWIW, if “everybody knows” to avoid this girl and that’s “the way she is” then the school must be missing out on something they could be doing. No, of course no one can follow her around all day long, but they could increase supervision on the playground, walk the perimeter every so often, something — and address it directly with the girl and her parents.

  10. Thanks for the update – I know you knew to follow up with the school – it’s just that I get so frustrated when people write off bad behavior as just the way things are. IMO, kids who routinely bully are tremendously at risk. The boy who was DS’s first grade bully, and who continued to be a jerk all the way through elementary, grew into the kid in 5th grade who nobody likes (excluded whenever possible) and the kid in 7th grade who is marginalized and ignored. As bad as his bullying was for other kids (including calling an Indian boy ‘dirty’ because his skin was brown, and geting other kids to gang up on my DS when he told a teacher), the long term impact for him of immature, socially alienating, and emotionally twisted behavior is much worse.

    Of course, in the immediate sense, I am more concerned for LR – such a smart, wonderful, curious, and interesting young woman should not be feeling any sadness, exclusion, or anxiety at school. (((HUGS))) to you and her as you work through the social minefield of primary school.

    • Thanks, Sue. I always appreciate your steady and knowledgeable input!!! Things are going okay at the moment. The “girl circle” brought out all sorts of things, and the girls are in “gosh, I love you guys” mode right now. The test will be to see what happens in the next few weeks!

      I think this social stuff would be far easier if I hadn’t lived it myself. As hard as I try to keep my crap out of it…it’s a real limbic response! I think she’ll be okay in the long run…we just have to get through the next ten years or so. :)

      • Ugh, girl, you know I know how that feels. I’m really trying to draw that line in my head “my crap is my crap, it isn’t Jess’s crap”. But it still feels crap.

    • Hey, Sue. I love your comments. You’re so right, and this resonates with the situation with Jess’s girl bully as well. Right now, I’m still in Mama Grizzly mode, and relying on other mothers in the community group who are beating the rhythm for making sure that the bully gets the support she needs to get over this to prevent this from eventuating. My milk of human kindness is a bit curdled at the moment.

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