Hi, Carolyn: My 9-year-old daughter is a bright, funny, creative, kind girl who has in the past been on the receiving end of some mean-girl behavior. We have worked with the school and with a private counselor and she is doing better.
My husband and I have a group of close friends who socialize and sometimes travel together. The daughters of two friends often leave her out. When I bring up the exclusion with the other moms, they come to the defense of their daughters.
One of the girls said recently, “Well, I don’t think we should be expected to play with her.” Since then, we have not seen any of these friends socially. Should we withdraw from this group to avoid subjecting my girl to being hurt and excluded? It will make me sad, but I want to do what’s best for my daughter.
Protecting My Daughter
Protecting My Daughter: “I don’t think we should be expected to play with her”? Please don’t waste your sadness on the parent who defended this girl. Wow.
Yes, it is hard to socialize with people we dislike, but a kid who publicly expresses zero respect for another’s feelings is due a long talk with a responsible parent. No exceptions. The sound of crickets here is very damning of these other moms.
When a fellow parent brings up a child’s exclusion, then even a skeptical audience needs to say, “I can see why you’re upset. I’ll talk to my kid to see what’s going on.” Defending a child’s right to mistreat others is parental protectiveness run amok.
A fact-finding promise like this is not a commitment to make them all friends, something no one can promise, but instead a commitment to understand, supervise, teach.
Even if the girls have legitimate reasons to distance themselves from your daughter, these moms owe it to any fellow parent — especially a friend! — to get at the truth (to the extent they can) and role-play with their girls some civil ways to coexist with people they might not choose as friends. It’s a parent’s job to civilize kids out of their feral, me-first impulses toward others.
Obviously such coached civility isn’t bliss for anyone; the daughter would probably sense parent-imposed cooperation. But it’s better than unchecked exclusion stretching across days. It’s also a matter of simple decency — the practice of which, again, is parents’ job to model, teach and expect of their kids.
By these standards, these moms have not behaved like your friends in handling your socially fragile girl. So, yes, it’s time to stop setting your daughter up for mistreatment.
To fill the void, I suggest finding groups/sports/activities/clubs that play to your daughter’s strengths. These create opportunities for both of you to find friends better suited to your stage of life. Good luck.
Re: Daughter: Are you also suggesting this couple no longer socialize with those parents in adult-only settings? As in, the version of themselves they have shown by this behavior justifies cutting yourself off from them as well?
Anonymous: That’s the letter-writer’s call, though I can’t envision a jolly just-adults dinner after they have shown such lousy character. It’s not about finding justification to cut them off, though. It’s about realizing my friends suck and I need new ones.