Ask Annie: Helping Girls Stand Up For Themselves in a Friendship

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January 15, 2015

Dear Annie,

My daughter came home from school in tears today and reports that a supposed friend led a group of girls away from her, excluding her from all the recess games they were playing. What do I do?  

Mama Lion

Dear Mama Lion,


You probably feel like roaring at the girl who was unkind to your daughter, but obviously that wouldn’t be helpful. As upsetting as it is to see our children in tears, we do our most effective parenting when we are calm and thinking clearly. (“Put your own oxygen mask on first!”) So, make sure you don’t get down in the trenches with your daughter’s emotions. Instead, hug her and help her calm down. Then make a snack for both of you to share and sit down to talk.

You might say something like this: “What ______ did was rude and insensitive. But you already knew that, right? Tell me, sweetie, when that happened at recess, what did you do?”

Then close your mouth and listen to what your daughter has to say.

Often, when we give girls a chance to talk about emotionally charged situations in a safe setting, they gain invaluable tools for “reviewing” their own responses and learning from them. For example, if your daughter says, “I just walked away and cried. I didn’t talk to or play with anyone.” You might ask, “And how did that change things?” She might then realize that her tears, while understandable, did nothing to help her address her friend’s behavior or to fix the problem. Neither did isolating herself for the rest of recess.

Then you might ask her, “If you could say anything to your friend about what she did, what might you say?” Again, make it totally safe for your daughter to throw out some ideas of her own. Please try not to interrupt the flow of ideas by judging them in any way. The point of this is to empower your daughter by seeing that there are other ways (aside from tears) for her to handle disappointment and rejection.

When we teach kids that friendship is a 2-way street, it’s really important, especially for girls, to understand that part of being a good friend is holding yourself and your friends accountable for a high standard of behavior. When a friend is rude or disrespectful or uncaring… real friends talk about it. From that conversation, friendship can grow stronger and girls can grow stronger too. On the other hand, when friends allow friends to be disrespectful, friendships erode and so does self-esteem! Encourage your daughter to have that private, respectful conversation with her friend and tell her that you’d like to know how it goes. Then give a day or two and follow up with your daughter.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Do you have a question for Annie? Leave it in the comments below or contact Annie anonymously via her website (just make sure to let her know it came from SocialMoms so we can post the answers here!)


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